The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named John Brown University the “Greenest Office” in their 2012 sustainability issue. The article highlights the University’s status as the first zero-landfill campus in Arkansas.
Steve Brankle, director of facilities and sustainability, was dubbed CSO, Chief Sustainability Officer, by the journal. Though Brankle found the title humorous, he also said there was some truth in it.
“It’s cool because I think my job is that,” Brankle said. “I should find ways to save you money… If we can impact the environment in a positive way, that’s great, but if we can make the school more financially stable and ultimately affect your tuition going up as fast, that’s what I see.”
Both Brankle and the article emphasized the importance of financial sustainability.
“It makes no sense just to do something that’s green if it’s going to cost you more money,” he said. “Every project we’ve done makes financial sense.”
These projects include removing dumpsters, which saves the University $30,000 each year, and installing the HVAC control system, an interface that can control any thermostat or boiler on campus and should bring a return on investment in one to two years.
The article additionally mentions other projects that are in the works. Brankle said the major one involves working with Siloam Springs leaders to find a way to pump effluence—clean water that comes from the sewage plant—on campus to use for irrigation.
Brankle also said they are researching lighting improvements, occupancy sensors, high-efficiency cars and vending machine sensors, all with the purpose of saving students money.
“I hope students see this as important,” Brankle said. “Just the recycling, I don’t expect everyone to do it. I really don’t. But hopefully some of the things we do here changes how you think about stuff.”
Senior Matthias Roberts loved the school’s recognition for its sustainability efforts.
“Sustainability is important to me, as I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the creation God has given us,” he said. “Belonging to a community that places emphasis on this calling is fulfilling, and I’m proud to claim that my school cares about the world that we live in.”
Brankle added, “It shows that we’re a leader in sustainability. It shows that we are thinking outside the box. The University is very blessed, and there are a lot of Christian colleges that would like to do what we are doing, but they just don’t have the finances. We’re a very blessed place.”