ConAgra Foods Announces Winners of its 2011 Sustainable Development Awards

In 2010 ConAgra Foods announced five aggressive sustainability goals to be achieved by 2015 (read FoodProcessing.com's covereage of the goals). The goals were built on the company's sustainability accomplishments, which began in 1992 with the commencement of the ConAgra Foods Sustainable Development Awards program.

ConAgra announced the winners of its 2011 Sustainable Development Awards on April 13. Each winning submission was awarded a $5,000 grant from ConAgra Foods to apply toward a sustainable community service project.

According to ConAgra, the combined results from the 78 entries for 2011 reduced carbon emissions by more than 30,000 metric tonnes, eliminated 37,000 tons of landfill waste and 91 tons of packaging material, and conserved 137 million gallons of water. The projects also delivered more than $18 million in savings, demonstrating the economic value of the company's commitment to sustainable development.

One award was given in each of five categories.

In the Climate Change & Energy Efficiency category, the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen Foods plant in Park Rapids, Minn., won for its trio of projects upgrading its compressed air system, reducing refrigeration head pressure and increasing use of biogas. These efforts reduced natural gas use by 23,400 dekatherms, cut electricity use by 3.6 million kilowatt hours and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 4,300 metric tonnes.

The award for Water Resources - Conservation & Wastewater Management was given to ConAgra Foods' Quincy, Wash., facility. By changing the way the facility monitored water usage to an hourly read out, employees were able to more quickly correct behaviors during periods of over use. These efforts reduced water use by 6.3 million gallons in just three months.

The company's Russellville, Ark., facility took home the award for Solid Waste Reduction & Recycling thanks to a recycling program implemented by the facility's employee-driven green team. The facility more than doubled its landfill diversion rate, recovering more than 14,000 pounds of material through the new program and increasing recycling revenue and landfill cost avoidance.

The Sustainable Packaging, Product & Process Innovation award was given to the company's Slim Jim packaging team, based in Omaha, for a program that replaced the meat stick brand's canister package with a more environmentally and pantry-friendly paperboard carton. The redesign reduced packaging materials by 325,600 pounds per year, replacing plastic and metal with Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified paperboard.

The company's Snacks facility in Waterloo, Iowa, received the Sustainable Business Practices award for an initiative that allowed the facility to liquefy sugar internally. By liquefying sugar at the facility, granular sugar can be transported by rail, saving 230,000 truck miles each year and more than 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The project also improved product quality by allowing better control of the percent of solids in finished liquid sugar.

An additional "Sustainability Award of Excellence" was presented to ConAgra Foods' Lamb Weston facility in Delhi, La. The facility became the first frozen food manufacturing plant in the world to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The facility's energy-saving equipment is projected to be 40 percent more efficient than a comparable plant. The company announced the LEED certification in January of this year.

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