All across the Region, companies and municipalities are switching their fleets from diesel and gasoline to cleaner-burning fuels that reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
South Shore Clean Cities honored those who achieved the most drastic reductions in gasoline and greenhouse gases or otherwise promoted sustainable transportation and environmental remediation Tuesday at its Annual Meeting and Awards at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. Fair Oaks Farms, the Dunes Learning Center, the city of South Bend, the School City of Hammond, the Porter County Recycling and Waste Reduction District and Jack Gray Transport owner Danette Garza all were recognized at the ballroom ceremony in Blue Chip's Stardust Event Center.
“2017 was our most successful year for reducing emissions in Northwest Indiana,” South Shore Clean Cities Board President Brian Houston said. "In 2018, with your partnership and support, we will continue to make great strides to sustainable transportation solutions and energy efficiency that will benefit our air quality, energy security, economic development and local jobs."
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, who delivered the keynote address, said efforts to improve the environment in the heavily industrialized Northwest Indiana was crucial to quality of life. He said he would fight for continued federal funding for cleaner fuels and new vehicle technologies, which the administration has proposed slashing by 52 percent this year and 41 percent in 2019.
“We need to keep people in Northwest Indiana, and attract them to Northwest Indiana,” Viscloskly said. “We need to give Northwest Indiana a good quality of life for future generations. We're improving the quality of place. We're improving the environment. We're creating a new economy."
In 2016, South Shore Clean Cities members reduced emissions across the Region by 108,000 tons, the equivalent of taking more than 32,000 vehicles off the road. They collectively used 16.8 million fewer gallons of gasoline or equivalent fuels.
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“I continue to be amazed and inspired by the work of our members and the broad impact they are having on quality of life,” South Shore Clean Cities Executive Director Carl Lisek said. “The award winners are all reducing our dependence on imported oil, contributing to cleaner air, promoting economic development and supporting local jobs. I applaud their achievements.”
Garza was named 2017 Empowering Woman of the Year for replacing six existing trucks with clean diesel trucks after she bought Jack Gray Transport, a Gary company that hauls bulk materials.
“It was a diamond in the rough,” she said. “But I knew in order to modernize the company I needed to modernize the equipment.”
The Porter County Recycling and Waste Reduction District won the 2017 Excellence in Environmental Education Award, the School City of Hammond the 2017 NIRPC Green Fleet Member of the Year Award, the city of South Bend the 2017 MACOG Green Fleet Member of the Year Award, the Dunes Learning Center the 2017 Nonprofit Organization of the Year, and Fair Oaks Farms the 2017 Member of the Year Award. South Shore Clean Cities' Member of the Year runner-ups were Entertainment Cruises, Ceres Solutions Co-op, Ozinga and Family Express Corp.
"We have to make sure Northwest Indiana continues to lead the way in promoting cleaner air, water and land," Lisek said. "We get closer every year. We're leading for the future. It's never too late to begin your environmental legacy."