Chad Braden-Frankfort Hotels

“My job is to look for opportunities,” explained Chad Braden as he walked me through the process of being the Facility Director of multiple hotels throughout Frankfort. Chad showed me the many upgrades that the buildings will be making soon, especially once they hear back on their Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant that helps subsidize project improvement costs. “The audit process helps you pinpoint your efforts for saving money, it’s almost like a SWOT analysis that helps you take a deeper dive into what you can improve and what might be failing from an operational standpoint,” added Chad.

By combining the costs and paybacks from upgrading to new LED lighting with new appliances like hotel room HVACs and windows, the hotels will not only be saving money but will be reducing their overall carbon footprint. Making upgrades that improve the buildings aesthetics, improves customer satisfaction as well. New lights make the hallways vibrant and new HVAC’s make rooms comfortable for customers. Not to mention the conditions of some windows in the older hotel were definitely far from energy efficient and overdue for an upgrade.

“What the Berea Center for Energy does for small businesses is help lower the bar of entry and help make the business case for energy efficiency,” Chad continued. One of the oldest hotels Chad organized upgrades on went from spending $300,000 a year on electricity to $200,000 a year. After upgrading everything from the boiler system to lights, the building has successfully saved $100,000 a year in its operations. “The entire process can seem a little confounding,” Chad admitted, “but the audit process helps you understand and make sense of the argument to pay a little more for certain appliances.” As Chad’s job revolves around protecting investments and continuously making improvements that make bottom-line sense, he said the Berea Center for Energy is making offers that any small business should consider when looking at how to streamline their operational costs.




Planting Seeds of Change

The best method for ensuring we have a bright future is teaching the children of today. Society has become more and more disconnected with where our food comes from and this has caused waves of problems for both our environment and our health. One way to combat this unhealthy habit we have formed is to plant gardens so we experience growing food in a firsthand way to understand where healthy food comes from. As part of the Green Apple Day of service at Berea College we decided to help ignite some of the bright future we have in the community.

Our project consisted of teaching the children at our community day care facility, the Child Development Laboratory (CDL), how to plant microgreens. Using milk cartons the CDL recycles, our Sustainable Foods Coordinator, Josh, cut holes in the side of them to try and create a mini version of a green house. We helped the children spread dirt in their mini green houses and sprinkle seeds topped with a final layer of soil and water.

Just giving the children a hands on experience with planting isn’t enough to really teach them the importance of what they were doing and what will come from this milk jug with dirt and seeds. Josh read a book that was filled with all kinds of vegetables and other foods and explained how they grew from seeds like what they had planted themselves.

Joan Pauly, our boss, said one of her favorite moments was when she asked a child, “Do plants grow from the sky?” and the child responded with an exaggerated, “Yes.”

Josh said one of his favorite moments was when a little kid was determined to push all of his seeds through the handle of the milk jug.

In a few weeks when the seeds have grown the children will have the opportunity to eat the greens that they grew. We hope to see how they make connections with the food they eat and where it comes from.

Summer of Recycling

This summer, I was able to work on the other side of the sustainability chain here at Berea College. I took a position as a recycling team member with facilities. While working there, I was able to physically see the effects of our policies here at the Office of Sustainability and how they manifest on our campus.
Every morning from Monday to Friday, and even some weekends, I was there at eight in the morning ready to pick up the recycling bins from all over the campus. We brought the material back, sifted through bottles, plastic, glass, cardboard, e-waste, metal, compost, and even trash in order to separate and put items in their rightful place.
It was a dirty job, but working at recycling really helped me understand how important the labor of the recycling team and our initiatives as a college really are, as we diverted thousands of pounds in  recyclable material from being thrown into a landfill. Specifically, one of the items we looked out for were perfectly functional and clean binders to reuse. For the past few years, the Office of Sustainability has provided recycled binders to incoming first year students from the recycling facility and offices on campus that donated to the Office of Sustainability. These binders would have gone to the landfill, but instead, hundreds of students have received free binders!


Written by: Alejandro Galeana-Salinas

Edited by: Kristina Anderson  and Joan Pauly

Bookstore Sustainability

The Berea College Bookstore is a great place for students, faculty, and staff to pick up everything from office supplies to apparel. Recently the store manager, Susan Buckmaster, purchased sustainable office supplies for the bookstore from a company called ONYX+Green which makes its products from recycled and sustainable material. They have a variety of office supplies including pens made from milk cartons, calculators made with different recycled plastics, and pencils made from bamboo.

Susan also purchased 100% recycled t-shirts that are made by Sustainable U which is a company in Appalachia providing sustainable jobs to people in the Appalachian area. The t-shirts feature both prints about the earth as well as what it means to Appalachian. Not only do these products benefit the environment and the communities they provide jobs for, but they also are very affordable, “I thought at first the prices would be too high for the store but when I saw that they were about     the same price as normal supplies I would buy, I had to  have them here!” says Susan. Incorporating a sustainable alternative to supplies normally found at the bookstore, is a great addition to the store. Fortunately it is getting easier to find products that adhere to social justice, environmental, and economic values in line with Berea College values. It is just a matter of asking the question, Is there a product I use or buy for Berea that also supports our values?


