Speeches By EPA Administrator
Administrator Johnson, National Environmental Performance Track Awards Dinner, Atlanta, Georgia05/09/2006
I am pleased to see that this four day Summit focuses on the keys to future environmental progress – partnerships and a broad-based commitment to environmental stewardship.
When President Bush asked me to head EPA, he charged me to accelerate the pace of environmental protection while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness. The Performance Track members in this room are helping us meet this charge by proving that doing what’s good for the environment is also good for business.
In America, we are seeing that by working together, we can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy. Since 2001, under the Bush Administration, even while our country’s gross domestic product increased by 11 percent, airborne pollutants dropped by nine percent – proving that environmental progress and economic growth can, in fact, go hand-in-hand.
At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we are working to build on these successes. In the past, there are some who saw EPA as a source of conflict for the business community. But instead of being seen by some as a stumbling block to economic growth, today EPA is upholding environmental standards while working with individuals and industry to find solutions to our shared environmental challenges.
As you may know, this year EPA is celebrating our 35th Anniversary. We recently kicked off our anniversary, and at one point during one of my speeches, I noted that 35 year ago seems just like yesterday to me. Afterwards when I sat down, my wife leaned over and reminded me that 35 years ago, I was a skinny, 6 foot 3, 135-point 19 year old.
Well, I had to admit to her that maybe I’ve changed a bit in the last 35 years … but thankfully, so has our nation’s environment.
35 years ago, our nation awoke to the health and environmental impacts of rampant and highly visible pollution – rivers so contaminated that they caught on fire, entire towns built upon sites so toxic that the only recourse was to abandon them, and air pollution so thick that in some cities people actually had to change their shirts twice a day.
But looking back, we see much to celebrate – our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected.
Over our 35 years, EPA has not just changed the way our environment looks, EPA has changed the way we look at our environment.
Since our founding, EPA has led the nation-wide effort to clean-up and protect the environment, for today and for the future. These successes are all around us. Air pollution has decreased over 50 percent. Lakes in the Northeast are recovering. Views are improved throughout our national parks. People are living healthier lives.
But we have not been working alone. And that is what today is all about – recognizing our partners who are all helping us change the way communities, businesses and each and every individual looks at their responsibility in protecting our shared environment.
We believe that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. EPA has embraced a vision of environmental stewardship through Performance Track – where we all take responsibility for environmental quality in every aspect of our lives – in our jobs, at home, and in our communities.
Just imagine what we might achieve if we could get every American to practice environmental responsibility. Did you know that if every U.S. household were to replace just one regular light bulb in their home with on that earned the Energy Star label, the country would save $600 million in energy bills, conserve enough energy to light seven million homes, and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to one million cars?
And that’s just from changing one light bulb. What if every American made a similar small change – like changing the way they get to work, or changing the way they shop for appliances?
The good new is, Americans are making changes, voluntarily, because it just makes sense. Whether you’re running a business, a city, or a household, conserving energy is good for the environment and good for Americans’ wallets – it just makes sense.
Today proves that individuals aren’t the only one’s making changes – businesses are catching on too.
As I travel around the country, I continue to be amazed by the examples of environmental stewardship. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Detroit auto show. I noted with interest several exhibits for “luxury hybrid” cars. Even a year ago, I don’t think too many people would have equated fuel efficiency, with luxury. Companies are seeing they can invest in the environment, and at the same time, boost their bottom lines.
And it’s not just about the bottom line. Companies are embracing corporate stewardship as a way to keep their workers healthy, advance the reputation of their organizations, and enhance the quality of life for people in their communities.
Leading companies are proving that doing what’s good for the environment, is also good for business.
From Wall Street to Main Street, we are changing the way people and organizations think about environmental protection. We are finding ways to become a more sustainable society – where we have a prosperous economy, a healthy environment, and a high quality of life for this and future generations.
Performance Track is now celebrating five years of delivering impressive environmental results. In just a few short years, this unique program has proven to be an important catalyst for helping EPA change the way businesses look at their role in environmental protection.
Just like the results from every household changing one light bulb, Performance Track’s five years have shown that individual facility improvements quickly add up. Since the program’s inception, members have collectively reduced water use by nearly 1.9 billion gallons. In addition, members have conserved close to 9,000 acres of land and have increased their use of recycled materials by nearly 120,000 tons.
Performance Track members are proving that environmental stewardship and economic prosperity can go hand-in-hand.
Conserving resources just makes sense, which is why Performance Track membership continues to grow. Tonight we are here to recognize 75 new members that have been accepted during the past year. We now have more than 400 members in 46 states. I want to offer my congratulations to all new members for joining the ranks of this distinguished program.
We look forward to working with you as you strive to continuously improve your environmental and economic performance, and we appreciate the example of environmental stewardship you are setting for your employees, in the communities where you do business, and in your industry sectors.
I also want to congratulate all of tonight’s award winners. You have demonstrated high levels of environmental performance, a willingness to assist other members, and a commitment to creating a better system of environmental protection through participation in this unique performance-based program.
Through the stewardship of Performance Track members, we are meeting the President’s goal of accelerating the pace of environmental progress while maintaining the nation’s economic competitiveness.
At this time, I would like to bestow a special Performance Track award – the Corporate Leader designation – to Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
Xanterra is joining the ranks of Baxter Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, and Rockwell Collins, which were named as Performance Track’s first Corporate Leaders a year ago.
As the largest park and resorts management company in America, Xanterra routinely integrates environmental considerations into its operations. For example, they apply green building design criteria to new development projects, and they are partnering with suppliers and vendors on a sustainable cuisine program.
Xanterra has committed to increase its work with food suppliers to purchase more sustainable cuisine, and to track and increase the number of suppliers that it purchases from that provide environmentally-preferable products or services.
Xanterra is an outstanding example of how Performance Track members are proving that environmental stewardship and economic prosperity can go hand-in-hand.
I now would like to invite Xanterra to come forward to receive their Performance Track Corporate Leader certificate.