Nestled 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh, an incredible experiment is taking place. Nemacolin—a four-season resort that includes a dozen upscale, casual dining, and bar and lounge establishments; two on-property, Pete Dye-designed golf courses; spa and wellness facilities; and just about any outdoor activity one can imagine—is now also home to Wisteria, a community designed exclusively for its employees.
“I have never been so excited in my life,” said second-generation owner and CEO Maggie Hardy at Wisteria’s grand opening. “This is one of the most exciting days of my career. Finally, we put action behind our words that people, associates, are the most important thing to Nemacolin.”
Whatever you’re thinking this might be, you need to think bigger. The first phase of the build includes 33 planned homes and a recreation center that houses a bar and gym. Eventually, amenities will include a basketball court, outdoor recreation area, and Olympic swimming pool. There will be fitness classes, yoga classes, trivia and bingo nights, and canning, pickling, and cooking classes. A free shuttle will also be available for associates going to and from work at the resort.
The Market at Wisteria offers a 25 percent discount to employees, the only people allowed to shop there, and the multiethnic representation of Nemacolin’s staff is taken incredibly seriously.
“Our market includes items like several cuts of goat and plantains, and items such as oxtail, chicken’s feet, and any other item that is requested by our staff will be integrated into the offerings,” explains Bret Campbell, director of sustainability for Nemacolin. “We’re providing high-quality organic local products as well as international products so that our associates can have food they’re accustomed to and therefore provide better service.”
Campbell says the investment was made by Maggie Hardy with absolutely no expectation of recouping the spend. This sort of thing—an entire community created for a workforce of 1,300 (at its seasonal height) who wouldn’t have access to a gym, stores, or recreational opportunities for miles—just does not happen.
While Wisteria isn’t a full-blown sustainability project, it’s providing new opportunities for Campbell to respond to a willing employee population that wants to do their part. If employees wanted to recycle, they had to drive 15 miles to a facility that’s only open 3 days a week. Nemacolin will now provide recycling and composting services and hopes to expand to curbside pickup.
Campbell came to Nemacolin in February 2023, lured by the thought leadership on display and empowered to enact the kind of sustainable evolution that will make Nemacolin a front-runner for environmental stewardship. By midsummer 2023, a 138.8 kilowatt, 308-panel solar array will sit atop Nemacolin’s hotel, the Chateau, providing enough renewable energy to power 15 homes a year.
But that’s just the beginning.
“As soon as I got here, we had our team create a sustainability page on our website and put a quote from me on it,” Campbell says. “We want people to know this position exists, that this organization has someone dedicated to sustainability, and that I am accountable for building consensus across the organization.”
Campbell has waged a one-man war on plastics and single-use items for the bulk of his housekeeping oversight career. But this is the role he’s been waiting for—the small-town Texas kid whose mother has a master’s in wildlife and forestry management, whose family hunted deer and learned to use every part of the animal, still uses family-passed-down tools from his grandparents to this day.
This is the opportunity to be a leader in the space and help an industry learn that sustainability isn’t a political issue, it’s a respect issue.
“When I was younger, I was diving, and I saw a sea turtle that had to be 100 years old,” Campbell remembers. “The turtle had a plastic bag on its head, like those horror stories you hear about. I saw it firsthand. From that moment, I have made a concerted effort to impact change.”
To get a better idea of just how outside-the-box Campbell wants to take greening efforts in housekeeping, he asks you to consider the lowly plastic comb.
Nemacolin gets about 100 requests a year to provide a standard, throwaway comb for guests. Instead of creating more plastic, why not create a memorable item crafted from timber fallen on Nemacolin grounds that can be given to guests and is sure to be reused?
“All of a sudden, you have a product crafted by a local artisan, made with locally sourced wood, a zero-emission shipping process that will remind the guest of a great vacation,” Campbell posits. “It’s free publicity, it’s free marketing, and, frankly, it’s just cool.”
Sure, it’s just a comb. But it’s the kind of ingenuity that will make sustainability catch on.
Campbell has been emboldened by leadership across Nemacolin, and it’s why his ongoing initiatives are not only voluminous but potentially redefining in their scope. The director of sustainability just started, but the entire industry should be keeping a close eye on what happens in Western Pennsylvania. Campbell has the chance to do something huge, and he’s not taking it lightly.
It All Adds Up
Bret Campbell has worked on the forefront of greening the hospitality world for his whole career. Less than five months into the role, he has a slew of ancillary initiatives that help add up to something major:
- Converting vegetable oil waste into biodiesel to heat greenhouses and soon turf-care equipment
- Studying the potential implementation of geothermal energy to provide heating and cooling to Nemacolin’s 100-plus buildings
- Switching all lighting to LED bulbs or a high-efficiency equivalent
- Adding zero-emission bicycles and electric bicycles to guests free of charge
- Partnering with Clearwater Restoration to rebuild and redesign areas for trout spawning
- Providing Nemacolin-branded, refillable aluminum water bottles and refilling stations to eliminate single-use plastic bottles
Founded in 1956 and headquartered in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, 84 Lumber Company is the nation’s largest privately held supplier of building materials, manufactured components and industry-leading services for single and multi-family residences and commercial buildings. The company operates 310 facilities which includes stores, component manufacturing plants, custom door shops and engineered wood product centers in 35 states. 84 Lumber also offers turnkey installation services for a variety of products, including framing, insulation, siding, windows, roofing, decking and drywall. 84 Lumber is a certified national women’s business enterprise owned by Maggie Hardy. For more information, visit 84lumber.com or join us at Facebook.com/84lumber and linkedin.com/company/84-lumber.