Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recycling an old idea

This summer on July 26 we will celebrate our 16th year as Innkeepers. Many things have changed through the years, but we have worked hard to see that many things haven’t changed as well. When your business is in a 116-year-old Victorian home, maintaining the atmosphere is something we have to think about every time we make even the simplest change. For example, how do you add TVs, telephones, or even electric lights without taking away from what life must have been like in our old homes in the 1890’s? We obviously have those “modern amenities”, but as a compromise to the authenticity of the atmosphere. Thank goodness wifi is not something you can see!

Even Charles McCann, the owner and builder of the home that encompasses the Walnut Street Inn, struggled to decide what was appropriate. In his unpublished biography (we have a copy here at the Inn if you want to read it) he said while building the home he chose not to add electricity because he thought it was a fad and was not going to become widespread. Within two years he realized he had made a serious error and had to wire the house well after construction.

And the dilemma continues. 

Recycling and energy conservation are some of our issues today. When I think about it, my Ozark family, and I would imagine many of your families as well, were recyclers from an early age. 

Shortly after I was born my father starting building our family home himself. That home is still in construction today, some 57 years later. One of my jobs as a pre-teen and early teen was to be the official family “nail puller.” Dad would recover old wood from houses being torn down around the town to be repurposed into wood for the continuing construction of our house. All winter (it seemed to me) he would pile up the old boards on the north side of our house, awaiting the appointed hour of my summer vacation. I would be “hired” to remove said nails from each board creating a functional “new” piece of lumber. My memory tends to be embellished with time, but one summer I distinctly remember dad salvaging a bunch of oak tongue and groove flooring, where the nails were put in at a right angle above the “tongue.” Not only did it seem impossible for me to get out the nail without totally destroying the “tongue,” this extremely hard, antique wood gave up nails like a snake leaves footprints. Each nail-less board came at great cost to my young psyche. Every day after listening to my whines about my meager output, my dad would demonstrate how to easily remove the nails from the boards. I was sure each of his boards must have been rigged to give up their nails so easily. I imagined him sneaking in at night, drilling holes in his example board, then slipping old nails into the drilled holes. Molehills became mountains, and it wasn’t long until I had weaseled my way out of this horrible task and found my way to the Tally Ho Motel swimming pool. Thanks Dad.

But I digress... One of the ongoing conversations among the Walnut Street Inn staff is how to be good stewards to our environment while running our small business in the most efficient and appealing way. In your home you can choose to sacrifice ascetics for stewardship. If you wish to add recycle bins for paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, tin, compost, etc. in your living room, you may do it. You can put them wherever you want. If you choose to efficiently hold laundry until all loads are full and energy and water usage is at a minimum you can do that as well. 

We, on the other hand, have a dilemma; how do we maintain the atmosphere that attracts guests to the inn while doing the right thing for the environment? We are also under the gun of a 2:00pm check-in time. Everything has to be ready at that all important “witching” hour.

We have compromised by adding small, labeled, recycle trash cans to every room. We also put a card in every room that says “We can all do our part..” that goes on to describe our recycling efforts and offers guests staying more than one night the opportunity to request we don’t change their sheets and towels every day (to cut down on detergent, water and energy usage.) 

Guest response has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it is not unusual for a guest to be seen wandering around our parlors or gardens with an empty plastic water bottle in search of our recycle containers. 

So for these little changes we breathe a collective sigh of relief and move on. We have not destroyed the ambiance of the Walnut Street Inn. 

What’s next? Hmmmm...well, if I could get each guest to pull 20 weeds out of my yard before leaving...

Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street Springfield, MO 65806
Info: 417-864-6346
Reservations: 800-593-6346

1 comment:

  1. I commend your conservation efforts. I find it great when people are actively looking for ways to help with recylcing and energy use. Small labeled trashcans are a great compromise to ensure that your inn will continue a great new if only that weed pulling can be integrated.

    My name is Marc, and aside from being a fan of recycling and B&B's, I also work with Bescover. We offer a nationwide directory of bed and breakfasts, as well as provide mobile technology for innkeepers like yourself.

    Please feel free to share pictures, inn information, or links to your awesome blog on our facebook page at

    have a great week


The Walnut Street Inn

The Walnut Street Inn
the Inn is made up of three 100+ year old buildings.