An office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, has received the top award in the U.S. EPA Federal Green Challenge, an annual recognition of efforts by federal government agencies to reduce their environmental impacts.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ National Benefits Center (NBC) earned the 2014 Federal Green Challenge Overall Achievement Award in Solid Waste Recycling, as announced by EPA officials in Washington in late May.
One of 173 federal entities competing for the award, the NBC and its employees were honored for increasing their recycling volume from one ton of materials in 2012 to 168 tons in 2013.
According to the EPA, the NBC started “with no identifiable recycling activities” in place in 2010, the year the agency’s management initiated a team known as the NBC Green Zone that consisted of five employees from various divisions in the facility. Building management provided a central recycling container and employees started filling it with metals, plastics, newspapers, magazines and other containers and cartons.
Because the NBC’s janitorial services did not collect recycling materials throughout the building at the time, the Green Zone’s solution was to recruit more than 120 employees to voluntarily participate in an “Adopt a Bin” program. Through that program, employees would collect recyclable materials in small bins at their cubicles and then transfer those contents to the central collection container as needed. The effort outpaced the availability of individual collection bins, and soon staff were using makeshift boxes and bags to collect materials, according to the EPA.
By December 2013, after four years of operating as a voluntary program, a new building lease put in place 20 larger recycling bins throughout the center that are now being serviced by janitorial staff while more than 120 volunteers continue to maintain desk-side bins daily.
In 2013, EPA’s Federal Green Challenge efforts encompassed the NBC and more than 400 other participating federal facilities, representing nearly 1.6 million federal workers. The EPA says efforts in recycling, purchasing, water, energy and transportation have helped reduced their agencies’ environmental footprints and resulted in an estimated cost savings of $42 million to U.S. taxpayers.