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Federal Green Challenge

2020 Federal Green Challenge Award Winners in the Great Lakes Region

Recognition is an important part of the Federal Green Challenge (FGC). Awards were given in the categories of energy, water,  waste, electronics and innovation in the Great Lakes region.

In Region 5, which serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and 35 Tribes, the 2020 regional award winners are the Department of Veterans Affairs, Minneapolis Veterans Administration, and the Department of Energy, Argonne National Lab. The award winners shared details about their diversion activities, and about their awards with EPA. Below are the stories they tell behind their accomplishments.


Department of Veterans Affairs, Minneapolis Veterans Administration, Minneapolis, Minn.

The Minneapolis Veterans Administration has had a multi-year effort to reduce energy use by buying energy efficient equipment when replacing older equipment such as refrigeration equipment and new EPEAT registered computer equipment.  For larger projects they have used Energy Performance Service Contracts to achieve energy efficiency results when making upgrades. The Green Team and the GEMS coordinator have been key to driving this change over the past few years. These equipment improvements, management techniques, and an eye towards energy savings resulted in a 35 percent decrease in natural gas use in FY2019. 

Electronics, Innovation, Waste and Water

Department of Energy, Argonne National Lab, Lemont, Ill.

Argonne National Laboratory has increased the number of computers with power management enabled by 49 percent in FY 2019. Power management enables computers to ‘sleep’ and use less power while not being used, such as when a user gets up and walks away from their computer. ‘Sleep mode’ allows the user to not have to wait for the computer to boot up when they ‘wake’ it to start work again.  

Argonne’s leadership in their work revitalizing the coal yard and their efforts to increase the amount of green infrastructure at the lab is a unique project amongst our Federal Green Challenge participants. This application notes the internal multi-stakeholder approach that they needed to use to bring together various departments at the lab. This approach allowed the coal yard to be decommissioned using a multiyear plan that involved their sustainability and public works groups. Ultimately, this group created a project that reduced the stormwater going to their treatment plant, save energy, and money in this five-acre area. 

Argonne National Laboratory launched their composting program in 2018; starting with 10 buildings. Then in the summer of 2019, they expanded the composting program to another 10 buildings. As a result, they were able to significantly increase the total amount of food waste and organic materials that were collected in 2019 by 226 percent compared with 2018. The program continues to be a great success and they are further expanding it in 2020.  

Argonne National Laboratory increased the amount of green infrastructure at the lab. Green infrastructure can decrease the amount of stormwater that is managed by their wastewater treatment infrastructure. Argonne has placed an emphasis on the use of green infrastructure to replace traditional ‘pipes and pumps’ where possible and the coal yard revitalization project increased the amount of green infrastructure area by 42 percent. The lab recently completed the multiyear effort to decommission the coal yard that was part of the former coal fired steam and power plant. They restored a natural drainage pattern at the coal storage area so that water is now returned to the local creek not to the water treatment plant, restored native plants in the former yard’s footprint, coupled with the removal of berms, allowed decommissioning the stormwater infrastructure in the five-acre area. This project will divert 16 million gallons of stormwater from the treatment plant annually; saving over $13,000.  

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