Food and beverage manufacturers continue to uncover innovative ways to be environmentally friendly as they increase efficiency.

As many of our long-time readers know, Food Engineering has been honoring one plant each year since 1983 with the Food Plant of the Year Award. Over the past 26 years, much has changed in terms of automation, software and the increased need for efficiency.

The food and beverage manufacturing industry has faced the rising cost of materials and transportation, food safety challenges as well as a lack of qualified workers.

However, in the past five or so years, one major efficiency trend has turned into standard operating procedure, and that’s sustainability. Be it wind power, reduction of carbon footprints or water treatment and reuse, food and beverage manufacturers continue to uncover innovative ways to be environmentally friendly as they increase efficiency. For this reason, Food Engineering is starting a new tradition with an additional annual award honoring the industry’s most innovative manufacturing plants.

In September 2009, Food Engineering will name the first winner of the Sustainable Plant of the Year Award. Any new food/beverage plant or major sustainable plant project that became fully operational in calendar year 2008 is eligible. Plants entered must produce processed food/beverage products designed for human consumption.

Plant projects will be judged on the following criteria: sustainable building, design and site innovations; energy usage, recovery and reuse; water usage, reuse and treatment; sustainable process optimization; sustainable packaging initiatives; sustainable innovation in equipment and technology usage; sustainable warehouse, transportation and supply chain management; employee safety, comfort and health initiatives; community impact; and corporate sustainability mission statement implementation.

Additional relevant matters that can be included in the entry are sustainability initiatives such as: on-site recycling; unique employee participation programs; special state and local offsets/incentives or carbon footprint buy-back programs; energy recapture systems (such as CHP, exhaust economizers, stainless steel motors); biogas recovery via anaerobic/aerobic systems; wind and solar (real or purchased credits); use of biofuels from oil; special efforts involving various utilities-electric, gas, compressed air, water, oil; or any other techniques that have a positive environmental impact.

For more information about the award and instructions on completing your entry,, and click on Sustainable Plant of the Year. The deadline for entries in May 1, 2009.