NMEAC – Bioneers Present Awards
BY LINDSAY VANHULLE TRAVERSE CITY — Andy Gale started collecting recyclable materials two years ago as a way to keep waste out of landfills and raise money for local agencies.
His Leelanau County-based nonprofit, Bay Area Recycling for Charities, since has expanded across the five-county region and soon will enter Manistee County with the acquisition of a recycling plant. Proceeds are donated to various charities. It has been a rapid rise for Gale’s young organization, recognized Friday as one of the top environmental efforts in the past year. Gale accepted the Environmentalist of the Year honor for businesses from the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council during its annual awards event. He also was named the Bioneer of the Year from organizers of the Great Lakes Bioneers conference.
“People’s mindset, their paradigm, is changing,” said Gale, who recycles many materials, including all plastics, that often are thrown away. “They’re looking at their waste as a resource, rather than a liability.”
More than a dozen other individuals and organizations received honors Friday during NMEAC’s 22nd annual event. It recognizes people and groups who display environmental advocacy. Students, volunteers, grassroots organizations, businesses and communications are among the categories. The roughly 50 nominees were the most in the event’s history, said Greg Reisig, NMEAC board chairman. “We hope that the people that receive awards, as well as the people that have been nominated, will be inspired,” Reisig said. “Hopefully, this gives all these people more visibility.”
This year’s nominees spanned a variety of sectors, including recycling, water quality and energy. “A lot of people that are nominated may not even consider themselves to be environmentalists, but they are,” Reisig said.
Rob Karner, a high school biology teacher at The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, was named the Environmentalist of the Year in education. Also a watershed biologist with the Glen Lake Association, he takes his students into the field to offer real-world applications of classroom lessons. “Every chance I can get,” Karner said. “They’re viewed as the next generation.” The awards presentation coincided with the 30th anniversary of NMEAC’s founding.
Executive Director Ken Smith likened the organization to an “eccentric grandmother” that will continue to encourage activism on community issues. “We don’t have wealthy donors to be offended if we take a stand or say something that they don’t want to be said,” he said. “We can take strong action when action needs to be done.”
Winners list Individuals and organizations honored Friday by the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council include:
- -Student: Maureen McManus, The Watershed Center intern
- -Educator: Rob Karner, The Leelanau School biology teacher
- -Grassroots Group: Northport Energy Action Task Force
- -Journalism and Communications: Bill Thomas, Record-Eagle editor
- -Business: Andy Gale, Bay Area Recycling for Charities
- -Public Service: Greg Goudy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment
- -General: Marsha Smith, Rotary Charities of Traverse City
- -Professional: Marlene Wood-Zylstra, Benzie County recycling coordinator
- -Volunteer: Ray Bier, Friends of the Jordan River Watershed
- -Golden Beaver Award: Denise Baker, The Watershed Center
- -John Nelson Water Steward Award: State Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland
- -Education Through Music: Pat Ivory
- -Special Award in the Arts: Michael Delp, Interlochen Center for the Arts
- -Special Award in Public Service: Derek Bailey, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians chairman
- -Lifetime Achievement Award: Clarence Kroupa
- -Clarence Kroupa Award: Jim Olson
- -First Annual Environmental Watchdog of the Year: Greg Reisig, NMEAC board chairman
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