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ALTERNATIVE ELECTRICITY: Office Power Offgrid

Stitt Energy Addition Demonstrates Sustainability

Posted: November 18, 2009 at 4:29 a.m.

— Windows capture natural light and solar panels provide electricity and heat water at Stitt Energy Systems’ office.

Construction of the 3,200-square-foot addition to the company’s office at 1301 S. Eighth St. recycled enough material to keep about 26 commercial-sized metal containers of trash out of landfills.

Orlo Stitt said his monthly bill for electricity and natural gas is about $100 per month.

His office is proof any home can be sustainable without expensive technology and without looking like an alien spaceship.

The office addition is so energy-efficient that Stitt got a platinum LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a national and international points system, with points assigned based on reducing environmental impact and increasing energy efficiency. The Stitt Energy Systems office is one of only three platinum LEED buildings in Arkansas and one of 212 in the world.

The Stitt Energy addition cost about $455,000, including the parking lot; landscaping to use less water and survive hot summers; and solar panels, Stitt said.

About 100 people who attended the LEED certification ceremony toured Stitt’s offices. Stitt pointed to an office floor that was the concrete in a former porch; detailed how wood beams from a part of the older building were moved into the addition, or unusable wood was ground and used as mulch in the landscaping; and noted gray water is used to water the plants and trees.

Windows are oriented to the west and east, to let in natural light. Some fixtures, such as windows from the old Stitt office, were sold for use in other buildings or donated to Habitat for Humanity, Stitt said.

Delia Haak, executive director of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, praised Stitt for “intentionally designing spaces to improve our lives and the environment.”

Steve Rust, president and chief executive officer of the Fayetteville Economic Development Council, said Northwest Arkansas is an epicenter of sustainability examples, from Wal-Mart to a small business such as Stitt Energy Systems.

Those businesses, combined with leveraging research at entities such as the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, can create more leadership in sustainability and birth future businesses, Rust said.

Wal-Mart held a global sustainability milestone meeting Thursday in Bentonville. The retailer in July announced it’s formulating a product sustainability index, with input from suppliers and professors at the University of Arkansas and the University of Arizona.

The index will examine a product life cycle, from raw material used to create it to what happens after consumers use and dispose of the product and its packaging.

Wal-Mart is reducing waste internally. Employees during the sustainability Webcast detailed how they collect polystyrene from stores. The polystyrene is taken to a plant and recycled into picture frames and poster frames.

Conyers, Ga.-based Pratt Industries takes corrugated cardboard and recycles it into boxes for take and bake pizzas sold at Walmart stores, according to the sustainability Webcast.

“What this is about is not what we have done but where we are going,” said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations.

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