State hosts training and recognition meeting for N.C.’s best environmental performers

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 12:00 am

As part of Governor McCrory’s promotion of innovative ways to protect the environment, North Carolina leaders on Tuesday met with dozens of businesses and other organizations that are   considered the state’s best environmental performers.

The meeting at the North Carolina Zoo brought together leaders from the state environmental agency and more than 60 manufacturers and organizations that are members of the state’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative, or ESI. The state environmental agency uses the ESI program to recognize businesses that are exceeding compliance with state regulations and encourage manufacturers and others to reduce their impacts on the environment.

“All of you here today have made a commitment to take a similar environmental journey,” said Ted Bush, who leads the environmental assistance and customer service division that houses the ESI program. “You are a living example of how government and business can work together to come up with innovative approaches for a cleaner environment and one that results in a stronger economy as well as long-term economic benefits for your facilities.”

Ted Bush, director of the state environmental assistance and customer service division, recognized some of the manufacturers with excellent environmental track records. 

The meeting, which has become an annual tradition for the state agency, allows like-minded businesses to network and share ideas about protecting the environment, and gives the state an opportunity to educate organizations and recognize members of the program.

ESI is a free, voluntary program that helps facilities and organizations reduce pollution and other environmental impacts, and commit to exceeding regulatory requirements. As part of the program, the state agency gives organizations technical assistance and advises them on strategies to reduce their water and energy usage, and requires that members institute a performance-based system to achieve their environmental goals.

Also present Tuesday were a number of businesses and organizations striving to join the ESI program. Allowing some non-members to participate has become a popular part of the annual ESI meeting, says Jamie Ragan, who leads the ESI program.

“It used to be just a meeting for members,” Ragan said. “Now, we’ve opened it up as a recruitment tool because companies that are interested in becoming a member can learn more about the program just by joining us for this event.

“It’s a good way for us to provide a service to our members and potential members.”

Members can enter the program at one of three levels. Partners are considered the beginners in the program while Rising Stewards are a bit more advanced and must meet more stringent criteria, and Stewards have achieved the most superior environmental performance.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the audience heard from a number of Stewards about how they are using strategies such as composting to reach zero-waste-to-landfill goals as well as energy and water conservation practices that reduce facilities’ environmental impacts and cut costs. Officials with the state environmental agency gave presentations on waste reduction and state environmental regulations.

“If you ever need someone to help you navigate an environmental compliance or permitting issue, please contact us,” said Michael Scott, who directs the state waste management division. Scott gave a presentation on state solid and hazardous waste regulations. “That’s why we’re here – to help you.”

As part of Tuesday’s program, Bush recognized the following Partner organizations with certificates: Ajinomoto North America, Inc.’s Raleigh plant; American Emergency Vehicles, Caterpillar in Clayton; General Electric Aviation of Durham; Iredell Fiber, a division of Leggett & Platt, CMI Plastics and Linamar. He also presented a Rising Steward, GKN Sinter Metals, with a plaque for its five-year renewal, and a Steward, GKN Driveline, with its 10-year membership renewal. Evans also recognized this year’s two new Stewards – TE Connectivity’s Burgess Road, Greensboro plant and Stanley Black & Decker in Kannapolis.