HeartLands Conservancy recently presented Green Leaf Achievement Awards to four 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:
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.
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 of the daily Air Quality Index, educational displays for schools, and presentations to local 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
Carrie Wilson Herndon, teacher at Metro East Montessori, regularly leads her students, grades 1-8, 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 were 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 clean-up along Silver Creek. Last year they took a trip to St. Croix for a beach clean-up. Each time the students analyze and note the types of trash they collect.
Volunteers of the Year: Project 612
Project 612 has been helping reduce waste from Edwardsville District 7 schools since 2011. On “Sack Attack” lunch days, Project 612 volunteers recover unopened, uneaten, prepackaged food items from school cafeterias that are otherwise destined for trash bins, and donate them to the Glen-Ed Food Pantry and other food distribution charities. To date, they have prevented over 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 U.S. is wasted, including one 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 District 7 Schools be part of an action plan to reach that national goal.
Renee Guttmann and Gwyn Marini, co-directors, accepted the award.
The judging committee consisted of the 2016 Green Leaf Award winners: Emily Fultz, Director Community and Economic Development for City of Columbia; Kim Petzing, Green Schools Coordinator for Madison County; Virginia Woulfe-Beile, Sierra Club Piasa Palisades Group, and Matthew Young, Illinois River Watch. Dawnesha Johnson and Ronda Latina from the HeartLands Conservancy Board served as judges as well.
The awards came during the Annual Dinner on April 19.