Earth Day Awards



Every year 2014 TOP TEN EARTH DAY AWARDS recognizes personal, corporate, community and governmental efforts that make our world a better place.

IN 2014 WITH THE LAUNCH OF OUR SISTER WEBSITE, GREEN PRODUCT PAGES, we have the pleasure of recognizing the TOP TEN EARTH DAY AWARDS x 2 - once for the building industry, and once for the general global community - giving us the opportunity to offer a greater perspective on the growing depth, breadth and inspiration within the sustainability movement.

You will begin to understand as you click on Paul Hawken's image, that these award recipients represent a small fraction of the sustainability movement and leadership that is emerging globally from all sectors.

There are some notable trends among the diverse 20+ recipients of this year's two TOP TEN award lists, spanning across disciplines and the globe. Many of this years' recipients have been prolific, writing books, making movies or videos and many have been honored as TED presenters. You can see and hear their passion by clicking on many of their images.

INTERGENERATIONAL CONTINUITY: There are several pairs of 'then' and 'now' leaders who have passed or received the sustainability leadership torch over generations, creating a continuity.

Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, beautifully articulates the long intergenerational history and wisdom of First Nation peoples that is shared globally.

Rachel Carson, who first raised the alarm regarding the detrimental effects of the chemicals in 1962, is followed by Arlene Blum, who today continues to address the issues of harmful chemicals prevalent in baby toys, furniture and many of our consumer goods.

Jane Jacobs, against common thought, first articulated the social and environmental advantages of compact cities in 1961. Today, Rob Bennett continues to push that envelope with his EcoDistrict campaign to create sustainable city neighborhoods and communities.

While Severn Cullis-Suzuki is the only one of her family receiving a TOP TEN Award this year as an advocate who began her leadership career at age 12 delivering her passionate speech at the 1992 UN Earth Day Summit, her father, David Suzuki, also a famous environmental activist and leader, clearly deserves enormous credit for creating and passing the torch to the next generation of leaders.

UNITED, URGENT MESSAGE: Ed Mazria, Rachel Carson, Arlene Blum, Lester Brown, Al Gore, and others express a constancy and urgency in their messages and their work focused on issues of sustainability and climate change. Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, a group of small islands in the Pacific whose existence is very much in peril, speaks uniquely from the front lines of climate change.

JOY, BEAUTY, REASONS FOR HOPE: Janine Beynus, Shigeru Ban and others have given us many visions and expressions of beauty and joy. And Paul Hawken has provided us with the most wonderful, explicit, lengthy and unusual list of reasons for hope that will likely make you cry.

INSPIRED, LONG VISIONS: Chief Oren Lyons, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Wangari Maatha, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Majora Carter, Susan Maxman, Jane Jacobs, Rob Bennett, David Gottfried, Jane Henley, Van Jones, and each of the others have inspired us with their diverse stories of leadership, vision, continuity and community, along with a whole host of 'firsts'.

The 2014 TOP TEN EARTH DAY AWARDS recognizes these diverse leaders from around the world who have all made enormous contributions toward creating a more sustainable future and building industry.

Take a moment to click on the image of each award recipient to view links and videos to truly appreciate their contributions toward creating our collective sustainable future.










“We are the people who give thanks to the earth.”

“When do you cease to be a CEO and become a grandfather?”

“Make your decisions on behalf of the seventh generation coming.”

"What you people call your natural resources our people call our relatives."

"We need to develop a common Bill of Responsibilities to accompany our Bill of Rights."

Oren is a faith keeper of the Turtle Clan, Onondaga Council of Chiefs, Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy). He has been active in international Indigenous rights and sovereignty issues for over four decades at the United Nations and other international forums where he has been a spokesperson for Native American human rights and ecological wisdom at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

He is a State University of New York (SUNY) distinguished services professor emeritus of the University at Buffalo. He co-founded the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth with the American Indian Institute at Bozemon, Montana, and continues to serve on their board. He is chairman of the board of directors of Honoring Nation, the Harvard program for Native American economic development, and serves on the board of Bioneers an environmental champion of the earth. Oren is chairman of the board of directors of Plantagon International AB, the leader in urban agriculture, Plantagon is designed to meet challenges of compounding human population, finite resources and global warming.

