ISTC hosts 2009 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, or ISTC, held the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards at the I Hotel, 1900 S. First St., on Wednesday. Various companies and organizations throughout the state were awarded for their dedication to improving the environment through conservation and energy efficiency.

“It’s the longest running award ceremony like this in the country, and it’s bigger now than it ever has been,” said Tim Lindsey, associate director of ISTC.

Speakers included Madhu Khanna, professor in agricultural and consumer economics and Dave Kolaz, environmental consultant for the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.

Lindsey said Gov. Pat Quinn had been scheduled to speak but canceled in order to conduct business in Springfield. Kate Tomford, director of sustainability for Quinn’s office, spoke in his place.

The awards have ran since 1987 and reached record highs in applicants and award recipients this year with 38 winners, Lindsey said.

The presentation followed the ISTC’s Greenhouse Gas and Sustainability Symposium, which also hosted various speakers on environmental topics.

“The companies’ awareness of sustainability and protecting the environment is much greater than it has ever been,” said Deb Jacobson, regional operations manager at ISTC. “The public is much more concerned about the environment compared to years passed.”

Jacobson added that the center’s affiliation with the University–effective since July 2008–has also had an effect on the size of the awards.

Of the 38 winners, some were presented with the Continuous Improvement Award, which is given to organizations who have received the award previously. Others received the Sustainability Award for their first recognition.

Caterpillar, Inc. Engine Center in Mossville, was one of the Continuous Improvement Award winners.

Rainy Shorey, environmental manager at the Mossville Engine Center, attributed the success to “a combination of two things, the internal goals that drive us and really the dedicated staff that are interested and making those improvements.”

In addition to the well-known companies like Caterpillar, other recipients such as Lions Park Elementary School in Mt. Prospect and Original Smith Printing in Bloomington received an award.

Qualifications that ISTC looked for in applicants were the amount of energy saved, its use of fresh water, the amount of hazardous waste produced and how efficiently it used raw materials, Jacobson said.

The recipients were judged on their performance during 2008.

The application process began at the end of March and ISTC began reviewing applicants in May.

Although the event is focused around the presentation of the awards, it is also a way for different people of different backgrounds to get together and discuss means of benefiting the environment, Shorey said.

“It’s a good way to find out about what other companies are doing too, and connect with them,” she added. “Even though it’s a company we might be in competition with product-wise, we all try to share ideas for improving sustainable development or operations.”