For the debut of the Earth911 Sustainability Awards, categories included Best Community Recycling Program (for large and small cities) as well as Best Green Nonprofit, Best Circular Economy Innovation, and Best Energy-Efficient Product. Congratulating to the following 2018 Earth911 Sustainability Award winners — and runners-up.

Best Community Recycling Education Program (Population 250,000+): Louisville, Kentucky

In Kentucky, it’s always a treat when the dark horse wins the race, and Louisville surprised a lot of cities with its recycling education in 2018. While it might not have the participation or diversion numbers of San Francisco or Seattle, Derby City increased its business recycling rate from 11 percent to 80 percent last year.

Louisville also launched a free Recycle Coach mobile app, and offers bulk waste collection three times per year. These increases may be just the beginning, as Louisville Metro has set a goal of 90 percent waste diversion by 2042.

Runner-up: New Orleans, which went from a nine-year curbside recycling absence after Hurricane Katrina to offering expanded drop-off in 2018 (including Mardi Gras beads) and free blue carts to replace its original black residential recycling bins.

Best Community Recycling Education Program (Population <250,000): Portland, Maine

This is probably not the Portland you would associate with recycling. But this coastal Maine city replaced its open bins with recycling carts at the end of 2017 to prevent litter. It also maintains a recyclopedia where you can type in products and find out how to dispose of them.

Portland even requires residents to buy pay-as-you-throw trash bags for any non-recyclables. The result? The city produces the third lowest average pounds of trash per capita of the 20 cities in its waste district, Ecomaine, despite having the state’s largest population.

Runner-up: Boise, Idaho, which responded to the Chinese recyclables ban by launching a new orange bag recycling program to collect and recycle plastics separately from other materials. This program also accepts deodorant sticks, toothpaste tubes, and straws.

Best Green Nonprofit: Soles4Souls is all about limiting waste, so this award is for organizations that help us produce less waste. Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that has collected and donated over 35 million pairs of shoes to 127 countries since 2006.

While Soles4Souls accepts used shoes from consumers, it also partners with retailers like Chicos, DSW, and Macy’s on shoe collection drives. The organization is also recognized as a leading employer, rated one of the 50 top nonprofits to work for in 2018.

Runner-up: Matter of Trust, which operates a mail-in program called Clean Wave to accept hair, fur, and fleece that is used to soak up major oil spills. Their model factory in San Francisco –which makes hair mats and displays exhibits on clean air, water, and energy — attracts 16 million visitors per year.

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