Western Nevada College has been awarded a third of a million dollars to help Nevada businesses reduce the pollution they create.
The $345,108 grant comes from the Environmental Protection Agency’s P2 program. Georgia White, WNC’s director of professional and applied technology, said the college in partnership with the non-profit GreenUP! will focus on two business sectors — the food and beverage industry and automotive repair and maintenance.
In the food and beverage manufacturing category, she said, Nevada’s craft breweries are “of particular interest to the EPA.”
“The idea of pollution prevention is to go upstream in the manufacturing process and reduce the amount of waste that is ultimately produced, changing processes, changing fuel types, producing less (55 gallon) drums, less smoke, less liquid waste,” said EPA Regional Administrator John Busterud.
The program will provide training to 40 businesses in the area including Hispanic-owned companies. They will be taught how they can use safer chemical alternatives, reduce water use, improve energy efficiency and adopt environmental best practices.
The WNC grant, one of just three in the western region, comes on the 30th anniversary of the P2 (Pollution Prevention) grants program. The other two went to U.C. Berkeley and Arizona State. Over those three decades, Busterud said P2 has saved more than $1.5 billion.
“The grant is designed to help Nevada businesses improve their bottom line while reducing their use of hazardous materials, water and energy,” he said. “Our grantees have significantly reduced the release of hazardous materials into the environment.”
GreenUP! President Donna Walden said the partners have developed a computer tool that lets businesses look at their operations and make positive changes.
“And we can measure it — the amount of water saved, energy saved the amount of landfill, etc. are all measurable,” she said.
Businesses are encouraged to sign up for the Green Business Tracker that will also allow consumers to access the overall results and support businesses that follow green practices.
They said the computer system is designed to protect the confidentiality of the businesses.
“They get their own environmental report card,” Walden said. “We get aggregated data.”
She said she’s excited about working with the breweries and they’re planning training this winter. She said the Nevada Craft Brewers and National Brewers Association list about 50 brewers across the state.
Both pointed to Great Basin Brewery in Reno/Sparks as an example, recycling its 12-ounce bottles and using the spent grains from the brewing process as animal feed among other things. Walden pointed to Great Basin’s program offering a free pint of beer to anyone who brings them 12 empties.
There are also great opportunities in helping auto repair and maintenance businesses that have to make use of a variety of hazardous chemicals and materials. Those businesses are already under significant regulatory controls that dictate how materials must be controlled, used and disposed of.
Busterud said P2 is aimed more at “business practices not driven by regulation.”
Then there’s the educational component for students. The grant includes funding to pay 10 student interns to participate and assist businesses in reducing their carbon footprint.
“The Nevada Green Business Program and Internship program provide a tremendous learning opportunity for students to get work-based experience, in sustainability” White said.
This grant is the first award under the P2 program. WNC officials say they hope and expect to receive more than $1 million over the course of four years.
In order to get that EPA money. Busterud said, the college had to match the federal grant
White said WNC’s grants committee won’t approve submitting any grant unless they already have the match lined up. That can be from people donating time, and services as well as providing funding.
Walden said GreenUP and WNC have been working on the project since 2018 and developed sector specific guidance for the manufacturers to improve how they do business.