Heartlands Conservancy presented its Green Leaf Achievement Awards during its Annual Dinner on April 19 to four outstanding organizations that embody its mission of sustaining and enriching Southwestern Illinois’ diverse environmental resources.
“Leafies” were given for Conserving Land & Protecting Natural Resources, Building Greener Communities, Engaging People with Nature and Volunteers of the Year.
The judging committee consisted of the 2016 Green Leaf Award winners: Emily Fultz, director of community and economic development for the city of Columbia; Kim Petzing, green schools coordinator for Madison County; Virginia Woulfe-Beile of the Sierra Club Piasa Palisades Group and Matthew Young of Illinois River Watch. Dawnesha Johnson and Ronda Latina of the HeartLands Conservancy Board also served as judges.
Conserving Land & Protecting Natural Resources
St. Clair County Greenspace Foundation
Since it was founded in 1990, the St. Clair County Greenspace Foundation has worked to protect more that 70 acres of bluff area in west Belleville, a natural space that is a crucial piece of the Mississippi Flyway.
Volunteers from schools, Scouts and surrounding neighborhoods work regularly to remove invasive species and trash. Volunteer hours total near 400 every year — this year they have already had more than 100 hours of volunteer work completed.
Walking trails are open daily for hiking. There is an outdoor classroom and the foundation holds organized nature walks in the spring and fall.
Members noted that “more people have become aware of the importance of conserving land, protecting and providing stewardship for the good of all and for generations to come.”
Barbara Taylor accepted the award.
Building Greener Communities
A Visual Approach to Educating a Community on Air Quality
In Granite City, the United Congregations of Metro-East and partners have been working to engage Granite City schools, senior citizens, community members, city government, businesses and organizations in learning about air quality and climate change by involving them in educational programming and community science projects while highlighting ways to improve air quality and prepare for a changing climate.
The program created an Ozone Garden, an EPA flag program to educate the community about the daily Air Quality Index, educational displays for schools, and presentations to locals businesses, institutions and organizations.
Linda Aud of the United Congregations of Metro-East and Granite City Cool Cities accepted the award on behalf of the affiliated partners of the project.
Engaging People with Nature
Metro East Montessori School
Metro East Montessori teacher Carrie Wilson Herndon regularly leads her first- to eighth-grade students in activities to understand and bond with nature.
Her students care for two beehives. Each week they check the bees and collect data. They have incubated and hatched chickens for the school. Carrie received a grant to develop a FarMaker Lab, where students have developed robots to perform tasks ranging from collecting data, such as turbidity and UV, to feeding the chickens.
When it comes to water quality, the classes collect water samples from Judy’s Branch in Glen Carbon and conduct monthly stream cleanup along Silver Creek. Last year they took a trip to St. Croix for a beach cleanup. Each time the students analyze and note the types of trash they collect.
Volunteers of the Year
Project 612 has been helping reduce waste from Edwardsville School District schools since 2011. On Sack Attack lunch days, Project 612 volunteers recover unopened, uneaten, prepackaged food items from school cafeterias that otherwise are destined for trash bins and donate them to the Glen-Ed Food Pantry and other food distribution charities. To date, they have prevented more than 25,000 pounds of food from reaching the landfill.
The EPA encourages and supports food recovery programs. Approximately 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted, including 1 billion food items from schools thrown away annually. In 2015, the USDA set a goal to reduce food waste in the country by 50 percent by 2030. Project 612 is helping Edwardsville School District schools be part of an action plan to reach that national goal.
Co-directors Renee Guttmann and Gwyn Marini accepted the award.