By Tiffany Woods
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A student at Oregon State University has received national recognition for her work in creating a plan to reduce energy and water use at Hood River’s Tofurky, a manufacturer of plant-based foods.
Katherine Gwynn was named student of the year by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable for her accomplishments at an internship this summer. The internship was organized by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
Gwynn, who is majoring in ecological engineering and minoring in environmental engineering at OSU, analyzed two years of utility bills to help determine how much water, natural gas and electricity Tofurky uses in its manufacturing process, which includes cooking, refrigeration, packaging and pasteurization.
She also estimated how much water, natural gas and electricity was used by each machine, such as the oven, boilers and water heater. Additionally, she looked at correlations between outdoor air temperature and utility use.
In her 60-page final report, Gwynn also suggested ways to save water and energy, such as insulating bare pipes to reduce the amount of heat lost. She then estimated how much money the company could save each month and how many tons of carbon dioxide it could avoid emitting every month by implementing these recommendations.
Additionally, she created a chart to help management decide which recommendations to prioritize based on criteria such as return on investment, ease of implantation, how fast costs would be recovered, and the amount of reduction in utility usage.
“Katherine built the case for action by showing our management team opportunities to reduce our environmental impact with cost-efficient solutions,” said Chris Dennett, Tofurky's director of strategy and integration. “The company now has a plan of prioritized strategies that will allow it to pursue new pollution reduction wins today and follow a roadmap of continuous pollution reduction over the next several years.”
Gwynn’s work builds on Tofurky’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact at its manufacturing plant, which is certified as a LEED Platinum green building. The certified B Corporation uses solar panels on its roof, harvests rainwater and composts its food scraps.
Gwynn was one of eight participants this summer in the 10-week, paid internship program, which is called the Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience program and is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Interns worked at companies in Oregon that included Pacific Seafood, Good Clean Love, Oregon Soap Company and Defunkify.