We Are Part of the Earth

The Politics of Human Beings: The Nature of Global Warming

7th Generation Leadership: Raising Leaders With Vision, Compassion, Responsibility





"To be bold; to have the courage of your convictions; and to think long-term, not short-term or for political expedience; those are characteristics common to good leaders.

"Sustainable development is that which meets all the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." -The U.N. Brundtland Commission – 1987

At the age of 41, Gro Harlem Brundtland was the first woman and youngest person to ever become Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders.  As a medical doctor championing health as a human right she put sustainable development on the international agenda.

In 1983 the then United Nations Secretary-General invited her to establish and chair the World Commission on Environment and Development. The Brundtland Commission released its report, Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, in October 1987, a document which coined, and defined the meaning of the term "Sustainable Development". The Commission's recommendations led to the Earth Summit - the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

In 1998 she became Director-General of the World Health Organization where her many skills as doctor, politician, activist and manager merged.  In her acceptance speech, Dr. Brundtland said: "I see WHO's role as being the moral voice and the technical leader in improving health of the people of the world. Ready and able to give advice on the key issues that can unleash development and alleviate suffering. I see our purpose to be combating disease and ill-health - promoting sustainable and equitable health systems in all countries".





Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world.

Though she did not set out to do so, Carson influenced the environmental movement as no one had since the 19th century’s most celebrated hermit, Henry David Thoreau, wrote about Walden Pond. “Silent Spring” presents a view of nature compromised by synthetic pesticides, especially DDT. Once these pesticides entered the biosphere, Carson argued, they not only killed bugs but also made their way up the food chain to threaten bird and fish populations and could eventually sicken children.

Much of the data and case studies that Carson drew from weren’t new; the scientific community had known of these findings for some time, but Carson was the first to put them all together for the general public and to draw stark and far-reaching conclusions. In doing so, Carson, the citizen-scientist, spawned a revolution.

“Silent Spring,” which has sold more than two million copies, made a powerful case for the idea that if humankind poisoned nature, nature would in turn poison humankind. “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves,” she told the subcommittee. We still see the effects of unfettered human intervention through Carson’s eyes: she popularized modern ecology.

“Silent Spring” was more than a study of the effects of synthetic pesticides; it was an indictment of the late 1950s. Humans, Carson argued, should not seek to dominate nature through chemistry, in the name of progress. In Carson’s view, technological innovation could easily and irrevocably disrupt the natural system.

If anything, environmental issues have grown larger — and more urgent — since Carson’s day. Yet no single work has had the impact of “Silent Spring.” It is not that we lack eloquent and impassioned environmental advocates with the capacity to reach a broad audience on issues like climate change. In 1939, Bill McKibben was the first to make a compelling case for the crisis of global warming in “The End of Nature.” Elizabeth Kolbert followed with “Field Notes From a Catastrophe.” Al Gore sounded the alarm with “An Inconvenient Truth,” and was awarded the Nobel Prize. While they are widely considered responsible for shaping our view of global warming, none was able to galvanize a nation into demanding concrete change in quite the manner in which Carson did.

The early activists of the new environmental movement had several successes attributed to Carson — from the Clean Air and Water Acts to the establishment of Earth Day to President Nixon’s founding of the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1970.






"Currently industrial chemicals in all our products are unregulated and are being found to be endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormone signaling mechanisms of the human body causing disruption to reproductive, metabolic, neurologic and immune systems."

"Babies are particularly susceptible to these endocrine disruptors that are found in many baby products as well as other household products and furniture."

Arlene Blum PhD, biophysical chemist, author, and mountaineer is a Visiting Scholar in Chemistry UC Berkeley and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. The Institute brings government, industry, scientists and citizens groups together to support chemical policies to protect human health and the global environment. This work has contributed has contributed to stopping the use of tens of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals such as flame retardants in children's sleepwear, furniture, pillows, bed coverings, electronics etc.

Arlene Blum also led the first American ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world's most dangerous and difficult mountains, co-led the first women's team to climb Denali, was the first American woman to attempt Mt. Everest, completed the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back.

She is the author of Annapurna: A Woman's Place and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life. Blum's awards include selection by the UK Guardian as one of the world's 100 most inspiring women and National Women's History Project choice as one of 100 "Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet", selection as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, and election to the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence.

