Lexington – The overall environmental and sustainability program that governs all of the cargo terminals owned, leased and operated by the Virginia Port Authority has won a gold medal in this year's Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards.
The VPA's award is for excellence in its sustainability program. The award recognizes organizations or facilities that can document the success of their sustainability program by providing evidence of 1) a culture of environmental sustainability; 2) recent accomplishments related to reducing their environmental footprint; and 3) a commitment to future sustainability-oriented actions.
"Winners in this category will be those that have made sustainability an integral part of their organizational culture through leadership, innovation, and continual improvement. The sustainability award form provides applicants multiple ways to document that their organization is operating in a sustainable manner," said a statement on judging criteria from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Heather Wood is the VPA's director of environmental affairs and she, along with people from port operations, regional environmental organizations, port stakeholders and government agencies, helped develop the sustainability program. The largest benefit of the program is the "cultural-shift" that has occurred in terminal operations whereby environment and safety have become key factors in operational decisions on the marine terminals, she said.
"All of our industry partners, customers, and facility neighbors recognize and support the VPA's efforts to improve operational efficiency and reduce environmental impacts," Wood said. "The Port of Virginia is recognized nationally and internationally by our customers, government officials, the regulatory community, and our fellow ports as being a leader in environment and sustainability."
The VPA's sustainability program has been more than a decade in the making. Currently, Virginia is the only port in the nation to have its container terminals certified under the standards set forth in the internationally-recognized ISO 14001 environmental certification process. Many of programs are voluntary and provide incentives to partners and service providers to improve sustainability of their operations.
"Our goal is to be proactive in our efforts and to continually improve year after year," Wood said.
Some of the program's measurable results include:
An annual sustained 30% reduction in air emissions;
An annual sustained 40% reduction in water quality impacts from marine terminal operations;
The creation, restoration and preservation of 50 combined acres of forested riparian buffer, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, open space, shallow water habitat, and oyster reefs, with an additional 170 acres planned over the next decade; and
Recent energy conservation measures that have resulted in a 40% decline in utility costs from port security operations and HVAC and lighting improvements at Norfolk International Terminals.
The Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards recognize the significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in three categories: environmental projects, environmental programs and land conservation. They are given to businesses and industrial facilities, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies.
"The accomplishments of these award winners are truly impressive," McDonnell said. "They demonstrate a clear commitment to improve our environment and make the lives of all Virginians better."
The awards were presented April 10 at an evening ceremony held at the Environment Virginia Symposium hosted by the Virginia Military Institute.
Above: Heather Wood, director of environmental affairs for the Virginia Port Authority, accepted the award on behald of the agency.