In his “4R Grandkids/ SaveOurWater” blog about Ventura County’s natural resources, Charles Spraggins recently groused about the types of measures celebrated at last week’s Earth Day events, saying, “What is saved by ‘sustainable living’ is consumed anyway via growth and development.”

Sometimes, however, the examples of sustainable living make an impression on others and result in real change. Leadership by some can influence practices of many others, and our society as a whole can make progress toward environmental goals.

Environmental awards programs often serve this function of multiplying conservation efforts, validating and publicizing accomplishments of environmental leaders in hopes of influencing others to improve their own efforts.

One example is recent recognition that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors provided to one exemplary environmental effort in each supervisor’s district. Supervisor John Zaragoza honored the nonprofit Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation for “promoting environmental awareness and responsibility,” including work on a recent report.

Supervisor Peter Foy awarded Rustic Canyon Golf Course for a water reclamation project. Supervisor Kelly Long recognized the Hedrick Ranch Nature Area Restoration Project for a restoration project. Supervisor Linda Parks recognized the Ventura County Watershed Protection District (WPD) for its study showing the value of using raptors instead of anticoagulant rodenticides. Supervisor Steve Bennett awarded The Thacher School for sustainable practices, including solar power, horse manure and food-waste composting, reducing water usage, using gray water and recycling.

The Thacher School’s recycling also earned it another award recently. Competing against 324 California schools during the month of February, the school recycled the most mixed recyclables both in total weight and on a per capita basis. Keep America Beautiful, the nonprofit organizer of the K-12 Recycling Challenge and Recycle Bowl competitions, says on its website that the reason for the competition and awards is to “engage students.” The Thacher School’s website, noting its award of Green Achiever status in a California Department of Education recognition program last year, describes the reason behind the school’s sustainability programs more inspirationally as preparing “students to take action, develop bold solutions and act as lifelong stewards of the planet.”

Last month, a student at Sunset Elementary School in Ventura got an early start at being a planetary steward when her poster and slogan won a local competition to decorate the side of an E.J. Harrison recycle truck. Isabella Coleman’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The three R’s are radical!” won her Island Packers tickets to the Channel Islands, presented at an Eco-Hero show at her school featuring rap songs, dance and teacher and student participation.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Education recognized Meiners Oaks and Sunset Elementary Schools with silver awards for “conserving natural resources while promoting health and environmental literacy.” Meiners Oaks Elementary, which also won last year, has been assisted by the nonprofit Food for Thought, which helped it develop a school garden-based learning program, environmental literacy program, worm bins and food waste recycling.

May 15 is the nomination deadline for prestigious awards aimed at the heart of wastefulness. The California Product Stewardship Council’s Arrow Awards focus on waste prevention, awarding in the categories of product stewardship, system and design innovations, coalition building, service and take-back. Companies selected for these awards win not only an artist-made plaque to display and a credibility-building public relations boost, but also an opportunity to inspire others to take similar action, developing solutions for stewardship of the planet.

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