In June of this year, as part of Executive Order 82, the Governor challenged state agencies to reduce pollution and become more sustainable. The Challenge invited agencies to use the period of June 15 through November 15 to see how many deliberate, voluntary actions to reduce impacts to the environment could be achieved.
“Many agencies and state workers are enthusiastic about learning how to do things differently to reduce their environmental impacts,” Governor Kaine said. “We also know that these actions save money, improve quality of life and increase employee productivity.”
The Challenge was entirely voluntary. Thirty-seven state agencies chose to participate, and all of them implemented practices to make government more efficient with regard to travel, electricity consumption and recycling.
The top-scoring agencies in the Green Commonwealth Challenge were as follows:
- The Department of Environmental Quality. The agency excelled in every one of the metrics reported.
- The Department of Corrections. DOC had extremely high rates of participation in electronic meetings, carpooling and alternative commuting. The agency also has a particularly extensive recycling and reuse program.
- Virginia Tech. Most of Virginia Tech’s employees utilize alternative commuting. The university also is in the process of creating its own “Green Campus Challenge.”
- The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. DBHDS had high scores in each reporting area, and is also engaged in a number of other waste reduction practices.
As a reward for achieving the three highest scores, DOC and DEQ are authorized to award 8 hours of recognition leave to their employees, to be taken as determined by the agency director.
“This is an honor that reflects on the dedication of everyone at DEQ,” said David K. Paylor, DEQ director. “This competition has been just a starting point for state agencies that are establishing their environmental programs and developing concrete measures to protect the environment. We look forward to seeing future successes that build on these accomplishments and promote stronger environmental stewardship throughout state government.”
Reports from agencies across the Commonwealth demonstrate that employees and agency leaders are actively looking for ways to become more sustainable. Many agencies reported additional activities they are undertaking beyond those contained in the challenge. For example, many agencies are reducing water consumption through plumbing improvements or the use of different landscaping practices and reducing the use of paper by conducting more business electronically.
Because the Challenge was a short-term effort, it focused on metrics that can easily be measured. The Challenge encouraged agencies to reduce business-related driving through the use of video conferences and conference calls and carpooling to meetings. Employees were also challenged to employ alternative means of commuting such as cycling or walking to work, taking transit, or telecommuting. These efforts resulted both in the conservation of gasoline and the reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. The Challenge also asked agencies to report on their recycling programs and any reductions they were able to achieve in their electricity bills over the prior year.
Results achieved by the participating agencies include:
- Agencies avoided more than 47,000 in-person meetings during the five-month Challenge period through the use of conference calls and video conferences. Agencies estimated that these electronic meetings saved more than 3.5 million miles of driving. This translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars saved in gasoline costs, wear and tear on state vehicles, and fees for rental cars.
- Agencies avoided almost 40,000 individual car trips through the use of carpooling to meetings.
- Countless miles were saved in personal vehicles through alternative commuting.
- Almost all of the reporting agencies already had robust recycling programs. During the Challenge period, recycling was expanded by 19 agencies. The Department of Corrections and Department of State Police, which reuse and recycle many different materials, are models for other agencies to follow in the future.
- The agency that demonstrated the greatest percentage electricity bill savings was the Department of Taxation, followed by Virginia Department of Health.
The Challenge also invited individual employees to submit suggestions regarding ways that state government could reduce environmental impacts of its operations. Nearly 200 employee suggestions were submitted, which made the identification of the best suggestion a challenge.
Richard Michaux of the State Corporation Commission has been identified as the winner of the contest for suggesting that the Commonwealth reduce janitorial services to three days per week to reduce consumption of janitorial supplies and electricity and reduce the production of solid waste such as trash bags. Mr. Michaux will receive one day of annual leave, per the Executive Order 82.
“Thanks to the development of environmental management systems and other steps that save energy and reduce costs, state agencies are joining businesses and industries across the Commonwealth in improving their ability to operate sustainably,” said Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant Jr. “I am optimistic that agencies will continue to build on these efforts in the future.”
Today’s announcement comes as Governor Kaine continues to move his “Renew Virginia” initiative, a series of legislative and executive actions focused on promoting renewable energy, creating green jobs, and encouraging preservation of the environment in the Commonwealth.
For more information on Renew Virginia, visit www.governor.virginia.gov.