Environmental Impact Awards

Organizations showing exemplary work in environmentally sustainable practices were honored on May 21 at the 2014 Environmental Impact Awards luncheon ceremony.

The Center on Sustainable Communities, Des Moines Water Works, Greater Des Moines Partnership, Metro Waste Authority, and MidAmerican Energy sponsor the awards, which were established in 2011.

“The idea is to recognize the good work that’s going on out there,” says Meg Fitz, senior vice president of regional business development with the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “By increasing the visibility of this, the hope is that it will give others ideas of what others are doing.”

The 2014 award winners are:

Business (presented by Greater Des Moines Partnership)

Civic (presented by Metro Waste Authority)

Built Environment (presented by Center on Sustainable Communities)

In addition, two of the organizations received special recognition for excellence in water management and energy efficiency. MidAmerican Energy provided the award for energy efficiency to the World Food Prize Foundation. Des Moines Water Works gave the water management award to Iowa Rivers Revival.

The winners received handmade plaques created from various reclaimed materials by Des Moines artist Amy Putney Koenig.

The history of the awards goes back to 2003, when Metro Waste Authority began its Environmental Stewardship Award. Initially the emphasis was on the importance of recycling, says Leslie Holsapple, program coordinator with Metro Waste Authority. Over time, the scope of environmental sustainability has been was broadened.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, Des Moines Water Works, and Center on Sustainable Communities came to Metro Waste Authority, each expressing interest in giving environmental awards, Holsapple says. A collaboration among all of the groups, each with a different area of expertise, made sense to help broaden their reach and increase awareness.

Lynnae Hentzen with the Center on Sustainable Communities says the awards have helped educate builders in using more environmentally sustainable practices efficiently and effectively while also being more profitable.

Hentzen, cofounder and board secretary of the Center, says both awardees in the Built Environment category did a “tremendous” job of practicing green building, including energy efficiency, resource consciousness, minimizing water use, and taking into account health and safety.

The World Food Prize breathed new life into an existing historic building, which retains the essence of our community through keeping the character of the building, she says. Habitat for Humanity continues to incorporate the newest technologies and practices in green building.

Major trends in sustainable building today include rehabilitation and remodeling of existing buildings, energy efficiency, and water conservation, she says.

“Some of the sustainable principles have really come into focus recently because they can save money for the consumer, which is important,” Hentzen says. “Knowing on the contractor side how to do this as efficiently as possible so they can make money, too, that’s the key.”

In the Business category, Meredith Corporation stood out because of the length of time it has had strategies in place, the variety of ways it supports sustainability, and its greenhouse gas strategy, says Fitz. Blank Park Zoo showed a lot of creativity in its efforts, which is important for small businesses and nonprofit groups that may not have the money to invest in initiatives.

In the Civic category, Metro Waste Authority was looking for candidates that are environmental leaders, influencing others to become more environmentally conscious, Holsapple says.

One of the winners in the Civic category was Iowa Rivers Revival, which also received special recognition for excellence in water management.

“The Water Management designation is given to projects that demonstrate innovative preventative measures for improving and protecting water quality in the Des Moines and Raccoon watersheds and ultimately the quality and availability of drinking water,” says Linda Kinman, public policy analyst/watershed advocate with Des Moines Water Works, which presented the award.

“Iowa Rivers Revival offers unique programming through the Master River Stewards, River Rascals, and Rivers Rock! programs, which increase awareness and understanding of river systems by everyday people. Graduates of the programs have a better appreciation of the value of Iowa’s rivers.”

The World Food Prize Foundation received the excellence award for energy efficiency because of the integrated planning approach it took during the design and construction phases of its building, says Julie White, director of communications at MidAmerican Energy, which presented the award. The organization was also able to make good use of some rebates and incentives for the project.

The World Food Prize building is expected to perform 50 percent more efficiently than a similarly built structure that doesn’t include its energy efficiency features, White says.

The project is a great example of how working with different partners, including MidAmerican, during the design and construction of a large project can help organizations achieve the best energy efficiency for their facilities, she says.

“It’s just great to be part of the acknowledgment of some forward-looking projects that really demonstrate environmentally sustainable practices,” White says.