The Story Inn is committed to having a positive effect on the environment. We have implemented a sensible recycling program and strive to conserve energy wherever possible. We are confronted by many challenges unique to managing a small historic town as a business, and do all that is practical and within our power.
Solid Waste - Brown County has no municipal waste collection or disposal system or landfill. This has forced us to deal creatively with the solid waste we produce. The Story Inn generates a good deal of solid waste, principally: food waste, glass, metal, paper and packaging, and yard waste. We also occasionally must deal with the disposal of paints, solvents and appliances.
Food Waste - We segregate and bag all plate scrapings and spoilage, and give these away free to local residents to feed pigs, dogs and goats. We have a compost pile for vegetable waste, which we use to fertilize the gardens. We collect our old fryer grease into drums, which a customer periodically recovers and converts into biodiesel.
Glass - We have a dumpster dedicated to collecting our glass. Periodically, a truck takes the dumpster to a recycle center in Indianapolis.
Metal - We clean and separate metals, which an employee takes to a recycle center.
Paper and Packaging - We give away as many cardboard boxes as possible to our employees and friends, and re-use boxes as mailing containers. Otherwise, we collapse all cardboard boxes and take them to a recycle center.
Yard Waste - We employ a full-time gardener/groundskeeper, and the fruit of her skilled labor is much in evidence. She removes all fallen branches, weeds, leaves, and other naturally occurring debris, which is composted onsite. Larger branches are cut into firewood, which we offer to our employees free of charge for home heating and/or burn in our outdoor grill or fire pit. We employ a mulching lawnmower to allow grass clippings to spread and decompose naturally. We use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides very sparingly.
Rainwater - We collect rain water that falls on the main building. We direct the runoff to storage tanks, which we later use to water plants and shrubs.
Paints - Solvents and Appliances. We separate these items. Several times per year, the Brown County Solid Waste Department in Nashville allows local citizens to bring such items in for safe disposal. If we have an unusually large item, such as a steel door, air conditioning unit, or large appliance, we haul the metal to Columbus for recycling.
ENERGY AND WATER CONSERVATION - Our corner of Brown County has no natural gas service, which forces us to heat and cool most of our buildings with electricity. That is extremely expensive. Moreover, most of our buildings are very old and poorly insulated. Market forces therefore compel us to conserve.
1. Propane - We have converted the two main buildings in town, the General Store and Mill, to propane heat. We have installed new ultra high efficiency furnaces with heat pumps in each of these buildings (up to 95.5% efficiency, SEER Rated). We have insulated the main buildings and have installed thermal windows to conserve heat. In August, 2009, we installed two high efficiency in-line water heaters in the main building, which work in tandem, supplying the restaurant and kitchen with unlimited hot water on demand, in the most efficient manner possible.
2. Electricity - We have eliminated inefficient base board heating in the remaining buildings, and replaced them with ultra high efficiency heat exchangers (which work equally well for heating and cooling). We also set back thermostats in buildings which are not occupied. We have packed extra insulation around our hot tubs and hot water heaters, and wherever feasible, replaced single pane windows with thermal windows and pack insulation behind walls and into attics. In renovating the town, we have had to replace many roofs. When we replace a roof, we employ metal that is both compatible with the history of the structure and aesthetically pleasing. However, we insulate under the metal, which reduces energy consumption. All of the 19th Century lampposts around town have high efficiency light bulbs, their bizarre shape not visible through the frosted globes. All kitchen and storage areas have high efficiency bulbs. Within coolers and freezers, we have installed either LED or CFL lighting to reduce the amount of heat produced. We replace filters in furnaces and air exchangers frequently, to reduce energy consumption. Most of our outside lights are activated by photo cells, to reduce energy consumption.
3. Water - We carefully monitor water consumption to identify and fix breaks as soon as they occur. We also watch for running toilets and faucets, since this wastes water and burdens our septic system as well. We have replaced our dish tank with one which employs higher pressure but uses less water. This conserves water and energy, and places a smaller load on our septic system. We soften the hot water which services the kitchen, employing an efficient softener which conserves salt. Since grass is remarkably adapted to resist drought, we have never watered the grass with municipal water.
WASTE WATER DISPOSAL - We have decommissioned five septic systems and installed two complete new septic systems since 1999, one of which was licensed by the State, the other by the County, Health Departments. These systems treat effluent as effectively as their designs permit. All septic systems are properly maintained and in good working order.
Our kitchen is the largest source of effluent, and among the sources in the kitchen, the dish tank accounts for greatest portion. We have installed a 1,000 gallon grease trap specifically to catch the dish tank effluent, which allows the separation and early biodegradation of solids (grease and food particles). From there, the dish tank effluent drains into a system of three other tanks before it is pumped into the leach field. Two of our septic systems have dosing chambers to even the flow throughout the week. This effectively prevents the systems from becoming overwhelmed during peak times (weekends). We have reduced the amount of detergents and chemicals reaching the septic fields by softening the hot water flowing into the dish tank and employing a system which doses the detergents and cleaners automatically. In 2007, we installed a new water softening system that uses salt very sparingly. We regularly add enzymes and live bacteria to the septic tanks to speed the natural decomposition of solids.
PUBLIC EVENTS - We host two public events here at the Story Inn, the Indiana Wine Fair and the Hoosier Hops & Harvest. In the case of large public events, we place trash receptacles around the property, and send out employees or volunteers to clean up trash within hours of the conclusion of each event. At the Wine Fair, we provide each guest with a Story Inn wine glass keepsake, a measure which reduces waste significantly. We sometimes ask our patrons to separate and recycle the trash for us, and dispose of that trash through a local trash collector. With large events, we also provide portable toilets for use by the public. We rent these from an outside service, which disposes of the waste. In this manner, we reduce the load on our septic systems.
GARDEN - We maintain two gardens and a small orchard/vineyard onsite, which supply us with fruits and vegetables in season. We pride ourselves in having heirloom tomatoes, and re-use seeds to plant each spring. We do not use any pesticides on these gardens, and use only vegetable compost and grass clippings as fertilizer. We buy produce, eggs and maple syrup from local farmers in season.
DOMESTIC SPECIES - We have taken care to cultivate several native Indiana plant species onsite. We have selectively harvested non-domestic softwoods planted by the old Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. In doing so, we have taken great pains to minimize the disturbance to the under story of domestic hardwoods. We cut and milled the harvested timber onsite, and then used the lumber for construction materials. We feed hummingbirds and provide nesting boxes for bluebirds, purple martins and other domestic avian species.
TOBACCO - We regard tobacco to be an environmental hazard. We have never sold, and never will sell, tobacco products, and hope that the inconvenience of being forced to drive over 20 miles to obtain a nicotine fix will wean some percentage of our customers from this odious indulgence. Most redundantly, we do not permit smoking in any building at the Story Inn.
DOMESTICATED ANIMALS - We love our pets here at the Story Inn. All of them have been spayed or neutered. All of them are current on shots and immunizations.
MISCELLANEOUS - We print our literature and menus on recycled paper, and our hot drink cups are made from recycled materials. We never use polystyrene containers or packing materials of any kind. All of our carry-out boxes are biodegradable (made from plant cellulose). The owner drives a Toyota Prius (hybrid gas/electric) and a Volkswagen Jetta TDI (high-efficiency diesel).