Promoting understanding in Garland County
eeping the Natural State and Hot Springs green, clean and beautiful can be quite the undertaking, but a little hard-work and creativity goes a long way. Luckily, this community is open to making small changes that make a huge impact on the environment.The Low Key Arts, City Plumbing, Heating & Electric Inc., and French Architects are just a few community “earth advocates” that are implementing eco-friendly strategies into their everyday business solutions.
Festivals are notorious for being messy events, but Low Key Arts makes it a point each year to do more to cut back on the amount of waste generated at their two largest events, Hot Water Hills and Valley of the Vapors. What started as individuals in the organization picking up trash and cigarette butts quickly turned into an effort to host events that are “zero waste” certified.
“What started as kind of a grassroots thing has really turned into something we try to do with every event,” said Bill Solleder, co-founder. “Vendors have to have recycleable plates and cutlery, and we have a sustainability crew that helps direct people to where they recycle items at the event. It can be a hard habit to break for some people, especially with cigarette butts, but we make a conscious effort to keep it clean.”
In 2013, the VOV generated .0607 lbs. of landfill waste per person and Hot Water Hills generated .0119 lbs. in 2012, both of which fall in the zero waste certification criteria. But they don’t limit themselves to recycling.
Low Key Arts also uses the power of the sun to provide electricity to their stages with solar powered generators from Stellar Sun, a venture they hope to expand in the future of their events.
“The goal is to be 100 percent solar powered in a few years, but every measure no matter how small will make an impact,” Solleder said.
Much like the festivals, the amount of trash accumulated from working in plumbing was enough for Rick Bonte and City Plumbing, Heating & Electric Inc., to develop a plan for recycling in the workplace.
“Anything that can be recycled gets recycled here,” Bonte said, as there are bins for various recycleable materials spread throughout his office and warehouse. “We generate a lot of cardboard because water heaters and tanks and things like that come in big boxes.”
But the benefits of recycling go beyond his business and spread into the community.
“We also recycle items for the Mid-America Science Museum for their tinkering classes,” he said. “We all bring in our empty egg cartons and paper towel rolls to send to the museum for that.
“Throwing things away rather than finding ways to reuse them can be a hard habit to break, but it’s amazing what conserving our resources can do.”
Bonte has always seen recycling and eco-friendliness as “a responsibility we all share,” and finding ways to incorporate this view into his business model has made an impact with his customers.
“We do everything we can to get our customers the better deals in the long run, and energy efficient products save them money in the long run and can come with nice rebates on the front end,” he said.
At French Architects, building sustainability benefits not only the clients, but the community.
Both architects David French and Zach Ouchley are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professionals who work to bring building designs that meet energy efficient standards that in turn put money back in the pockets of clients.
“Getting a building LEED certified can be costly to the client, so many of them opt out of the official certification, but we still work the LEED standards into our designs as much as possible,” said Ouchley.
But much of the design principles have been around for centuries and are included in all aspiring architects’ education.
“If you look back in history at the way buildings were cooled and heated before heating and air conditioning, you see the mechanical side of the designs that worked,” said French. “It’s important to think of all aspects of a building when designing something that is going to be energy efficient, whether that is using locally sourced materials or incorporating natural watering systems into the landscape.”
According to Ouchley, things like designing buildings that take advantage of natural daylight to decrease use of artificial lighting and reduce heat gain and loss in summer and winter are incorporated into their education, and are pratices that make a difference in the long run.
“I think now energy costs are very low, but they won’t be later on,” he said. “By designing sustainable buildings that are LEED and Energy Star certified, you’re thinking ahead so you aren’t paying for it later.”
Gwen Kudabeck, Anne Quinn, Shea Childs and Michelle Sestili of Low Key Arts.
Ronnie Carroll and Rick Bonte of City Plumbing Heating and Electric Inc.
David French and Zach Ouchley, LEED certified architects with French Architect.