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Environmental Factor, October 2015

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Green Champions awards recognize NIEHS achievements

By Kelly Lenox

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Pie chart of 2014 alternative miles traveled

In fiscal year 2014, NIEHS employees saved an estimated 871,782 miles using laternatives. Vanpools account for the largest savings, followed by telework, busses, and carpools. (Photo courtesy of NIEHS)

NIEHS continued its strong showing this year in the annual Green Champion awards given by the Department of Health and Human Services for sustainability projects. The awards were presented at a National Institutes of Health event on Sept. 11.

“As an institute focused on how our environment affects our health, it is fitting that NIEHS appears in two separate categories of the Green Champions awards,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program.

Jenn Evans, Claire Long, and the Office of Management were named in the Corporate Responsibility category for the NIEHS Transhare and Telework Program. The NIEHS Site Ecology team won an honorable mention in the Environmental Stewardship category.

Innovation and resourcefulness in alternative commuting

The Corporate Responsibility Award acknowledged the NIEHS Transhare and Telework Program for combining innovation and resourcefulness to create successful alternative commuting. The award cited the 2014 NIEHS telework participation rate of more than 50 percent, among other efforts. It also noted that the Triangle J Council of Governments, the multi-county district that includes the NIEHS location, awarded NIEHS the 2014 Best Workplace for Commuters.

“NIEHS has been able to help mitigate traffic congestion and reduce auto emissions that result in greenhouse gases by offering NIEHS employees effective alternative commuting methods such as the use of regional busing, vanpool programs, carpool programs, teleworking, and bike to work programs,” the award stated.

“It’s an honor to work with employees who are so invested in alternative transportation and telework,” said Claire Long, a management analyst with the NIEHS Administrative Services and Analysis Branch (ASAB). “The level of participation has been great.”

  Setting an example for ecosystem protection

The NIEHS Site Ecology Team (see sidebar) won an honorable mention in the Environmental Stewardship category. The award specifically recognized the team’s innovative strategies to address invasive species and the ecological threats they pose.

“We believe these practices may serve as models for other Operating Divisions within the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services,” the award stated. The team works alongside counterparts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which shares the campus.

The team’s strategies include improving habitat, identifying and monitoring invasive plants, monitoring nutrient levels in the lake, and establishing a plan to protect native ash trees from the devastating emerald ash borer beetle. In addition, the group has worked to promote employee awareness.

“The Site Ecology Team provides a way for NIEHS and EPA to work together proactively, to manage campus ecological issues,” explained Bill Steinmetz, NIEHS environmental compliance specialist.

“The team’s actions are not always visible, but it is evident that our efforts to control aquatic weed coverage along the Discovery Lake shoreline, through triploid grass carp reintroduction, were effective,” added Bill Willis, a biologist in the NIEHS Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory.

Discovery Lake, left, shows before the intoduction of triploid grass carp and, on the right, shows after

Discovery Lake in 2011, left, before the introduction of triploid grass carp, and in 2015, revealing a dramatic decline in growth of the invasive aquatic weed Ludwigia. (Photo courtesy of Pete Schubert, left, and Bill Steinmetz and Bill Willis, right)

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