Green And Sustainable

Green And Sustainable

Pack Rat sets high bar for businesses to follow


Making Ripples

Many businesses reside in buildings several stories high, but Packrat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville operates out of a building with a different kind of story — a mission-driven story of sustainable design. In an interview through email with Faebyan Whittle, director of sustainability at Packrat, that behind-the-scenes story emerged as an inspirational beacon that other businesses could follow.

Built in 2002 by co-owner couple Scott and Carolyn Crook, the huge log cabin is constructed of Loblolly pine trees killed in a forest fire in Kootenai National Forest in Montana. Because of their love for the outdoors, the owners didn’t want to cut down living trees for their building. Scott also hired mules to haul the logs from the forest without destroying the new growth emerging after the fire. According to Whittle, “our wood floors are made from second-grade cabin wood that would have normally been thrown away, and most of our wood fixtures are also constructed from reclaimed wood.”

Electricity usage was another concern. “Along with natural lighting from the skylights, we have energy efficient lighting throughout the building and water saving faucets.” Carolyn researched various options for solar panels and hired local company Richter Solar in 2014 to install 348 solar arrays. “Pack Rat has saved 300,000 kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air from coal plants. That’s the equivalent of removing 45 vehicles off the road for an entire year!”

While the pond and small island were originally built to provide a place for customers to test out kayaks and canoes, it’s also a filter for runoff water from the non-porous pavement. Since the early 2000s, the pond and island have been a nesting ground for families of geese. Usually just one goose family occupies the territory, but occasionally two families will share it. Whittle has seen six goose family generations hatched on the island since she’s worked at Packrat. “When Scott and Carolyn were designing the green space for our location, they were inspired to leave as much of the natural environment as possible, cutting down only the bare minimum of trees, and planting new ones to provide natural habitat for the animals that already live here.”

Through a partnership with TerraCycle and Adventure Subaru, anyone can recycle snack wrappers (from foods like energy bars frequently consumed by hikers) and disposable cups, lids and straws at Packrat. Ask at the front desk if you’re not sure if your items can be added to the bin. Whittle explained that Packrat has an “in-store waste diversion rate of nearly 90% because we work first to reduce the waste we create (we don’t need a waste solution if the waste stream doesn’t exist), then we figure out how to keep it out of a landfill through composting, recycling, and up-cycling.”

Shipping products is a huge part of the problem, and Packrat strives to address it. “A big environmental impact in the outdoor retail industry is the No. 4 plastic bags each item is shipped in from overseas — the amount can be staggering. Just this year we have recycled nine football fields of this plastic.” The packaging for products designed to help people enjoy the outdoors ultimately becomes composite decking material upon which people can spend more time outdoors, a happy ending to the cycle. With this model, competing businesses are collaborators, not enemies. “We have also partnered this year with Gear Head on Dickson Street to recycle their plastic bags.”

Sadly, Scott passed away this summer, leaving a legacy of sustainability. The store is now 46 years old and continues to put people and planet before profit, hosting trail maintenance and cleanup events and fundraisers. Since 2016, the store has raised over $75,000 for local nonprofits. Do a “green” approach and charity work make the store less profitable? The answer is no. “Our store is sustainable and profitable,” Whittle said. To be both is necessary; on the one hand, businesses that don’t make a profit aren’t businesses, but businesses that aren’t sustainable will eventually cease to exist once the natural resources are depleted.

Packrat is hosting its second annual fundraiser, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, next weekend. Tickets are $25 and benefit the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance. On Oct. 12 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Fayetteville Town Center, attendees can enjoy films that “inspire advocacy, conservation, preservation and environmental awareness” as well as live music, free food, a silent auction and art gallery. For more information, contact Packrat Outdoor Center at 521-6340.

Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at

Categories: Making Ripples