2021 KY EXCEL Beacon Awards Announced

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection is proud to recognize and encourage environmental excellence in the Commonwealth in variety of ways. One way is through its Kentucky Excellence in Environmental Leadership (KY EXCEL) Program. Members of KY EXCEL are committed to protecting and improving Kentucky’s environment, and through the KY EXCEL Beacon Awards we would like to recognize exemplary efforts and activities which were provided in the KY EXCEL Project Reports submitted in 2020 for projects which were proposed in 2019. One award is awarded for each of the following project categories: Conservation, Environmental Education, Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction.

The 2021 KY EXCEL Beacon Award in Conservation goes to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto. Conservation refers to actions that protect natural habitat, promote native species or improve a natural resource. This includes helping to ensure there will be plenty of white oaks for generations to come. To do just this, Maker’s Mark partnered with the University of Kentucky and Independent Stave Company to collect tissues samples from a White Oak Tree on the distillery’s grounds. These tissues samples are being used to completely map and sequence the genome of white oaks based off this reference tree which will assist in future genetic testing. Additionally, Maker’s Mark is planting a White Oak Repository.  As the first of its kind, the repository will act like seed bank for a variety of white oaks which will assist the sustainability of this vital resource.

The 2021 KY EXCEL Beacon Award in Environmental Education goes to the Kentucky National Energy Education Development (KY NEED) Project. Environmental education refers to actions that promote a better understanding of Kentucky’s environment. This includes fostering energy awareness and environmental stewardship. During the 2019- 2020 school year, KY Need held a series of professional development workshops for Kindergarten to twelfth grade teachers. These workshops covered the basics of energy with a special focus on solar. And each teacher that attended received NEED curriculum and a grade appropriate solar kit for their classrooms. Through the sponsorship provided by utility foundations, these teachers received a completely free hands on learning experience that they could apply in their classrooms.

The 2021 KY EXCEL Beacon Award in Pollution Prevention goes to Kentucky American Water in Lexington. Pollution Prevention refers to actions that reduce, eliminate, or prevent pollution prior to recycling, treatment or disposal. This includes something as simple as using a refillable bottle instead of a single use plastic bottle. Kentucky American Water did just this by providing funds to Fayette County Public Schools for the purpose of purchasing water bottle refilling stations for 15 different schools. Thanks to this funding, all public schools in Fayette County now have a water bottle refilling station. Thus ensuring easy access to healthy hydration for teachers and students while preventing waste from ever being created. As an added bonus, these units provide a touch-free water fountain thus reducing the spread of germs and increasing public health.

The 2021 KY EXCEL Beacon Award in Waste Reduction goes to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown. Waste reduction refers to actions that help cut down on the amount of trash that would otherwise be disposed of or discarded. This includes recycling industrial wastewater. Phase 1 of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky’s two year project comprised of installing a small microbiological reactor as a pilot unit to test the feasibility of treating and making its industrial wastewater reusable in some of its processes. Throughout the trial, the quality of the waste produced by pilot unit was monitored to verify that the recycled water could be reused. This monitoring revealed that their original expectations were exceeded. Currently in phase 2 of this project, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is refining the process and designing a full scale system.

Beacon Award winners are members of KY EXCEL who exemplified excellence in separate fields of environmental leadership. To view short videos about each of the 2021 Beacon Award Winners, or to learn more about the benefits of being KY EXCEL member click here. Congratulations again to Marker’s Mark Distillery, KY NEED Project, Kentucky American Water and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky on their well-deserved Beacon Awards.