Living Green: Joplin family prioritizes energy efficiency, sustainability and reducing ecological impact
By Savanah Mandeville
Samuel Wimsett and Christina Williams have always been passionate about the great outdoors.
That’s why when they were looking for their forever home to raise a family, they saw an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint.
“We felt that living green was the right thing to do,” Williams said. “We wanted to set a good example for our neighbors and our kids.”
They started looking for a place to build in 2012 and, now seven years and two kids later, they have developed a green, environmentally friendly dream home. Their house is built in the tornado zone and boasts solar panels, tankless water heating, high-efficiency insulation and mechanical systems, and a rain garden. They grow their own vegetables and herbs and even harvest fruit from native bushes to make jam.
Wimsett made it his mission to restore the natural habitat destroyed by the tornado and has planted at least 100 trees and shrubs, mostly of native varieties.
“I had specifically been attracted to our previous home because of the large mature trees that lined the street, and while the location of our new home gave us a clean slate to build, the tornado hadn’t left a single tree anywhere in the neighborhood,” he said. “I knew I had a big job ahead of me to restore my yard to anything close to what it had been.”
Wimsett started doing research, and by spring 2016, had planted around 70 trees and shrubs.
“My wife calls them my plant babies, and I don’t disagree,” he said with a laugh.
Wimsett even joined the City Tree Board of Joplin in fall 2016 to encourage others to plant their own tree babies.
“Tree-rich neighborhoods are more walkable, encouraging more active lifestyles, more visiting with your neighbors and just more time in general outside, which improves health,” he said. “I think many people are discouraged from planting trees because they have a misconception about the amount of money or work required.”
He got nearly all of his trees for free from community programs and giveaways like the annual Arbor Day Celebration, the Priority ReLeaf program and Wildcat Glades’ drive-by tree distribution.
Wimsett and Williams’ house is on a hill, and there was a big problem with water runoff when they first moved in. To combat the issue, they started a rain garden, also known as a storm-water garden.
“The rain garden is a cool feature,” Williams said. “With the runoff, we had an area that looked like a river in our yard, and now it has lots of plants, including willow trees, that soak up massive amounts of water.”
A rain garden is a system that allows rainwater runoff in urban areas the opportunity to be available for plants as groundwater rather than flowing into storm drains. This can improve water quality of nearby bodies of water and cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30 percent.
The home is a Schuber Mitchell house they had built from the ground up with ecological impact in mind.
“We were fortunate to be part of the building process and be able to choose things like the high-efficiency systems and the tankless water heater,” Williams said.
She said people don’t need to start from scratch to have a green home. She and Wimsett used Sun Solar, a local company, to install their solar panels and said the company will do a full-house energy efficiency assessment.
“It’s worth it to take the extra steps,” she said. “Most companies, like Sun Solar, will do a free analysis, so it doesn’t hurt to find out what options are available to make your home more energy efficient.”