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Going For The Green

Going For The GreenAneco-friendly Tufts graduate is honored with the EnvironmentalProtection Agency’s first-ever lifetime achievement award.Boston

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.23.03]

For nearly two decades, NancyWrenn built an accomplished career as an environmental activist,enforcing environmental regulations in businesses and schools.And on April 22 – Earth Day – the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) honored the Tufts graduate with its first-everlifetime achievement award.

“Theindividuals and groups we are honoring today are New England'sreal environmental heroes," said Robert W. Varney, regionaladministrator of the EPA, at the awards ceremony. "Oftenwith little fanfare, they have invested huge amounts of theirtime to make New England's environment cleaner and safer for futuregenerations. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude."

Putting herdouble degree in sociology and psychology from Tufts into action,Wrenn set off on a path towards activism first by working in childwelfare agencies and later joining the Coalition for Safe WasteManagement. For the past 18 years, she served on the MassachusettsDepartment of Environmental Protection (DEP), where she helpedsmall businesses and public schools develop mechanisms for improvedwaste regulation.

“Wrenn….madea difference by working with businesses and schools in a way thatlet them know she was on their side,” said a representativefrom the EPA. “She helped them understand their environmentalobligations while acknowledging that they wanted to do the rightthing.”

The Tuftsgraduate retired from the DEP in 2001. Her tenure with the organizationwas marked with numerous accomplishments. One of her first projectswas writing the “Small Quantity Generator’s Handbook,”which has become essential in helping small businesses learn howto manage hazardous wastes.

“Wetried to simplify the regulation,” Wrenn told Newton’sDaily News Tribune. “The previous style had beenwritten for lawyers and was difficult to read, so not very userfriendly. This was an attempt to change that and help smallerbusinesses.”

Wrenn alsohelped develop an Environmental Management System template forimproved management in the public schools, and initiated the MassachusettsPrinting Partnership – a voluntary program of 450 firmsthat replaces the standard permits companies needed for water,air, and hazardous waste management with a self-certificationprocess.

Wrenn's dedicationto protecting the environment went beyond national borders, havingbeen chosen in 1989 to teach a workshop in Armenia’s firstenvironmental conference, which she described as an “eye-openingexperience.”

“Ivisited a rubber factory where there were pools of green sludge,asbestos was falling off the overhead pipes, and an unguardedtanker of chlorine was sitting on a rail line,” Wrenn saidin an interview with the News Tribune. “There didn’tseem to be any regulations observed at all.”

Given thefact that such conditions exist all over the world, the environmentalistacknowledged that her work is not always easy. “It’shard to do change in a bureaucracy,” Wrenn told the NewsTribune. “People get used to doing things a certainway and change is always a challenge.”

Even so,Wrenn remains modest about her many achievements – includingher latest honor from the EPA.

“Icouldn’t believe it, because I didn’t think I didanything unusual at all,” Wrenn told the News Tribune.“I’m glad the award recognized the innovative programsthat are getting people to think differently.”


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