AOR On The Road

By Bonita Davis, RA Board Member At Large

On a bright September morning, a group gathered at Metro for the Association of Oregon Recyclers On The Road Tour to the Columbia Gorge. We were about to learn firsthand about sustainability and innovation in action at three business locations. We were eagerly anticipating touring three innovative Gorge businesses and learning about their sustainability practices: Dirt Hugger in Dallesport, Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom in Hood River and The Renewal Workshop in Cascade Locks.

Relieved that Gorge fires had been contained and I-84 reopened, the EcoBus transport time was just as important as the tour stops. Raffle tickets weren’t hard to sell for prizes of upcycled ditty bags made from sails. Opportunities talk about your current projects and networking were designed into the ride. Our first stop was at Dirt Hugger in Dallesport.

Dirt Hugger, we learned, was started in 2010 by two former aerospace industry experts. We heard from each member of their dynamic and enthusiastic team as we moved from row to row, to view the specially designed aeration system built into the concrete pad supporting the rows of composting materials. Dirt Hugger shared how they work from many perspectives to ensure positive relationships with industry neighbors, customers such as orchardists and other agricultural businesses, work with Gorge winds, and keep contaminants out of the rows through careful picking and sifting. “Tina Turner” one of their unique (and expensive) pieces of equipment for turning the rows, and the development of compost products for specialty markets were just a part of the informative tour.  Read more about them at

Next stop, pizza and beer! Specifically, really good pizza, salad, beer and chocolate chip cookies in downtown Hood River at Double Mountain Brewery. Not only did we receive a tour of their brewery and had the opportunity to meet the staff and brew masters, but we were able to learn more about their innovate approach to “reuse” rather than “recycle” glass beer bottles. Some of you may remember when glass soda bottles were washed when returned to the store/distributor to be refilled. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon Beverage Recycling Commission and Double Mountain, the practice of refilling bottles is making a comeback. The modified bottles are thicker and will be accepted at Bottledrop Redemption Centers. This means the bottles can be returned for less cost to the breweries than buying new bottles from China and recycling the glass. Learn more at www.obrc, or Better yet, visit the Double Mountain Taproom in Hood River or in Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood.

The last stop was one that motivated me to sign up for the tour, The Renewal Workshop in Cascade Locks. We were greeted by Dave, the Operation Lead and were able to interact with each staff member as they took us through their process of renewing clothing. The Renewal Workshop believes in reducing waste by recovering value. They believe in doing what is good and right for people and for the planet. Creatively working to divert tons of textiles/clothing from the landfill by renewing apparel, upcycling or finding a market for textiles as feedstock for new products is their goal. Partnering with clothing companies, Renewal takes returns from online sales and does what it takes to resell them under their own label. Whether it is fixing a zipper or a missed stitch or cleaning a soiled collar, they treat each item individually, photograph it, place it in their online store and sell it. Everybody wins with this model. Read all about Renewal, their staff and their unique cleaning process on their website at While perusing the site, order something, as Pete Chism-Winfield, AOR president, did and enjoy being part of the solution.

Source expert in compostable plastics, Jack Hoeck from Rexius Forest Products, gave an informative talk about the difficulty of sorting regular plastics from “compostables” at composting facilities.  Our conversation took a break to do our best to support the communities in the Gorge, with a stop at  Thunder Island Brewing Co. in Cascade Locks, thanks to the encouragement of Rick Winterhalter, former AOR Chair!  What a day!

My best advice – when you see a bus tour organized by AOR, Go!

Thank you to tour sponsors: Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, The Dalles Disposal, Hood River Garbage and Wasco County Landfill.