Four entries from NIEHS won Green Champions Awards in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) annual contest for sustainability projects. The four groups continued a run of recognition for NIEHS in eight of the ten years the awards have been presented.
“NIEHS research clearly demonstrates that our bodies respond in intricate ways to the environments we spend our time in,” said NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “Accordingly, this institute sets a priority on conducting our operations with the utmost regard for effects on the environment. These awards are a fitting recognition for the folks here who walk the talk."
The awards came in four separate categories, and each was for a group of people who worked collaboratively.
Sustainable Design and Facilities
A team from NIEHS and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research Facilities (ORF) completed design and construction of the first HHS Net-Zero Energy facility. The name means that it is designed to annually produce more renewable energy than it uses.
The NIH NIEHS Net-Zero Energy Warehouse team included Victor Stancil, Kyle Askins, Greg Holland, Debi Del Corral, Amanda Thompson, Dan Cushing, Mitch Williams, Bill Blair, Chris Long, and Daniel Burk. The project design achieved more than 85 percent reduction in energy used compared with similar facilities. Roof-mounted solar panels provide enough power to offset demand.
The facility was complete and occupied in late July 2017. From August to December, the facility exceeded its goals by producing 77,500 kilowatt-hours of clean renewable solar energy and using less than 71,500 kilowatt-hours-equivalent of total energy.
Environmental stewardship was the name of the game when Kim Jones, Rick Weaver, April Byrd, and Ron Faison, who are staff and contractors in the NIEHS Office of Management Administrative Services and Analysis Branch (ASAB), prepared for a move to the new warehouse by conducting the NIH Sustainable Warehouse Cleanout Project.
When NIEHS opened the warehouse, personnel from two other warehouses were consolidated and relocated in a complicated move that involved clearing out a leased warehouse.
The team’s efforts diverted 214,020 pounds of material from landfills through recycling, which provided source material for new products and thus saved natural resources.
- 20,400 pounds of old periodicals.
- 185,000 pounds of furniture and plastic items.
- Two batteries from an old forklift, weighing 600 pounds.
- 5,520 pounds of confidential paper.
- One 2,500-pound tiger lift, which is a motorized vehicle with a platform that can be raised up.
Green Hero Video
The NIEHS Campus Pollinator Program Team, including Bill Willis, Bill Steinmetz, Brian Harris, Paul Poliachik, Paul Johnson, Jeff Taylor, and John McLamb, was named a Sustainability Hero for the video (see sidebar) describing its work to promote a pollinator habitat. The video is on the popular NIEHS Kids Environment Kids Health website.
“The effect of environmental influences on human health is related to our willingness to understand, support, and protect the ecosystem in which we live,” said Willis, a biologist in the NIEHS Health and Safety Branch.
The NIEHS Pollinator Program expands the pollinator habitat on campus in several ways.
- Provides nesting areas for birds, bats, and other pollinators, in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
- Conserves transitional vegetation zones along forest edges and preserves native habitat.
- Creates a butterfly garden with abundant milkweed for monarch caterpillars and butterflies.
- Strategic placement of sites for cavity nesting bees.
- Hosts honeybee hives for a citizen-science project by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which shares the campus.
NIH ORF and NIEHS collaborated on projects that exemplify support for environmentally responsible sustainability and energy efficiency goals. The Changing the Way We Think about Environmentally Sustainable Campus Design team included Debi Del Corral, Mitch Williams, Amanda Thompson, Don Jackowski, Victor Stancil, Kyle Hawkins, Allison Karver, Matt Hunt, Greg Holland, and Chris Long.
This new way of thinking means that each project on the NIEHS campus is reviewed for potential environmental impacts and efficiency opportunities. For example, activities such as reclaiming water in the central plant, replacing roadway asphalt, and planning the Computational Science Building include water conservation and reuse, energy conservation, and reduction and recycling efforts to decrease solid waste and potential release of pollutants.
“We live the NIEHS environmental health mission in our campus facilities and operations,” said Long, who serves as the NIEHS executive officer. “We hope to inspire others with our ideas and stories of success.”