By Whitney L.J. Howell

Sustainability. It’s the one word that describes the whole of Marc Dreyfors’ career. Not only is he devoted to energy sustainability, but he is also dedicated to creating sustainable communities and fostering healthy, successful, future growth.

As the founder of The Forest Foundation (TFF), a 501c3 non-profit in Durham, N.C., Dreyfors is at the helm of a multi-faceted, green-focused organization that has impacted local transportation, communities, and education.

“We have a global vision that is rooted in the local,” he said. “Energy is produced in the local community, and it, in turn, creates jobs. So, the cycle continues. We’ve built resiliency.”

Overall, he said, TFF strives to improve the relationship between people and the planet by creating self-sustaining local strategies that preserve and foster natural capital. Founded in 2001, the organization provides environmental awareness through a booth at the annual state fair; administers a green jobs training program; operates a green bus transit system; and functions as a sustainability resource for local students, teachers, and conferences.

Since its inception, TFF has impacted the local economy in two main ways. In 2009, it launched the job training program Green Tracks, helping, to-date, more than 100 participants identify sustainable workplace options and lifestyle strategies. Additionally, the non-profit has helped foster and direct Carolina Biodiesel, Bull City Biodiesel Cooperative, Greenway Transit Service, Green Oil Co., Recyclique, Food Forward, Carolina Worm Castings, and Purestream Solutions, Inc.

TFF also works locally to produce energy-efficient fuels and transportation options, Dreyfors said. Green Oil, Co., collects used vegetable oil from local restaurants, and Carolina Biodiesel processes it into biodiesel. The fuel is, then, used to power the green-energy buses operated by Greenway Transit Services, the only green-transit service in the South East. The company uses the fuel to power the vehicles, including eco-vans, limos, and buses, for all occasions – airport trips, weddings, parties, and educational tours.

The vegetable oil is also used to enrich the soil. All compostable matter is removed from the oil during processing and is used to enrich the soil on TFF property for gardening. Replenishing the soil – and teaching others to do the same thing – is critical, Dreyfors said, because the population reverting to growing their own food is increasing, making it ever-more important to nourish the dirt.

In addition to operating a transit service, TFF also consults with other groups about designing and operating energy-efficient, sustainable businesses. With funding from US AID and the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the non-profit offers guidance and education about waste-to-energy transport, making biodiesel and maintaining engines, energy efficiency, and the best ways to foster social enterprise.

The best teaching tool, Dreyfors said, is the buses themselves. Filled with posters and flyers about the details and benefits of energy efficiency, the vehicles are mobile classrooms that introduce patrons to how sustainable systems can and should work.

“It’s hard not to see the value of using the buses as educational tools when you see the happy faces that are riding,” he said. “We’re working to get people to invest in these sustainable models to have an impact on the future.”

To learn more about The Forest Foundation, click here.

To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.

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