EPA Honors Biodiesel Pioneer with Environmental Champion Award
Biodiesel, biobased products help New Jersey school district earn EPA’s highest public recognition
Some organizations follow trends; others set them.
Medford Township Public Schools in Medford, NJ is a trendsetter. It’s leadership in the use of biodiesel has eliminated 123,376 pounds of smog-forming emissions, 2,408 pounds of diesel particulate matter and reduced its fleet operation costs by over $170,000.
Medford’s comprehensive environmental initiatives, including the use of biodiesel and biobased products, today earned the 2016 Environmental Champion Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 2.
“Medford implemented sustainable practices long before it became the buzzword it is today,” said Lewis Bainbridge, a South Dakota soybean farmer and Chairman of the United Soybean Board Demand Action Team, who submitted the nomination. “For the last 19 years, schools across the nation have learned from the example set by Medford.”
In 1997, Medford was the first school district in the country to use biodiesel, which is made from diverse agricultural oils, including soybean oil. Today, it is the nation’s longest continuous user of biodiesel in a student transportation fleet.
Looking to build on its success with biodiesel and other sustainability initiatives, such as on-site solar electric generation and geothermal HVAC systems, Medford turned to biobased products, which use soybean oil as an ingredient to replace or reduce petroleum content.
Over the last several years, Medford installed soy-backed carpet, applied biobased traffic paint and blacktop sealer, and began using other biobased products such as: lubricants; drain and septic treatment; mold and mildew remover; carpet shampoo; white board restorer; all-purpose cleaner; motor oil; and truck/bus wash.
“It was a natural progression to biobased products,” explains Medford’s Director of Operations and Technology Joe Biluck who led the effort. “Using biobased products creates a healthier environment for the building occupants and reduces and/or eliminates the presence of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s) in our schools.”
“Each year, EPA recognizes those who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health and I am happy to inform you that you have been chosen to receive this honor,” Judith A. Enck, EPA regional administrator said in a letter to Biluck. “The Environmental Champion Award is the highest recognition presented to the public by EPA.”
Medford takes sustainability a step further by turning its initiatives into learning opportunities for students. A November 2015 lesson allowed a select group of 7th and 8th grade students, who are part of Medford’s Citizen Science Education Program (CSEP), to apply five different blacktop sealers to a school parking lot. One is soy-based and the others are made with asphalt and other non-biobased materials. Students monitored the sealers’ appearances and durability and will provide data to the resin manufacturer, Reichhold.