CHAMPAIGN — An Urbana business, the University of Illinois and Danville Area Community College have been honored with 2012 state sustainability awards for their efforts to protect the environment, preserve resources and improve the economy.
Flex-N-Gate Corp., which manufactures bumpers and other automotive parts, was one of 21 businesses and organizations receiving the 2012 Governor's Sustainability Award for reducing waste and saving resources at its plant in Urbana.
The company, owned by Champaign resident Shahid Khan, has made several improvements to reuse hydraulic oil, recycle cardboard, adjust work schedules and reduce the use of natural gas and electricity, according to Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. The center, which has presented the awards since 1987, is a unit of the UI's Prairie Research Institute.
Flex-N-Gate was cited for:
— Reusing 4,675 gallons of hydraulic oil from stamping presses in 2011 through an on-site filtering system, rather than sending it off-site for recycling or buying new oil.
— Buying baling equipment to process used cardboard that had been previously discarded, diverting 25,000 pounds from the landfill from 2009 to 2011.
— Modifying painting processes that allowed the plant to increase conveyor speeds, lower oven temperatures and improve efficiency, resulting in reduced consumption of natural gas and electricity and associated greenhouse gases.
— Adopting more energy-efficient lighting systems, reducing electrical demand by 51 percent.
A company executive said the award is proof of Flex-N-Gate's emphasis on sustainability in all its operations, and required the commitment of all 52 employees at the plant.
"Our products are innovative and best-in-class, and so are our methods to produce them when it comes to reducing environmental impact," said Scott Quartier, vice president of environmental. "Consumer expectations, product quality and sustainability are pretty much central to everything we do here today, and that applies to the entire scope of how we manage our business.
"It's abundantly important to consider utilities and use of natural resources in the operation of our plant, not only from a sustainability and environmental perspective but also for the bottom line. When (we) reduce waste and prevent emissions from our plants, we're also helping to improve the performance of their supply chains as well. It just makes good sense all around."
The UI's Urbana and Chicago campuses both received a "gold" award, the highest possible, through the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact Awards Program, organized by the Governor's Green Government Coordinating Council. It recognizes schools that buy renewable energy, implement green building practices, develop sustainable transportation options, improve water conservation and incorporate sustainable dining practices.
The UI's Urbana campus was honored for broad efforts to cut energy and encourage sustainability on campus and in society. The campus created the Office of Sustainability in 2008, chaired by a senior-level administrative council that identifies priorities for the campus in education, research, engagement and operations.
The UI developed a Climate Action Plan in 2010 designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation and other efforts. A Student Sustainability Committee, formed in 2003, collects more than $1 million annually from student fees that fund sustainability projects on campus, including a planned solar-power farm approved last week.
The Chicago campus has set up similar efforts, and is a partner in the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the Chicagoland Green Collar Job Initiative, and the Go to 2040 Plan with the Chicagoland Metropolitan Agency of Planning. Stephanie Lage of the Office of Sustainability at the Urbana campus said the award "shows a commitment by our state to be better stewards of our resources. Encouraging higher education institutions to do so helps lead by example. We're not only teaching our students, but we're trying to make the environments that they live in more sustainable as well."
Lage said the campus has reduced energy consumption by 25 percent since 2008, well ahead of its 2015 target of 20 percent. It installed more efficient fluorescent lighting across campus and used "retro commissioning teams" to audit a building's heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems and make updates and repairs as needed, she said.
Danville Area Community College, which received a bronze award, opened a Sustainability Center as a resource for the campus and community, and formed other committees to implement campus projects and encourage multidisciplinary efforts on sustainable issues.
Award winners were honored Friday in Oak Brook.
"These businesses and organizations have shown that it is possible to create and maintain conditions under which people and the environment can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social and economic requirements of present and future generations," Manohar Kulkarni, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, said in a release.