Berea Center for Energy

When asked to apply to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, Joan Pauly, Office of Sustainability Coordinator saw nothing but opportunity for both small businesses and students. Establishing the Berea Center for Energy (BCE) would hit all of the key principles that are considered when we talk about sustainability, “How will this impact our economic, social, and environmental goals?” By creating two internship positions both a technical and marketing opportunity for students, the deal was a perfect fit.

With help from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and Midwest Clean Energy Solutions,  BCE has been helping small businesses in Eastern, KY receive grants and low interest loans for Energy audits and energy upgrades for the past few years. The Berea interns and professionals utilize REAP grants to help businesses receive needed energy efficient capital investments. Essentially, providing funding opportunities for businesses to implement the energy efficient opportunities identified in the Energy Audit.

A previous client in Neon-Fleming, KY that is the only grocery store for miles in the community, without it it would be considered a food desert. After receiving a subsidized energy audit that recommended upgrading to LED lights and energy efficient coolers, they applied for a REAP grant that helped fund the needed upgrades. Because of the savings from the energy audit they are able to save money, pay their employees better, and keep the price of food low for customers.

During his time in Frankfort, Erick Shyaka (May 2019 Graduate, Economics Major, Data Analyst for the Office of Sustainability) analyzed data from utility data for new BCE customers, and assited in convincing clients that energy efficiency is worth their consideration. He also analyzed data for to help ensure payback periods for previous clients. “We want to show them it’s worth their time and investment,” said Shyaka explaining why checking up on the business’s progress was important. Data found from past clients is a key persuasion point for many new clients. He found that Whittaker’s IGA would actually get their return sooner than expected reducing their overall electricity costs more than projected.

Kristina Anderson (May 2019 Graduate, Communication Major, Communication and Event Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability) focused most of her efforts on marketing the program to small businesses. She created easy to understand marketing materials, updated the BCE website, spoke one-on-one with potential clients and gave a presentation to an economic development group in Ashland, KY to help recruit clients. “I found that it was really important and took a lot of time to effectively communicate what all the Berea Center for Energy provides small businesses in a way that makes a lot of different elements sound simple and worth their time,” She explained. She also wrote an article on a hotel chain in Frankfort, reporting on their overwhelming success in reducing their electricity costs, reducing one hotel by $100,000 in a year.

BCE provides a vital service for the communities in Appalachia. If you or someone you know are a small business owner in Eastern, KY feel free to reach out on our website: https://www.berea.edu/sustainability/berea-college-center-energy/

Smoothies on the Square

 

With news of a pile of garbage the size of an island floating in the Pacific Ocean, it can be a little overwhelming to imagine what can be done about the ever growing waste that is getting produced on behalf of human consumption. A solution offered up by the Berea College Visitors Center is one small feat offering a gleam of hope in a sea of troubles (or in this case, trash).

In August 2018, the Visitors Center had a soft opening for Smoothies on the Square offering up a healthy and zero-waste option for visitors, college students, and community members a-like. By using compostable cups, plastic straw alternatives, and composting any food waste that is produced by the smoothies, the Visitors Center is providing yet another example of excellence at Berea College. Susan Buckmaster (Director, Berea College Retails Sales) admitted that the popularized “plastic straw debate” actually inspired the decision to open the smoothie bar with straw alternatives in stock, making the zero-waste concept even more applicable to something that is so small it usually gets looked over. Classic paper straws are being used as well as pasta straws. Many students shy away from the pasta straws, but these straws have no taste and hold up better than the paper ones.

Susan Buckmaster spearheaded the delicious change in the Visitors Center after the jewelry professor retired, leaving the jewelry stand empty. Susan explained that the smoothie bar had been a vision of hers since starting her work with the Visitors Center, “It just screamed an old fashion soda bar.” Her dedication to health left her thinking about ways to utilize the space, “In a community the size of ours with two McDonalds, it was really important to me to offer the community a healthy option,” she remarked. With unique options, a welcoming environment, and a sustainable business model, Smoothies on the Square is a perfect little spot for anyone to stop in for a healthy snack.

Launch of Green Office Certification and Green Events Programs

The Office of Sustainability is officially launching two new programs to help our campus achieve the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Accord to keep the earth’s global temperature from increasing by two degrees Celsius and avoid any major changes to the climate. Our country may have backed out, but colleges and universities across the US are saying, “We’re Still In.” Berea College is one of them.

Office of Admissions receiving their certification plaque

Institutional Research receiving their Green Office Certification Plaque

Our Green Office Certification program takes a holistic approach at looking at the ecosystem of the Office by providing green office practices and policies for everything from printing paper to ensuring lights and appliances are unplugged each day. Offices are encouraged to create a “Green Team” of office workers to be responsible for maintaining green office practices. Spear heading the certification process is Green Office Certification Coordinator, Rachel Hidding, whose enthusiasm speaks for itself, “I hope to see every office on campus receive Green Office Certification one day.”

 

 

The Office of Admissions (certified excellent) and the Institutional Research office (certified) were the first two offices to receive certification, playing a vital role in establishing our program. This year the Student Life Office in Woods-Penn and Frost Cottage have both received certification, both earning our first ever Exemplary ratings.

 

 

 

Our new Zero Waste Events program takes the idea of a closed loop system and helps event planners across campus divert waste from the landfill into our own greenhouse compost. Any club or campus organization can utilize the services offered by the Office of Sustainability and help Berea achieve its “We’re Still In” goals.

Whether your event is for two or 200, we’ve got you covered. Last year, we composted 919lbs from on campus events alone. Here are our Zero Waste Champions from the 2017-2018 school year:

Thrive Wellness, Center of International Education, Brushy Fork Institute, Interfaith Center, Homecoming, Alumni Relations.

This year at the Presidents Opening Convocation, we fed about 1,000 guests and produced only 146lbs of compost and ONE garbage bag of trash weighing seven pounds.

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

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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.

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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.