Eric Mieland, Fermilab Natural Areas win DOE Sustainability Awards

Sustainability and environmental stewardship are core to the culture and operations that make particle physics experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory possible.

Eric Mieland, an environmental protection specialist at Fermilab, and Fermilab Natural Areas, a 501(3)c nonprofit that studies, restores and educates the local community about Fermilab’s ecology, each received U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 Sustainability Awards for positively shaping Fermilab’s sustainability practices.

The DOE awards highlight people and institutions from across DOE facilities who effectively demonstrate sustainable practices. These practices include conserving energy and water, reducing waste, improving the efficiency of vehicle fleets, acquiring sustainable resources and more. These awards also broadly recognize projects that have reduced costs and increased efficiencies.

Candidates of these awards are nominated in five categories: Lifetime Achievement; Sustainability Champion; Outstanding Sustainability Program/Project; Strategic Partnerships for Sustainability; and Innovative Approach to Sustainability.

Eric Mieland received a DOE Sustainability Award in the Sustainability Champion category. Photo: Dan Svoboda, Fermilab

A sustainability champion

Eric Mieland received the award in the Sustainability Champion category for his many years of contributions toward Fermilab’s sustainability efforts.

Mieland was instrumental in founding Fermilab’s sustainability management team. What began as a committee has developed into a managerial body with full-time staff that focuses on sustainable practices at the lab. This group includes Fermilab employees, selected by their divisions, who aim to improve the sustainability in the lab’s systems and operations, while also creating awareness about sustainability within the lab.

He has also managed Fermilab’s Environmental Management System, which is a set of processes that monitors and evaluates laboratory operations to protect the surrounding environment.

His efforts have included sustainably improving infrastructure as well. Mieland developed the lab’s first analysis on climate change’s impact to the laboratory, which gets reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Mieland also developed the lab’s recycling programs, critical in helping reduce waste.

In addition to improving sustainability within the lab, Mieland helps educate the surrounding communities on how Fermilab mitigates its effect on climate change through sustainable practices.

A strategic sustainability partnership

Volunteers from Fermilab Natural Areas, recipient of a DOE Sustainability Award in the Strategic Partnerships for Sustainability category, remove white sweet clover, a biannual invasive species, on the Fermilab campus. Photo: Walter Levernier, Fermilab

Fermilab Natural Areas was recognized with an award in the Strategic Partnerships for Sustainability category. Established in 2006, the non-profit, along with Fermilab’s ecological team, manages the lab’s 2,600 acres of natural areas, which encompass more than 1,000 acres of restored prairie.

FNA is led by volunteers and is independent of Fermilab and DOE.

Between April and December 2022, FNA volunteers contributed approximately 3,750 hours to the maintenance and oversight of the prairie. Volunteers manage invasive species, collect and spread native seeds, monitor rare plants and cross-pollinate species.

Their efforts have improved the natural area’s floristic quality — a metric to track land management efforts by assessing an ecosystem’s vegetation — by 42.9%.

FNA’s work in restoring the prairie also sequesters greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

Through FNA’s many efforts to monitor plant and animal species, the volunteers also serve as organizational representatives and subject matter experts for Fermilab’s Ecological Land Management committee.

“Sustainability is a core aspect of Fermilab’s culture and a strategic pillar of increased focus in executing our mission successfully,” said Fermilab Director Lia Merminga. “Congratulations and thank you to Eric Mieland and Fermilab Natural Areas for playing a big part in shaping our sustainability efforts and helping advance our mission.” 

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