The sustainability movement in Contra Costa had its big night on September 21st, at the eighth annual Contra Costa Leadership in Sustainability & Green Building Awards, presented by Sustainable Contra Costa (SCOCO). About 240 people gathered at the Hilton Concord for this award, fundraising, and community event. Guests strolled through the Hilton’s atrium to the Caribbean strains of steel drummer Benjamin Glasgow, sipped drinks poured by Captain Vineyards, Hannah Nicole Winery, Viano Vineyards, and CaliCraft Brewing, and noshed on delectable fare from the kitchens of Corners Tavern, Plate and Vine, Prima Ristorante, and the DVC Culinary Arts Department. The evening's theme was “Inspired By Nature”, celebrating parks and open space, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park system. A variety of open space advocate organizations, like Save Mt. Diablo & East Bay Parks, set up tables to showcase their efforts.
After the reception, guests moved into the ballroom, decorated with fragrant herb planters at each table, and enjoyed coffee and gourmet cupcakes. Lafayette Vice-Mayor Mike Anderson and SCOCO President Tina Neuhausel made opening remarks. Tina told the audience that 30,000 sustainable actions have been taken since East Bay residents started the Community Resilience Challenge in 2012, including daily acts that save water, conserve energy, grow food, reduce waste, and build community. She also introduced this year’s Certified Sustainability Advisors, a corps of leaders and activists who are trained in air quality, water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable living.
SCOCO’s Visionary Partner, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (CCCSD), also known as Central San, presented their Recycled Water Champions and Pollution Prevention Awards to a variety of local businesses, agencies and individuals. CCCSD also recognized community partners who maintain full compliance with their sewer discharge permit to prevent pollution and protect water quality, with Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector control District reaching an impressive 16 years of compliance. Barrelista Coffee House & Café, Kee’s Auto Body, Mike’s Auto Body, and Walnut Creek Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, & Ram took home Pollution Prevention Awards.
Contra Costa County Supervisors John Gioia and Candace Andersen then presented leadership awards in five categories: Sustainable Communities, Food System Innovation, Resource Management, Rising Star, Lifetime Achievement, and Green Building.
The winners in the Sustainable Communities category were Pittsburg middle school teachers Thomas Edwards and Jennifer Foster, who implemented the East Bay Community Resilience Challenge in their schools, reached the Gold Level in the Green Ribbon Schools program, and facilitate many other sustainable projects with their students.
The winner in Food System Innovation was Mt. Diablo Unified Sschool District's Farm to School Program, led by Anna Fisher, Tamara Helfer, and Jennifer Sachs. A grant from the USDA brought new pilot programs into the schools, though a partnership with California Alliance for Family Farmers, to evaluate the source of produce served in the district and educate students on nutrition, gardening and cooking.
There were two winners won in the Sustainable Resource Management category: Ken Sturm & John Larsen, and Recycle Smart. John Larsen, previously the president of the Newcastle Homeowners Association, was successful in proposing landscape renovation and redesign. Through EBMUD and a local company, lawns were replaced with drought tolerant plants and a play structure was contructed, serving 414 homes. Recycle Smart (Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority) is a local government agency that promotes home composting and commercial and school food waste recycling. In 2015, its organics Diversion Programs diverted around 57,501 tons of organics from landfill, which is equal to 8943 metric tons of CO2 emissions diverted.
The Rising Star (under 18) award went to Sierra Warshawsky, a junior at Campolindo High School in Moraga. Sierra actively volunteers in various charity events and organizations, including Rotary and the organization One Million Lights, which provides solar power to third-world countries without electricity.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Larry Sly, executive director for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, which serves one in eights residents in those counties. Twenty million pounds of food, half of which is fresh fruits and vegetables, is distributed every year and would otherwise go to waste. Under Sly’s leadership, the food bank recycles all paper, plastic, aluminum, cardboard and plastic bags and has installed solar panels on its warehouse in Concord.
The Green Building category honored architects, builders, and owners of green buildings in Contra Costa County whose actions fulfilled green criteria in areas such as energy conservation and efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation, and drought-tolerant landscaping. The honorees were Arboleda (Walnut Creek), Richmond City Center Apartments, and Korematsu Middle School (El Cerrito). Korematsu was converted from an elementary school into a sustainable and environmental middle school. The facility practices energy and water conservation and reduction, uses sustainable materials, and has a green roof.
For general information on Sustainable Contra Costa, its sustainable workshop series, the Sustainable Enterprise Conference, the Certified Sustainability Advisors Program, and other work, please visit www.sustainablecoco.org.