Evan Miller's Hertzler Systems Inc. supplies companies with quality management software, but he was pleased Tuesday, April 29, when his business was recognized for something else entirely.
The Goshen-based firm in recent years has planted 550 trees on an acre of undeveloped ground behind its building at 2312 Eisenhower Drive N., and also has installed solar panels atop the building. On Tuesday the Michiana Area Council of Government presented Hertzler with one of its 2014 Partners in Clean Air Awards.
The mix of native hardwoods, including cherry, oak, tulip trees and white pines, have replaced a field of weeds. Some have grown from about six inches to 15 or 20 feet tall in about four years, Miller said.
"We just wanted to do something nice with the environment and we do a lot of traveling, so it's a nice way to offset our carbon footprint," Miller said. "I'm honored to receive this award. As a profit organization, I wish more would be doing investment in our environment. I think long-term that's what we need to be doing. We're hoping we're leading the way and other people are watching and willing to do similar things."
The 48 solar panels Hertzler installed this year plug into Northern Indiana Public Service Company's Feed-in-Tariff program, which buys back electrical power from customers that generate their own clean energy. The electricity generated by the panels provides the equivalent of 44 percent of Hertzler's current yearly electricity consumption.
Goshen city officials nominated Hertzler for the award.
MACOG gave another Clean Air Award to Purple Porch Co-op, which sells locally produced food from a store at 123 N. Hill St. in South Bend. The co-op was founded in 2009 and operated as a farmer's market for its first five years before opening a store/cafe in February. Much of the food sold by the co-op is organic and produced within 60 miles, which results in fewer air emissions from vehicles bringing the food to market.
"We've made a conscious decision to take care of the environment,' said general manager Greg Koehler. "We don't necessarily have any fancy gizmos at our facility to reduce electricity or that kind of thing, but we made decisions about how our business was run in order to limit the amount of transportation needed for producers and consumers."
Food that is not produced within 60 miles is clearly labeled as such, Koehler said.
During a luncheon before the awards were presented, Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials said air quality in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties continues to improve. Emissions of ozone, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, have been trending downward for years and remain well below national standards for air quality, the officials said.