Written by: Kristina Anderson

Edited By: Alejandro Galeana-Salinas and Joan Pauly

Sustainability Where Least Expected

Over the summer I was able to participate in the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good Institute in which we learned about entrepreneurial skills and about the Appalachian area.

Working at the Office of Sustainability and getting the chance to learn about the environmental problems within Appalachia, such as the ongoing effects of the coal and fracking industry, I was able to teach my peers about some of the environmental issues the area faces. What I didn’t expect was being able to see firsthand distressed counties taking steps towards becoming more sustainable.

One of our first stops on our Appalachian tour was Mingo County or Williamson, West Virginia. Although you could tell the small town was still struggling with a depleting economy, there were a few promising signs of regrowth. Not only were new local

businesses popping up but we ran into the mayor who began to tell us about new health, food, and renewable energy initiatives the town was making. Recent solar panels had been installed on the tops of buildings, we visited the lot used for the weekly farmers market, and we visited the community garden where volunteers have spent countless hours creating a community garden within a food desert.

Visiting poor Appalachian communities and seeing the effects of a very extractive

economy really opened my eyes to the greater purpose of Berea College and The Office of Sustainability. When you serve the people in these areas by giving them an education and by showing them the benefits of sustainability as a way go back home to improve their local economy and environment, I believe we can change the direction these beautiful but distressed areas are headed in and breathe sustainable life into them again.

Written By: Kristina Anderson

Edited By: Alejandro Galeana-Salinas and Joan Pauly

Muscatine Iowa


View from Mark Twain Overlook

The Muscatine County Iowa Mark twain saw in the 1850’s as he stood on the high banks overlooking the Mississippi river is a much different Muscatine, Iowa than what he would see today. Looking down at the town from the “Mark Twain overlook” historical site, you see a quaint little city but as you look closer you see the big industries that have moved in. Instead of seeing a sunset on the horizon you see smoke coming from Monsanto and its power plant. Instead of seeing local furniture making businesses, you see a huge HON office supply factory right down town. Muscatine has definitely been industrialized, and although these factories are creating jobs for the locals, the practices these companies are using seem like they’re doing more harm for the locals than good.

Mark Twain Overlook Sign

While in Iowa volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I had the opportunity to see this town up close when canvassing through neighborhoods. I couldn’t help but notice a strange smell over the course of the five days I was there, and after walking many miles and inhaling air that smelled overwhelming like dog food, I had to know what it was and why the locals weren’t complaining. After a quick google search I found articles about how many of the factories in Muscatine have been in trouble with the EPA and how Muscatine County has THE WORST quality air in all of Iowa. The Quad-City Times has even written about how the grain processing plant in Muscatine was fined 1.5 MILLION dollars for polluting the air (Liegois).The locals have adapted to the smell but they haven’t adjusted to the health side effects. With upper respiratory infections and asthma being prominent in those who have moved to Muscatine and later left, there is an obvious correlation between what I was smelling and the health of those in the city (Burke). While canvassing on the windier, smellier days I had felt so sick to my stomach I had to stop and go back to the hotel.

My only thoughts as I walked through these neighborhoods seeing children’s toy’s outside and hearing the laughter of children from the school nearby was about what kind of health problems these kids could or HAVE developed from living in these conditions. After observing the caucus at a local elementary school on Monday night, I saw what appeared to be a heavy fog surrounding the street lamps. Although the weather while I was in Iowa was very gloomy the thought of the heavily coal dependent factories nearby made it seem like what was going on there was more than just the weather. The thought of this adorable community suffering any longer made my purpose there volunteering for Bernie sanders all the more meaningful.


Office of Sustainability Communication and Marketing Coordinator, Kristina Anderson, meeting Bernie!

Even with tons of presidential nominees flocking to Iowa to try and secure any last minute votes, no one seemed to be talking about the obvious issue facing Muscatine. Everyone in the U.S. had their eyes on Iowa as the caucus results came in but no one talked about anything except the candidates. Even those candidates who DID talk about the environmental issues facing future generations, like Bernie Sanders did, that wasn’t the story being covered. None of the major news outlets had much to say about the candidate’s stances on the environment, they were just voicing their opinions on who won and who lost. In the end, Bernie won Muscatine County and I can’t help but believe a healthier, cleaner future is on the horizon for the people of Muscatine County.


Burke, Adam. “For Industrial Iowa Town, Air Quality Solution Is Elusive.” Midwest Energy News. 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 02 Feb. 2016.

Liegois, Jason. “GPC in Muscatine Assessed $1.5M Fine for Pollution.” The Quad-City Times. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Inside Deep Green- Nick Mullins

Many students have probably heard the buzz about Deep Green’s fame as a LEED certified dormitory, but what makes it so different from any other? Aside from the aesthetics that include its architecture and woodwork that came from the college’s forest, how is it comparable to other dormitories? For that answer, one needs to pry behind hidden doors to find out.

