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Department of Homeland Security Facility in Lee’s Summit, Mo., Receives Top Award from EPA’s Federal Green Challenge

Release Date: 05/22/2014
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394, whitley.christopher@epa.gov

Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Lenexa, Kan., May 22, 2014) - A facility of U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Lee’s Summit, Mo., has received the year’s top national award in EPA’s Federal Green Challenge, an annual recognition of best efforts by federal government agencies to lead by example in reducing their environmental impacts.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ National Benefits Center (NBC) earned the 2014 Federal Green Challenge Overall Achievement Award in Solid Waste Recycling, as announced today by EPA officials in Washington, D.C.

One of 173 federal entities competing for the award, the NBC and its employees were honored for increasing their rate of recycling from one ton of materials in 2012 to 168 tons in 2013.

The NBC started with no identifiable waste recycling activities in place in 2010, the year the agency’s management initiated a team known as the NBC Green Zone, which consisted of five employees from various divisions in the facility. Building management provided a large central recycling container and employees started filling it with aluminum, metals, plastics, newspapers, magazines and various containers and cartons.

Because the NBC’s janitorial services did not collect recycling materials throughout the building at the time, the Green Zone’s solution was to recruit more than 120 coworkers to voluntarily participate in an “Adopt a Bin” program. Through that program, employees would collect recyclable materials in small bins at their cubicles and then transfer those contents to the central collection container as needed. The effort outpaced the availability of individual collection bins, and soon staff were using makeshift boxes and bags to collect materials.

By December 2013, after four years of operating as a voluntary program, the NBC achieved recycling sustainability for all employees. The building lease put in place 20 larger recycling bins throughout the center that are now being serviced by janitorial staff, and more than 120 volunteers continue to maintain their small desk-side bins daily.

In addition to reducing its environmental burden on landfills and waste disposal, the NBC Green Zone has found a way to help the community by repurposing and donating its large volume of cardstock paper to local preschools, day care facilities, and churches that use it for crafts and other creative purposes.

In 2013, EPA’s Federal Green Challenge efforts encompassed the NBC and more than 400 other participating federal facilities, representing nearly 1.6 million federal workers. By “walking the talk” in various target areas, such as waste, electronics, purchasing, water, energy and transportation, these workers reduced their agencies’ environmental footprints and resulted in an estimated cost savings of $42 million to U.S. taxpayers.

A complete list of the 2014 EPA Federal Green Challenge awardees is available online.

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