Strictly speaking, pollution prevention means to reduce the quantity or toxicity of wastes or inputs at the source (source reduction). Reusing wastes and recycling are other preventive approaches. Treatment, control and disposal of wastes are not considered preventive practices. In addition to source reduction, the U.S. EPA considers eliminating pollution through increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy and water, and the protection of natural resources by conservation to be pollution prevention.
You have integrated preventive approaches into your work if you have promoted, facilitated or implemented practices including those listed below:
- increase the useable life span of a product
- change procurement and waste-generation habits for greater source reduction
- utilize by-product limes in land application
- reduce volume of solid waste going to a landfill through recycling
- avoid cross-media transfer
- select cleanup remedies that use natural systems (e.g., reclaimed/constructed wetlands) or less energy
- restore, replace or enhance habitat (e.g., Natural Resource Damages at Superfund sites)
- prevent stormwater pollutants from entering lakes, streams or groundwater using infiltration/filtration methods
- promote high-performance building design and low-impact transit, lighting or vegetation.
Sustainability refers to an approach to problem solving that acknowledges the interconnectivity of environmental, economic and social decisions, which prevents foreseeable adverse impacts to the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Pollution prevention, resource and energy conservation, environmental restoration and enhancement are cornerstones of sustainability.
For more details on what we mean by pollution prevention and sustainability, visit Preventing waste and pollution prevention.
More and more businesses and communities see direct and indirect benefits of embracing greener practices. A business can reduce its regulatory burden by decreasing its environmental emissions or discharges through reduced quantity or toxicity of its inputs and wastes. A community can realize increased property value and improved quality of life with enhanced or restored greenspace and thoughtfully designed public buildings. Developers can realize higher rents and municipalities can realize lower overhead due to decreased costs in operating and maintaining a green or high-performance site and building.
The MPCA hopes this Toolkit will be used to create the following results:
- Increased implementation of voluntary enhanced environmental outcomes;
- More sustainable regional economic and environmental strategies, such as smart growth initiatives and community master planning;
- Expanded regulatory tools (this tool can complement existing tools that target pollution control rather than prevention);
- Environmental performance tracking (a large fraction of preventive activity is not tracked by current regulatory tools).
Feel free to download the following documents for yourself or for interested clients or community partners.
- Pollution Prevention and Sustainable Activities
- Brochure: Greener Practices -- Pollution Prevention & Sustainable Activities
The Case Studies and Resource Referrals contained in the Toolkit provide detailed information and contacts regarding the options presented in the Option Details Sheets, which are linked to the Decision Tree and List of Options. In some cases, a higher level of detail is important to share with community members or business clients.
The Toolkit was originally designed to target cleanup site customers, so you may find references targeting this type of site. However, most of the options in the Toolkit apply to brownfields and greenfields alike.
Historically, the focus at cleanup sites has been on cleaning up a spill or release of contaminants into the air or water or onto land. Limited attention has been given by regulatory customers and programs to prevent similar releases from happening in the future or using the experience of a cleanup to inspire a business or community to change its practices towards improved environmental outcomes. That is changing, however, especially as more and more communities insist on good business neighbors. Development guidelines have been published by some communities that emphasis cleaner manufacturing practices and low-impact developments.
Cleanup programs included in this initiative are the Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (VIC) Program, the Superfund Program and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Program. Although the Toolkit was not developed with petroleum tank release sites or closed landfill sites in mind, some of the guidelines are applicable.
The primary purpose of this Toolkit is to promote voluntary implementation of greener practices at sites owned or operated by regulatory customers or at sites at which the business operation, development project or environmental cleanup is subject to community input. However, regulatory customers and community groups or individuals are welcome to use the ideas promoted in the Toolkit as part of proposals developed in response to enforcement actions. If green practices are approved as part of a response or corrective action or some other enforceable response, then the legal or administrative documents may need to include a contingency plan in the event the preventive solutions need to be abandoned. Alternatively, a pilot study may be designed to determine the feasibility of full-scale implementation. Some of these solutions are innovative, even though they may be common sense. Some risk may be perceived or documented. Before implementing or proposing implementation of any of the options promoted by the Toolkit, the contacts listed in the Option Detail Sheets, Case Studies and the Resource Referral should be consulted. A regulatory party implements greener practices at its own risk. Based on results so far documented, usually both the regulatory party and the community reap the benefits.
The MPCA site team, voluntary or responsible party, site or business owner, developer or community may submit a description of the preventive practices and lessons learned along with the site name and the names of the MPCA staff team members to MPCA Policy and Planning staff. Policy and Planning staff will make sure the information is included in the appropriate MPCA database to be used for promoting greener practices at other sites. Periodically, the MPCA staff may review the databases to select projects for case study development.
Read a proposal for an expanded tracking system that has been submitted to MPCA Remediation Program managers.
The MPCA site team, regulatory customer or a community group or member may nominate projects for awards or seek recognition by nominating projects or applying for the awards listed in this link.
MPCA staff and a group of their stakeholders met over the course of a year to discuss how pollution prevention and sustainable practices during contaminated site investigation and remediation, business operation or redevelopment can further improve environmental safety and protect natural resources. The result of the effort is this Internet site: Greener Practices for Business Site Development and Cleanup Remedy Selection: A Toolkit. Additional information is compiled below for those interested in the Toolkit development process or background and discussion regarding the initiative to enhance opportunities for P2 and sustainable activities (P2/S).
For background information regarding the initiative, go to
- Pollution Prevention and Sustainable Activities
- Toolkit Rationale and Concept
- Statement of Purpose for the Initiative
- Performance Tracking: Goals, Objectives, Activities, Measures
For MPCA staff contact information, acknowledgments, and the proposal for the EPA Region 5 P2 Demonstration Grant that initially funded this initiative, go to: