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Volkswagen Wins EPA Rain-Catcher Award for Chattanooga Plant


Wetland restoration is an excellent means of water resource management and stewardship, due to its cost-effectiveness and sustainability. An April report from the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America revealed the remarkable economic value and benefits resulting from coastal ecosystem restoration projects around the U.S.

“We learned in a nutshell that there’s a win-win, if not a win-win-win, opportunity that presents itself when you invest in conservation. The economic benefits are remarkable … There’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity,” summarized Mark Schaefer, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and partner organizations have been promoting use of “green infrastructure” for years “as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving healthier waters.” Recognizing excellence in such initiatives for the first time, EPA on August 19 awarded Volkswagen Group of America (VW) with the EPA Region 4 Rain-Catcher Award, Commercial Category during an awards ceremony at the EPA Region 4 International Erosion Control Association Municipal Wet Weather Stormwater Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The multiple benefits of "green infrastructure"

Green infrastructure, as the EPA explains, “uses natural systems and/or engineered systems designed to mimic natural processes to more effectively manage urban stormwater and reduce receiving water impacts.”

The first automobile manufacturing facility to earn the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Platinum certification, Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant voluntarily set aside at least 20 percent of the facility as open space. It has also implemented a host of conservation practices, including measures to better cope with stormwater and runoff.

These include using bioswales in parking lots, and the construction of 3.3 miles of stream and 2.8 miles of green space. In addition, VW is collecting stormwater from the facility's roof for use in a cooling tower and toilets.

Along with offering employees and locals nature recreation activities, these ecologically-based stormwater management measures are also helping protect wildlife. Two wetland areas help assure the survival of several species, including the red-headed woodpecker and the rusty blackbird, the EPA highlights.

Making use of clean, renewable energy is another facet of VW's efforts to assure the overall sustainability of its Chattanooga manufacturing plant. In January 2013, VW flipped the switch on Tennessee's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) installation. Installing 33,600 PV panels over 33 acres, the solar power field produces enough clean, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of some 1,200 homes.

*Image credits: 1), 3) VW of America; 2) Wardsauto.com

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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