Lifestyle Sustainability

Spotlight On: Environmental Action Community of WNC

EAC volunteers show off the reusable shopping bags they made from feed & seed sacks. Photo by Kathy Odvody

By Emma Castleberry

The Environmental Action Community of Western North Carolina (EAC WNC) was formed in 2023 through the joining of two pre-existing organizations, the Outdoor Mission Community and WNC Climate Action Coalition. EAC WNC has a three-part mission that guides its work: to provide opportunities to experience the outdoors, to respond to local climate challenges and to promote a resilient mountain community. “There is a way for people to participate in addressing the environmental challenges we face in a direct and active way,” says Betsy Wall, who co-chairs the organization with Kathy Odvody. “Living in a smaller community there really is strength in numbers, so by joining together with others to take action, we can all make a difference.”

The organization services the Haywood County area and takes a broad approach to issues, tackling the reduction of plastics, increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency, and increasing adaptability in the face of a warming climate. “We also champion invasive removal, native plantings and pollinator gardens, and have been involved in building several of these in our community,” says Wall.

Haywood Community College, Early College students with 6,000 pounds of trash picked up at Fontana Lake. Photo by Kathy Odvody

The EAC WNC also hosts robust educational programming for children, youth and adults. More than 2,000 local residents attended their quarterly programs last year. Nineteen children in third, fourth and fifth grades attended the organization’s first week-long Creation Care Camp free of charge this summer. “They get to experience the wonder of nature, see the magical transformation of food waste into nutritious soil via composting and be first-hand witnesses to the vast amounts of plastic collected during a single clean-up day on one of our area lakes,” says volunteer Laura Armour. “These kids are our future and we hope they can go home and ‘teach their parents well.’”

Through the Bring Your Own Bag Haywood (BYOBH) project, volunteers make reusable shopping bags entirely from repurposed materials and give them away to shoppers or sell them at small fundraisers in an effort to eliminate single-use plastic bags. “While legislation is essential to really changing the current problem—we are working with other environmental groups on this macro undertaking—this is a hands-on, visible and immediate effort in which everyone can participate and see results,” says Odvody. “One of our volunteer bag makers was shopping in a store in Waynesville recently and recognized a bag she had made by the distinctive fabric. She approached the person and said, ‘Thanks for using your reusable bag—it is one I made.’” Volunteers with EAC WNC made and distributed more than 1,500 shopping bags in 2023.

EAC WNC was born out of a need for individuals to impact change on a micro level, to counter the sense of overwhelm most people feel in the face of climate change. “The environmental challenges and the climate crisis are so big that it seems one person’s efforts alone are futile,” says Odvody. “As a community, a critical mass group, we seek to empower people to make a difference.”

Learn more about the organization and upcoming events at

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