Industrial Utility Efficiency

Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center: Guiding Manufacturers Toward Sustainability Success

Mountain climbers in the Himalayas place a great deal of value in the wisdom and expertise of Sherpas who guide them on their journey through high-altitude peaks and valleys.

In Kentucky, many industrial manufacturers have experienced something similar as they strive to save energy and reduce pollution. Only in this case, there isn’t a Sherpa involved. Instead, it’s the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC): a non-profit resource center dedicated to guiding manufacturers and other businesses on their journey toward sustainability.

KPPC has helped more than 800 businesses and organizations in the state discover sustainable opportunities, improve their environmental performance and lower operating costs. And the list of companies KPPC has guided along the way continues to grow – as do the advantages of improved sustainability.


Holistic Approach Offers Insight and Perspective

Established in 1994, KPPC is a state-mandated technical assistance resource center and part of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. Through state funding and federal grants, KPPC provides manufacturers in Kentucky with a range of technical services at no-cost to help them reduce waste and improve efficiencies. The organization has been recognized at the state and national level as a Center of Excellence.

Lissa McCrackenKentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) Executive Director Lissa McCracken.

KPPC offers help with Pollution Prevention (P2) and Energy Efficiency (E2) projects. Its mission is to provide technical assistance and training aimed at helping companies reduce energy and water use, as well as hazardous waste, at low or no cost.

“We work with companies holistically and look at things that can make an organizational impact,” said Lissa McCracken, KPPC Executive Director, adding KPPC team members are not experts in their clients’ processes. Instead, they offer a fresh perspective on energy savings and waste-reduction opportunities and work hand in hand with clients to achieve their goals.

“We come in and ask things like, ‘What is it that is not serving your purpose? Do you have policies in place for energy reduction and pollution prevention? Do you have a team in place?’ Our role is to lead them down the path toward efficiencies to help them save energy, reduce pollution and save costs. It doesn’t take long for companies to benefit from the perspective KPPC brings to the table,” McCracken said. “Through our expertise, we give them a set of glasses to look at their operations differently. Soon they start having aha moments and the opportunities start flowing. It’s a lot of fun.”

KPPC facilitty assessment

On-site systems assessments are just one of many ways KPPC helps manufacturers and other businesses in the Bluegrass State discover sustainable opportunities, improve their environmental performance and lower operating costs.


Students and Manufacturers Win with Co-op Program

One way KPPC guides companies down the path of continued sustainability – and helps start the flow of opportunities – is through the J.B. Speed School of Engineering Co-op Program. Through the program, KPPC provides engineering students the opportunity to work with companies on sustainable solutions and gain real-world experience in the growing field of sustainability.

KPPC Assesment co-ops

KKPC assessment motor

Students enrolled in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering Co-op Program gain real-world experience working with companies on sustainable solutions.  

Student Co-ops not only earn educational credits but also serve for the three semesters as paid employees for the companies they support. Seniors of the engineering school are also offered the opportunity to work with companies through “Capstone” projects, which are intensive research projects focused on specific areas, such as chemical and industrial engineering.

KPPC student Co-ops also learn how to perform sustainability assessments and participate in KPPC workshops and training sessions. Systems assessments cover virtually all utilities, including compressed air, boilers, industrial chillers and cooling systems, among others. KPPC’s engineering team provides technical oversight of students throughout the process.

“The program is tremendously beneficial to students who are essentially work-ready for an entry-level engineering position when they graduate, putting them above graduates of other engineering programs,” said McCracken. “Manufacturers benefit because they can take advantage of KPPC’s services while contributing to efforts in training the next generation of engineers.”

Following a systematic approach to assessments, companies are provided recommendations for energy- and waste-saving measures, including cost estimates based on measurements and calculations for improved system performance. KPPC also provides ballpark costs based on information and quotes from vendors.

Projects vary in scope and complexity. Compressed air systems initiatives, for example, range from identifying and fixing compressed air leaks to more sophisticated projects designed to optimize compressed air systems. The same holds true for projects aimed at waste reduction and energy efficiency. As an example, KPPC recently collaborated with engineering students working on a Capstone project to help a distillery advance its goal of becoming a zero-waste facility. The project encompassed recommendations to save energy, as well as methods to reduce food and production waste, and ideas for streamlining the use of materials in the distillery process.

