The Mark Of Zero

The Official Blog of the Zero Waste Network

Monday, June 2, 2008

Enhancing Performance through Environmental Management Systems and Regional Initiatives

By Grady Coomes, REM, Environmental Coordinator, City of Dallas Water Utilities Department

We in the environmental profession are always trying to find ways to enhance our environmental programs and become more efficient with reducing our impact to the environment. Many times we find ourselves reacting to environmental compliance issues and seeking new ways to stay ahead of the game. A more proactive way to accomplish this is through Environmental Management Systems or EMS.

EMS is a systematic approach to both managing your environmental compliance and reducing your footprint on the environment. A continual system that integrates the environment into everyday business operations, EMS means that environmental stewardship becomes part of the daily responsibility of every employee. This can reduce your bottom line and save your organization money. The system is based on a simple PLAN - DO - CHECK - ACT Model. Under an EMS, you establish an environmental policy, examine your impacts on the environment, set goals and procedures to reduce those impacts, evaluate your progress, and make improvements as necessary.

In April 2005, the City of Dallas began implementing an EMS based on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14001) requirements. The purpose of the EMS was to improve the environmental performance and sustainability of the city, enhance accountability for compliance and stewardship, and to direct an environmental culture change throughout the city.

Since implementing EMS, the city has made significant improvements to sustainability, environmental compliance, operating procedures, and environmental awareness. Some of the more noteworthy accomplishments have been made in environmental performance. These areas include recycling, waste management, water quality, water conservation, air quality, energy consumption, and green building. For more information on City of Dallas EMS and sustainability initiatives, visit

EMS will also help your organization build partnerships with the community and other organizations. These partnerships are necessary to effectively manage regional environmental issues. In 2007, representatives from the City of Dallas, in conjunction with other public and private organizations, formed a regional EMS initiative to learn more about EMS. Since then, this public/private partnership (with assistance from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency Region 6, and North Central Texas Council of Governments) was formalized as the North Texas Regional Environmental Management Systems Partnership (N-TREMS).

The partnership’s focus is using EMS to address regional issues and impacts such as air quality, water quality/resources, and waste. The idea is to set common goals to improve the environment for the North Texas region and increase environmental performance initiatives.

If you would like more information or would like to join N-TREMS, please contact Grady Coomes at


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