Massachusetts Organizations and Residents Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

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BOSTON -- Eleven winners in Massachusetts were recognized today at EPA’s 2015 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony. The environmental leaders were among 27 recipients across New England honored for helping to improve New England’s environment.

Each year EPA New England recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who have worked to protect or improve the region’s environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“New England is rich with people who understand the importance of preserving the environment, but the citizens we are recognizing today went above and beyond in working as stewards of our air, land and water,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “In addition to iconic natural beauty and vibrant communities, we New Englanders are fortunate to have neighbors who care deeply about the environment we share.”

In making the dedication to Menino, Spalding said, “Mayor Menino dedicated his time and energy to making Boston a better place to live, work and visit. For his strong environmental advocacy in putting Boston on course to being the most climate prepared and resilient city in the country, EPA wishes to commemorate this award ceremony to him.”

This year’s Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to Mayor Thomas Menino, who died in 2014 after two decades as Boston’s mayor, and who championed environmental projects in the city he led and loved.

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts listed by category are:

Lifetime Achievement

Rich Bizzozero, Office of Technology and Technical Assistance

Rich Bizzozero, director of the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance and Technology, has worked in this office and in the state's Toxics Use Reduction Act program for nearly 25 years. In addition, Bizzozero served for eight years as executive director of the Interagency Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Administrative Council, the governing body for the toxics law. Bizzozero brings a quiet competence to the job, encouraging participation and leadership in others, while still playing a key role in moving initiatives forward. Under his leadership, the agencies involved in the law are a model of government and academic collaboration and productivity. These agencies have combined their skills, knowledge and roles to build a program that has achieved significant results both in developing policy and in directly helping Massachusetts businesses.

Bizzozero became director of the Office of Technology and Technical Assistance during severe state budget cuts and had to reduce staffing by about half. Since then, he has expanded the office’s outreach to businesses with a focus on the value of assistance given to companies. His office works with businesses in a variety of sectors, ranging from small woodworking businesses to large biotechnology companies. These businesses have expressed appreciation for the regulatory advice and recommendations, money-saving strategies, recommendations on improved working conditions, and technical solutions that come from Bizzozero’s office.

In addition to leading his own agency, Bizzozero coordinates program-wide initiatives. He has led the effort to categorize toxic or hazardous substances. This policy initiative is a key element of the program’s work to extend and expand the benefits of toxics use reduction planning, while providing information that helps businesses make responsible decisions. Bizzozero has coordinated interagency communication on toxic chemicals and energy-efficient building practices and helped with an interagency effort to update regulations governing the use of toxic chemicals in cosmetology. Through hard work and dedication to businesses, the public and the environment, Bizzozero has been a model for outstanding service in state government.

Individual

Tom McNichol, Charles River Clean-Up Boat, Boston

Nicknamed the Fearless Flotsam Fighter by some, Tom McNichol has played a central role in making the Charles River more appealing and healthier. When EPA's Clean Charles initiative launched in 1997, if focused primarily on bacterial contamination from sewage discharges. The river remained littered with soda cans, coffee cups, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles and even an occasional body. In 2003, McNichol, a retired Compaq engineer, launched the Charles River Clean-Up Boat, a non-profit devoted to cleaning debris from the river. In its initial year, Tom and his volunteer crew hauled out several thousand bags of trash. The program has grown each year, and Tom now has a crew of 200 volunteers. These volunteers work six-hour shifts, four days a week, May through November, taking garbage from the river. In addition to rounding up his floating volunteers, Tom has formed partnerships with the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation, which hauls away the collected trash once the recyclables have been culled. He also reaches out to generous folks who appreciate a clean Charles River, raising $45,000 for his annual operating budget. Clear progress has been made. On a trip up the river from Boston to Watertown, only an occasional piece of debris is found.

