As a state agency, one of the main goals of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) is to protect public health and the environment from contamination through proper management of solid wastes. TDEC has been a committed WasteWise partner since 1998 and has been awarded WasteWise awards almost annually since 1999. Due to its tireless work to educate the residents of Tennessee and its employees about waste reduction, WasteWise recognizes TDEC with its highest honor as the 2011 inductee for the WasteWise Hall of Fame.
Beginning in 1990, TDEC launched the State Employee Recycling Program (SERP) to engage its employees throughout the Tennessee region. This program enables employees to lead by example—becoming experts on the importance of waste prevention and recycling—and encourages them to participate in waste reduction initiatives throughout the year. More than 32,000 employees are committed to the program, with this number continuing to grow.
In the past 12 years, TDEC has sponsored several ongoing events, festivals, recycling rebates, and charity runs, including the Great America Cleanup and America Recycles Day. One successful initiative is the Green Cubicle program, which encourages daily tasks for employees to perform to reduce waste. These simple tasks have had a tremendous impact on TDEC’s waste reduction program. Some examples include: making two-sided copies when printing, maintaining electronic files, using scrap paper when printing, reusing old office supplies, recycling toner cartridges/electronics, and using reusable coffee mugs. Through these efforts, the total amount of TDEC waste prevented, recycled, and composted in 2010 was more than 1.4 million pounds. TDEC’s 2010 waste reduction efforts resulted in greenhouse gas emission reductions of nearly 2,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. In addition, its waste reduction efforts saved TDEC nearly $40,000 in 2010, doubling the amount from 2009.
TDEC plans to commit to its waste reduction efforts in future years, not only by reporting its results, but also by promoting the WasteWise program at all its events and on its website. It has recruited more than 60 colleges and universities across Tennessee to join RecycleMania. Additionally, TDEC has sent more than 2,000 emails to all departmental employees, other state of Tennessee employees, facility administrators, recycling coordinators, and contractors to encourage them to participate in WasteWise. TDEC has received an overwhelming response from employees, who have been eager to learn more about WasteWise and get involved.
Throughout the years, TDEC has always sought out new strategies to improve its waste reduction program while serving as an excellent role model for other WasteWise partners. The state continues to educate its employees and communities about the importance of waste reduction and prevention. Since 1999, TDEC has won a total of nine WasteWise awards and continues to implement programs and initiatives that can serve as models for others. TDEC is well-deserving of the 2011 WasteWise Hall of Fame award.