COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | CAROLYN CHASE

Honoring those who cherish our environment

For 14 years, in honor of Earth Day, San Diego EarthWorks has been acknowledging local businesses, governments, nonprofit groups and citizens for making a positive difference for conservation and the environment in their daily work.

The EARTH Award -- Environmental And Restoration That Helps -- is a big name to acknowledge sensitive daily actions that add up over time. Each winner, indeed each nominee, demonstrates the many ways to take awareness to action in their own backyards, whether their business, their vocation or their community.

Winners will be acknowledged at a reception and awards ceremony on the evening of May 12 at the city's Environmental Services "green building" in Kearny Mesa. Mayor Dick Murphy will give the awards, along with his usual witty commentary.

This year's EARTH Award winners are:

  • The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for both their wastewater treatment and restoration of Viejas creek and their production of the "Spirit of the Land" conference at SDSU this February.
  • TKG Consulting Engineers Inc. for their "highly sustainable renovation" of an existing office building in Sorrento Valley. Taking lessons from the City's award-winning "green remodel" where this event will take place, TKG took exceptional steps to minimize the environmental footprint of their "new" building. These steps included: maximizing reuse of deconstruction materials, selecting recycled or renewable new construction materials and low- or no-toxic paints and coating, a "cool roof," solar panels and energy management system, a 5kW fuel cell, censors to monitor and improve indoor air quality and energy use, bicycles, storage and showers to encourage non-motor vehicle transportation, waterless urinals and low flush toilets. Reclaimed water will be used for any irrigation and recycling will be provided and encouraged for materials when the building is occupied.

    As a building engineering consulting company, TKG plans to use its building to provide direct experience for clients and all other building owners in the realities and paybacks of pursuing sustainable design for their projects.

  • Architectural Salvage for its retail salvage store in the business of reusing, recycling and distributing used building materials and house parts such as windows, doors, hardware, sinks, wood details and trim, plumbing, iron and much, much more. To quote owner Elizabeth Scalice: "The destruction of historic buildings and the lack of reuse of perfectly good, and in many ways superior quality materials seemed criminal." They have impacted thousands of people who have visited their store while in need of remodeling materials or for inspiration.
  • The San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and RECON Environmental for contributing $1,000 each and 2,000 plants to ten schools in the region to implement a native plant garden for each and provide volunteers to assist in the implementation and ensure the native plant garden is a success. These gardens will provide a learning resource for the students who will be able to learn on site the value and benefit of our unique native flora and wildlife. CNPS-SD has made a commitment on an annual basis to schools throughout San Diego County.
  • Brad Rubottom and his Environmental Systems Class at El Camino High School in Oceanside. For the last three years, his classes have been coordinating a habitat restoration project in Carlsbad involving restoration of native willow habitat around Agua Hedionda Creek. Classes received water quality training and work as peer mentors for Jefferson Elementary School within the Calavera Nature preserve. Students also learn about the development side of their society by studying how planned communities are implemented.
  • Tershia D'Elgin and the Friends of 32nd St. Canyon for saving their urban canyon, reclaiming and restoring it in cooperation with property owners, the community and the city, and turning it into a living, outdoor teaching lab for a local elementary school.
  • Judge Robert Coates for his long-time commitment to environmental issues, justice and actions. This year's event will also include awarding of the Air Pollution Control District's Clean Air Award presented by Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, the city of San Diego's Waste Reduction and Recycling awards, presented by Mayor Dick Murphy and San Diego EarthWorks service awards for key volunteers who produce the EarthFair in Balboa Park.

    The EarthFair is produced through the efforts of more than 25 volunteer "team leaders" who take responsibility for producing all aspects of the EarthFair. Whether installing and providing solar power to exhibitors, managing projects, providing first aid or information, these volunteers exemplify what it means to contribute to something larger than themselves.

    The work these award winners do adds up over time and represents the best meaning of "Earth Day," when we recognize what we can do improve our environmental profile and do more of the right things that add up to a regionwide conservation ethic.

    Their examples should inspire each of us to consider what more we can do at work, at home and for public service.

    Note: This reception and awards ceremony are open to the public. To attend, RSVP at www.earthdayweb.org or call 858-272-7370.


  • Chase is a Planning Commissioner for the city of San Diego and member of Sandag's Regional Comprehensive Plan Stakeholder's Working Group.

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