ANNAPOLIS-Four businesses from four different regions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed received awards this week for their efforts in a voluntary pollution prevention program.
Environmental officials attending the Chesapeake Executive Council Fair, held at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, hailed the companies as models for adopting environmentally-friendly business practices while simultaneously reducing costs. Although the fair mainly showcased work by environmentalists to improve the health of the bay, officials stressed the need to bring enlist businesses into the effort to restore the Chesapeake to environmental health.
“We need all of our partners,” Frank W. Dawson III, acting assistant secretary of Chesapeake Bay Programs at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, told a crowd of about 300 before presenting the awards. “We need the states, counties, municipalities, businesses and citizens all working together if we’re going to be successful in this great endeavor.”
The award winners are members of Businesses for the Bay, a 10-year-old program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and directed by the inter-state Chesapeake Bay Program that enlists business facilities to reduce the damage they cause to the bay.
“This program gives the opportunity for businesses to do something that is helpful for the bay and helpful for their businesses too,” said Carin Bisland, associate director for ecosystem management at the EPA.
According to Businesses for the Bay, businesses sign up individual facilities at no charge to receive guidance and general training on best practices. Mary Lynn Wilhere, Businesses for the Bay’s coordinator, says many of the group’s facilities have turned a corner in recent years by using renewable energy sources, recycling wastewater and harmful pollutants and using environmentally-friendly fertilizers.
Award recipients included Volvo Powertrain of Hagerstown, whose facility manufactures both Mack and Volvo brand engines for heavy duty trucks; Degussa Goldschmidt Chemical Corporation, whose plant in Hopewell, Va., manufactures specialty ingredients for personal and home care products; Trammell Crow Company, a national commercial property management company based in Washington, D.C., which has enrolled 17 different facilities with Businesses for the Bay; and Wenger’s Feed Mill, Inc., a family-run commercial poultry and swine feed manufacturer in Rheems, Pa.
In the case of all four award winners, economic benefits have been substantial, according to Businesses for the Bay.
Volvo Powertrain’s Hagerstown operations upgraded an aging plant to include energy efficient lighting, new assembly lines which consume less electricity and a heating system that can burn renewable fuels. Electricity consumption, according to Businesses for the Bay, has been reduced at the facility by 50 percent per engine built from 2004 to 2005.
In addition, the Hagerstown facility put in place a wastewater recycling system that operates with 85 percent efficiency and shrinks the site’s water demand by almost 15 percent.
Hopewell’s Goldschmidt facility in 2004 took on various programs to reduce harmful discharge into the city’s treatment plant. Although costs totaled $558,000, according to Businesses for the Bay, annualized savings from the projects amount to more than $1 million.
“Most companies link environment, health, safety and quality together,” Wilhere said. “If they can demonstrate they are on the ball with their environmental issues, it also helps tell their stockholders that the risk is lower.”
Wilhere said the program is also committed to debunking the notion that there must be an adverse economic tradeoff for instituting strong environmental practices.
“Good environmental programs do have savings,” said Scott R. Morris, director of safety and workplace environment at AB Volvo, noting the 50 percent reductions in electricity costs in Hagerstown.
Morris said the award was the kind of “great recognition” that is motivating executives throughout the country to bring their outfits into step with environmental advances.
That is exactly what Businesses for the Bay’s Wilhere wants to happen. She says that recognition causes companies to get the “green bug.” “They get the green bug, and they want to do better,” she said. “They want to tell their neighboring facilities, ‘Hey, we reduced our waste, we saved money, our healthcare costs might be lower because we no longer have hazardous waste in our factory, and we’re getting an award for it.'”