As one of the first members of the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainable Business Network, The Savage River Lodge in Frostburg, MD embodies the principles of the network at every turn. A self-proclaimed “old hippie,” owner Mike Dreisbach kindly showed the Trail Town Outreach Corps around the peaceful and unassumingly elegant premises of the Lodge, explaining along the way all of the ways he and his wife Jan make their ideals work for them at the SRL. When imagining the possibilities for an eco-tourism destination that emphasized “non-consumptive low impact recreation” they knew they wanted to integrate “green” practices into their business, long before it was trendy, because it makes sense.
The Savage River Lodge fully subscribes to the mantra of “Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle.” Wherever possible they decrease consumption and use creativity and ingenuity to maximize their savings while minimizing their harmful impacts on the environment. Much of the wood shelving throughout the premises has been recycled from old barns in the area. An old military bridge has been relocated to the SRL and serves as utilitarian and conversation piece! Even their used cooking oils find new functionality— first Mike converts it to bio-diesel and then uses the fuel in lamps at the main lodge.
From the beginning, explains Mike, it’s been about merging their personal philosophy of working with nature with the economic benefit of doing so. Even when beginning construction, Jan and Mike chose to work with nature, building with the natural contours of the landscape rather than leveling the land. Among the exciting projects and practices of the Lodge are: growing their own herbs for the kitchen; buying produce locally from Amish farmers; eliminating the use of paper products, replacing them with reusable napkins and hand towels; installing rain barrels to capture stormwater and reuse to water plants; and reducing the need for chemical pesticides by using an inventive method that deters flies (hanging a ziploc bag full of water by the door— and believe it or not, it really works!). Mike and Jan estimate annual savings of about $45,000 attributed to their “eco-friendly” policies.
Whereas some business owners see the initial expenses of switching to more sustainable business practices as a hindrance, the SRL finds that they make it back in hard savings, but also that customers seek out the unique experience of their “eco-tourism” destination, and appreciate the efforts the Lodge makes for environmental and social responsibility thus increasing business overall. The Savage River Lodge was even recently named the Small Business of the Year by the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce, partially due to their sustainable practices!
While the accomplishments of the SRL are incredibly impressive, and possibly intimidating for businesses just beginning to make changes to the way they do business, Mike encourages, “Everyone can do something. Do things that don’t cost a lot, then add to what you’re doing. “