VAA Virginia Asphalt Spring/Summer 2022

06 SPRING/SUMMER 2022 Trenton M. Clark, PE, President, Virginia Asphalt Association As I have gotten older, the music I listened to in my teens and twenties is now considered classic rock or classic country. The music wasn’t classic then, but many of those songs have endured the generations. Interestingly, I have found my kids and I listen to some of the same music (notice I used the word “some”). My son Nick actually took me to a Def Leppard and Journey concert as a birthday present a few years back, and I can play “name that song” with my daughter Laura. Why am I reminiscing about music? Music is like many other areas of life—the interests and the concerns span many generations. And while my children and I have a 25- to 30-year age difference, there are topics we can still agree on. In college at Virginia Tech, I thought I wanted to concentrate on an environmental discipline as part of my civil engineering degree. The idea of doing something to protect and improve the environment was starting to gain momentum in the early 1990s. However, it only took one class for me to discover that wasn’t going to be my life’s work. Was the need to protect and improve the environment still important? Yes, but it was not my calling. Thirty years later, the need to protect and improve the environment is front and center for politics, activist groups, and industry. Climate change impacts are part of most news shows and weather reports. Recently, portions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) federal legislation signed in November 2021 ties environmental stewardship to transportation project funding to slow or reverse climate change. Also in late 2021, the Office of Sustainability was established under the Virginia Secretary of Transportation. Legislation has been introduced at the federal and state levels pushing Buy Clean requirements. And in January 2022, the National Asphalt Pavement Association released their (The) Road Forward plan that sets forth “A Vision for Net Zero Carbon Emissions for the Asphalt Pavement Industry.” Through numerous surveys over the last few years, employees or potential employees look at the environmental stewardship of a company to determine if they will work or continue to work for a company. In fact, a survey by Unily (an intranet company) “revealed that 83% of workers thought their employer was not doing enough to be more sustainable and tackle climate change. What’s more, 65% said they would be more likely to work for a company with robust environmental policies.” (, “Employees Demand that We Become More Sustainable,” October 31, 2021). A quick Google search shows that how a company or industry views environmental stewardship is critical in attracting and retaining employees. With the current stress on the construction industry for needed workforce, an industry cannot ignore the need to employ more sustainable business practices to be viable and profitable. Going back to my music, I always enjoyed the song by Mary Chapin Carpenter called “The Bug” with the lines “Sometimes you’re PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE Be the Windshield the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” Carpenter juxtaposes good times and bad throughout her lyrics. Clearly, we want to be the windshield and not the bug. We must lead and not be led. We must be the industry looking through the windshield, leading in sustainability and environmental stewardship. Not only must we continue to embrace ways to reduce our global warming potential for asphalt materials as a goal for our industry, but we must partner with the policymakers, regulators and customers to be able to achieve that goal. As I wrote about in the previous magazine, the asphalt industry must Lead the Change. Lastly, in the summer of 2021 VAA adopted a Vision Statement for the association that was approved by the board. It is clear and straightforward. VAA’s vision is to “be a united voice for the asphalt industry resulting in the betterment of society.” This statement clearly identifies the “why” for VAA—“the betterment of society.” Our industry has been a leader in sustainability for decades—starting with recycling of asphalt materials into new mixes, incorporation of warm mix technologies to lower plant temperatures, and switching to cleaner burning fuels at plants to name just a few. Members of our association are committed to fulfilling our vision through environmental stewardship. We must be the windshield. Being the bug is not an option. To learn more about how asphalt is green, visit the VAA website or contact me. Stay safe! Nick, Trenton, Laura and Nicky at Trenton’s 50th birthday celebration during the VAA 2021 Annual Meeting.