ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha, Neb., announced the winners of its internal 2014 Sustainable Development Awards, a company-wide program that drives and rewards imaginative approaches to sustainability and produces bottom line business results.

The 85 entries received this year collectively reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9,500 metric tons, reduced landfill waste by 10,500 tons, optimized and improved packaging, while using 7.8 million pounds less material and conserved more than 820 million gallons of water.

This year’s initiatives amounted to the largest water savings the company has seen to date. Many of these initiatives were driven by the imagination and effort of employees. ConAgra Foods started its Sustainable Development Awards program in 1992 to encourage and reward employees to find ways to eliminate waste, save water and reduce energy through smart design and execution. Winning teams are awarded a $5,000 grant from the ConAgra Foods Foundation to apply toward a sustainability-focused community service project.

“Each year I continue to be impressed with the ingenuity and imagination of our employees who drive these projects to completion,” says Gail Tavill, vice president of sustainable development. “Many of this year’s projects took a no-nonsense, common sense approach to driving better effectiveness and efficiencies in our operations, delivering bigger impacts year over year.”

Climate change and energy efficiency at ConAgra Foods’ frozen food facility in Russellville, Ark. Russellville’s third-shift maintenance team members stopped wasted energy and water at the source every night by diligently shutting down equipment not scheduled for production.

The project resulted in 16 pieces of equipment per line shutdown, contributing to a 5.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per pound produced this year.

Water resources: conservation and wastewater management at ConAgra Foods’ snack facility in Lincoln, Neb. Lincoln challenged weekly wet wash cleaning cycles and validated cleaning results to extend the cleaning cycle.

The project reduced water usage by 650,000 gallons annually, an overall 4.7% water use reduction. The change also improved employee safety and cleaning results.

Solid waste reduction and recycling at ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston potato facilities in Hermiston, Ore., and American Falls, Idaho Food oil recovery and reuse is an important part of Lamb Weston’s process. To meet customer specifications, as well as maximize the amount of recovered oil utilized, the Hermiston and American Falls facilities started an exchange program, reducing the amount of fresh oil purchased and saving transportation miles.

The project eliminated 629 tons of waste oil previously sent out as animal feed supplement or fuel production.

Sustainable business innovation at ConAgra Foods’ research, quality and innovation team in Omaha, Neb. The packaging and quality functions collaborated to challenge traditional practices that required keeping high levels of inventory in the plant. The change in thinking allowed for less inventory, which led to a corrugated material reduction and a new and improved display-ready box.

This project reduced more than 4.6 million pounds of packaging and improved customer functionality with a more efficient and effective display-ready case.

Award of excellence for ConAgra Foods’ Lamb Weston Meijer potato facilities in Kruiningen and Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands Lamb Weston Meijer facilities implemented Predictive Control Model, which resulted in increased efficiencies, reduced utility usage and improved product consistency and quality, all while freeing up the time previously required for manual process control.

This initiative reduced over 2,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a 2.1% reduction in overall plant carbon emissions.