The Green Science Policy Institute was founded in 2008 in Berkeley, California by Executive Director Arlene Blum after she learned that the same chlorinated tris that her research had helped remove from children’s pajamas in the 1970s was back in furniture and baby products. Since its founding, Green Science Policy Institute has stopped ten unneeded flammability standards and prevented hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic flame retardants from being added to consumer products.

When creating a new chemical, mixture, product or formulation one should ask the question, “Do we need it?” If the answer is yes, we can turn to green chemistry to fill that chemical need. Green chemistry can help replace chemical products and processes that pose threats to human health and the environment with chemicals and processes that have been designed with the health of humans and ecosystems in mind.

TEDx: Where Have All The Toxic Chemicals Gone?

TEDx: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Green Policy Institute: Six Classes





“The challenge is to build a new economy and to do it at wartime speed before we miss so many of the nature’s deadlines that the economic system begins to unravel.”

“Humanity’s collective demands have exceeded the earth’s regenerative capacity by 26 percent.” 

“Environmental scientists have been saying for some time that the global economy is being slowly undermined by environmental trends of human origin, including shrinking forests, expanding deserts, falling water tables, eroding soils, collapsing fisheries, rising temperature, melting ice, rising seas and increasingly destructive storms.”

In 1974, with support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lester Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, the first research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues. While there he launched the Worldwatch Papers, the annual State of the World reports, World Watch magazine, a second annual entitled Vital Signs: The Trends That are Shaping Our Future, and the Environmental Alert book series.

Brown has authored or coauthored over 50 books. One of the world's most widely published authors, his books have appeared in some 40 languages. Among his earlier books are Man, Land and Food, World Without Borders, and Building a Sustainable Society. His 1995 book Who Will Feed China? challenged the official view of China’s food prospect, spawning hundreds of conferences and seminars.

In May 2001, he founded the Earth Policy Institute to provide a vision and a road map for achieving an environmentally sustainable economy. In November 2001, he published Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, which was hailed by E.O. Wilson as “an instant classic.” His most recent book is Breaking New Ground: A Personal History.

He is the recipient of many prizes and awards, including 25 honorary degrees, a MacArthur Fellowship, the 1987 United Nations' Environment Prize, the 1989 World Wide Fund for Nature Gold Medal, and the 1994 Blue Planet Prize for his "exceptional contributions to solving global environmental problems." In 2012, he was inducted into the Earth Hall of Fame Kyoto.

Brown’s PBS series, "Plan B", provides a glimpse into a new and emerging economy based upon renewable resources as well as strategies to avoid the growing threat of climate change. As prices rise, oil insecurity deepens, and concerns about carbon emissions cast a shadow over the future of fossil fuels, wind, solar, and geothermal energy are replacing fossil fuels at a pace and on a scale previously unimagined.

Plan B: Mobilizing To Save Civiization





“It's in that convergence of spiritual people becoming active and active people becoming spiritual that the hope of humanity now rests.”

“Now it’s the age for the translator. It’s the age for the bridge builder. It’s the age for Velcro. It’s the age for Lego. It’s the age for combining what we already have into what we need.”

Van Jones is also the President and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a platform for bottom-up, people-powered innovations to help fix the U.S. economy. A Yale-educated attorney, Van has written two New York Times Best Sellers: The Green Collar Economy, the definitive book on green jobs, and Rebuild the Dream, a roadmap for progressives in 2012 and beyond.

In 2009, Van worked as the green jobs advisor to the Obama White House. There, he helped run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending.

Anthony "Van" Jones is also founder of the Ella Baker Center for human rights, based in Oakland, California, and of Green for All, an NGO dedicated to "building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." His work points to the connection between green energy and job creation. He's the author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

Van is the founder of Green For All, a national organization working to get green jobs to disadvantaged communities. He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act; signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term "green jobs." Under the Obama administration, it has resulted in $500 million for green job training nationally. He currently serves as a board member of Green for All. 

While best known as a pioneer in the environmental movement, Van has been hard at work in social justice for nearly two decades, creating solutions to some of urban America's toughest problems.

Jones is a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He holds a joint appointment at Princeton as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

TED Talk: The Economic Injustice of Plastic





As important as it is to change the light bulbs, it is more important to change the laws.

Global warming is the biggest moral challenge facing our civilization today.

Al Gore has always been proactive, and since retiring from the office of Vice President of the United States, he has not wasted any time or spared any effort in his campaign for alerting the world to the dangers of climate change.  With an emphasis on hope, An Inconvenient Truth ultimately shows us that global warming is no longer a political issue but rather, the biggest moral challenge facing our civilization today.

