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Massachusetts Citizens Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 04/22/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1027

(Boston -- April 22, 2008) Four citizens and nine Massachusetts groups were honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented the 2008 Environmental Merit Awards. Recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, the Massachusetts awardees included three for individual merit awards, five for work by environmental/ community/ academia/ non-profit organizations, four for business, industry and professional organizations, one for efforts by local, state or federal governments and one lifetime achievement winner.

Given out by EPA since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region's environment. This year's competition drew approximately 77 nominations from across New England.

“These awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “The work of these individuals, organizations and businesses reflect the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to environmental issues. I offer my gratitude for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment.”

The winners from Massachusetts were among 38 from across New England. Awards were given 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 may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals. Environmental Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:
Sajed Kamal

Sajed Kamal, who teaches a course on Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development at Brandeis University, has worked for sustainable energy for more than 25 years. He has been a lecturer and consultant on renewable energy in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Africa. He has promoted renewable energy education and projects in New England since the 70s. In 1999, he founded Solar Boston, a partnership of organizations and solar energy companies committed to helping increase the use of solar energy in the Greater Boston area. This organization led to 50 solar installations in the region. Sajed is now president of the International Consortium for Energy Development, a Boston nonprofit; board member of the Boston Area Solar Energy Association; member of the Union of Concerned Scientists and founder of Solar Fenway Boston. Solar Fenway Boston is made up of Fenway residents and activists who have installed two grid-connected photovoltaic systems in the Fenway. The systems offset carbon dioxide emissions and serve as educational resources. The group is working to implement more solar systems in the Fenway. Sajed is also a poet, artist, educational consultant, translator and author.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Steven DeGabriele
Director of the Business Compliance Division, Bureau of Waste Management
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

Steven DeGabriele has been champion of the innovative Environmental Results Program, an initiative that improves environmental performances of businesses in cost-effective ways. The program, developed 11 years ago for dry cleaners, photo processors and printers in Massachusetts, has inspired 24 other states who have either adopted or researched this model. As a result of this program, health and environmental risks in several underregulated industries are getting the tools they need to run cleaner and safer operations. The program's workbook, compliance certification and statistical measurement system have improved environmental performance across many business sects. Since it began, for instance, 220 pounds less mercury is discharged through dentist office wastewater in Massachusetts. Steven, a model of enthusiastic leadership, has traveled the country advising other states on the program. He has come up with ways for states to compare results and focus resources on areas of concern. He is chair of the newly created States ERP Consortium, which gives interested groups a way to share experiences.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
John Moore
Co-founder Boston and Cambridge CleanAir CABS

In his all-volunteer role with the Boston and Cambridge “Clean Air Cab” programs, John Moore has put together a coalition of public agencies that create incentives to help taxi owners convert older, polluting cabs into hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles. Since 2006, Clean Air Cabs has put 33 clean taxis on Boston roads, with new conversions occurring every month. Converting one old cab to a hybrid saves up to 500,000 pounds of CO2 emissions and 25,000 gallons of gasoline over a five-year period. In addition, hybrids are up to 70 percent more efficient than traditional vehicles. The program just began this year in Cambridge with a handful of vehicles being replaced. John has obtained funding that both helps pay for conversions and promotes the green vehicles. John is working to coordinate models for similar programs for other cities and towns.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Alison Sander
AltWheels Festival

As founder of the annual AltWheels Alternative Transportation and Energy Festival in Boston, Alison Sander created a fun way for people to learn about transportation that reduces carbon emissions. The 2007 festival drew 20,000 people to City Hall Plaza, making AltWheels one of the largest such festivals on the East Coast. Alison’s efforts made this logistically complicated event a success as she directed a committee of volunteers that recruited more than 70 organizations to exhibit and raised more than $140,000. The success of AltWheels has led the New England International Auto Show to invite Alison to host a sustainability showcase at their 2008 show. In addition to her work with AltWheels, Alison has traveled the world working on sustainability issues. She is an advisor for the Boston Consulting Group, board member for World Resource Institute, member of the Asia Society and a frequent speaker on topics related to globalization and sustainability. Working at all levels to address environmental degradation and climate change, Alison is one of those rare people who inspire us to be part of the solution and have hope for a better tomorrow.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
The City of Boston

