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Who We Are

Our Staff:

Max Rice is our part-time staffer on weekends, and Max also assists with promotions.  Max graduated with a BA in anthropology and sustainability studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012.  (Board members Sandy Smith-Nonini & Don Nonini also help staff the shop most weekends.)

Joshua Runnels has recently joined our team.  He will be living in the rear of the house and overseeing both upcycling projects and the renovation to expand the EcoLounge room. Joshua worked for GreenPeace for most of the last year, coordinating a team of canvasers in the Southeast region.

Henry Wills is our specialist at rain barrel making.  He cuts holes (if needed) and screens the tops and installs fixtures and overflows on our barrels, and sands and primes them for painting.

Our board:

pmurray_lg (136x200)We are very pleased to announce that Patricia Murray, editor of the Durham Skywriter online newspaper and the WNCU Radio Show, has just joined our board. Patricia gave a workshop at Recyclique on June 1st on solar lights for home use, and she also is a crafter of duct tape wallets which she sells in the shop.  Patricia has been active for years in helping to build community and solidarity in East Durham around issues like sustainability and social justice through media and community events.


Ruth-600pxRuth Backstrom joined the CommunEcos board in January.  Ruth has a PhD in Education from the University of Iowa and she has trained as a life coach. In the last two years she helped found Transition Durham, an organization  dedicated to helping communities transition into the future with a focus on resilience, energy efficiency and economic sustainability. Ruth led numerous community gatherings over the last year to build community around issues of sustainable food and community economics.



Growing up in the sylvan landscape of western North Carolina, Anthony Watts‘ love for the forests got him involved in keeping things sustainable at an early age. While serving as the Environmental Club president in high school, he helped implement the first recycling program for the McDowell County school system. After attending school at UNC Chapel Hill, he left the area to work for National Geographic. While there, his projects included documenting new urbanist developments (how we combat urban sprawl), endangered species and the consequences of population growth around the world. While living in Japan, he saw first hand how an isolated country has to wisely use all of its resources. He has a keen interest in smart architectural design and structures that promote intelligent group interaction.


Don Nonini is a cultural anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently leading Research on Food and Farming for All (ROFFA), a project on the local foods and sustainable agriculture movements in North Carolina. At UNC-Chapel Hill, he teaches courses in alternative economic systems, urban anthropology, political anthropology and sociocultural theory and ethnography. He has long-term interests in working toward environmental sustainability (especially biodiverse marine ecosystems), a more socially just economy, and community food security. Born in northern California, he has lived in Durham North Carolina for the last 17 years. He sees the educational and organizing work of CommunEcos (and organizations like it) as crucial in a world that appears to be undergoing irreversible climate change and profound financial crisis.


Sandy Smith-Nonini, PhD, coordinates the Recyclique upcycling co-op and divides her time between community organizing, writing and teaching. Sandy became active in environmental activism in 2006 after co-directing a University of North Carolina public service grant for a project on solar hot water. In 2007 she founded YIKES! — Youth Involved in Keeping Earth Sustainable, which evolved into Recyclique. She is a “Green Job” trainer for Durham Economic Resource Center in a project funded by the Golden Leaf Foundation.Sandy teaches anthropology and global studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and previously taught at Elon University from 2000-2005. In 2010 her book Healing the Body Politic: El Salvador’s Popular Struggle for Health Rights – From Civil War to Neoliberal Peace came out with Rutgers University Press. Sandy formerly worked as a journalist for a decade; she has done human rights work in Central America and helped found a farm labor education project with Unitarian-Universalist funding. She has received awards in journalism and anthropology, and several research fellowships.