We were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Dennis McLerran, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator for Region 10 that covers the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, including 271 tribal governments in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Dennis leads a staff of 650 employees, with responsibility for an annual budget of $500 million. Before his leadership role at the EPA, Dennis served as Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, a state-chartered regional agency that adopts and enforces air quality standards that protect the health of 3.5 million Washington residents. As executive director, he led the development of an innovative strategy to reduce emissions at the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Metro Vancouver. Learn more about what Dennis will share at the EPA Executive Forum on April 29th at 3pm.
GoGreen Conference: What is EPA doing in the Pacific Northwest to help businesses and governments work smarter and greener and to be more sustainable in their operations?
Dennis McLerran: In the Pacific Northwest, the EPA’s role is often as cheerleader or a facilitator for sustainability efforts – directing companies dedicated to sustainability to EPA tools and resources or the tools and resources that other organizations provide. This is what makes the Northwest so exciting for this work. Companies here recognized early on that success in today’s global economy requires a focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.
Naturally we spend a lot of time showcasing all of the great work being done by regional companies, NGOs and local governments here – that in itself seems to spur new conversations and relationships and sustainability projects. If you look at who’s sponsoring and attending the GoGreen Seattle Conference, you will see the Northwest businesses who have been leading the way for a long time, as well as the ones carving out their niches with their own sustainable business models. It just so happens that these companies are also national and world leaders in their fields.
We like to think that the EPA’s programs have helped spur new ideas and enabled companies to seize opportunities in front of them. For instance, a lot of these companies have partnered with EPA by taking advantage of tools and resources provided by EPA programs like WasteWise, Energy Star, the Green Power Partnership and the SmartWay Transport Partnership. In 2013, EPA launched its Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) initiative, focused on reducing environmental impacts of materials use and disposal, while preserving natural capital throughout the life-cycle of materials. We have literally thousands of companies and communities using these tools every day to make a real difference.
Through our Sustainable Food Management effort we’ve also launched our Food Recovery Challenge to help businesses save money by reducing their purchasing and food-waste disposal fees. They are able to support their communities by using surplus food to feed people, not landfills, and they reduce their environmental impacts through composting their inedible food waste. Many hotels and restaurants have joined us to take this effort to the national stage.
EPA is also developing an electronics strategy, focused on increasing the amount of used electronics managed by third-party certified electronics recyclers, to ensure they are managed properly and safely from environmental and a worker-safety perspectives. EPA has pioneered EPEAT which is a comprehensive environmental rating that helps identify greener computers and other electronics — a powerful tool for enhancing a business’s sustainability.
At the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum attendees will be hearing from some excellent speakers representing companies who have made impressive commitments to sustainability, and who have used EPA and local government tools and resources to help them fulfill those commitments. These partnerships between businesses and governments are a great signal to the community that they are looking to ensure a sustainable future not just for themselves, but for our communities.
GoGreen Conference: Share a few regional examples of businesses or organizations that have seen significant success with one or more of the U.S. EPA’s programs. How did they benefit and what did they accomplish by working with you to improve their environmental performance?
DM: The Northwest is known for its spirit of innovation and collaboration. By pushing the envelope on sustainability, our region has created national leaders who have become proselytizers for sustainability. For instance, Seattle Climate Partnership and the Eastside Sustainable Business Alliance have set a standard for national efforts on recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency and LEAN manufacturing efforts. Bentall Kennedy, one of North America’s largest independent real estate investment advisors, received an EPA Energy Star program Sustained Excellence award in 2012 for continuing to set and achieve new energy efficiency goals for its portfolio using EPA tools and resources. Their key 2011 accomplishments included: benchmarking 119 eligible office and industrial buildings monthly (representing approximately 20 million square feet); reducing energy use by 2.5 percent in 2011 over the previous year, resulting in a cumulative reduction of 18.4 percent since 2008 and nearly $5 million in energy cost savings; and earning the ENERGY STAR rating for 69 buildings, representing 14.4 million square feet, $2.8 billion in market value, and more than 70 percent of its benchmarked portfolio. As Vice President Biden might say, that’s a pretty big deal.
