ORNL's Impacts on the Local Economy and Our Communities
University of Tennessee/Pellissippi State Community College/ORNL Transportation Route
In August 2015, ORNL and the University of Tennessee partnered on a new bus route that connected the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, Pellissippi State Community College in west Knox County, and ORNL providing transportation to staff, students, and faculty offering three round-trip routes each day to all three sites based on the University of Tennessee's semester schedules. In March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bus route was suspended, Partial springs service was restored in April 2022. The transportation route has grown with stops at ORNL's National Transportation Research Center and Spallation Neutron Source campuses and expanded the service to year-round except federal holidays and the week of Christmas. Ridership grows in the summer months with the influx of students on ORNL's campuses. With this ongoing initiative, ORNL and the University of Tennessee continue to support alternative commuting.
Traveling Science Fair
ORNL's Traveling Science Fair provides guests of all ages with the opportunity to learn more about science and the importance of research conducted at ORNL. Students enter carnival-style, interactive trailers that describe various fields of research and areas of future job opportunities. Theme trailers include Become a Neutron, Extreme Science, Get into Green, Tiny Atoms...Big Science, What's Your Problem, and Mission Support provide participants with hands-on, interactive experiences centered around ORNL's diverse areas of research. In 2018, more than 387,000 people visited the trailers in Oak Ridge and its surrounding areas, as well as in Washington, DC.
It's Not Just Science
Another important way that ORNL staff members reach out to enrich the lives of those in nearby communities is through Team UT-Battelle. Over the years, Team UT-Battelle volunteers have donated personal time and resources to participate in several community ventures, including public space cleanups, nature restorations, assembling care packages, donating to local food banks, and conducting fundraising activities for many local non-profits.
K-12 STEM Education and Outreach
STEM outreach is vital to the nation's development of future scientists, engineers, and innovators. As the DOE's largest multiprogram science and energy laboratory, ORNL is committed to serving the public as a valued partner in educational initiatives, promoting and expanding STEM experiences for the next generation. ORNL offers students, educators, and community members a variety of learning opportunities that correspond to the Laboratory's distinct areas of scientific research.
School and Community Events
ORNL proudly partners with many schools and community groups in the surrounding area in a variety of events, including school STEM nights, science fairs, career fairs, teacher professional development, and other educational events. Through hands-on activities and demonstrations, students and community members can gain an understanding of the concepts that fuel scientific research. Employee volunteers visit regional schools for events such as the National Science Bowl, First Robotics, Hour of Code, Environmental Science Week, and Nuclear Science Week.
Working Together for Sustainability
ORNL participates in the Bridge to Employment in Service and Tourism (B.E.S.T.) program which provides internships for adults with disabilities and barriers to employment. This program gives these adult students on-the-job training through internships at various industries. Jimmy Stone pioneered the idea of bringing the B.E.S.T. program to ORNL, and mentors from around the Lab quickly got on board. For creating these opportunities, Jimmy won the Equity Award from the City of Knoxville’s Community Development Department, which honors those who mentor or employ people with disabilities. “Though I brought the idea forward, plenty of others embraced the concept with passion and commitment. It’s been life-changing for the B.E.S.T. students and their families,” said Stone.
As part of the Building 5200 LEED ARC team, ORNL engaged the help of a B.E.S.T. Intern to weigh all plastic and aluminum recyclable material collected from the building for an entire year. The work of the intern was key to the collection of quality data for waste and recyclables, which was then analyzed and reported for the LEED certification documentation.
What can corporations and community partners do to promote sustainable operations?
- Create smart, integrated policy to promote energy efficiency and environmental compliance
- Create organizational structures that support sustainability
- Engage with outside organizations that promote the environmental and cultural benefits of sustainability best-practices
- Embed sustainability into corporate culture and take steps to enhance employee engagement
- Create an inclusive culture that supports sustainability-related innovation
- Prepare for the effects of severe weather events on sustainable operations
- Develop and prioritize actions based on site-specific risks and threats
- Build awareness and improve skills to respond to potential events, including outreach to local first responder teams
- Join a national dialogue on responsible energy consumption
- Engage value chain members, including vendors, utility providers, and university, research, and industry partners