A Well-Rounded Approach to Sustainability

Author: Mary Alice Blackstock

At this year’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) Conference, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan had one message: we’re all environmentalists. From business leaders to students to ESI stewards, environmentalists see that environmental stewardship and economic development go hand-in-hand.

“I believe in our shared mission,” said Secretary Regan. “One that suggests we are a network of neighbors, friends, problem-solvers, community and business leaders who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change.”

This community-based approach to environmentalism is evident in the mission of ESI’s newest steward, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) – Gastonia.

The ESI promotes and encourages superior environmental performance by North Carolina organizations. This voluntary program was established in 2002 to stimulate the development and implementation of programs that use pollution prevention and innovative approaches to meet and exceed regulatory requirements. It currently has 197 member sites located across the state and consists of three levels: Partners, Rising Stewards and Stewards, the highest level of achievement.

DTNA – Gastonia, a plant that manufactures parts for the heavy-duty truck industry, joined ESI in 2012 as a Partner. Later that year, the company moved up to the Rising Steward Level and achieved Steward status in 2017.

At DTNA – Gastonia, environmentalism is something that is engrained into employees’ minds from the start. As a major pillar of DTNA’s mission, sustainability is the second thing new employees learn about – just behind safety procedures.

“We want every employee to be an environmentalist,” said Ryan Pennington, senior environmental health and safety supervisor at DTNA – Gastonia. “That way, everyone from the top level down has the same commitment to the environment.”

Since becoming a Partner in 2012, DTNA – Gastonia has logged many notable achievements. The facility has maintained zero-waste-to-landfill since 2012, and it eliminated 50 percent of its hazardous waste generation by shifting from a liquid topcoat to a powder coating that is non-hazardous. Since 2014, DTNA – Gastonia has reduced its energy usage by 25 percent with energy projects such as lighting replacements and implementation of energy monitoring devices.

However, DTNA – Gastonia’s sustainability achievements don’t stop with environmental benefits; the facility focuses on incorporating economic and social benefits as well.

DTNA – Gastonia bridged the gap between social well-being and environmental impact by creating a biodiversity and fitness trail on its property, which supports a healthy lifestyle for employees while providing a habitat for local wildlife. Employees are encouraged to walk the 1.25-mile trail during their lunch hour to “break away from the production environment, get away from work and clear their minds.”

Facility staff are also considering installing solar panels over the parking lots to generate solar energy to be sold back to the grid. Solar panels would also create a cool, shaded area for parking, so this project would provide economic and social benefits to the facility and its employees.

Pennington says incorporating these well-rounded strategies and recognizing achievements are both important to increase employee involvement and ensure continued success in the ESI program.

“Celebrate your successes,” Pennington said. “We celebrate everything we achieve at DTNA. We’ve been very honored with many awards and recognitions across all of our facilities. Continuing to celebrate those is what gets you out there and helps you learn new technologies, and it helps keep the morale up with employees to keep them engaged with everything you do.”

For more information, visit the Environmental Stewardship Initiative’s website at: www.ncesi.org.


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