After having its U.S. debut at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and international premiere at Cannes, An Inconvenient Truth opened to rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences everywhere. A smash hit, the film went on to win Academy Awards for Best Documentary feature and Best Song. It also became a global phenomenon, one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time with a worldwide audience estimated at 5 million people.

The impact of An Inconvenient Truth is unprecedented. Since its release in 2005, the film has helped to galvanize governments, leaders, organizations and individuals worldwide to take action on global warming. More than a billion people are now aware of the issue and have been motivated to act.

  • 4200+ tons of carbon were offset just by people swtiching to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Over 15 climate change bills have been introduced in Congress, with the historic Markey-Waxman Bill passing the House in June, 2009.
  • Five countries - England, Scotland, Czech Republic, New Zealand, and Germany - and the Canadian province of British Columbia incorporated An Inconvenient Truth into their secondary schools' curricula.
  • President Obama created the new position of Assistant to the President for Climate and Energy.
  • The United States House of Representatives established a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
  • The U.S. Senate established a Select Committee On Energy Independence and Global Warming.
  • Over 2600 people have been trained to give The Climate Project presentation and 4 million people on all seven continents have heard the presentation.
  • The issue of global warming reached more than a billion people worldwide.
  • Changed public perception: 33% of people surveyed before the film’s release believed global warming is real versus 85% after the film’s release (that figure has since declined).

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for his exemplary work in bringing awareness of climate change to the world.

TED Talk: New Thinking On The Climate Crisis





"It is the people who must save the environment. It is the people who must make their leaders change. And we cannot be intimidated. So we must stand up for what we believe in."

Dr. Wangari Maathai is a Kenyan environmental, political activist and elected member of Parliament. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. In 2004 she became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

She authored four books: The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth. As well as having been featured in a number of books, she and the Green Belt Movement were the subject of a documentary film, Taking Root: the Vision of Wangari Maathai (Marlboro Productions, 2008).

Professor Maathai was internationally acknowledged for her struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation, and served on the board of many organisations. She addressed the UN on a number of occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly during the five-year review of the Earth Summit. She served on the Commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future.

In recognition of her deep commitment to the environment, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General named Professor Maathai a UN Messenger of Peace in December 2009, with a focus on the environment and climate change. In 2010 she was appointed to the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group: a panel of political leaders, business people and activists established with the aim to galvanise worldwide support for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Also in 2010, Professor Maathai became a trustee of the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust, established to safeguard the public land for whose protection she had fought for almost twenty years. That same year, in partnership with the University of Nairobi, she founded the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies (WMI). The WMI will bring together academic research—e.g. in land use, forestry, agriculture, resource-based conflicts, and peace studies—with the Green Belt Movement approach and members of the organisation.

Taking Root The Vision of Wangari Maathai





Severn Cullis- Suzuki, founder of the Environmental Children’s Organization at age 9, gave a speech at the 1992 UN Earth Summit at age 12 that left many powerful adults in the room breathless. 

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is a culture and environmental activist and writer. Champion for the Canadian Earth Summit Initiative 2012 WE CANada, host of the APTN series ‘Samaqan - Water Stories, and board member of the Haida Gwaii Higher Education and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been speaking up for what she believes since she was small. At age 9, she started the Environmental Children's Organization, a group of friends committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. They were successful in fundraising and organizing to attend the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where 12-year-old Severn delivered a powerful speech that garnered worldwide attention. For this she received the UN Environment Program's Global 500 Award in Beijing the following year. This speech is still having an impact today, as citizens worldwide are still watching it on YouTube.

Since then Severn has continued as an advocate for intergenerational justice, fighting for long term sustainability, and for awareness of the fundamental interconnection between culture and environment. In 2000, she and five friends carried out Powershift - a cross-Canada cycling campaign to raise awareness about climate change and air pollution. In 2001, with fellow students at Yale University, she developed 'the Skyfish Project', a youth think tank that brought their 'Recognition of Responsibility' to the 2002 UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was on the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Advisory Panel. The trip was the subject of a documentary film that aired on CBC's long-running documentary series The Nature of Things.

