Community Voices - Thomas Bethel

Posted by Melissa Cabat
Melissa Cabat
Melissa Cabat is a first year Environmental Studies major from New York City. Sh
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on November 19, 2014 in Community Voices

Tom BethelThomas Bethel is the Mastering Engineer/Managing Director of Acoustik Music, Ltd.. Prior to starting his own business, he served as Oberlin College’s Director of Audio Services and Concert Sound for 26 years. During his time working for Oberlin College, he recorded over three thousand concerts and did live concert sound for hundreds of live events.

Q: What words/images would you use to describe Oberlin? 

A: Green. The town is green; there are lots of flowers, grass and trees, all relative to the seasons. Green also describes how everyone here seems to be conscious of the environment and their own resource usage.

Q: Could you briefly describe the nature of your business and its function in the Oberlin community? 

A: We provide a number of services. We’re essentially an audio mastering facility. We also do on-location audio recordings and restoration/transfer of material from different media sources like records and tapes, which we then transfer to CDs or DVDs, whatever the case may be.  We also have CD/DVD printing and duplication services.

Q: Do you think there are ways to combine thinking about sound and thinking about the environment?

A: Definitely; I think the intersection of these topics is noise pollution. Noise pollution isn’t rampant in Oberlin, I’ve had friends stay here from New York and say they have trouble sleeping because it’s so quiet. I think the town of Oberlin is very good at not letting sound pollute its environment.

I think the one major thing about Oberlin that’s pretty amazing is that there are people from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds who are all living in the same town and all getting along well. I think something people don’t realize is that we’ve got professors and college administrators, who are making six figures in the area, but also 35% of the town is below the poverty level. Considering you’ve got that huge range, it’s incredible that Oberlin inhabitants get along as well as they do.

Q: So, the word sustainability can be used to describe actions that promote the economic, social, and environmental well-being of a community. What does sustainability mean to you as an Oberlin resident and business owner? 

A: We try to be very eco-friendly; we have a skylight—we use CFL or LED bulbs in all our lighting fixtures except for a couple or quartz halogens in our studio. The bulbs are low in power consumption and eco friendly, and we dispose of them properly. We work very closely with OMLPS (the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System), and we’ve done most of the things that they’ve suggested to make us more energy efficient. We’ve gotten the whole house re-insulated; we’ve put in more energy efficient appliances and in so doing we’ve significantly cut our energy usage.

All the packing materials we use for eBay sales are made from recycled materials—things like boxes and packing materials. We try to be very eco-friendly and we do a lot of recycling with our technology as well.

Q: We talked earlier about how Oberlin has changed since your arrival. If you could look twenty years into the future, what would you want to see? What would be similar or different?

A: I would like to see a little bit more cooperation between the town and the gown; I think that the town and the college need to work closer together. I think this green initiative is a good idea, especially if they’re going to use local farmers to help supply the town’s food.

One thing that really changed in Oberlin when I first got here was that hardly any students had cars.  I don’t know what it’s up to now but at one point during Nancy Dye’s reign, I think the percentage of young adults who had cars on campus was quite high. So, anybody had access to a car, because if they didn’t have one, they had a friend or a boyfriend or a girlfriend who did. Everybody here in town used to bike everywhere, but now with a car, they leave town and go to the malls. The one thing that Oberlin definitely needs—and I was sorry to see it fade away—is the Lorain County Transit Authority. While it was working, it was a great opportunity for students and elderly people to get around. They could get to doctor’s appointments or shopping places. It was a great thing. Then, I guess, it got too costly and was under funded from the start.

Q: What advice/tips would you offer to other business owners who are interested in adopting sustainable initiatives? 

A: Talk to somebody who they can get advice from. We talked to OMLPS, and they were very helpful; they came out and did an energy survey of the house and gave us suggestions about how to reduce our energy usage. Later they came out and re-surveyed the house after we had completed the improvements they had suggested. There are now people everywhere who have a lot of experience with sustainability. I think that’s another thing that the college could provide to town businesses and residents: showing them where they can save money through efficient use of energy. That would be great.  We only have ourselves to blame if we don’t do something to save our dwindling resources.

I just showed Larry Cariglio from Lorenzo’s some of our LED bulbs, and explained how they could save him hundreds of dollars a year. He was really excited about it. I think it’s important to engage the community, maybe give them some ideas about being more sustainable. I know we’ve had a couple of people call us up after they heard about what we’ve done with our resource usage and asked to come see it and we’ve had companies call us and say “I understand [OMLPS] helped you, what did they do?” And we tell them. So that’s a good thing.

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Melissa Cabat is a first year Environmental Studies major from New York City. She is also a member of the Oberlin Student Theater Association and a DJ for WOBC 91.5 FM.


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