The city of Boston has shown its commitment to a greener community in many ways in recent years. Last year Mayor Menino ordered that the city not only aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but also reduce GHG by 80 percent by 2050. In January of that year, Boston had become the first major city to use zoning to require that private developments of more than 50,000 square feet be planned, designed and constructed to meet US Green Building Council LEED building rating system requirements. Later that year, the mayor announced a project to plant 100,000 new trees by 2020, increasing the city’s tree canopy by 60 percent and reduce the urban heat island effect. That summer, the city, with a federal grant, established the Solar Boston initiative to create a comprehensive infrastructure for expanding solar energy in Boston and in December of that year, the city’s plan to reduce its contributions to causes of climate change.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
Boston Green Tourism

With more than 80,000 employees in the Boston area, tourism is one of the region’s top industries. Boston Green Tourism, founded by Dan Ruben, has encouraged businesses that work in tourism to reduce their use of fossil fuels, water and toxic products, while also reducing their waste and increasing their use of renewable energy. The nonprofit lists, as its goal, attracting visitors to Boston who want environmentally friendly hospitality services, as well as access to nature and outdoor recreation. The organization worked with EPA’s Energy Star program to educate its members on the importance of energy efficiency. This resulted in more green-certified hotels and restaurants, an increasingly educated industry, safer methods of pest management at hotels in the areas, and improved recycling programs at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and Hynes Auditorium.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
Dorchester Bay Economic Development

Although it is not primarily an environmental group, Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation in the past year made significant impacts in this arena. The corporation improved access to public transportation, redeveloped brownfields, created urban wilds and de-leaded homes. Instead of abandoning the inner city, the group works to restore vitality in this Boston neighborhood.  The corporation recently completed a $180,000 brownfields cleanup to create Dudley Village, which has 50 Energy Star units of affordable housing a quarter mile from a rail station. The group also helped 53 families remove lead from 159 units of housing in the past decade and secured funding for trails at Geneva Cliffs.   The corporation is now in the process of creating a model green development – the Bowdoin-Geneva Community Center, which will replace two blighted brownfields parcels with a state-of-the-art LEED certified Silver Community Center serving low income children, families and seniors. The building will feature the largest photovoltaic array on any non-public building in the state and will showcase leading edge green design features.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
EcoStar

A workshop organized by EcoStar called “The Great Exchange” drew 31 participants from 21 companies and organizations to learn how to reduce waste and dumpster disposal costs. Twelve organizations in the Devens, Massachusetts, area began exchanging unused inventories of products, supplies and furniture and 15 organizations began exchanging waste streams for reuse. Such things as 2,500 plastic bags and 150 cardboard boxes were exchanged. EcoStar organized this workshop as one of its monthly workshops to promote sustainable development in the area. EcoStar provides technical assistance to help organizations make more efficient use of resources. By collaborating with state and federal agencies as well as local experts, EcoStar has helped its 33-member businesses, non-profits and communities come up with greener, more efficient alternatives. EcoStar, an environmental achievement and branding program, is establishing the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center, which will provide a broader range of training sessions and support services.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
Kickemuit River Council and Taunton River Watershed Alliance

The Kickemuit River Council and the Taunton River Watershed Alliance have made extraordinary commitments to protecting the Mount Hope Bay estuary in Massachusetts. In 2003, state and federal authorities put a strict new limit on the amount of cooling water Brayton Point Station power plant could withdraw from the estuary and the amount of thermal pollution it could discharge. For years, the plant opposed these limits, but with help from these two environmental groups, it finally agreed to comply with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit. Despite limited staff, the two groups played a central role in the appeals process and negotiations. Their advocacy ensured that their intimate knowledge of the rivers in their backyards played a part in the EPA decision-making. Although others were involved, these two groups exemplify what can be accomplished by ordinary citizens at a grass roots level. The new permit will save billions of fish eggs, larvae and fish. At the same time it will help restore the estuary, which includes the Kickemuit and Taunton rivers.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
The 300 Committee Land Trust

The 300 Committee was established in 1985 by residents of Falmouth to help the town save 300 acres of open space in celebration of the town’s 300th anniversary the next year. After that was accomplished the committee continued to preserve land and is now a well-established non-profit land trust, protecting natural land in an area with frenzied development. Last year, the group’s input for a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan helped the town better manage wastewater that has been damaging coastal ponds and shorelines. This year, the 300 Committee helped draft the legal documents and applications for a record number of properties that gained conservation restrictions. The group also created a website that has trail maps for hiking areas and histories of conservation land. Altogether the committee has helped preserve more than 2,000 acres of open space. Much of the land is maintained by volunteers in the committee’s stewardship program who create trails, haul debris and remove invasive plants.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
Massachusetts Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNS)

