John Brown University's ‘Zero Landfill' Initiative Paying Off

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Jul. 15, 2013 12:00 am  

Like-Minded Neighbors

JBU joins four local businesses in the fight to eliminate waste and cut costs. McKee Foods Corp. in nearby Gentry, DaySpring Cards Inc., Gates Corp. and La-Z-Boy Arkansas are also zero-landfill operations.

Companies began to explore the option during a Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce roundtable for business leaders in 2011. City officials explained that rather than hauling trash to a landfill in nearby Tontitown, they could transport it to a plant in Tulsa that used a non-emission incinerator to burn the trash and generate energy.

Siloam Springs proudly touts its status as an environmental leader in the state.

Don Tennison, Siloam Springs’ solid waste superintendent, said the city should and does use the success of JBU and other local businesses as a selling point. He said it should be taken under consideration for companies thinking of relocating or starting in northwest Arkansas.

“It’s a great selling point for the city,” Tennison said. “That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on is that we offer the zero-landfill option to our industries. It’s an option for them and we try to push it. We offer that for anybody that wants to participate.”

Brankle was more than happy to sign on with the city to have waste hauled to Tulsa. He visits other campuses to see what they are doing to promote sustainability and after seeing that JBU was ahead of its peers in many areas, he wanted to find “one big thing” to set the campus apart.

Achieving zero-landfill status was that big thing. But it’s far from the only sustainability project at JBU.

A quick drive through campus reveals solar panels on buildings and traffic signs. Brankle has phased hybrid cars into the school’s 15-vehicle fleet, bringing the average gasoline mileage from 25 miles per gallon to more than 40. Low-flow water fixtures have been installed throughout campus. Public bathrooms are going paperless where possible.

Renovation of J. Alvin Hall, a 93-year-old men’s dorm, is being done with sustainability in mind. The roof will be white to help the building absorb less heat and make it easier to cool. A variable refrigerant flow system for heating and cooling is being installed. VRFs are smaller and more efficient and should ultimately help keep costs down after the initial investment.

Brankle has his sights set on a pilot project to retrofit lighting on campus. He’ll start with one building, gauge the savings and then, if successful, try it elsewhere at JBU.

One day Brankle hopes that clean water generated by a nearby wastewater treatment facility can be used to irrigate campus landscaping. State regulations currently don’t allow that, but Brankle is ready if regulations ever change.



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