ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., recognized winners of its 2011 Sustainable Development Awards, an internal awards program "intended to drive and reward innovative approaches to sustainability that produce tangible business results," the company said.

ConAgra said its 2011 contest included 78 entries, which reduced carbon emissions by more than 30,000 metric tons, eliminated 37,000 tons of landfill waste and 91 tons of packaging material, and conserved 137 million gallons of water. The projects also delivered more than $18 million in savings, demonstrating the economic value of the company’s commitment to sustainable development.

“The Sustainable Development Awards drive sustainable practices through innovation and collaboration,” said Gail Tavill, ConAgra's vice president of Sustainable Development. “The winning projects are shining examples of our continued commitment to the environment and our communities."

One award was given in each of five categories.

In the Climate Change & Energy Efficiencycategory, the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen Foods plant in Park Rapids, Minn., won for its trio of projects upgrading its compressed air system, reducing refrigeration head pressure and increasing use of biogas. These efforts reduced natural gas use by 23,400 dekatherms, cut electricity use by 3.6 million kilowatt hours and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 4,300 metric tonnes.

The award forWater Resources – Conservation & Wastewater Managementwas given to ConAgra Foods’ Quincy, Wash., facility. By changing the way the facility monitored water usage to an hourly read out, employees were able to more quickly correct behaviors during periods of over use. These efforts reduced water use by 6.3 million gallons in just three months.

ConAgra said its Russellville, Ark., facility took home the award forSolid Waste Reduction & Recyclingthanks to a recycling program implemented by the facility’s employee-driven green team. The facility more than doubled its landfill diversion rate, recovering more than 14,000 pounds of material through the new program and increasing recycling revenue and landfill cost avoidance.

TheSustainable Packaging, Product & Process Innovationwent to the company’s Slim Jim packaging team, based in Omaha, for a program that replaced the meat stick brand’s canister package with a more environmentally and pantry-friendly paperboard carton. The redesign reduced packaging materials by 325,600 pounds per year, replacing plastic and metal with Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified paperboard.

Officials said the company’s snacks facility in Waterloo, Iowa, earned theSustainable Business Practicesaward for an initiative that allowed the facility to liquefy sugar internally. By liquefying sugar at the facility, granular sugar can be transported by rail, saving 230,000 truck miles each year and more than 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The project also improved product quality by allowing better control of the percent of solids in finished liquid sugar.

An additional“Sustainability Award of Excellence”was presented to ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston facility in Delhi, La. The facility became the first frozen food manufacturing plant in the world to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The facility’s energy-saving equipment is projected to be 40 percent more efficient than a comparable plant. The company announced the LEED certification in January of this year.