Environmental projects can be daunting and complex, requiring a coordinated, systematic approach from start to finish. The environmental project management (EPM) field aims to provide that framework, ensuring that projects are managed effectively and meet environmental goals.
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The benefits of an EPM approach are clear: projects are completed on time, within budget, and with reduced environmental impact. However, many organizations lack the resources or personnel necessary to implement an EPM system effectively. Programs such as the EPA’s Green Communities program aim to help fill this gap by training communities and businesses in EPM techniques.
So what is involved in EPM? At its core, EPM is a process-oriented toolkit for managing environmental projects. It includes policies and procedures for planning, monitoring, and reporting; tools for communications and coordination; and training for team members. But it’s not just about organizing data or setting up checklists- EPM must be applied systematically in order to produce the best results.
There are four essential steps in any EPM system: Defining the problem or goal, developing alternatives, selecting the best alternative, and implementing it. Let’s look at them in detail. The first step is to define the problem or goal- that is, to identify the problem and formulate it as a goal— not as a simple statement of fact (“the amount of water in Lake Michigan”), but as an objective or decision that you aim to achieve.
If you try to solve water quality problems by simply measuring discharges, you will not be successful. It takes more than just measurements to determine whether your actions are making progress toward your goals— you must also measure what you are doing (and doing right) against your goals and make adjustments when necessary.