Jean Hill and Jill Appel, Concord

In 2009, Jean Hill’s grandson showed her images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a circulating gyre of plastic the size of Texas. Jean’s distress over this fueled her determination to do something, and ultimately led to Concord, Massachusetts, banning the sale of plastic water bottles. This accomplishment, featured in an independent film called the Great Concord Divide, passed in 2010, but the state Attorney General threw it out on technical grounds. After that Jean joined with campaign manager Jill Appel and a local attorney, who drafted a bylaw that would pass legal muster. The International Bottled Water Association campaigned vigorously against the ban with a website about the benefits of bottled water and warnings of “dire consequences” if the ban passed. The proposed ban was defeated by seven votes in 2011. Appel and Hill, exhausted and disappointed, were determined to try again. They set up a website and Facebook page, developed a tap water map for visitors, and arranged for local businesses to sell reusable bottles. The water bottle industry stepped up its efforts with a phone campaign and mass mailings, but the law passed in 2012 and went into effect January 2013. The industry worked to rescind the ban but two separate repeal votes failed. The ban has been in place for two years, and visitors still visit, businesses still thrive, and there is less bottled water trash on Concord’s roads, thanks to Hill and

Judith Grinnell, North Adams

Since 2008, Judy Grinnell has worked relentlessly to restore the Hoosic River in North Adams. The bucolic Hoosic River in Williamstown turns into something that looks like a drainage ditch in North Adams and Grinnell was intent on changing that. She envisioned a beautiful river rather than a 2.5-mile waterway constrained by three-sided concrete chutes built to control flooding. The chute, which has controlled flooding, has also prohibited fish passage, stripped the river of aquatic habitat and contributed to heating in an otherwise cold water fishery. Grinnell gathered a group of people who were inspired by her vision of a healthy river flowing freely through the city and together they launched the Hoosic River Revival. The progress has been impressive, with community conversations, river restoration designs and flow modeling. Grinnell raised over $100,000 in private donations and secured many times that in grants, including state for a pilot restoration project and to cover the initial design. In just a few years Grinnell has become proficient in technical details of river restoration, which helped her get funding for a numeric flow model that is critical to the restoration. Grinnell’s energy and enthusiasm have inspired many others to join the effort, thus making possible her vision of a beautiful and ecologically healthy river in North Adams.

Bill Kirk, Andover

In August 2012, a small group of volunteers formed the Solarize Andover team, with the goal of increasing town-wide use of solar power by participating in the state’s Solarize Mass program. Bill Kirk, assistant editor of the Andover Townsman, was at the first meeting and from that day on led a successful community outreach effort to spread awareness of Solarize Andover. Even before Solarize Andover, Kirk had had published several stories on how Andover residents were reducing their carbon footprint by embracing solar energy. Kirk then covered the Solarize Andover program in depth, starting with his first article in October 2013 titled “Solarpower to the People. Kirk’s articles brought dozens of new people to the group’s website and was crucial to publicizing the program. Without Kirk, the Solarize Andover team could not have reached such a wide audience nor spread the message with so much conviction. Ultimately more than 400 homeowners enrolled in the program, and 88 signed contracts to install a total capacity of 730 kilowatts. Several earlier attempts to promote solar harvesting on town properties had failed due to opposition from residents. Kirk’s coverage led to a change of local sentiment. His articles helped Andover residents to commit to an investment of about $2.6 million in solar electric.

Mary B. Griffin, Department of Fish and Game

Mary Griffin has devoted the past 20 years to environmental protection in Massachusetts, and is being recognized for her leadership during 2014, the last year of her 8-year term as Commissioner of the Mass. Department of Fish and Game. Griffin’s achievements last year fall into five areas: protection of wildlife habitat; restoration of ecological resources; defense of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act; protection of cold water fisheries, and the completion of a green building. Under Griffin’s leadership, the department’s Land Protection Program, working with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, permanently protected 4.414 acres of land, including 597 acres in Wareham and Plymouth. Over her eight-year term, the department protected about 45,000 acres, bringing its total conservation lands to more 200,000 acres. Mary was responsible for the creation in her department of the Division of Ecological Restoration, which has been a national leader in coastal and freshwater restoration, removing dozens of dams to restore natural stream flow and wildlife passage. Griffin made it a top priority to defend her department’s regulatory program putting in place the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Griffin worked closely with the Department of Environmental Protection in an effort that led to revised regulations minimizing the effect of water withdrawals on cold water fish resources. A tireless advocate for wildlife habitat conservation, Griffin is also recognized for her intellectual depth, genuine altruism, and unfailing respect for differing points of view.

Charlie Jacobs, Boston Bruins, Boston

Through the passionate and patient hand of Boston Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs, more than 100,000 hungry Bostonians have been fed from food generated during games at the TD Garden. Under Jacob’s leadership, the Bruins and Garden joined the Rock and Wrap It up! program to avoid wasting food that could feed the hungry. Unsold food items from Bruins games at the Garden that can be consumed safely the next day are now donated to the Boston Rescue Mission, part of a nationwide initiative to help feed the hungry with leftovers from major arena events, rather than simply discarding the food. Some 25 tons of Garden food each year used to go to compost. Now, more than 16 tons could be saved and served at the mission, according the organization that oversees all food and beverage operations at the Garden. Similar programs are at work at sporting events and concerts across the country. Syd Mandelbaum, who nominated Jacobs for this merit award, in 1994 came up with the idea of asking rock bands to make sure leftovers from food for the band and its entourage go to feed the hungry. Today Mandelbaum’s organization, Rock and Wrap It Up!, works with more than 160 music bands, hotel chains, and dozens of colleges, universities, and sports franchises — including the 30 teams of the National Hockey League. Jacobs, principal of Delaware North Companies, which owns the TD Garden, knew that once the Bruins were on board, it made sense to broaden the initiative to other events in the arena.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Nonprofit

Green Decade Newton, Newton

Green Decade Newton was founded in 1990 to create an environment in better balance with the natural world by improving the way we use resources. Volunteers for this non-profit work to solve environmental problems, including expected climate change consequences. The group works to get more people recycling and to make Newton’s buildings more energy efficient. It advocates for bike and pedestrian safety improvements, the protection of water systems and safe alternatives to toxic chemicals in homes and gardens. Last year, Green Decade worked with the Newton Department of Public Works to design and help pay for “recycling education stickers,” which its volunteers then placed on some 20,000 recycling bins. In 2014, Green Decade continued to work with the town’s director of sustainability to get residents to use reusable bags instead of plastic or paper bags. They helped fund and distribute 1,000 “Sustainable Newton” reusable bags. Also last year, board members serving on Newton’s Energy Commission convinced the town to replace 8,000 street lights with energy efficient LED bulbs, expected to reduce energy consumption by nearly 160,000 kilowatt-hours a year. The group helped homeowners sign up for Mass Save home energy assessments and established a project to bring affordable solar to residents. These projects are all intended to help the community reduce energy usage by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Business, Industry, Trade and Professional

Professional Wet Cleaning Work Group, Lowell

The Professional Wet Cleaning Work Group is composed of dry cleaners that have made the switch from perc, a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning, to a cleaner, healthier system. Perc is often used because it is effective, easy to use and relatively low cost. But its improper use, storage and disposal have contaminated groundwater and soil at dry cleaning sites, leading to human exposure and a variety of adverse health effects. Cleaners looking for cleaner, less regulated alternative have turned to professional wet cleaning, which operates with computer-controlled washers and dryers along with biodegradable detergents and specialized finishing equipment. They have made the switch with the technical and financial assistance of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute in Lowell. To date, 10 Massachusetts cleaners have changed to dedicated wet cleaning. Each of these cleaners took a risk with a new technology, and each has devoted significant time to educate other cleaners about wet cleaning. Because of the work of these 10 cleaners, hazardous air emissions and hazardous waste were eliminated from the process. The professional wet cleaners saw reductions in energy use and saw a drop in water use after switching to professional wet cleaning.

Gorton’s Seafood, Gloucester

Gorton’s Seafood, with a history of environmental responsibility, has worked to reduce its carbon footprint. From transportation practices and relationships with vendors to its own manufacturing plant and fishing practices, Gorton’s aims for environmental responsibility. Gorton’s doesn’t own warehouses or trucks, but works closely with partners to reduce its carbon footprint. It has been a shipping partner in EPA’s Smartway Transport program since 2010, working to make its own operations more efficient as well as to motivate other carriers. The company has installed a no idle policy for truckers, increased its use of intermodal transportation and used light-weight equipment where possible to allow heavier payloads and fewer truckloads each year. Gorton’s warehouse partners also use green practices including LED lighting, reflective roofing to lower refrigeration needs and high frequency battery charges for fork lifts. The company’s purchasing department looks for sustainable products. Gorton’s production facility has installed water fountains to eliminate plastic bottles, waterless urinals to reduce water usage, and LED lighting to cut energy use. As Bruce Horne, general manager for transportation, said, “Our future existence is dependent upon sustaining a global fisheries resource, and this culture is engrained into all facets of our business practices.” EPA is honored to recognize the work and commitment of Gorton’s Seafoods to environmentally friendly strategies.

