About ESI

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NC Environmental Stewardship Initiative


ESI's mission is to assist organizations in reducing their environmental impacts beyond regulatory requirements and recognize those that achieve and maintain this commitment.

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The Environmental Stewardship Initiative started in 2002 at the direction of the DENR (now DEQ) Secretary.  The Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (now DEACS) was charged with administering the program.  The program is funded by a P2 grant from EPA that is matched 100% by the State. There are two full-time DEACS employees that primarily manage this program with support from many other DEACS employees that serve as ESI coaches and provide support and assistance to the ESI members. The program is free and voluntary for all members.  

The ESI program consists of three levels of participation. 

Environmental Partner - designed for adoption by a broad range of organizations interested in developing a systematic approach to improving their environmental performance or strengthening existing programs. 

Rising Environmental Steward - designed for facilities with a mature environmental management system and measurable goals.

Environmental Steward - designed for facilities with a history of commitment to exemplary environmental performance beyond what is required by law and that have demonstrated leadership. Requires aggressive goals, community involvement, integration of the EMS into core business functions, and demonstration of going beyond compliance. 

All applicants are required to not be under environmental criminal indictment or conviction. DEQ retains the right to reject an applicant following a compliance review. Multi-site organizations are allowed at the Partner level, however only individual facilities are allowed to apply at the Rising Steward and Steward levels of the ESI program.  

To remain in the program, each participant must:

  • Set and make progress toward environmental performance goals and/or show progress on implementing and maintaining an EMS, 
  • Demonstrate continued commitment to meet and go beyond compliance, and 
  • Submit the required annual report in a timely fashion.

The DEQ Internal Workgroup provides technical support and coordination for the Advisory Board and the overall initiative. The Workgroup is comprised of representatives from all DEQ regulatory divisions.  The DEQ Internal Workgroup will:

  • Review all applicants to ESI for compliance;
  • Perform compliance checks on five-year renewals;
  • Provide technical guidance on regulatory issues; and
  • Review applications for Partner and make recommendations to the DEQ Secretary about participation.

An external Advisory Board, appointed by the DEQ Secretary that does not exceed 15 members oversees program development and implementation. The DEQ Secretary or designee chairs the board. Membership consists of a balanced group of manufacturers, industries, industry trade groups, environmental and citizen non-governmental organizations, agribusiness, small businesses, local and state/federal government representatives, DEQ representatives, and/or others deemed appropriate. Whenever possible, ESI Environmental Stewards are given priority for membership. The Advisory Board will:

  • Establish ground rules for discussions including addressing potential conflict of interest issues;
  • Review program materials;
  • Review applications meeting minimum requirements and recommend Rising Environmental Stewards and Environmental Stewards;
  • Make recommendations for additional incentives to the DEQ Secretary as identified;
  • Review program effectiveness and make any recommended changes to the DEQ Secretary. 
  • Undertake any other duties assigned to them by the DEQ Secretary.

There are many benefits to becoming an ESI member, including individualized technical assistance, access to networking events, free trainings, and the annual ESI Conference.  Visit Benefits, Services and Training for a more comprehensive list of ESI offerings.

ESI members work hard to reduce their environmental impact by conserving water, decreasing energy consumption, and curtailing waste. Each year, they report on their progress towards their environmental goals, and ESI program staff compile the data into an Annual Report. Learn about the excellent work ESI members are doing by reading the program's a​​​​​nnual reports.

Marcia Allocco is the Environmental Assistance Section Chief with oversight of the ESI program. Marcia joined NCDEQ in 2006 with the Division of Water Resources where she balanced technical assistance and regulatory oversight of the NPDES wastewater and stormwater programs. In 2015, she became the Mooresville and Winston-Salem regional office DEACS Environmental Assistance Coordinator and an ESI trainer. Prior to joining NCDEQ, she spent 14 years performing environmental sampling, superfund cleanup support, regulatory compliance functions with concentrations in wastewater and drinking water, and management system auditing at Brookhaven National Laboratory - the first Department of Energy Research Laboratory to gain third-party registration to the ISO 14001 standard in 1999. To contact Marcia, call 919-707-8206 or email marcia.allocco@ncdenr.gov.

Don Burke is an Environmental Senior Specialist II with the ESI. Don began working for DEQ in 2006. Prior to working with DEACS, he was an inspector with NCDEQ’s Division of Air Quality in the Fayetteville Regional Office, Division of Water Resources in the Washington Regional Office, and Division of Waste Management’s Hazardous Waste Section – Northeast Region. Prior to joining DEQ, Don gained experience with air emissions testing as a contractor, farming and erosion control strategist as an Environmental Protection Agent in the U.S. Peace Corps (West Africa), and water and wastewater treatment operations with both local municipalities and the U.S. Navy. Don has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in Geography: Environmental Studies. To contact Don, call 919-707-8131 or email don.burke@ncdenr.gov.
Ron Pridgeon is an Environmental Engineer and ESI coach. Ron holds an Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University. He serves the NC Business and Industrial Sectors working to promote Waste Management, Pollution Prevention and Continuous Improvement. In his current position, he acts an ESI coach and offers technical assistance via the DEQ toll-free hotline. Ron joined North Carolina State Government in 1991. To contact Ron, call 919-707-8143 or email ron.pridgeon@ncdenr.gov.
Lisa G. Shanklin is an Environmental Chemist and ESI coach and has been in the environmental field for more than 25 years. She began her career a contractor to the Environmental Protection Agency, developing stationary sources test methods for several industrial sectors. As an NCDEQ employee, Lisa worked in the Division of Air Quality on mobile source inventories and the Air Awareness campaign. Lisa has a degree in Chemistry and English from East Carolina University. To contact Lisa, call 919-707-8142 or email lisa.shanklin@ncdenr.gov.
Davy Conners is an Environmental Program Consultant and ESI coach. Davy has 10 years of experience working for DEQ. She comes to DEACS from the Division of Waste Management where she was an inspector for the Solid Waste Section. Prior to that, she co-managed the ESI program from 2015 to 2018 and was with DWM’s Underground Storage Tank Section as a compliance coordinator. Before joining DEQ, Davy taught high school science. She received a BS in Secondary Science Education from NC State University and a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from UNC-Wilmington. To contact Davy, call 919-707-8129 or email davis.conners@ncdenr.gov