About 1,500 public water supply systems were hurt by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the south. New England has recently faced flooding that threatened the safety of our own supplies. The New England State Water and Wastewater Response Networks involve utilities, associations and states establishing mutual aid programs in each New England state. These programs will allow groups to exchange information and work together when an emergency hits. Based on lessons learned, the federal government recognizes timely responses must happen first at the local and state levels. Utilities helping utilities in mutual aid is clearly the most expeditious way to deal with water emergencies. When Bethel, Maine lost its water supply in a landslide, Auburn’s Water District came to its aid with staff and tractors to build a temporary impoundment. This case study will now be played out throughout New England as mutual aid programs start up in each state. No other part of the country took on the challenge of simultaneously establishing response networks in all states. Because of this progress, New England was designated a national pilot to develop the first Inter-State WARN.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
Boston Red Sox / Natural Resources Defense Council

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has teamed up with Major League Baseball, and with our hometown Boston Red Sox to help address the significant environmental issues associated with bringing tens of thousands of fans together at dozens of stadiums nearly every day for six months at a stretch. NRDC developed a “Greening Advisor” for MLB to use and apply across the country. Tapping in to the expertise and advice of NRDC, the Red Sox have initiated a major, 5-year effort to make Fenway Park one of the greenest destinations in baseball. With NRDC’s help, the Red Sox organization is setting strong but attainable goals, such as to recycle the majority of plastic drink containers used in the park, and to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 20 percent. The Red Sox have enlisted local university students to make up “Green Teams” who will be present at every game at Fenway to roam the stands and to facilitate fans’ “recycling on the go” of their plastic cups and bottles. The Red Sox have also enlisted the talents of their greatest resource – their beloved World Series Championship team – to record announcements to be played over Fenway Park’s public address and video screens, encouraging fans to do their part to care for the environment by recycling at the ball park and at home. While many teams are going green when building a new stadium, the Red Sox organization has made a much more difficult commitment: to transform a 96 year old historic ballpark into a modern, green, environmentally-friendly place. Other projects underway include installing solar panels to help heat hot water and installing energy-efficient LED lighting displays in the park, which use just one-tenth the power of equivalent, traditional lighting displays. GO SOX!!

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
EBSCO Publishing

By supporting environmental causes within its company, EBSCO Publishing has let its employees know that protecting the world’s resources is an important part of the company’s culture. In addition to comprehensive recycling, motion sensor lights and long-lasting light bulbs, the company has given employees reusable shopping bags, tree saplings, water bottles and coffee mugs. Some of the largest projects undertaken by EBSCO, an on-line publisher of research databases, have been quantified. Solar panels installed in 2007 will remove 37,000 pounds of CO2 emissions a year. In addition, the EBSCO host data center, which operates around the clock, uses energy efficient servers in a building that uses smart building technologies. These changes are expected to reduce energy use by a fifth. All company cars have been converted to hybrids and the company has supported public transportation by giving a 100 percent reimbursement to employees who live in the state and commute by train or bus. As a result, a fourth of the employees take public transportation to work. Now EBSCO is hoping to share its knowledge of green ideas through its own databases.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
Massachusetts Facility Administrators Association

School facility managers deal with environmental issues ranging from bugs and pesticides to asbestos and drinking water. And they must work with staff, principals and parents in the school district. The Massachusetts Facility Administrators Association, founded in 1972 with members from 140 communities, provides facility managers with information and exchanges to help them carry out their mission to improve the health and safety of schools. In 2005, the association received an EPA Healthy Communities grant to develop a professional development program. In 2007, the association launched this training program to enthusiastic response. In the trainings, facility mangers establish their baseline compliance and then develop systems to apply new information. Materials, such as topic handbooks, as well as training sessions on individual aspects of the job, have helped facility managers in a variety of school districts, from rural to urban and from public to private. With this program, Massachusetts became one of the first states in the country to offer formalized environmental training for facilities managers.


    More Information: Environmental Merit Awards (epa.gov/ne/ra/ema)

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    Note: PR edited on 4/24/08 to correct title for John Moore and correct entry for Dorchester Bay Economic Development