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Rhode Island Organizations and Residents Receive Prestigious EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 06/26/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – June 26, 2013) – Two organizations and one individual from Rhode Island were honored today at the 2013 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the US Environmental Protection Agency. They were among 28 recipients across New England recognized for their significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem-solving.

The merit awards allow EPA to recognize individuals and groups whose work has protected or improved the region’s environment in distinct ways. Given out by EPA annually since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“The people, communities and businesses being recognized today are leaders in helping create a cleaner environment and healthier communities across New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA New England.

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Rhode Island listed by category are:

Environmental, Community, Academia, & Non-profit Organizations Environmental Merit Award

Junior WIN Team of Westerly Innovations Network
Westerly, R.I.

Vanessa Bertsch, Taylor Fiore-Chettiar, Isaac Kaufman, Cassandra Lin, John Perino, Miles Temel

In 2008, Students from Westerly, R.I. launched a project to recycle used cooking oil by turning it into biodiesel to help heat the homes of needy people. The Warwick Sewer Authority joined the students, who were part of the Westerly Innovations Network, to launch the Turn Grease into Fuel or TGIF Program in late 2010. In its first year, TGIF diverted more than 1,450 gallons of used cooking oil from the waste stream and local sewer system. In its second year, students collected 1,835 gallons of used cooking oil from businesses, a fire station and an elementary school. In 2012, $1.1 million from the sale of biodiesel fuel was donated to the City’s Department of Human Services for the local emergency heating assistance program.

Sherman Elementary School, the collection site for used oil, collected 675 gallons of grease and earned $593 for the Parent-Teacher Organization. So far, the Junior WIN Team has collected 130,000 gallons of used cooking oil and donated $81,000 for the purchase of biofuel. This has amounted to 21,000 gallons of BioHeat distributed to 210 homes. Recently, the team successfully promoted the use of biodiesel blends in Westerly school buses. The Junior WIN Team hopes to find more collection sites in Warwick. As a result of publicity, T.G.I.F. has expanded into Providence and South Kingstown.

Business, Industry, Trade or Professional

Hasbro, Inc.
Pawtucket, R.I.

In recent years, Hasbro Inc. has set several sustainability goals and made significant progress in these efforts, including designing and developing more sustainable products and packaging. Among its successes, Hasbro last year announced plans to reduce materials used in product packaging, an initiative that will improve the ratio of products to packing by 15 percent. More changes in packaging are planned for the next two years, including redesigned disposable boxes. In addition, Hasbro began phasing out PVC from some packaging in 2012, and has committed to completely eliminating PVC in packaging for new products in 2013. The company exceeded its 2011 goal to get at least 75 percent of paper and board packaging from recycled material or from sources that practice sustainable forest management. To keep the momentum, it is now aiming at 90 percent by 2015.

Hasbro’s factory in East Longmeadow, Mass., uses vegetable-based printing inks and aqueous coatings for game and puzzle parts, boxes and instructions. The list goes on. Since 2011, Hasbro has been guided by an aggressive paper sourcing policy that guides suppliers on sustainable paper sourcing so that paper used in Hasbro products aligns with the company’s commitment to the environment. Hasbro sends no waste to landfills from its North American manufacturing processes. The list of recognitions given to Hasbro is long, including its rank as Toy Industry Reporting Leader by the Carbon Disclosure Project and its title as one of world’s most ethical companies by Ethisphere Institute. It was also named to the Corporate Knights list of S&P 500’s Clean Capitalism Leaders.


Scott W. Nixon
Scott Nixon’s main contribution to the environment in Rhode Island was in-depth research focused on Narragansett Bay. He and a grad student developed a mathematical model defining how the bay worked, which was published in 1981. Thirty years later, in 2008, Nixon worked with students and technicians from his lab to update public knowledge about the bay with an extensive chapter on inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus over time. Nixon carried out distinguished marine ecological research and was an advocate for ecosystem-level thinking and management for both the local and international scientific community for over four decades before his unexpected death in May 2012.

Nixon first arrived at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in 1969, just before he got his doctorate in botany from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After that he did research, taught and guided 39 graduate students. In 1984 Nixon became coordinator of the RI Sea Grant College Program and in 1986 became its director, a job he kept until 2000. Nixon was respected worldwide for his knowledge on how coastal and estuarine ecosystems work. He investigated and published findings on ecosystems as far away as Kenya and Malaysia and as close as Rhode Island. He studied or served on the panels investigating ecosystems and their problems that were as varied as the lagoons of Venice, restoration of the Everglades, algal blooms in the Potomac Estuary, the fisheries of Egypt’s Nile, and nutrients in the Massachusetts Bay Wastewater Outfall.

Through his work and his words, Scott encouraged good environmental practices and decisions throughout his career.

More information on EPA New England Environmental Merit Awards (

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