DEQ Leads by Example through its Green Team

[Originally published September 10, 2014]

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Green Team

Members of DEQ’s Green Team (left-right): Karen Walner, Paul Harding, Bethany Hyatt, Rik Ombach, Helge Gabert and Brianna Ariotti

You don’t have to look too hard to find a group of employees dedicated to improving the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s overall environmental impact. After all, “protecting and enhancing” Utah’s environment is at the core of what we do here at DEQ.

An organization’s Green Team by definition is a “group of motivated staff, representative of ALL organizational disciplines who voluntarily come together to educate, inspire and empower employees around sustainability.” Green Teams identify and implement specific solutions to help their organization operate in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.

DEQ’s Green Team is no exception. Its success comes from unwavering support from the top—Executive Director Amanda Smith. Members represent each of the six Divisions with the guiding values of creating a culture within DEQ that promotes best business practices throughout our campus at the Multi Agency State Office Building, our community and our environment.

The Green Team is headed by Rik Ombach, an air quality compliance officer and bicycle enthusiast who, along with members Patrick Sheehan of Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste and Karen Wallner of Division of Environmental Response and Remediation, organized a Bike Month in May. The Green Team invited representatives from Performance Bike and the non-profit Bicycle Collective to hold brown bag discussions about bicycle commuting and repair, and the myriad of gear and hardware choices available. And—to the delight of DEQ’s bike commuters—a bike repair station will soon be added to our campus.

Beyond the walls of DEQ’s building, Green Team member Helge Gabert, a scientist with the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, enjoys organizing community cleanups as a way to connect with the community at large.

Newcomers to the group, Bethany Hyatt, a communications specialist, and Brianna Ariotti of the

Green Team

Performance Bike’s presentation of on-the-go bike repair
for one of DEQ’s Bike Month events

Division of Water Quality, say they find it inspiring to see the big benefits of all the little things done every day through agency-wide recycling, energy efficient practices and the long line of people who walk to and from work via a nearby TRAX stop.

Consider these benefits:

  • DEQ recycled more than 23,153 pounds of material during 2012, the last available year it was reported.
  • The average electricity consumption during 2012 at DEQ’s building was 0.72 kilowatt hours per square foot, which is 50 percent lower than the national average for an office building.
  • The average natural gas consumption for 2012 was 0.0016 dekatherms per square foot, which is 41 percent lower than the national average for an office building.
  • The average water consumption for 2012 was 0.21 cubic feet per square foot, which is 73 percent lower than the national average for an office building.Other members of the Green Team include David Hansen of Division of Drinking Water, Diane Hernandez, who takes her responsibilities as building manager seriously when it comes to implementing best business practices at DEQ and Robert Ford, manager of the Air, Toxics, Lead and Asbestos section of Division of Air Quality, who was one of the top participants in this year’s Clear the Air Challenge.Veteran Paul Harding, who assists businesses with sustainability practices, says being part of the Green Team is a way to practice what he preaches, with a hope that DEQ could serve as a model for all Utah state agencies.
    I challenge other state agencies in Utah to form Green Teams. For those who serve on a Green Team, share with us your ideas on best business practices.

    Donna Kemp Spangler Communications Director/ Public Information OfficerDonna was the former DEQ Communication Director.

    Questions? Contact our PIO (