Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Searcy is focused on reducing its overall carbon footprint.
To jump-start its efforts, the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce developed a special initiative called “Searcy Energy Smart” with help from a committee made up of 38 community leaders, representatives from the state energy office and the University of Arkansas.
Buck Layne, president of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the committee and with Paul Ford, chairman of the committee, helped get this green program off the ground last year and officially kicked off in February.
“The mission of ‘Searcy Energy Smart’ is to save energy and reduce the environmental impact of the city and the surrounding area through education and energy efficiency programs,” Layne said.
That mission also led Searcy to being named the 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction winner of the Green Initiatives category for cities with more than 20,000 people.
The town’s participation in the Univeristy of Arkansas’ Sam Walton School of Business’ Sustainable Energy Scorecards and Education for Municipalities (SESEM) program has allowed the committee to exchange ideas with other cities about reducing energy consumption and damage to the environment through monthly conference calls and a two-day seminar that was held on campus in Fayetteville.
Together, a program was created with the help of Entergy Arkansas and CenterPoint Energy that aims to increase public awareness about energy efficiency and help provide the community with opportunities to save money and reduce their own carbon footprint.
“Local utilities have been very active in the community, marketing their energy efficiency programs and training local trade allies to install energy efficiency items in homes and businesses,” Layne said.
Many energy audits have been performed for industrial facilities, commercial businesses, apartments and homes to help identify energy efficiency improvements and offered no-cost measures to save energy. To keep on eye on progress, the utility implementation teams provide tracking support.
“Entergy and CenterPoint Energy all have an automatic tracking mechanism in place so now we are able to track where we are,” Ford said.
In addition to energy-saving opportunities for businesses and homes, the program has found ways to educate the community on reducing energy consumption and recycling. The committee has a speaker’s bureau for local schools, provides civic club presentations, offers faith-based initiatives and has been a part of special events like the White County Business Expo.
Part of the success of the program lies with its promotion through yard and retail business signs being placed and even coloring pages for restaurant patrons. There’s even an informative website, www.SearcyEnergySmart.com, created by Thinking Advertising, that outlines the missions of the program and gives additional information about ways to get involved.
Since August 2012, “Searcy Energy Smart” has seen a difference in the city’s monetary and environmental figures. The implementation of the initiative has resulted in $571,000 in one-time cash incentives being invested in energy efficiency improvements to local households and businesses with a further $409,600 in utility bill savings to date, which has even more potential to grow in the near future.
“Over 10 years, these annual savings could grow to a total of $4.1 million, which can then be circulated throughout the local economy to help strengthen the business community,” Layne said.
Something else worth noting is the major reduction of CO2 emissions by 3.7 million pounds and the 871 tons of newspaper, cardboard, plastic, paper and tin that have been recycled.
Ford said the initiative is something that can replicated by other communities. Layne and Ford said the program could not be as successful without the help of volunteers and support of area businesses and local residents.
“The Searcy Chamber of Commerce committee who was formed to generate ideas and to implement the initiatives, as well as the support of the Searcy mayor David Morris and businesses such as Think Advertising, were all instrumental in this successful program,” Layne said.
Additionally, limited dollars were utilized and a $1,000 grant from Main Street Searcy provided funding for advertising collaterals.
“The community leaders and citizens of Searcy make this a great place to implement a project like this,” Ford said. “[There is] lots of support for it.”