Environmental Factor, May 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS Hosts Annual NC Environmental Stewardship Initiative Meeting
By Eddy Ball
Not everyone who attended the annual North Carolina Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) Members Meeting on March 25 in Rodbell Auditorium was a North Carolina native - or even an environmental manager or engineer. The members, however, shared an interest in the practical applications of science to businesses and organizations in the state, rather than in basic research or translation.
The attendees also shared a common goal, the pursuit of what organizers at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) described as "environmental sustainability as true stewards." They were excited about learning and sharing ways to nurture their social and economic bottom lines and become more globally competitive through programs to reduce their organizations' impact on the state's environment.
The meeting was the second one hosted by NIEHS, which is an ESI(http://www.p2pays.org/esi/) partner. The Institute's Office of Management was represented by NIEHS Associate Director for Management Marc Hollander and NIEHS Health Safety Branch (HSB) Chief Scott Merkle.
In his welcoming remarks, Merkle linked his branch's accomplishments in the areas of conservation and recycling to the overall mission of NIEHS. As an example of the past year's advances in environmental sustainability by HSB, Merkle pointed to a 50 percent reduction in water consumption by the Institute during the last year in response to the extreme drought in central North Carolina.
"We continue to work hard on our environmental management system," Merkle told the audience. "The research that we perform here at NIEHS seeks to understand the ways that environmental pollutants can impact human health. That makes our work on environmental stewardship and sustainability so imperative because it ultimately reduces the health burden on our citizens."
The day-long event featured presentations, panel discussion and a site visit to a local Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified office building. DENR Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environmental Protection Jimmy Carter was the facilitator. Following a brief update on procedural changes for 2007, Carter introduced DENR Secretary Bill Ross, who discussed the merits of the ESI program and recognized ten new member organizations.
During his talk about the environmental, economic and social advantages of being an environmental steward and going beyond regulatory requirements, Ross pointed to example after example of the ways going green makes sense for the bottom line and good will of businesses, non-profits and government organizations. His department estimates savings in 2006 alone related to reductions in water use, waste that formerly went to landfills, power and pollutants at over $10 million. His theme, repeated several times during the program, focused on "N.C., green and growing" in a business environment of increasing global competition.
One of the most important purposes of the ESI annual meetings is providing partners and stewards with an opportunity to share their best practices for meeting the challenges of sustainability. The high points of the morning session were clearly the presentations by environmental managers Don Matthews of Michelin Aircraft Tire Company of Norwood, N.C., and Ray Price of Smithfield Packing of Wilson, N.C. They outlined specific steps to reduce, reuse and recycle - efforts they said saved their companies hundreds of thousands of dollars over the previous year.
The companies have achieved the highest of level of environmental sustainability recognized by the ESI Program and gained an international trade advantage by qualifying for International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001(http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/management_standards/iso_9000_iso_14000/iso_14000_essentials.htm) environmental management certification. Both companies were recognized at the meeting as full-fledged ESI Stewards for their efforts.
During the day, NIEHS Environmental Specialist Bill Steinmetz and Hazardous Waste Manager Paul Johnson joined Merkle to share ideas and challenges with colleagues representing more than 25 businesses and organizations across the state and with DENR program representatives.