Environmental Excellence Awards recognize Washtenaw County leaders in green infrastructure

Washtenaw County's Environmental Excellence Partnership Program (E2P2) has formally recognized the 2020 and 2022 winners of its Environmental Excellence Awards.

Catie Wytychak, water quality specialist at the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, explains that E2P2’s focus has shifted from pollution prevention to greener infrastructure. The E2P2 Program offers three programs to community members: Community Partners for Clean Streams for water quality protection, Waste Knot for waste reduction and recycling, and the Pollution Prevention Program for the safe storage and use of hazardous materials. 

For the Environmental Excellence Awards, green infrastructure is broken down into three categories: Water Quality Protection, Waste Reduction and Recycling, and Pollution Prevention, with a final award given for Leadership in Environmental Excellence.

Arbor Brewing Company and The Crossings of Ann Arbor Condominium Association were both recognized for their excellence in Water Quality Protection. 

“Arbor Brewing Company has been part of our Waste Knot program since the late '90s,” Wytychak says. “In 2019, in celebration of Arbor Day, they donated proceeds from sales of their Treebeard IPA and raised $10,000 to plant trees in the community, and then planted trees themselves in Dolph Park.” 

The Crossings of Ann Arbor Condominium Association joined E2P2 in 2019. Over the last two years it has been collecting rainwater from its buildings' rooftops to water the plants in two rain gardens. 

“Often we use the same set of landscapers to build rain gardens for partners,” Wytychak says. “But they wanted to work with their existing landscaping company to educate their staff on how to do this construction.”

Fjallraven Ann Arbor and the Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Ypsilanti were recognized for excellence in Waste Reduction and Recycling. 

“Fjallraven is almost completely zero waste. Almost no waste leaves their store at all,” Wytychak says. “They also host volunteer days on Earth Days to pick up trash along the Huron River.” 

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is partnered with Community Partners for Clean Streams and Waste Knot. It also hosts a clothing and reusable medical supply drive, which Wytychak says “not only reuses materials, but also provides a service to the community.”

The award for Pollution Prevention is unique in that the businesses recognized for it are required to participate in pollution prevention methods, and the winning businesses go above and beyond to prevent unnecessary waste creation in their day-to-day business. Ann Arbor's Convenience Auto Service converted to LED lighting in its shops, reducing the amount of mercury-containing fluorescent lights. The business has also made changes to use products that are less hazardous, easier to dispose of, and more environmentally friendly.

The Ann Arbor-based Toyota Tech Center also was recognized for Pollution Prevention due to its decisions to design better storage areas for hazardous materials and to perform more internal health and safety inspections.

The Leadership in Environmental Excellence Award went to Ann Arbor local Shannan Gibb-Randall, principal of InSite Design Studio, Inc. in Ann Arbor, a landscape architecture firm known for its eco-friendly designs. Gibb-Randall is known for her use of on-site water as a resource, which Wytychak says “improves water quality on-site by allowing water to go back into the ground.” She has also helped to design eco-friendly landscapes at several Washtenaw County locations, including Ann Arbor City Hall and Eastern Michigan University’s family housing at Cornell Courts.

Other awards presented were Master Composter and Rain Garden Leadership.

Wytychak notes that the Community Partners for Clean Streams and WasteKnot programs are free for anyone to join. 

“If anyone is interested in what they can do on their own property, contact us for technical assistance and designs," she says. "We also now offer small mini sponsorships for groups and individuals to make changes on their property.”

To read more about the winners of this year’s Environmental Excellence awards, visit the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office website here. For information on how to partner with E2P2 as an individual or as a business, email e2p2@washtenaw.org or call (734) 222-6860.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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