Feature Article - April 2011
Find a printable version here

Maintenance Series: Eco-Friendly

Clean and Green
Eco-Friendlier Maintenance Practices

By Dawn Klingensmith

Baby Steps, Big Savings

Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit arts and education organization that, in partnership with the National Park Service, formed Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia, adopted a staged approach for its Go Green program. Launched in 2006, the program has resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the foundation's carbon footprint, according to spokeswoman Melissa Chotiner.

"It's not like someone gave us some huge grant. We had to make this work with our budget," said Terre Jones, the foundation's president and CEO.

In the performing arts, as in the parks and recreation sector, "A lot of people push back against green initiatives because they're worried about how to make payroll," he said. "We wanted to set an example and find simple ways to do things that would make a difference."

Using a staged approach, money saved by decreasing energy use was reinvested into the Go Green program and used to purchase items whose up-front costs would take some time to recoup.

"Some examples of how we have reduced energy use and increased efficiencies and savings include simple steps such as replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient ones; using biodegradable food services and reusable or recyclable cups, plates and utensils; and working toward a paperless office environment," Chotiner said.

One of the foundation's first steps was to make recycling easier for employees and patrons. An outdoor venue that allows picnicking, Wolf Trap "gives bags to people so they can do their own sorting and separating and then deposit them in the appropriate receptacles" stationed about the property, Jones said.

In the offices, "People don't have trash bins at their desks—only recycle bins," he added. Communal trash receptacles are centrally located, and since people need to make an effort to throw things away, they are less apt to do so mindlessly.

This could also lower a line-item cost. The Chicago Tribune reported two years ago that the city's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum had taken some thrifty measures to shape up its budget before resorting to layoffs, among them the removal of trash cans from employee work stations for an annual savings of $2,500 in trash bags.