The afternoon was unseasonably warm for November when I met up with Matthew Devensky, Berea College’s Energy Manager, or the self-proclaimed “Nuts and Bolts Guy.” His job, and passion, is maintaining the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems on the campus. Like me, he gets excited about ways to make things more efficient.

We arrived in the east parking lot and took the outside steps down to the basement where he swiped his key card to gain access. The cool darkness of the concrete made the place feel like less like the crowing jewel of Berea’s Sustainability initiatives, and more like a bunker. Devenksy inserted his keys into a large set of double doors labeled “Mechanical,” and as he pulled open the doors, the hall was flooded with the sounds of electric motors and pumps.

HVAC pipes in Deep GreenMechanical rooms house the infrastructure that supplies hot and cold water, electricity and handles the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) for the building. “Deep Green has some really new tech in it that makes use of heat transfer in new ways,” Devensky said, “I mean it’s amazing what it can do.” He leads me around the corner to see a huge white machine, rectangular in shape with pipes jutting out it on the ends. Having been used to seeing various sizes of heat exchangers and chiller units, I was amazed by the sleek compact design. This was nothing like I’d ever seen. Devensky looked at it with admiration.“This is the central unit. It takes care of all the heating and cooling for both Deep Green and Anna Smith.” He patted one of the pipes, “It’s smart, efficient, and it can take heat and put it where it needs to go with very little loss.”

HVAC central unit in Deep GreenSpace heating and cooling is responsible for 30 to 50% of a building’s energy consumption, making it a great place to seek out the most efficiency. HVAC is all about heat transfer and sometimes it can get complicated. For instance, most people believe that air conditioners cool the air, when in fact, they are removing heat from the air and pumping it to a different place. The result is the cooler air you feel coming from the vents. In a large systems used for entire buildings, loops of hot or cold water are circulated continuously to move heat, often with machines such as chillers to remove heat to the outside, or fossil fuel boilers to add heat to the inside. Each room will have fans that blow air through coils (think car radiators) with either hot or cold water running through them for the purpose of placing heat (heating coils) or absorbing heat (cooling coils).

One of Deep Greens biggest feature is a HVAC system that can move heat where it is needed. “If some of the system is calling for cooling in some parts of the building, the heat will be removed from that area and placed into the heating systems where people are calling for heating,” Devensky explained. “If there is too much heat in the building, it will send it out to the geothermal wells beneath the parking lot where the Earth will absorb it. But that’s wasting it.”

Geothermal refers to a network of vertical wells drilled 300 feet into the earth where the temperature stays anywhere from 55° to 64° F (13° to 18°C). Loops of water pipe ran down through each well to transfer heat. Heat pumps and air conditioners which rely on electricity, and do not burn fossil fuels themselves,  can remove and concentrate heat through mechanical and chemical advantages, but often rely on outside ambient air temperatures.

During the winter time, a heat pump can take what little heat is still in the air and concentrate it to pump it inside and heat a home. During the summer, it can reverse and take the heat from inside, and pump it outside. The disadvantage of using outside ambient air is that it varies greatly, so the cooler it is outside, the harder a heat pump must work to heat a home, using a lot more energy. In the summer, the outside air is warmer and it makes it harder to pump hot air into already hot air.

Geothermal heat pumps“But geothermal stays at a perfect temperature from which to pull heat, or dump it, and Deep Green uses nothing but heat pumps and geothermal,” Devensky said with a grin. “This makes it completely independent from our campus boiler systems that use natural gas, and massive chillers that rely on outside ambient air to dump the heat.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Deep Green and campus energy systems, contact Nick Mullins Office of Sustainability Energy and Water Conservation Coordinator  by emailing

Christopher Miller- Appalachian Center

Several photographs and exhibits hanging on a wallThis week we are celebrating Christopher Miller’s efforts at the Appalachian center to make their many artistic displays more environmentally friendly. Originally, pictures would be formatted on a vinyl base, and mounted with Styrofoam, this becomes very problematic because vinyl isn’t environmentally friendly and Styrofoam never biodegrades in landfills. Although this process does create a very nice quality for long term projects, Miller decided to experiment with a short term project that wouldn’t cause as negative of an environmental impact that the vinyl-Styrofoam process does.

Large black and white photograph laying on a deskThe new process consists of printing projects on paper that could be recycled afterwards and hanging them up with wooden dowels that are reusable. The paper-dowel method does lack in durability, but for short term projects this method is very successful and is now widely practiced at the Appalachian center.

Exhibit wall in the Appalachian CenterNot only is the Appalachian Center changing the materials they use to print projects, they are changing what they use to light their displays! Switching from incandescent light bulbs to, CFL bulbs, to now implementing more LED lights, the Appalachian center is slowly decreasing their carbon foot print, especially with the solar panels that are installed on the roof which feed back into the grid, counteracting a majority of their electrical usage.