“We don’t do the implementation, but we feel like we’re teaching clients to fish by empowering them with knowledge. This gives their internal team the ability to go to the front office and say, ‘I had somebody come in and take a look at our systems. Here’s what we can do to save money and increase efficiency,’ ” McCracken said. 


Sustainable Manufacturing Training and More

KPPC offers a wealth of training opportunities for manufacturers and other businesses. Training takes the form of in-person workshops, seminars and online webinars. To date, more than 40,000 attendees have taken advantage of training offered.  

KPPC’s training programs cover the gamut, from compressed air efficiency strategies, to saving water and more. Sustainable Manufacturing is an example of one program that is quickly gaining in popularity. The training initiative focuses on sustainable manufacturing principles and practices and how they can drive a strategy for enhanced environmental performance – as well as helping companies achieve key business goals and objectives.

Through workshops hosted at manufacturing sites and supplemental webinars, the Sustainable Manufacturing training program covers a number of helpful topics and tools. The initiative implements aspects of the ISO 14001:2015 standard, as well as sustainable product development, and focuses on helping companies build a culture for sustainability and innovation. Additionally, training emphasizes economic competitiveness and improved environmental performance.


Sustainable Manufacturing Value Stream Maps

KPPC Senior Sustainability Engineer Mark Toda said the Sustainable Manufacturing program also leverages a Sustainable Value Stream Map (Sus-VSM). Adopted from the Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Kentucky, a Sus-VSM is a highly practical and beneficial method for helping companies make progress toward sustainability.

Toda also said a Sus-VSM is a natural extension of a Value Stream Map and incorporates lean manufacturing principles used by most companies. Yet the Sus-VSM helps capture sustainability aspects of product flow and the materials involved, as well as environmental and societal impacts. Additionally, companies can use it to more easily identify locations where sustainability can be improved.

Mark TodaMark Toda, KPPC Senior Sustainability Engineer.

“Helping companies implement a Sus-VSM is becoming a key service we provide,” Toda said. “We map out energy and materials inputs and outputs at each process step, as well as waste. Then we look at what’s going in and going out so we can get an accurate assessment and identify opportunities for savings along the way.”

Toda said although KPPC only recently introduced the concept of sustainable value stream mapping to clients, it is quickly catching on.

“We’re working with about a half-dozen companies on sustainable value stream mapping. It’s a great snapshot of their operation from an environmental perspective,” he said. In addition, he said the collaborative effort provides invaluable insight into the raw materials involved and the energy consumed by all systems used to manufacture products.


A Go-to Source for Sustainability Best Practices

Given the value provided by the co-op program and technical assistance, it’s not hard to imagine how demand for assistance from KPPC is high. Yet that doesn’t keep it from offering even more to manufacturers, businesses and the sustainability community.

For example, KPPC serves as a technical and engineering resource for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection’s KY EXCEL initiative (, which is the Bluegrass state’s environmental leadership program. It provides KY EXCEL members with information, resources and ideas to support environmental leadership development. KPPC also hosts a nationally recognized Building Operator Certification Program (, which trains facility personnel to understand how building systems work together and how to bring them to their most efficient level of operation.

All that, plus KPPC supports numerous other organizations focused on sustainability. An example is the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (, which promotes the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce waste generated to air, land, and water. McCracken currently serves on the Board of Directors.

Through its website, KPPC also offers an extensive library of resources, ranging from publications to training tools to webinars to a library of over 60 videos focused on helpful topics ranging from understanding power factor to compressed air management.

For KPPC, it boils down to providing the knowledge and resources many companies need in order to save energy, prevent pollution and improve upon their sustainability efforts.

“We work with companies to identify their pain related to sustainability and help them identify things they might not have thought about as far energy efficiency and pollution prevention,” McCracken said. “We then recommend the most cost-effective – and ideally no-cost – methods of implementation to make it real. Along the way, we’re informing them. That is key.”


For more information about Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, visit

All photos courtesy Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center.

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