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2010 Sustainability Award Winners Left to right: Matt Windsor, Paul Donnelly, Sean Brogan, Marissa Krouse, Dee Freeman (DENR secretary), Sarah Monson and Mary Joan Pugh

DENR announced the 2010 Sustainability Award winners at the Sustainability Conference on March 4. The conference was held at the Archives and History/State Library Building in downtown Raleigh.

This year, the DENR Sustainability Awards are for two categories: Individual Small Project Award and Group Project Award. Also, this year the judges decided to give a special Educational Outreach Award. The judges chose not to give an Individual Large Project award.

Traditionally, there is a winner and a second place finisher for each category. This year, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources had five 2010 DENR Sustainability Award winners.

Individual Small Project Award

First place winner:
Ken Reininger with the North Carolina Zoo
(accepting the award for Ken was the chief of staff of the Zoo, Mary Joan Pugh)

Left-to-right: Dee Freeman (DENR secretary), Mary Joan Pugh, (chief of staff, North Carolina Zoo) Ken spearheaded a project to set up a system to collect, store and safely dispose of waste fluorescent light tubes and other waste items containing mercury. During its ISO 14001 certification process, the zoo became aware that there were many items containing mercury on the zoo premises. Ken brought this concern to the N.C. Zoo Conservation captains and then volunteered space in one of the seldom-used animal holding facilities to temporarily store the items and bulbs. Ken then devised a plan where mercury laden items could be stockpiled safely. Then, he took them regularly to be recycled. During this time, the zoo developed a more comprehensive system to recycle and safely dispose of fluorescent tubes and other mercury laden items.

Second place winner:
Sean Brogan, with the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources

Left to right: Dee Freeman (DENR secretary), Sean Brogan (N.C. Division of Forest Resources), Milli Hayman (DENR Sustainability Team) Sean presented, planned and worked on setting up a versatile teleconferencing network for the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, greatly reducing the need for travel within the division. The many advantages of this new conferencing system include forestry staff being able to conduct meetings during fire season, reducing the distance staff had to travel for training and better communications in the field.


Group Project Award

First place winner:
Pilot Mountain State Park

Left to right: Dee Freeman (DENR secretary), Matt Windsor (superintendent, Pilot Mountain State Park) Milli Hayman (DENR Sustainability Team) The park established a sustainable and cost-saving landscaping project by planting wildlife friendly native grasses in areas once planted with non-native grass. Previously, park roadsides and field areas were vegetated in non-native tall fescue, which requires frequent mowing, fertilizing and liming. The fescue was killed and replanted with native grasses, which now need no fertilizer or lime. Areas can now be mowed minimally or annually instead of up to two times per week, saving staff time and fuel, and reducing the overall carbon footprint of the park. An added benefit is that the area is now much more beneficial to native wildlife and to water quality.

Second place winner:
Hammocks Beach State Park

Left to right: Dee Freeman, (DENR secretary), Paul Donnelly, (superintendent, Hammocks Beach State Park) The park established an innovative program to make Bear Island a trash-free zone. In a project initiated by ranger Jake Vitek, the park staff implemented a program where trash cans were removed from the island and visitors were encouraged through education, signage and availability of trash bags to take their trash off the island with them. The program has been successful and reduced the amount of trash on the island and protected wildlife and wildlife habitat. Friends of Hammock Beach supplied the funding for the trash bags, and local groups donated material for signage and materials to get the project started.


Educational Outreach Award

Special award winner:
The Rocky Coast Mammals Keepers
of the North Carolina State Zoo

Left to right: Dee Freeman, (DENR secretary), Marissa Krouse, Sarah Monson (North Carolina Zoo) The Mammal Keepers established an innovative educational program helping zoo staff and visitors learn how to save landfill space and reduce litter by using reusable shopping bags. The average shopper uses 500 disposable bags per year. The keepers decided to make a pledge to only use reusable shopping bags while grocery shopping. To make a statement, they created a life-size polar bear sculpture using 2,000 disposable grocery bags, which used old tree guards as a support frame. The “Bag-Bear” was part of a special zoo event and included an educational display. They also handed out educational mini-posters and gave away 450 re-usable bags to visitors.

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The DENR Sustainability Team is composed of representatives from 27 DENR divisions, offices and programs. Its mission is "to inspire a culture of sustainability within DENR by promoting environmentally responsible actions." More information on DENR Sustainability is available at portal.ncdenr.org/web/sustainability/home
Information on sustainability in buildings and lands in North Carolina is available on the state sustainability team NC Project Green website, www.ncprojectgreen.org.
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