Promoting Environmental Excellence through Training and Partnership
During the mid-1990s, government regulators began realizing that traditional inspection and enforcement strategies were not effective enough in preventing occupational safety and hazardous waste law violations at facilities. This prompted public and private organizations in Central Florida to begin discussing alternative approaches.
On Earth Day 1998, the Metropolitan Environmental TRaining Alliance (METRA) was formed between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Central Florida local government agencies. This new partnership served as a tool for improving environmental compliance and protecting Florida’s environment through affordable, relevant, professional training.
Today, METRA is an all-volunteer organization of environmental professionals who develop and provide high quality environmental compliance training at little-to-no cost. Throughout the year, METRA targets specific industries to help them receive training specific to their type of work. Industries that have benefited from this training include aeronautical maintenance, commercial retail centers, healthcare facilities, construction, vehicle maintenance and auto repair shops, and manufacturing.
“The ultimate goal of METRA is to protect Florida’s environment while educating workers by delivering the best environmental compliance training to our commercial facilities at an affordable price,” said Jane Gregory, pollution prevention program coordinator at the Orange County Environmental Protection Division and current chair of METRA.
E2 (Environmental Excellence) Day
METRA has trained several thousand industrial members of the Central Florida business community since its founding in 1998. Each year, the organization provides a day of professional, low-cost, broad-topic training to environmental professional experts within the community. The event, held at SeaWorld, is known as E2 (Environmental Excellence) Day. This year, the event will mark its 10th anniversary and is tentatively scheduled for October 1, 2014.
The organization also holds monthly meetings with featured guest speakers at no cost to attendees. Some of the speakers are regulators who provide rulemaking or program updates, while others are industry professionals who present case studies of interesting projects they’ve managed and the outcomes/learning lessons.
To honor one of the METRA’s past members who strongly believed in using communication and teaching as a way to protect Florida’s fragile environment for future generations, the annual Michael T. Morrow Memorial Environmental Scholarship was established. This scholarship provides $1,000 to a junior or senior enrolled in a Central Florida college or university majoring in environmental studies or sciences. Participants must meet the qualifications and submit a 900-word creative thinking essay addressing a specific topic. This year’s topic is “How to Integrate Social Media to Influence Environmental Behavior Change.”
METRA has received numerous environmental awards, including the Conditionally-Exempt Small Quantity (Hazardous Waste) Generator P2 (Pollution Prevention) Award and the NAHMMA (North American Hazardous Materials Management Association) CESQG P2 Award. The organization received the Sustainable Florida Award for Initiative in recognition of its environmental stewardship and leadership and was again rewarded by the Council for Sustainable Florida with the Leadership Award.