The University of Washington received an honorable mention award from the US EPA’s WasteWise program in 2012 – a challenge program encouraging business and facilities to prevent waste, increase recycling, and purchase more recycled-content. Taking advantage of EPA tools and resources, the UW reported a diversion rate of 57 percent for calendar year 2011, translating into 6,417 tons of waste diverted from landfills. Campus waste diversion efforts also aided in avoiding disposal costs of more than $900,000.
Evergreen Public Schools, the fourth-largest district in Washington (serving almost 27,000 students in 35 schools), received an EPA Energy Star Sustained Excellence award for its ongoing commitment to finding new ways to save energy and promote its successes with ENERGY STAR. Key 2011 accomplishments include: saving $1.7 million through a multifaceted energy management approach, for a total of more than $4 million since 2008; earning the ENERGY STAR for an additional elementary school, bringing the total to 22 certified buildings since 2008; and allocating almost $6 million to improve HVAC and lighting, replace boilers, and upgrade thermostats at several large district sites; distributing almost $26,000 in incentives to its schools for participating in energy-saving activities; and presenting about ENERGY STAR successes at meetings and events. And, despite a significant downturn in the local economy the district continued to identify, fund, and complete energy efficiency projects.
The Mariners, the Sounders and the Seahawks are founding members of the Green Sports Alliance, which is transforming the way sports teams and their venues think about their impact on the environment and their bottom-lines. We’re particularly proud of this work because it started right here in the Northwest – and EPA Region 10 was a founding member. Now the Green Sports Alliance has gone national and even global, which is exactly what should happen because of the tremendous impact on the larger discussion through the enormous number of people sports teams can influence with this work. Business owners and leaders who attend games understand that the sporting industry is a big-time, cutthroat, bottom line business. If the M’s, Hawks and Sounders can make these kinds of investments and commitments, then it must also be beneficial to the bottom-line.
The Seattle Mariners, a member of both EPA’s WasteWise and Energy Star programs, has received numerous awards for their efforts to prevent waste, increase recycling, buy recycled, and conserve energy and water at Safeco Field. Their accomplishments are amazing: all paper products used in all the bathrooms are made from 100% recycled content and are manufactured here in Washington; they’ve installed low-flow urinals in all men’s rooms, saving over 1 million gallons of water each year; their motorized grounds-keeping equipment runs on B-20 biodiesel; they recycle or compost over 90 percent of all waste generated at Safeco Field. That’s not a misprint…90 percent! These efforts have resulted in significant cost savings: diverting over 3 million pounds of waste from the landfill in 2013 saved the team $114,000 in disposal costs and energy and water conservation efforts have saved the team $1.75 million in utilities costs since 2006. Because of this remarkable commitment the Mariners have earned Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League Recycling Champion award, Washington State Recycling Association Recycler of the Year, and Seattle Business magazine’s Green Washington Environmental Leadership Award. They’re also the first MLB team to stage a “carbon neutral” game on Earth Day.
In summary, companies, universities, school districts, sports teams and small businesses continue to work with us to make sense of their operations to maximize the triple bottom line. As is most often the case, the businesses and organizations are leading the charge and the EPA is there to support them in their efforts.
Learn more and hear from the organizations featured above at the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum on April 29th from 3:00-5:00pm, a new day and element featured as part of the GoGreen Conference for our 5th year in Seattle. Join EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran and a very special showcase of Outstanding Business Participants from EPA Region 10 from the EPA Food Recovery, Waste Wise and ENERGY STAR programs. Learn how Region 10 sustainability leaders became “Outstanding Participants” in these EPA programs — including overcoming challenges, best practices and steps to success. Network with 75+ Executives from companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Boeing and Microsoft to name a few. *Additional ticket required to attend.