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Since 2004, the local Air Quality Agency has been giving special recognition to local businesses and other organizations that have gone above and beyond air quality rules and regulations to implement voluntary, innovative programs that reduce air pollution in our region. This year, Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality Agency is presenting Clean Air Excellence Awards to Buncombe County Government Strategy and Innovation Department and the Western North Carolina Veterans Affairs Health Care System (WNCVAHCS).
Buncombe County Government Strategy and Innovation Department
Part of Buncombe County's vision is to be a caring community in harmony with its environment. In an effort to actualize this vision, the County implemented a Flexible Workplace Arrangement (FWA) Policy that has significantly decreased the number of vehicle miles driven by county employees.
The FWA allows many employees to work at an approved off-site location for some or all of their work week. This policy was adopted to increase productivity and effectiveness of staff, promote efficient use of County resources, reduce negative environmental impacts, and assist Buncombe County in retaining qualified employees. This policy also supports the goals within the County’s Strategic Plan focused on Operational Excellence and Resources.
According to a staff survey of 577 employees with FWA agreements, county employees were able to reduce their driving from 4,754,162 miles driven per year in 2020 to 649,833 miles driven per year under the new FWA in 2021. This total reduction of 4,104,329 miles driven under the FWA policy led to an estimated decrease in fuel consumption of 169,473 gallons per year.
This reduction of fuel consumption has led to an estimated decrease of 2,010.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year (3.1 tons from diesel, 2,007.6 tons from gasoline), which is 86.3% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than were produced prior to the enactment of the FWA policy.
Heather Parkinson of Strategy and Innovation states that “We feel that the Flexible Workplace Arrangement policy not only helps us to excel in improving air quality for our residents, but also makes the County a leader in addressing climate change.”
Western North Carolina Veterans Affairs Health Care System (WNCVAHCS)
The WNCVAHCS has undertaken numerous efforts at the campus here in Asheville to reduce air and other pollution to the surrounding environment. They have a combined heat and power unit that generates electricity using excess steam and natural gas. They have implemented projects to upgrade lighting to LED technology. Solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Community Living Center to provide domestic hot water. A geothermal heating and cooling system has been installed to serve building 15. They are using electric vehicles on campus and have several hybrid vehicles in their automotive fleet. Annual greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by over 482 metric tons.
In addition, WNCVAHCS has been recognized by Practice Greenhealth with a 2022 Environmental Excellence Award for exemplary environmental stewardship. Practice Greenhealth is the health care sector’s go-to source for information, tools, data, resources, and expert technical support for sustainability initiatives that help hospitals and health systems meet their health, financial, and community goals.
The awards will be presented at the beginning of the AB Air Quality Board Meeting on September 12, 2022 at 4:00 pm at 30 Valley Street in Asheville. For additional information, please contact the Agency at 828-250-6777, email@example.com, or visit the website at www.abairquality.org.