EPA Region 3
Topic: Environmental Management System
Date: December 3, 2010
Robin Costas: So when we put an EMS system in place we definitely want to have real world results; we want them to have benefits; we want to make a difference. The whole point of an EMS is to reduce the environmental footprint of your facility on the environment.
Lena Kim: Robin Costas is an environmental manager at EPA's Environmental Science Center at Ft. Meade, Md. We'll hear more from Robin shortly. Nick DiNardo has a similar role at our regional office in downtown Philadelphia, where we asked him to tell us about Environmental Management Systems -- specifically in an office setting.
And hi, I'm Lena Kim and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of podcasts.
Nick DiNardo: EMS – Environmental Management System -- is really a set of practices that organizations put in place to reduce their environmental impact and approve efficiency. We've been doing that now in the Regional Office for a number of years. We're also working with the building to look at more energy efficient ways to reduce our energy consumption. In particular, since we are in a leased building, and our options are limited as to how we can reduce our energy consumption, we have to work with what we have. And one of the best way to do that is to look at more energy-efficient light bulbs.
Lena: We also discussed with Nick some of the other common ingredients in an office building EMS.
Nick: What we're trying to do is reduce gasoline and air emissions, reduce electricity and water usage, reduce our paper usage, reduce solid, chemical and electronic waste, and something that a lot of organizations don't think about: we're looking to increase the purchase of green products. What we mean by that very simply is purchasing products that are made up or composed of recycled materials that are carbon-neutral or low green house gas- emitting products.
Lena: It's important to know that EMSs for our Philadelphia regional office and the Environmental Science Center aren't managed by Nick and Robin alone.
Nick: We look at what headquarters sends us, as these are our over-arching goals. We accept those and we work in each of the facilities, in this case the regional office, on how we are going to implement that. How we implement the features is: we have our EMS committee. The EMS steering committee is made up of representatives from each of the organizations, and we sit down, look at what we have to accomplish, and we decide how we are going to accomplish that.
Lena: Nick shared with us how the EMS deals with the office's vehicles. We were surprised that global positioning systems have a role to play.
Nick: We put GPS's in each of the vehicle, the idea being: not only is it safe, but it's going to get the person there generally quicker and it's going to get them there without getting lost and spending more fuel to drive around and find out where you are. Is that enough? Well that's not the only thing that we did with the vehicles. We also look to make sure that they were operating as efficiently as possible by making sure that maintenance was up to date on all of the vehicles.
Lena: We asked Nick if reducing toxic risk is part of the EMS. He goes on to elaborate on several aspects of the ongoing process.
Nick: Well, we started an alkaline battery recycling project. We have put boxes on each of the floors and we have been collecting those batteries and sending them off for recycling. Another thing that we're doing is, under the Philly lease project, which is the renovation, refurbishing project for the floors. We've made sure that all the carpet that is being pulled up is not going to a landfill. It is being reused, it is being cleaned, packaged and then sold again for reuse by the vendor. Another thing that we are doing is, we are composting the leftovers from our annual holiday parties. In the past it would end up in the trash cans and then go out in the dumpster. Now, we're calling local organizations in who collect this material and convert it into fertilizer. So we're reaching out to the community, we're reaching out to our members, we're making sure we are being the best environmental stewards we can be.
Lena: And now back to Robin Costas of EPA's Environmental Science Center at Ft. Meade, Md., who describes what it's like to build an EMS at a multi-mission field facility.
Robin: I think we were a forerunner in setting up the EMS system, especially for laboratories and field offices. The one unique problem that we have here at the science center is that we're not one facility. We actually have – I can't even tell you how many, I have forgotten now, 15 or 20 different organizations in the facility. And one of the key points of an EMS is to have a central command center, if you will – someone that has control over the system and that you would report to, setting your EMS system up. The unique thing we had to do here is put together what we call the ESC Board. That is a representative of the organizations' EMS coordinators -- which I am one of them. We present our issues and problems with the EMS to the board so they can direct us and we go to them for money when we need to work on our projects and get approval for all the projects that we do.
Lena: Robin describes an unusual EMS conservation project happening right outside the ESC's front door.
Robin: One example that we had that everyone in the facility was excited about was kind of low tech. We put a rain garden in near the front door in a spot that just collected water and filled up with algae and just looked really nasty when you walked in the front door. We had many folks that volunteered to help with this rain garden. Now we have a beautiful rain garden, flower garden, out front and it's the first thing that everyone notices when they come into this building. And then they find out that it was an EMS project. So it's pretty impressive and it helps advertise what EMS is all about.
Lena: Thanks, Robin and Nick, for introducing us to Environmental Management Systems.
To learn more about how EMSs reduce an organization's environmental footprint, please visit our website at www.epa.gov/region3/ems. And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our series of podcasts.