Environmental Quality Awards

Environmental Standouts Are Celebrated

By Mike McGowan

Eva Sanjurjo receives her award.

Eva Sanjurjo receives her award.

Recently, Region 2 honored its 2014 Environmental Quality Award winners, who work at improving the planet every day.

EQA winners from New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hosted at R2 headquarters in lower Manhattan to showcase their good work. Among them:

  • Chris Bowser, who has made “glass eels” (young American eels migrating from the Atlantic Ocean into freshwater streams) the focus of an unique environmental education project that goes from building knowledge about eels to promoting stewardship of this fish and the habitats essential to its growth cycle;
  • Ironbound Community Corporation, which, since 1969, has worked to create a healthy and sustainable environment in one of Newark’s culturally rich neighborhoods. The ICC monitors air quality, provides environmental justice tours and organizes an active community to speak out for environmental protection in New Jersey’s largest city.
  • Dr. Ralph Spezio, a public school principal from Rochester, who helped found the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, an education and advisory group dedicated to eliminate lead poisoning in Monroe County, New York. His work has helped reduce blood lead levels in Rochester’s children.
  • Eva Sanjurjo, a founder of the Hunts Point Awareness Committee, took on polluters in her Bronx community in defense of all the neighborhood children who were suffering from asthma. Among other projects, she started an educational program called “Greening for Breathing” which planted hundreds of trees in the neighborhood.

These are just several of the awardees, all of whom made a special and lasting impact on the environment in the last year. We’ll be reporting on some of the other winners in subsequent blog posts.

About the Author: Mike is Chief of the R2 Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Branch in Public Affairs. He is a 10-year veteran of EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Thinking Outside the (Polystyrene) Box

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck presents Ecovative Design co-founder Eben Bayer with EPA's Environmental Quality Award at the company's Green Island, NY facility on April 19.

By Larisa Romanowski

What better time than Earth Week to recognize the innovators among us – the companies and the employees that are truly making a difference.

We all know that our petroleum-based packaging materials, like polystyrene, have serious environmental consequences. So what if there was a practical and environmentally-friendly alternative? Now there is. And believe it or not, it’s made from mushrooms.

The completely compostable polystyrene substitute was the brain child of Ecovative Design co-founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre who developed the technology during their senior year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The packaging product called EcoCradle, is made from the mushrooms “roots”, called mycelium. To make the biodegradable packaging, the mushrooms are given agricultural wastes (like seed husks) which they digest to transform into a white material that is placed into molds. There, the shape forms and dries within five days, by which point the mushroom is no longer a live material.

And business is booming. Since opening the company in 2007, they’ve already expanded their facilities and now employ more than 40 workers. The Environmental Protection Agency was an early supporter of the company’s research, awarding them two Small Business Innovation and Research Grants in 2009 and 2010 totaling $295,000. Today, with contracts in place with companies like Dell and Crate and Barrel, the future looks bright for the young eco-entrepreneurs.

One of the things that the EPA can do to support green businesses is to recognize their important work. So, last week EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck visited Ecovative Design in Green Island, NY to present them with EPA’s Environmental Quality Award and tour their expanding facilities.

So often we’re forced to focus on our environmental problems, so it’s refreshing when we can take time to celebrate the solutions. Kudos to Ecovative Design for thinking outside the (polystyrene) box.

About the Author: Larisa Romanowski is a Community Involvement Coordinator stationed at the EPA Region 2 Hudson River Field Office in Hudson Falls, NY. When she’s not discussing the cleanup of the Hudson River, she enjoys exploring the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Who Should We Honor on Earth Day?

By Todd Calongne

Calling all environmental do-gooders! We need your help to find New Yorkers who are making a positive impact on health and the environment.  Each year EPA seeks candidates for its annual Environmental Quality Awards and nominations are now invited.  Hopefully, you’ll take a few minutes and nominate friends, neighbors, colleagues, officials and organizations who are making a difference for the environment!

How about recommending a company that puts the environment above sales goals?  Do you know someone who started a community recycling program? Or someone who teaches youngsters how to be green? Or when a friend who volunteers for a green cause rather than sitting home on Saturday clearing off a week’s worth of recorded TV programs.  You know what I mean. While clearing your DVR doesn’t classify as a green initiative, it’s a better alternative than buying than buying DVDs and VHS tapes only to have them end up in a landfill. 

I personally see so many acts of environmental activism here at EPA’s New York City offices.  Regional Administrator Judith Enck is active in assuring we all “walk the walk” with better recycling, double sided printing and reusable materials in the office to name a few.  Kudos to the EPA Region 2 employees who are fighting the environmental fight daily.

Please tell us about your favorite environmentalist.  The awards recognize achievements in six categories:

  • An Individual Citizen with an impact on the environment
  • Non-Profit Environmental Organization or a Community Group
  • Environmental Educators
  • Green Business and Industry making strides to make our surroundings safer and better
  • Federal, State, Local or Tribal Government or Agency who can show excellence in environmental management or environmentally minded thinking
  • Press and Media who cover or uncover important issues assuring the public is aware of concerns in their area and of course shine a light on key issues serving as a check on government organizations

Nominations are due February 21st and can be submitted at: http://www.epa.gov/region2/eqa.

About the Author: Todd Calongne serves as the Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Branch Chief for EPA’s Region 2.  New to EPA, Todd spent years working on community outreach for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.