Each year, our community comes together to celebrate and honor those who demonstrate outstanding commitment and leadership in making Contra Costa communities healthy, beautiful, clean, and resilient – for the long run. Awards are presented to individuals, nonprofits, government programs, schools, and business.
Winners will be honored at the 11th Annual Leadership in Sustainability Awards Gala & Fundraiser on September 17th, at the Pleasant Hill Community Center.
- Michael Cass
Michael is a champion of all ten One Planet Living principles in the sustainability movement and most notably a leader in Land Use & Wildlife, Zero Waste, and Zero Carbon. Michael drafted the plastic bag and styrofoam bans for the City of Lafayette and implemented the Styrofoam ban in the City of Concord, resulting in hundreds of businesses using compostable or recyclable food and beverage containers. Michael is the only city planner in the county that successfully brought a community choice energy program to two jurisdictions – Lafayette and Concord -- specifically designating MCE as Concord’s default electricity provider. He led the effort to upgrade Concord’s downtown parking garage light fixtures to LED lights and install five Level 2 electric vehicle chargers.
- Chris Dundon, Contra Costa Water District
A passionate and committed leader in sustainability, Chris Dundon has worked in the field of water conservation for over 25 years. He is the water efficiency supervisor for the Contra Costa Water District, where he has developed numerous innovative water conservation programs that have saved over 20 billion gallons of water. Chris is a role model and leader in sustainable water, sustainable land use & wildlife, and zero waste who brings a sense of humor to his work and inspires those around him. Beyond water conservation, many of Chris’ programs meet multiple sustainability objectives such as biodiversity, healthy soil, and habitat. These programs have served as models for similar programs throughout the state, including the Lawn to Garden Rebate Program, which has replaced nearly 3 million square feet of water-thirsty lawns with water-wise landscapes and increased our cityscape’s air quality, carbon sequestration, and native plants & biodiversity.
- Cindy Gershen, Lifetime Achievement
Cindy Gershen is a chef and teacher at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, founder of Sunrise Bistro and Catering restaurant in Walnut Creek, and founder of the non-profit Wellness City Challenge. She has created a remarkable Sustainable Hospitality Program that focuses on the science of food through culinary, hydroponics, and nutrition education. This program has become an integral part of the curriculum at Mt. Diablo High School as an Innovation Center for programs that can be replicated throughout our district and state. Cindy’s senior class focuses on Career Technical Education (CTE) through topics such as farm to table/cafeteria with experience in planting, growing, and harvesting produce and entrepreneurship through catering. Her students also promote health and wellness through a district wide “Water Drinking Campaign.” Cindy is a past winner of the California Assembly District 14 “Woman of the Year” award and co-author of the book The Fat Chance Cookbook.
- Charlotte “Charlie” Keohane, Rising Star
Charlie Keohane is 17 and going into her senior year at Acalanes High School in Lafayette. She is a committed vegan who lives a sustainable lifestyle and promotes a plant-based diet in her community. Raised vegetarian, Charlie made the choice to become vegan at age 10 and eats foods that do the least harm, thereby reducing her carbon footprint. She has maintained an active social media presence on Instagram, and you can see her food postings that showcase vegan food from the past five years on Instagram @thedoughgirl. Charlie brings vegan baked goods and treats to classmates in high school, particularly to team members of Blueprint, the Acalanes School Newspaper, and was recently asked to create a “Cooking with Charlie” segment for the online version of the newspaper. This is now a regular feature, with three five-minute segments already launched and others in production.
- Kathy Kramer, Bringing Back The Natives Garden Tour
Kathy Kramer has been involved in environmental education for more than thirty years. Her signature contribution to the public understanding of sustainability is the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour. Founded in 2005, this award-winning event showcases forty pesticide-free, water-conserving gardens which provide habitat for wildlife, and contain 60% or more native plants. More than 3,000 people have attended the tour every year since its inception. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of native plants have been sold by small area nurseries in connection with the tour, and several landscape designers credit it for a large part of their business. This innovative event enlists local residents to demonstrate by example that seasoned and novice gardeners can garden with good results without the use of synthetic chemicals, and with minimal supplemental water, while providing food, shelter, and nesting areas for wildlife.
- Richmond Housing Renovation
The Richmond Housing Restoration Program addresses housing problems by acquiring abandoned properties, rehabilitating them and selling them to graduates of the First Time Homebuyers Program. The funds used to support the program come from a new type of bond called a social impact fund. The program brings many local entities into partnership to achieve program success. When new construction is required, the program builds to Zero Net energy standards and provides a solar system to homebuyers. In addition, all rehabbed homes are designed using green materials, low VOC paints, dual pane windows, and energy efficient fixtures and appliances. Water efficient and drought tolerant plants are used in the landscaping. This program increases home ownership rates of first time Richmond homebuyers, hires local contractors, reduces blight, helps to stabilize neighborhoods, and reduces police costs.
- Springhill Elementary School Garden
The Springhill Elementary school garden in Lafayette is a little slice of magic. In the last year, there hasn’t been room in the budget for a garden teacher, so volunteers have stepped in to help the program grow. Jessica Chandler has been heading up organization and resources. Heidi Doggett is running garden classes and coordinating soil and habitat restoration in the garden. Cathy Bornfleth is a science teacher who sees the need for the kids to get out and move more during the day, to work at tasks like hauling little buckets of mulch, and to experience putting seeds in the ground. She has been bringing science classes into the garden. She integrates her lessons with garden concepts and sends students to plant, water, and weed while learning about farming-related topics from Heidi. Heidi is introducing students to ideas about how hard field laborers work to harvest their food, how pesticide use impacts workers, and the need for every person involved in growing and processing food to receive dignified treatment and a fair living. She hopes that this program can help build the Lafayette community, and will shortly be opening the garden for crafts and picnics outside of school hours. Jessica and Heidi are hoping that the work they are doing at Springhill can serve as a model for other school programs.