By Jennifer Lee
Kermit the Frog sang that it wasn’t easy being green, and though he was referring to his complexion, the same could be said for “living green” in an age of immediacy, convenience, and lots of disposable stuff. Not so, says Cheryl Ann Ash, executive director of Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville since November 2012. There are many ways — large and small, expensive and cheap, hard and easy — to be green, and she’s putting those ways to work at the Barns, where the buildings themselves are examples of recycling and re-using at its finest.
“This is an all-inclusive initiative. If it’s attainable, why not do all of it?” proclaimed Ash, with an optimism and determination that leaves little room for doubt.
The transformation of two falling-down, abandoned dairy barns to a beautiful, vibrant arts and community center was led by a small group of dedicated individuals beginning in 2004 and completed in 2011, with concerted effort all along the way to be resourceful, energy-efficient, and sustainable.
“The concrete floor on the first level provides a great thermal mass,” explained Ash. The floor can be used to trap solar heat in winter and maintain a cool surface in summer. A rain garden—a clean, efficient (and attractive) way to manage stormwater runoff—was installed at the entrance of the Barns by Earthworks Landscaping Company. The Barns has always practiced recycling and the use of recycled products.
Now, under the leadership of Ash, the initiative is moving closer to the “all-inclusive.” She and her husband Brian became actively involved in environmental stewardship through their E-Cycle Construction and Consulting business, which was founded several years ago after Brian saw all the waste created on construction sites. “With the birth of our grandchildren, we were even more inspired to be good stewards of the planet for them and all the other little green sprouts,” Ash said, smiling brightly.
The first step in creating a greener work or living space is to conduct an audit: a thorough walkthrough of the space to evaluate what can be done to conserve energy, save water, limit waste, and reduce carbon emissions and other detrimental impacts on the environment. Perhaps the most glaring thing Ash saw in her walkthrough of the Barns was the use of halogen and incandescent lights throughout the gallery spaces and performance hall. Not only do they use more energy and expel significantly more heat, they were costing the organization $300 to $400 a month in bulbs.
With the help of photographer Timothy Cuffe, whose photographs of Clarke County landscapes are currently on display at the Barns, Ash secured a donation from Sylvania for 18 LED lights to replace all the halogens in the second-floor gallery space. At $25 a bulb, this was a significant donation, but the larger benefit is in the life expectancy of the LED bulb: 12 years with 10–12 hour-per-day usage versus about 90 days for a halogen bulb. Ash is quick to point out that the technology of LEDs has aesthetically evolved in just the last year. Instead of the cold, blue light often associated with them, they now emit a much warmer light, nearly indistinguishable from an incandescent. The Barns would like to replace their remaining 35 halogen bulbs with LEDs, a big $980 bite to chew at the outset, but one that is easily digestible over the long-term
“As a community-based facility, we really need to be on the leading edge of environmental responsibility,” Ash said. She hopes to establish a partnership with Seventh Generation, a company that produces eco-friendly cleaning products, to eliminate the use of harsh chemicals. She also plans to enhance existing recycling practices so that most everything consumed at the Barns can be recycled or reused.
The Barns staff is “constantly looking for ways to be organic,” she said, from the products they use to the desire for a small demonstration garden and clothesline at the Smithy House, which serves as the office of the Barns and lodging for regional acts who perform at the Barns. Not only do these practices help mitigate detrimental effects to the environment, they save energy and ultimately reduce operational costs. Such efforts might just strengthen a community, too.
“It was like one giant green hug,” Ash remembered, referring to last year’s Valley Earthfest, held inside and around the Barns, with seven musical acts, 75 vendors, six workshops, and other activities designed to celebrate the earth and ways to be better stewards of it. She would like to see the Barns carry this spirit throughout the year, and “help us become a beacon in the community so that other businesses might follow suit.”
Cheryl Ash and the Barns of Rose Hill are putting in practice what Kermit came to discover: being green can be a beautiful thing!
For information, updates, or to help the Barns of Rose Hill fulfill its green initiatives, visit the website at www.barnsofrosehill.org, Barns of Rose Hill Facebook page, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 540-955-2004.
Jennifer Lee is a longtime Clarke County resident who likes to write, take pictures, and do stuff to promote good works.
Resources for Green Businesses
Small Business Administration, Green Business Guide: sba.gov