The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named the Chumash Casino Resort its 2015 WasteWise Tribal Partner of the Year.

The EPA honored 15 businesses and organizations nationwide with its 2015 WasteWise Awards Jan. 21, 2016. The award is in recognition of the Chumash Casino Resort’s outstanding leadership in waste prevention and diversion, as measured in 2014.

Toyota Motor North America, Kohl’s Department Stores, the city of Fort Lauderdale and Colorado State University were among the other award winners.

“We’re honored that the EPA has recognized Chumash Casino Resort for our efforts to reduce waste,” said Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “Our facilities department has made great strides in recent years, and its goal to make Chumash Casino Resort a zero-waste facility by 2019 is within reach.”

A decade ago, the Chumash Casino Resort averaged 380,000 pounds of trash each month and recycled just 3 percent of it. Now, according to Mark Funkhouser, the Chumash Casino Resort’s custodial services manager, the resort generates 300,000 pounds per month and recycles nearly two-thirds of it.

“We want to be aware of our waste and deal with it in an environmentally friendly way,” Funkhouser said. “One part of that is finding out what is in our waste stream and where each item can go.”

He noted that Chumash Casino Resort joined the EPA’s WasteWise program so his team could annually track its waste reduction and progress toward becoming a zero-waste facility.

The Chumash Casino Resort was also named a WasteWise Partner of the Year in 2012, the first year it won the award.

Wastewise helps organizations and businesses apply sustainable materials management practices to reduce municipal and select industrial wastes.

Organizations can join WasteWise as a partner, endorser or both. Partners demonstrate how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship and incorporate sustainable materials management into their waste-handling processes.

Endorsers promote enrollment in WasteWise as part of a comprehensive approach to help their stakeholders realize the economic benefits to reducing waste.

Launched in 1994, WasteWise has become a mainstay in environmental stewardship and continues to evolve to address tomorrow’s environmental needs.

Located on Highway 246 in Santa Ynez, Calif., the Chumash Casino Resort is owned and operated by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

The tribe also owns Hotel Corque, Root 246 and the Hadsten House in Solvang and two gas stations in Santa Ynez.  As the largest employer in the Santa Ynez Valley, the tribe employs more than 1,700 residents of Santa Barbara County.

Mike Traphagen is the public relations specialist of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.