Governmental

Mass Leading by Example, Boston

With about 80 million square feet of buildings, 125,000 employees, thousands of vehicles, and annual greenhouse gas emissions topping 900,000 metric tons, the state government of Massachusetts has a significant impact on the environment. To reduce its impact, the Leading by Example Program of the state Department of Energy Resources works to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across state properties. The program develops standards, provides technical assistance and promotes grant programs to reduce the state environmental footprint from colleges, state prisons, parks facilities, public hospitals, veterans' homes, youth centers and government buildings. A recent report on the benefits of The Leading by Example program found state government, over roughly the last decade, reduced emissions by 25 percent. The state now has 7.8 megawatts of solar, up from under 100 kilowatts in 2007 and 10.5 megawatts of wind power, up from 660 kilowatts. It saw a 72 percent drop in heating oil fuel used between 2006 and 2012. There are 36 new LEED certified buildings, and an impressive push was undertaken to construct zero net energy buildings. Working with utilities, the program helped distribute 682,466 LED and high-efficiency fluorescent lights with an estimated annual savings of 31 million kWh and $4.4 million.

Other Recognition

In dedicating the merit awards to Menino, EPA noted that because of Menino’s robust environmental agenda, the city reduced greenhouse gas emissions, emerging as a national leader in climate action, and was first in the nation to adopt a green buildings standard for large private developments.

In addition to the Environmental Merits, EPA New England recognized two Federal Green Challenge award winners, one from Massachusetts and one from Vermont. The Federal Green Challenge is a national EPA initiative that challenges federal agencies to set goals and report on their achievements in the areas of waste, energy, transportation, purchasing, electronics management, and water conservation. The VA Boston Healthcare System was recognized for its laundry operation on the Brockton hospital campus, which processes about 8 million pounds of pillowcases, sheets, towels, and patient apparel each year for 11 VA hospitals in New England. To pursue waste reduction goals, the laundry operation put in place an innovative recycling program for repurposing reject linen. The laundry staff began by culling the majority of torn and worn linen as it is washed, dried, ironed and folded. To capture a greater amount of damaged linen, the laundry team piloted a “Nothing But Net” program at several hospitals, allowing staff to return unusable but clean items in green net bags. Then a vendor was selected to establish a secondary market of local businesses to use the discarded fabrics. Today, these materials are used by animal shelters for bedding and by auto repair shops for machine rags. In addition to establishing a local market for repurposed materials, the VA Brockton laundry operations diverted 16 tons of cloth from the landfill and saved over $150,000. The Vermont Army National Guard Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vt., was also recognized. This training site hosts the Army Mountain Warfare School and an 11,000 acre firing range.

EPA New England also recognized winners of the 2014 National Food Recovery Challenge, part of EPA's Sustainable Materials Management Program, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of materials through their entire life cycle. In 2013, EPA's Food Recovery Challenge participants nationally diverted more than 370,000 tons of wasted food from entering landfills or incinerators. Of this, more than 36,000 tons of food was donated to feed people in need, which equates to nearly 56 million meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates wasted food costs America more than $165 billion annually and that the average family of four throws away $1,600 of food each year. The National Award winners represent the highest percent increase in food waste diversion over the previous year in their given categories.

National Food Recovery Challenge Award Winner: College and University: Worcester State University, Worcester Mass.

National Food Recovery Challenge Award Honorable Mention: College and University: Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

National Food Recovery Challenge Award Honorable Mention: Other Sector: Parkland Medical Center, Derry, NH

EPA also recognized the 2014 National WasteWise New England Award Winners. EPA’s Wastewise program helps organizations and businesses apply sustainable materials management practices to reduce municipal and select industrial wastes. Nationally, WasteWise participants reported preventing and diverting a total of nearly 7.6 million tons of waste from being disposed in landfills or incinerators in 2013. This amount of waste diversion represents a reduction in greenhouse gases equivalent to taking more than 2.3 million passenger vehicles off the road for one year. The National Award winners represent the highest percent increase waste diversion over the previous year in their given categories.

National WasteWise College/University, Partner of the Year: University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME; National WasteWise Non-Profit Organization, Partner of the Year: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA; National WasteWise Non-Profit Organization, Honorable Mention: Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk, CT.

More information on this year’s Environmental Merit Award winners and photos from the event will be available at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html

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