Severn believes that science is important for informing global change, and it must be coupled with media and communication. She received a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University, and a Masters of Science in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, where she studied with Kwakwaka'wakw elders on the Pacific Northwest coast.  She has completed several speaking tours in Japan with the Namakemono Club and published several books including The Day You Will Change the World (Gakuyo Shobo, 2003), now in its 19th printing. She is one of the authors and editors of the book Notes from Canada's Young Activists (Greystone Books 2007). As a youth Severn co-hosted a TV series in North America for children called Suzuki's NatureQuest, and currently hosts the APTN series Samaqan - Water Stories about First Nations and water issues, heading into its third season.

She holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Yale University and an M.Sc. in Ethnoecology from the University of Victoria, where she studied with elders from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations.  Severn lives on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia where she is studying the Haida language with her husband and two sons.

The Girl Who Silenced The World For Five Minutes At Rio

RIO+20: Severn Cullis-Suzuki Returns To Rio





The international community needs to support the Pacific Island states efforts to maintain the health and biodiversity of the oceans, not as a hand-out but as an investment for the planet’s future.

We in Kiribati are acknowledging the reality that the landmass based on the scenarios projected will be reduced. And our underground (fresh) water will be contaminated with the rising seas.

Climate change is real, it is causing the reduction of the landmass of Pacific island country Kiribati and it is forcing residents to relocate inward.

While there are efforts being made to maintain the integrity of their islands, the people of Kiribati are not looking at migration as an option.

ANOTE TONG, President of Kiribati, (33 islands with a total land area of 811 square kilometers, 3,538 km east of the Marshall Islands and about 4,000 km southeast of Hawaii) is living on the front line of climate change and sea level rise.

Temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.18 degrees Celsius per decade consistent with the global pattern of warming.

Ocean acidification has been increasing.  About one quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted from human activities each year is absorbed by the oceans. As the extra carbon dioxide reacts with sea water it causes the ocean to become slightly more acidic. This impacts the growth of corals and organisms that construct their skeletons from carbonate minerals. These species are critical to the balance of tropical reef ecosystems. Data show that since the 18th century the level of ocean acidification has been slowly increasing in Kiribati’s waters.

Climate change, resulting from the unsustainable use of the planet’s resources, is the greatest moral challenge of our time. Economic growth at all costs must not be our mantra especially when those who least benefited from it pay the ultimate price.

While Kiribati is taking measures to ensure it remained inhabitable for as long as possible, the island nation is also preparing for the day when the island could not longer sustain its population. Tong expressed fear that even a 2015 international climate change agreement will not be able to save his country, saying, "We're one of those countries for whom this is too late."

For countries such as Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands, it's too late because the projects, the momentum of what's already in the atmosphere will ensure that sea level rises above our islands.

Like other vulnerable countries, Kiribati has been forced to spend a disproportionate amount of its limited resources to fight the onslaught of the rising seas and storm surges on homes, livelihoods and public infrastructure. Kiribati could achieve sustainable development if it utilized available resources of its vast Exclusive Economic Zone in the Pacific Ocean. Maintaining the health and biodiversity of oceans and ecosystems was critical. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a safe haven for marine biodiversity, is Kiribati’s most ambitious plan under President Tong’s leadership, to contribute to that aim and deal with the very real and immediate effects of climate change on the Pacific Islands.

In 2008, President Tong led the creation of one of the world's largest and most biologically rich marine protected areas, the 380,000 square kilometer (150,000 square mile) Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). It was later inscribed by UNESCO as the largest and deepest world heritage site in 2010. In addition to PIPA he has also been the leader in another significant achievement, the establishment of the Pacific Oceanscape.

The Oceanscape covers nearly 40 million square kilometers (15 million square miles) -- that's over 7 percent of the Earth's surface! This region is home to thousands of beautiful and productive coral reefs, as well as the planet's largest remaining stocks of tuna, which provide approximately one-third of the world's catch of tuna and related species. It is also home to Pacific Islanders who depend on the ocean for their livelihood and survival, and whose lifestyles and cultures are inextricably linked to their island resources."

Recognizing the power and responsibility Kiribati and other ocean states in the Pacific Ocean have to protect their ocean resources, President Tong helped push the adoption of the Pacific Oceanscape framework that was first introduced at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in 2009. This 16-country agreement will protect and manage the world's largest ocean to restore and maintain its abundance.

The Ocean Is Part Of Life




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