BOSTON -- Four winners in Vermont 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.”
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 Vermont listed by category are:
Jacob Park of Green Mountain College, Poultney
Jacob Park, professor of business strategy and sustainability at Green Mountain College has led several environmental efforts but was nominated particularly for his work on climate change education. Two efforts in particular highlight his achievements in this area. In the spring of 2014, Park served as project director and core faculty member on a student project exploring flood resiliency as a community development priority for Rutland County three years after Hurricane Irene. Working with scientists, city planners, government officials and other leaders, Park, along with three faculty members and a group of Green Mountain College students, unveiled a series of recommendations, four key steps to institutionalize local flood resiliency in Vermont. These were: conduct a regional vulnerability assessment for flood and flood-related erosion risks; increase the organizational capacity for emergency management at the local and municipal level; create a community-based regulatory approach to land use planning that does not create new and additional flood and flood-related erosion risks, and prioritize community education and outreach. That summer, in recognition of his leadership in this area, Park, executive director of the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, was also awarded the Community Climate Change Fellowship Award by EECapacity, a national environmental education training program led by Cornell University. Park used the fellowship to work with farmers and agricultural groups on the growing impact of climate change on Vermont food and agricultural issues.
Environmental, Community, Academia & Nonprofit
DELTA T-90 Students at Norwich University, Northfield
This team of Norwich University undergraduate students collaborated on the design and construction of a solar-powered dwelling that is energy-efficient, attractive and affordable. The Delta T-90 was pre-fabricated on a commercial assembly line, with students overseeing the process. The house, designed to be affordable for people earning less than Vermont’s median income and to provide comfortable, energy conservative housing for a northern climate, was then transported to a US Department of Energy solar competition in California. The team used super-insulated 16-inch thick walls with high-performance windows and a photovoltaic system integrated throughout the building. The Delta T-90 placed 12th overall, and took first place for affordability and energy balance at the California competition, which drew teams from across the country, as well as the Czech Republic, Canada and Austria. It consumed the least amount of energy of any house for the least overall cost, and finished the competition having generated more power than it consumed. The 997-square-foot house is now at the Wescott Center for Architecture and Design in Springfield, Ohio, where it teaches the community about renewable energy and sustainable building practices and acts as a living laboratory for building science professionals.
Business, Industry, Trade or Professional
Mountain Meadow Farm, Sudbury
Mountain Meadow Farm, a 3,000-acre organic, grass-fed beef farm in the Lake Champlain Basin, is a model for what farms can do to protect their state’s natural resources. The farm sits on the Lemon Fair, a tributary suffering mainly from agricultural runoff. EPA has told the state to cut phosphorus in half. In looking for model farms in the Lake Champlain Basin, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation believes it hit the jackpot with Mountain Meadow Farm, which is owned by Dr. Amiel Cooper and managed by Brian Kemp. Mountain Meadow uses crop covers on all corn ground; aerates soil before spreading manure leading to looser soil that absorbs more nutrients; rotates grazing fields to prevent over-grazing; has 22 miles of fencing to keep cows out of the stream and buffers along seven miles of stream to improve the stability of banks and enhance wildlife habitat. These are just a few of the practices that make Mountain Meadow a model. In addition to his work managing this farm, Brian Kemp is a board member of the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition, which is committed to improving water quality in nearby waterways. Kemp has participated in workshops and conferences to help educate legislators, farmers and the general public on the role of the agricultural community in keeping water clean.
Green House Gas Use Reduction Projects at IBM Vermont, Essex Junction
The IBM site in Essex Junction makes semiconductors for electronics equipment that is distributed worldwide. In its manufacturing processes, IBM uses perfluorocompounds and heat transfer fluids, both of which have an impact on the environment. IBM was the first semiconductor manufacturer to set a specific reduction target for PFCs in 1998. The company then set a goal to achieve an absolute reduction in PFC emissions of 25 percent by 2010. IBM exceeded this goal and the company has continued work on reduction strategies with less global warming potential. It looks for equipment upgrades that reduce the use and emissions of greenhouse gases. Many of IBM’s projects, working with its vendors, have allowed for significant reductions in use and emissions of greenhouse gases. The lessons vendors acquired through these efforts are models to other semiconductor manufacturers worldwide, and can help them reduce their own greenhouse gas use and emissions.
In addition, Justin Johnson, newly appointed secretary of the Vermont Agency of Administration, was awarded the Ira Leighton Award which recognized his 10 years of service and leadership on environmental issues in Vermont.
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 Vermont Army National Guard Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vt., was recognized for its work to educate soldiers about the programs and procedures that reduce the site’s environmental footprint. The training site, which hosts the Army Mountain Warfare School and an 11,000 acre firing range, instituted recycling procedures, designed and installed new signs at the sites recycling transfer station, set up color-coded recycling and trash bins, distributed handouts and sent emails reminders. Incoming commanders and new units received briefings on recycling requirements and procedures. These efforts increased the amount of recycled material collected by 16 tons, or 58 percent, and reduced the amount of trash sent to landfill by 19 percent. The VA Boston Healthcare System was recognized for its laundry operation on the Brockton hospital campus, which processes roughly 8 million pounds of pillowcases, sheets, towels, and patient apparel each year for the 11 VA hospitals in New England.
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