May 4, 2011

SamTrans awarded for sustainability efforts

In stepping up its efforts over the last two years to become a more environmentally-friendly transit agency, SamTrans created the Sustainability Program to conserve resources and help the agency save money by reducing water, energy and what goes into waste streams.

The program is spearheaded by employee volunteers who work on projects and policies that demonstrate sustainability in action, such as switching to energy-efficient lighting, using double-sided printing and changing to single stream recycling that allows all recyclables — plastic, glass, cans, bottles and metal — to be placed in one bin.

The agency recently received a bronze level recognition award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for its commitment to sustainability.

To qualify for the bronze level, SamTrans needed to demonstrate actions and commitments to sustainability. APTA required SamTrans to complete at least five projects. SamTrans had already completed a number of projects, including consolidating the agency's motorpool to help facilitate carpooling, turning off all computers and monitors at night and posting "lights out" signs in common areas.

SamTrans also was asked to commit to completing an additional five projects, on top of the required five. Some of the SamTrans commitments include continuing the educational forums and finding more ways to reduce paper consumption, in addition to reducing the District's greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent.

In APTA's review of SamTrans' submission, the organization said the following:

"It was clear that SamTrans is serious not only about committing to sustainability, but also about tracking their performance and progress. It presents a very practical and realistic example of a typical transit agency that is trying to make the best of the resources available – not averse to identifying areas for improvement, and balanced by areas that deserve recognition."

Last fall, the SamTrans Sustainability Action Team kicked off an employee "Green Bag Lunch" event, a regular series of educational programs providing more information about sustainability. SamTrans also launched the "Lightly Used Office Products Recycling Program," creating a shared location for employees to donate lightly used office supplies, such as binders and hanging folders that could be used before purchasing new items.

Long-term, SamTrans is committed to reducing Bay Area emissions, reducing the transit agency's carbon footprint and influencing its suppliers to provide green products and services through a new environmental procurement policy.

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