From small lighting fixes to a large scale recycling and composting program, the Noble Correctional Institution is blazing an environmental trail that is making it a model of green initiatives nationwide and helping it maintain the lowest daily cost per inmate of any Ohio prison.
"Noble is leading our agency going forward," praised Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr as he toured the facility Monday with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally and other officials.
Some of the programs run at the prison, such as its recycling efforts, are not specific to the institution. In fact, Ohio's 26 prisons have generated $1 million in revenue through their recycling programs over the past two fiscal years.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Noble Correctional Institute inmate Harold Brady empties pellets into a composting machine the prison purchased last year on Monday. The machine has saved thousands of dollars in trash hauling bills while building vocational skills for inmates.
However, some Noble Correctional Institute (NCI) programs are blazing a completely new trail.
Take for example "Big Hanna," a set of massive composting machines used in conjunction with a pulp extractor housed in the prison's cafeteria area. The machines have helped massively cut down on the amount of waste generated by the prison, said NCI business administrator Darin Clark.
Before the process went into place, the prison was generating approximately 1,200 pounds of food waste per meal. The prison was the largest generator of food waste in the county, said Clark.
By the numbers
$205,465 - Cost of composting machines at Noble Correctional Institution (NCI).
$30,465 -Cost of composting machines covered by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
$12,000 -Approximate trash hauling savings at NCI over the past three months.
$50,800 -Estimated yearly savings due to composting efforts at NCI.
$265,000 -Revenue from recycling initiatives generated by state prisons in the past six months.
Source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
But no more. Now that those apple cores, onion peels and uneaten portions are being pulped and composted, the prison has reduced its trash pulls by half, said NCI Public Information Officer David Gray.
That has translated into a savings of $12,000 on NCI's trash hauling expenses in just the first quarter of this year, said Clark.
"We were able to recoup our return on investment on this (composter) in the first year," said Gray.
All but $30,465 of the $205,000 composting machine was paid for by a grant. The DRC has already recouped that money since they began composting in January and are expected to save nearly $51,000 a year thanks to the machine.
The prison is also using the 700 pounds of compost generated every other day on prison grounds and throughout other state facilities, said NCI Health and Safety Officer Ken Spencer.
"Big Hanna" has drawn a lot of interest. Three other prisons and a college have already visited to see the process in action and Mohr expressed his hope that NCI could turn into a training facility for the technology.
"This too has a lot of potential value to people. I'd like to look at us actually supporting the development of these things," he said.
The composter has already proven to be a powerful job training tool for offenders. The machines are run by prisoners under the supervision of staff.
Inmate Harold Brady, 48, helped install the machine last year and has been trained to operate it. Brady is hoping his knowledge of the process and machinery will translate into employment once he is released.
"This is something I learned from prison instead of just playing in the yard all day. This is something I can take to the street and work with," he said.
The green job sector was the fastest growing area for employment in 2011, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The prison has also created many jobs through its recycling programs. Every day, inmates sort through thousands of pounds of garbage-separating and then bailing plastics, aluminum, cardboard and paper. The prison then sells the bales to Waste Management.
NCI has already partnered with the Ohio Department of Transportation, using one of its nearby facilities to store recyclable materials found during road clean-ups. Now they are hoping to partner with area schools, said Clark.
"Being able to call a school superintendent and say 'How would you like to reduce your garbage bill?' is one of the best parts of my job," said Clark.
The prison is also taking some very simply common sense approaches to cutting costs. Using the Enterprise Information Management System, they keep constant tabs on stats like electricity and water consumption.
"We're able to see why our natural gas bill is so high or catch a water leak," said Jenny Hildebrand, DRC Conservation Coordinator.
Little switches, such as recently replacing 800 high pressure sodium light bulbs with LED and florescent bulbs, has helped the prison reduce its energy usage by 1.1 million kilowatts.
"That's like an entire small city," said Gray.
It is one of the reasons why NCI now boasts the lowest daily cost per inmate of any Ohio prison-$38.84 per day for each of its nearly 2,500 inmates. That is approximately $4 per inmate per day cheaper than Belmont Correctional Institute and $2 per inmate per day cheaper than Richland Correctional Institute, both of which are similar in size and structure.