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EPA Celebrates Earth Day by Recognizing Four from Connecticut With Environmental Merit Awards

Release Date: 04/22/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – In honor of Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today recognized four individuals and organizations from Connecticut with Environmental Merit Awards, including one lifetime achievement award. The awards, given out since 1970, 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 nearly 100 nominations from across New England.

"The individuals and groups we are honoring today are New England's real environmental heroes," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Often with little fanfare, they have invested huge amounts of their time to make New England's environment cleaner and safer for future generations. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude."

The winners from Connecticut were among 40 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, for the first time, special lifetime achievement awards were presented this year.

Winners from Connecticut were:

Lifetime Achievement Awards:

Robert Smith, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection - During his 32 years at CT DEP, Robert Smith has achieved many accomplishments, most of them for the improvement of Connecticut's waters. His work on the Long Island Sound Management Committee led to the adoption of a Nitrogen Total Maximum Daily Load for Long Island Sound. He oversaw the adoption of groundwater standards and classifications for Connecticut, making it the first state in the nation to do so. He's also served the New England region through the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. Recently, as the commission's chair, he led a multi-media, multi-state effort to investigate the effects and impacts of MTBE on the region and recommended strategies to phase out its use as a gasoline additive. Presently, Smith is chairing Connecticut's Nitrogen Credit Exchange Advisory Board which is overseeing the purchase and sale of nitrogen credits by municipalities across the state. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and is serving as a model for EPA's new water trading policy. As if this was not enough, he has volunteered for the town of Tolland's Inland Wetland Commission and Conservation Commission. Smith's ‘can do' attitude toward the myriad of environmental challenges he has faced in his professional career make him very deserving of this award.

Individual Awards

Steve Slipchinsky, Windsor, CT - Steve Slipchinksy has worked tirelessly to implement an innovative organic recycling program for Foodshare, a nonprofit food bank in Connecticut. Slipchinsky is the agricultural marketing coordinator for Foodshare which distributes thousands of pounds of donated fresh produce per week to a network of Greater Hartford food pantries. Concerned that large volumes of produce were spoiling and being thrown away, Steve obtained a state grant to investigate innovative solutions for recycling food waste. After much collaboration and hard work, he installed new equipment – the first of its kind in the US – that consists of a large food grinder that pulverizes the spoiled produce into liquid slurry. The slurry is periodically removed from a 6,000-gallon tank and then delivered to markets and farmers who use it as composting feedstock. During the first six weeks of operation, 28,000 pounds of spoiled produce was diverted from the local incinerator and 3,000 gallons of slurry was recycled by composting it. This project can have only a positive long-term effect on the environment as they continue to pull wet, heavy, nitrogenous materials out of the incinerator and convert it to natural fertilizer. This project could easily be replicated at other produce terminals, supermarkets and institutions around New England and Slipchinsky is eager to share his knowledge, either by phone and on tours.

Organizations

Housatonic Valley Association, South Lee, MA - This 62-year-old nonprofit watershed conservation organization, which is active in both Connecticut and western Massachusetts, undertook a project last year to enhance access to environmental education programs, resources and teaching strategies related to the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound watersheds. This project resulted in the creation of the Housatonic/Long Island Sound Watershed Environmental Education online database for teachers and students, as well as a printed version that was distributed to schools throughout the state of Connecticut. Environmental education is not a requirement in Connecticut's science curriculum. HVA found that the biggest challenge facing teachers in implementing environmental education in secondary grades was the growing pressure to focus exclusively on meeting objectives in the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. As a result, the association developed a curriculum that will help students prepare for state mandated tests while also educating them on the environment. The association hopes to expand this project this year to include Massachusetts testing information.

Business and Industry

Target Corp./Target Stores, Minneapolis, MN - The Target Corp. has demonstrated how a large retail operation can make significant strides in environmental improvements and reducing waste. Recycling goals are set for each store based on sales amounts. Last year, company stores recycled over 270,000 tons of materials and additionally reduced waste through community salvage programs. In New England alone, Target's 27 stores last year recycled 6,766 tons of paper and cardboard. The company also recycles outdated computers, aluminum, cadmium, nickel, lead acid, aluminum and shrink-wrap (as well as glass and bottle recycling on a local level). Target also works with vendors to reduce product packaging. Nearly 100 percent of the clothing Target sells arrives without excess packaging and 95 percent of all shoes arrive without stuffing. Target also requests that overseas vendors ship goods in traditional corrugated cardboard, without rice paper, ensuring that boxes can be recycled. Target's Environmental Team is also active in national recycling and cleanup programs. Last year, more than 6,300 volunteers participated in the Keep America Beautiful Operation Clean Up America. The results of those efforts: 83 playgrounds cleaned and 26,000 flowers planted.