Environmental technology challenge issued - and accepted

by Carolyn Chase
coalition of officials from the United States and Mexico have joined with business and environmental leaders in Chula Vista to launch a national Environmental Technology Challenge. The City of Chula Vista is a founding leader of the challenge along with the cities of Chicago; Baltimore; Portland, OR and Orlando, FL.
Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton commented, "The challenge will encourage companies to put better, faster, cheaper and safer technologies to use. Challenge-takers, including users and providers of innovative technologies, will play a vital role in enhancing the environmental quality of our binational region."
Companies are being challenged to use cost-saving innovative technologies to: Businesses participating in the challenge locally include: Sony Electronics Inc.; Honeywell; Rohr, Inc.; WaterLink Systems, Inc.; Ballard Power Systems and Safety-Kleen Corporation.
Sony is "taking the challenge" by expanding its solid waste recycling programs at its plants in San Diego and Tijuana. "Our aggressive solid waste management program has already increased the amount of trash we recycle," said Mark Small, Ph.D., director of Corporate Environmental Affairs. "In taking the challenge, we're committing to bettering our record this year by recycling more than 80 percent of the trash we generate."
Honeywell is taking the challenge to save water and energy and is partnering with WaterLink Systems, Inc. WaterLink has developed a computerized landscape irrigation water systems that saves water and energy, reduces costs and eliminates pollution caused in runoff.
Studies by the California Department of Water Resources and the Metropolitan Water District have concluded that more than 40 percent of urban water used in Southern California is consumed by landscape irrigation. Other studies have shown that most landscapes are overwatered by a factor of two or more! Reducing landscape overwatering is a real and effective method available today to save water, energy cots and prevent pollution caused by pesticide and fertilizer runoff, while still maintaining a healthy landscape. Since 1992, WaterLink's water-based irrigation scheduling technology and on-line services has saved more than 10.8 million gallons of water at four commercial and office sites in Southern California, including one in Chula Vista.
WaterLink is also issuing the challenge to local property owners to do their part to save water and prevent pollution. WaterLink provides a durable, cost effective technology and service with quick paybacks to those who accept the challenge.
Among other environmental initiatives, the City of Chula Vista is working with Ballard Power Systems from Vancouver, Canada. Ballard is the world leader in the development of unique fuelcell power systems. The Ballard Fuel Cell is a proprietary zero-emission engine that converts natural gas, methanol or hydrogen fuel into electricity without combustion.

Borderline bottom line

Challenge companies are also sponsoring the Border Environmental Commerce Alliance (BECA), a regional economic conversion and environmental business support program. Founded with Department of Commerce support, BECA has committed to promote the utilization of environmental management practices and technologies by both United States and Mexico businesses. BECA hosts the "Border Environmental Technology Resource Center" - a one-stop center for technical assistance in environmental management, technology, business development, marketing and cross-border trade. BECA also hosts the Border Environmental Business Cluster, a business Incubator for environmental entrepreneurs and synergistic atmosphere for 15 to 20 new environmental companies.
BECA is located in 20,000 square feet of space donated by Rohr, Inc. Having experienced work force reductions due to defense budget cutbacks, Rohr sees environmental technology and innovation key to economic conversion
By issuing a challenge to technology providers, Rohr will create new opportunities for environmental entrepreneurs to solve key problems. "We're looking for a solution that is both economical and will have little or no impact on the environment," said Art Sellgren, manager of Rohr Corporate Facility Resources.
Rohr seeks development of a process that will reduce or eliminate the need to use certain chemicals that create a hazardous water by-product in the manufacture of titanium aircraft parts. "Upon a successful completion of a Challenge partnership, Rohr intends to donate a portion of future economic savings from the use of the new technology to BECA programs to encourage additional innovative environmental technologies," Art affirms.

National goals

Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Environmental Technology Challenge is a two-year program to showcase innovative environmental technologies. "Our aim is to see the challenge issued in Chula Vista met across the country," said Barbara Cairns, deputy director of the foundation.
The objective of the Challenge is to have at least 50 businesses and communities pledge to put specific environmental technologies to use within the two-year project. The challenge will help foster the goals of: Sustaining Our Environment, Driving Economic Advantage, and Community Renewal.
According to Cairns, "Environmental technologies play a major role in cleaning our environment and protecting public health. Appropriate technologies reduce human exposure to toxic chemical; clean our soil, water and air.
"Innovative environmental technologies can reduce costs, create jobs, increase exports and drive competitive advantage for American business. There are currently more than 60,000 environmental technology businesses in the United States employing more than 1 million workers.
"Environmental technology is a key building block for sustainable development and building cleaner communities. From the remediation of toxic dump sites to the greening of schools and public buildings, from the improvement of air and water quality to eco-industrial parks and transportation systems, environmental technologies can be job-creating, community-renewing tools. Moreover, by fostering urban renewal rather than sprawl into open spaces, we can simultaneously protect all aspects of our environment."