Maintaining and restoring Arizona’s natural resources for centuries to come relies on ingenuity from both public and private sectors. To recognize those who are coming up with the brains and the brawn to do it, Arizona Forward has announced the winners of its 38th Environmental Excellence Awards.
Among this year’s winners are a river replenishment project, a “toilet-to-tap” brewery challenge, and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Arizona Forward works with civic leaders and businesses to advocate a balance between economic development and environmental quality. It started the award competition soon after it was founded in 1969.
About 500 people attended this year’s awards ceremony Oct. 6. Salt River Project (SRP) was the presenter. Winning projects were chosen for setting the gold standard when it comes to achieving a balance between the built and natural environment, environmental impact, and social and economic development.
More than 30 projects received awards in 16 categories including two new this year: Sustainability Champion and Waste Reduction. Other categories include the highest honor, the President’s Award; the Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future; Buildings and Structures; Healthy Communities; Energy and Technology Innovation; and Art, Environmental Education and Communication.
“I’ve attended the Environmental Excellence Awards as an Arizona Forward member for 20 years, and this year’s finalists show how far sustainability has come during that time,” said Lori Singleton, Arizona Forward president and CEO. “Every year, we see a wider range of entries that make our communities healthier, more vibrant and more resilient.”
Here is a sampling of winners from the competition:
The President’s Award The highest honor in the competition went to the Northern Arizona Forest Fund for restoring lands and waterways on the Salt and Verde rivers’ watersheds that flow from the high-elevation forests down to the desert below and eventually to millions of residents in metropolitan Phoenix. This partnership between the National Forest Service and SRP has completed over 10,000 acres of projects, reducing severe fire risk by about 25 percent.
Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future The Arizona Pure Water Brew Challenge from the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department won for its efforts on behalf of the “toilet-to-tap” revolution including brewing recycled water into beer. This statewide education campaign was responsible in part for overturning a state law against potable water reuse for human consumption. The team informs Arizonans about water reuse and technologies to purify recycled water for drinking water.
Waste Reduction Award The Waste Management Phoenix Open won in this category for Waste Management’s environmental practices in sustainable sport programs. Since 2012, the event has transformed into a “Zero Waste Event” that tracks greenhouse gas emissions and minimizes the tournament’s carbon footprint, uses renewable energy, saves and restores water, stores materials and signage for reuse, educates attendees through messaging, and ensures that discarded items go to their next best use. The Open has restored 236 million gallons of water to freshwater ecosystems across Arizona and raised more than $56 million for charity.
Energy and Technology Innovation Award The new Peoria Police Patrol Services Building, a project by the City of Peoria and Energy Systems Design, Inc., resulted in a building that provides an immediate return on investment through ongoing water and energy reduction. The building’s energy costs will be 41 percent less than a typical building, and it is tracking LEED Gold certification.
Healthy Communities, Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity Award The Mesa Rio Salado-Stadium Connector Pathway won for the city of Mesa’s Engineering Department’s work in filling a critical 3.5-mile gap in the Valley’s network of shared-use paths along the Salt River, Crosscut Canal, and adjacent neighborhoods. Several community partners involved include the Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s, Arizona Department of Transportation, Flood Control District of Maricopa County, United States Army Corps of Engineers and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Sustainability Champion Award Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton who resigned earlier this year to run for Congress, won for establishing Phoenix as an oasis of economically beneficial environmentalism, asking voters to approve a tax increase to benefit mass transit, and leading the effort to convert 100,000 Phoenix streetlights to efficient LED bulbs. Stanton also helped develop a public-private partnership to raise landfill diversion to 30 percent.
For more information about Arizona Forward, go to www.ArizonaForward.org