President's Column

Sunday, May 10

Every business can play a part in protecting Washington’s natural beauty

Sometimes protecting the natural beauty of our state is as simple as providing showers and changing rooms for bicycle commuters.

Other times it’s as complicated — and expensive — as installing a Regenerative Thermal Oxidation system.

Those are just two of the ways the winners of this year’s AWB Environmental Excellence Awards program are helping to build on Washington’s laudable reputation for protecting the environment.

Five of Washington’s best employers will receive one of the 2015 awards later this month during the Association of Washington Business’ annual Spring Meeting in Spokane.

Among the winners: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, which is building sustainable facilities and encouraging bicycle commuting, and Shields Bag & Printing Co. in Yakima, which invested in a Regenerative Thermal Oxidation system to reduce carbon emissions.

A Regenerative Thermal Oxidation system, in case you were wondering, is a system that gives the company a more efficient way to remove volatile compounds from solvent-based ink. It’s far more efficient than the combustion process it replaced and it recovers 97 percent of the heat generated in the process.
Other winners this year include Inland Empire Distribution System and Avista Corporation, both in Spokane, and ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in Kennewick.

Each of these companies has demonstrated environmental leadership, in big ways and small, by voluntarily changing a business practice or investing in new capital that reduces pollution or waste.

This is the Washington way — individuals and private enterprise coming up with their own innovative ways to protect Washington’s environment, rather than responding to top-down government mandates that might not make sense.

In addition to encouraging bicycle commuting, PNNL is retrofitting old, inefficient buildings, building new facilities that meet LEED Gold certification, and enabling workers to telecommute. They even retrofit an old diesel transit bus to run entirely on electricity.

Inland Empire Distribution Systems, a logistics company with warehouses in Spokane and Pasco, installed electronic on-bard recording devices on its vehicles that uses real-time drive and vehicle performance information to optimize delivery routes and reduce fuel use. ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston decided it wanted to divert 75 percent of its waste from landfills this year — a goal that it reached early.

With that goal accomplished, the company decided keep going and shoot for zero waste-to-landfill. Seven of the 13 Washington LambWeston plants have already achieved it, earning “Zero Waste Champion” awards, and overall the company’s Washington plants have achieved a 99 percent diversion rate.

Finally, Avista has moved far beyond state and federal regulations with a program that aims to remove all of its transformers containing PCBs by 2018. PCBs have been banned since 1979, but can continue to be used in existing products. The utility has been removing them since the 1980s, but decided in 2011 to make it a goal to remove them all by 2018. It will become the first major utility to do so.

These are just a few of the Washington businesses that are coming with new and better ways to protect the environment, and AWB is proud to recognize them with an award.

It’s a great reminder that we all share in the responsibility — businesses and individuals — to do our part, whether that means reducing waste to landfills, installing a Regenerative Thermal Oxidation system, or riding a bike to work.

When everyone does their part, we don’t have to choose between jobs and healthy environment.

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