LITTLE ROCK — One of central Arkansas’ most honored meeting and retreat centers is now being recognized for its efforts to be one of the most sustainable.
The Little Rock Sustainability Commission has named the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center one of its five 2020 Sustain the Rock award winners. The commission said it recognized winners for promoting “an approach to business and daily living that balances environmental responsibility, economic prosperity, and community equity.”
The center’s success was due to a combination of physical upgrades and the efforts of its employees.
“We’ve made it a priority,” said J.J. Pitman, director of the Vines Center. “The employee contribution to sustainability is critical. One example is turning off heat/air and lighting in the lodging rooms as soon as a guest checks out.”
Lennie Massanelli, recycling and sustainability program educator for the City of Little Rock, said the city’s sustainability commission received 14 nominations for the 2020 award, half of which were for non-profit entities.
“The 4-H Center hit every mark,” Massanelli said.
Pitman said he and other administrators have worked to steadily increase the 110,000-square-foot facility’s efficiency over the past five years. These efforts include replacing a majority of the center’s heating and air conditioning units, upgrading refrigeration and walk-in freezers and switching about 95 percent of all lighting to lower-wattage LED lighting.
From 2014 to 2019, the center decreased its annual usage of electricity by about 57 percent, from about 2.8 million kilowatt hours a year in 2014 to about 1.2 million kilowatt hours in 2019. During that same period, water use at the center was reduced by about 74 percent, from about 10.5 million gallons per year to about 2.7 million gallons per year.
Pitman’s efforts to further improve efficiency are ongoing as the center prepares to mark its 40th anniversary. In 2019, the center began a bidding process for installation of a 170-kilowatt solar array on the campus, to help reduce reliance on energy generated by fossil fuels.
The Vines Center, operated by the Arkansas 4-H Foundation and situated about 10 miles west of the Little Rock metropolitan area, is a 228-acre campus that features hotel-style lodging, outdoor recreation, cafeteria services and a wide array of meeting spaces available for events to the public.
The center has won multiple Best of Biz awards by readers of “Arkansas Business,” for Best Place for a Business Conference/Meeting, Best Team Building Center, Best Place for a Company Retreat, Best Place for a Special Event and Best Place for an Employee Outing.
Built in 1980, the center’s operational model has always been “staying with us is giving back,” referring to the center’s use of client group fees to help offset the cost for youth participating in 4-H and other programs at the facility. In addition to about 15,000 business, non-profit and other clients who use the center annually, educational staff work with more than 10,000 youth and adult participants each year in science, outdoor, leadership, teambuilding and camping education.
4-H is a youth development program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
To learn more about the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center, visit https://thevinescenter.org/.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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