By Michael Souza
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE - Toray Plastics of North Kingstown, along with Appalachian Mountain Club’s trail committee volunteers, the Steel Yard Renewal project in Providence and the Westerly Innovation Network were honored as Sen. John H. Chafee Conservation Leadership Projects by the Environment Council of Rhode Island.
Each year, four projects are selected by the council, which is the state’s affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.
The awards highlight their outstanding efforts to promote community sustainability through conservation of our natural resources.
The programs and projects recognized may become a model for other communities, providing significant benefits to the citizenry, ecological system and natural resources of Rhode Island.
This year Toray Plastics will receive the highest honor.
In 2004 they launched a long term comprehensive sustainability initiative and the following annual savings have been achieved: 8.8 million gallons of water, 18.5 million KWHs of electricity and 5.5 billion BTUs, zero land fill waste, improved lighting efficiency of 3.16 KWHs per year.
Cumulatively this effort has achieved a savings of $2.3 million annually.
Recently Toray installed a three acre solar farm, the largest in the state, 1650 PV panels to generate 625 megawatt hours/year, curbing energy costs and reducing CO2 emission by 340 tons/year.
Appalachian Mountain Club trails committee volunteers were named because of their repair work in the Arcadia Management Area and Burlingame State Park.
In an average year without major storms, volunteers donate about 1500 hours to trail and bridge maintenance. They have also spent 175 hours repairing 2010 flood damage and 50 hours for Hurricane Irene.
Volunteers have also been working with neighborhood organizations to improve local parks at Boy Scout Camp Yawgoog; Blackstone Park, Providence; and Old Mountain Field Park, South Kingstown.
The Steel Yard Renewal project in Providence successfully completed a multi-year, 1.2 million dollar Brownfield cleanup in late 2010.
The final project met the preservation standards required of a National Historic Register site, and included an innovative design for passive, on-site storm water management.
What was once 2-acres of unusable space is now a de facto public park, and home to over one hundred trees, a half acre of green space, and storm water-managing wetland plants and is now available for concerts, art shows and community events.
The Westerly Innovation Network is a non- profit organization, which was founded in 2002 as a middle school student, all volunteer community problem-solving team.
Their most recent project was Turning Grease into Fuel, to establish a pilot waste cooking oil collection program for the town of Westerly and sell the used oil to generate funding to help low income families heat their homes. There are now 93 restaurant/clubs participating in the program.
The City or Warwick joined the TGIF programming in 2010, increasing the collection rate to 4000 gallons month, or 50,000 year.
The waste cooking oil is sold to biodiesel refiners like Newport Biodiesel and the proceeds are donated to through charitable organizations to 50 needy families and over 14,400 gallons are delivered to 144 families and homeless shelters, in need of emergency assistance heating fuel in R.I. and Conn.
A ceremony will be held Friday, May 4 at the Providence Marriott Hotel. The reception starts at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $60.00. Contact ECRI for additional information at 401-621-8048.