On March 11, 2017 sustainable people, businesses, organizations, and supporters filled the Spinning Room of the Willamette Heritage Center for the Mid-Valley Green Awards. Straub Environmental Center and Marion County Public Works Environmental Services have spotlighted sustainability throughout the community for the past eight years at this annual event. This year eight winners were selected for their green efforts and highlighted along with a dinner and dancing. Please join us in congratulating the winners.
Award winners include:
People's Choice Award
Brooke Jackson is the founder of the Willamette Valley Friends Co-op, a buying club for local and organic products that has grown to 2,700 members. Jackson works with local farms and businesses and finds products that have a minimal footprint. Before purchasing items, she considers the longevity of use and avoids single-use and disposable products/packaging whenever possible. The co-op uses only reused paper or plastic bags and doesn't use any packaging on items that don't need it (carrots, potatoes and apples are placed in customers' bins loose, for example). The co-op has about a dozen fridges and freezers at the site, and as soon as one is empty, volunteers turn it off to save electricity. The co-op has also installed a Nest learning thermostat to help conserve power when heating and cooling the site.
Recycler of the Year - Individual
Greg Watkins has almost single handedly developed and directed most of the sustainable practices at Kerr Concentrates for the last 15 to 20 years. Led by Watkins, Kerr's Green team is actively working on re-using reclaim water from the evaporation process, recycling used plastic liners, and helping build greater awareness of the benefits of sustainable practices. Watkins built a program with Marion County to repurpose used plastic pails from puree and juice productions to hold the county's recycled paint. Greg introduced Kerr to Marion County's master recycling program and as a result three Kerr employees and Greg have completed the master recycling program.
Recycler of the Year - Organization
The Oregon Department of Corrections recycles hundreds of pounds of unusual materials, such as ballistic vests, shoes and fabric; refurbishes tons of outdated furniture; and donates hundreds of blankets to the homeless. The Recycle Center crew picks up broken/unwanted furniture and office supplies from county, state and government agencies. These items were destined for the landfill and the department of corrections found a way to recycle, refurbish and/or upcycle items into a functional use again. For instance, the agency diverted nearly 50 tons of outdated furniture and materials from going to the landfill. The corrections department has six facilities that are EarthWISE certified in Salem.
Sustainable Business of the Year - Small
Rapid Refill recycles ink and toner cartridges and sells remanufactured ink and toner cartridges, as well as refurbished and new printers. In addition to keeping these items out of the garbage, the company ships products in reused materials. In fact, an entire room is dedicated to storing packaging material and shipping boxes. The reuse program is evident in their garbage generation—Rapid Refill doesn't have garbage service at the business. The owner goes to the dump once a month or less.
Sustainable Business of the Year - Large
The Willamette University Grounds Team ensures that all the leaves and tree litter that fall on the 60-acre campus are composted on site to be used as mulch in shrub and flower beds. The department also diverts concrete sidewalks from construction waste and reuses these pieces as both retaining walls and stepping stone pathways. The Grounds Department reduction irrigation by 25 percent by eliminating watering some campus lawns with hoses and letting them go dormant during the dry season from May through October. And partly because Willamette University reduced the number of synthetic pesticides used on campus from 58 to zero, it is the first university in Oregon to be accredited by Oregon Tilth as Organic Land Care Practitioners.
EarthWISE Business of the Year
Chemeketa Community College dedicates more than 7,000 square feet to housing its surplus property, which is repaired and repurposed or taken apart and recycled. The surplus property manager repairs and salvages appliances from food service, repurposes tables for shelving and redistributes old classroom furniture for reuse. Scrap metals and wood go to recycling, while unwanted, viable items are sold online. Chemeketa also has approximately 19 bottle filtration stations on the main campus—keeping an estimated 321,000 plastic water bottles out of the landfill last year and an estimated 525,081 bottles over the lifetime of the stations to date. The Salem Campus of the college has completed several major LED lighting remodels and was one of the earliest adopters of LED lighting in parking lots.
Green Product/Service of the Year
NuvoGlas uses glass bottles from local wineries, breweries and restaurants and transforms them into premium etched drink ware. But the company isn't satisfied to just remove glass from the waste stream; it also partners with the nonprofit Isaac's Room to provide skills to displaced youth in Salem. NuvoGlas believes that lasting social change through short-term and long-term vocation training is a real possibility. Through creatively reusing discarded objects, NuvoGlas strives to offer a platform for empowering the marginalized.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Brenda Knobloch, director of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation's learning gardens program, has been instrumental in the set-up of 10 school garden projects within the district, including some aquaponics systems. She helped organize Urban AgFest, a two-day festival where in 2014, 1,000 students and parents learned about local agriculture and growing food. Her determined promotion and tireless work for the gardens, greenhouses, composting, cooking classes and tasting events has brought hundreds of students a concrete sense of achievement and a set of real skills to enrich their own lives.