On Thursday, November 2nd, 2023, the city of Stillwater, Minnesota, came alive with eco-conscious enthusiasm as the second annual Sustainability Works! Gala and Awards took center stage. The event was a celebration of sustainability and an opportunity to recognize and honor the local superheroes who are leading the charge in environmental protection and sustainability. As the evening unfolded, the winners of the Sustainability Champion's Awards were revealed, showcasing the outstanding contributions of individuals and businesses towards building a greener, more sustainable future for all.
The Symbolic Gear Cogs:
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Sustainability Champion's Awards, each of which was uniquely crafted as gear cogs. Gears, as many may know, are wheels with tiny teeth or cogs around their edges. These cogs interlock with one another, and every cog is essential to making the entire machine or engine work. If even one cog is missing, the engine ceases to function. This symbolism resonates with the community's collective effort towards a sustainable future. Every individual and business plays a vital role, and together, they create the machinery driving change and progress in our community.
The Awards ceremony began with an enthusiastic welcome and a special mention of the artist behind the unique gear cog trophies. Justin Depew Design created these stunning awards from scraps of maple and inlaid walnut, finished with beeswax. Justin's craftsmanship and dedication to sustainability beautifully encapsulated the spirit of the awards.
Here's a more detailed look at each of the award recipients:
Green Lawmaker of the Year: Larry Odebrecht
Larry Odebrecht, City Council Member representing Ward 3, stood out for his exceptional commitment to creating a climate action plan for the city, one of the most critical sustainability goals. Larry's visionary leadership and dedication to researching the city's energy usage with the ultimate aim of reducing the carbon footprint make him a worthy Green Lawmaker of the Year.
Green Individual of the Year: Don Schuld
Don Schuld's tireless efforts in promoting clean energy and his pivotal role in installing solar panels on school rooftops exemplify his dedication to sustainability. Don goes beyond individual actions; he actively engages with organizations such as the Stillwater Sunrise Rotary Club's Climate/Environmental Action Team, his church, and Sustainable Stillwater. Moreover, his role on the Policy Board for Lutheran Advocacy Minnesota reflects his commitment to making a positive impact on a broader scale.
Green Individual of the Year: Allison McGinnis
Allison McGinnis, the driving force behind the Bird City program, was celebrated for her multifaceted projects aimed at bird conservation and habitat restoration. The "Lights Out" initiative, encouraging responsible outdoor lighting during migration periods, is just one example of her impactful work. Allison's longstanding involvement with birds and conservation, dating back to her college days, demonstrates her unwavering dedication to environmental advocacy and sustainability.
Green Individual of the Year: Jeff Riegle
Jeff Riegle's journey from advising companies on sustainability policies to establishing Green Guardian Wealth Management, specializing in socially responsible investing, was a standout accomplishment. In addition to his professional achievements, Jeff volunteers for numerous climate causes, including at his church, the Citizens Climate Lobby, the Minnesota Pollution Control, a local Electric Vehicle (EV) Owners group, and Sustainable Stillwater. His commitment to sustainability extends far beyond the workplace, making him a true sustainability champion.
Green Business of the Year: River Market Community Co-op
River Market Community Co-op's impact on sustainability in the St. Croix River Valley is immeasurable. They provide over 6500 co-op owners and numerous customers with healthy food and personal products sourced from 128 local growers, grazers, makers, and bakers. What sets them apart is their unwavering commitment to sustainability, from selling in bulk to encouraging customers to bring their own bags and even collecting plastic film. Their dedication to sustainable practices positions them as the Green Business of the Year, if not the entire decade.
Green Business of the Year: Healing Within Acupuncture and Wellness Studio
Healing Within Acupuncture and Wellness Studio is not just a business; it's a beacon of healthcare equity and social justice. By making holistic healthcare treatments affordable and sustainable, they are transforming the healthcare landscape. Their commitment to community wellness through sliding scale fee community acupuncture, yoga therapy, and tai chi classes is truly remarkable. Furthermore, their "Amplifying Brown Voices" program underlines their dedication to inclusivity and social change.
Green Business of the Year: ArtReach St. Croix
ArtReach St. Croix, though now energy-efficient, was recognized not for their sustainable practices but for their innovative approach to sustainability communication. By featuring local artists who convey crucial environmental messages through their art, they bring a unique dimension to sustainability advocacy. Heather, with her creative exhibitions, continually finds new and engaging ways to communicate sustainability. The "We Are Water MN" exhibit, exploring the science, history, and culture of waters in Minnesota and the St. Croix River Valley, is just one example of their thought-provoking work.
In honoring these Sustainability Champions, the event acknowledged the critical role each of them plays in our community's journey towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future. They embody the spirit of collective action and serve as inspiring examples for us all. Congratulations to all the 2023 award winners for their extraordinary contributions to sustainability!