A senior at Langley High School, a county planner who helped craft an environmental plan for Reston, and a local business dedicated to reducing waste are among the recipients of this year’s Fairfax County Environmental Excellence Awards.
Handed out annually since 2000, the awards recognize residents, county staff, businesses and other organizations “who demonstrate extraordinary leadership within the community and exceptional dedication to the preservation and enhancement of the county’s natural resources,” according to the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination.
Announced at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 12), the winners were selected by the Environmental Quality Advisory Council, an advisory group appointed by the board. The council administers the awards with OEEC’s support.
“By giving their time, passion and expertise for the betterment of our environment, these awardees are true climate champions,” said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, who chairs the board’s Environmental Committee. “We applaud them for leading by example and helping to ensure that our county residents and visitors can enjoy a healthy and beautiful Fairfax County for decades to come.”
The lone winner in the individual county resident category was Mei Torrey, a rising senior at Langley High School who “promotes and actively seeks opportunities to increase awareness of, and take action on, local sustainability issues,” the OEEC says.
Now president of her school’s Saxons Go Green environmental club, Torrey has organized fundraisers and worked with the nonprofit Clean Fairfax to design and distribute reusable bags to local retailers and low-income communities, according to the county.
The 2023 award lineup features three winners in the “county employee” category:
Hugh Whitehead, an Urban Forester with the Urban Forest Management Division. In 2016, Mr. Whitehead initiated a tree planting program in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools. Since 2016, a total of 494 trees have been planted at twenty-one different K through 12 schools including seven Title 1 schools. This program not only supports the Board’s Sustainability Initiatives, reforestation goals, and recommendations from the Joint Environmental Task Force, but furthers educational opportunities throughout the county.
Joe Gorney, a Planner with the Department of Planning and Development, Environment and Development Review Branch. Mr. Gorney works collaboratively with other county agencies on a diverse range of environmental review topics, working to create a sustainable future for residents and employees. He was the staff lead for the Environmental Plan guidance update for the Reston planning study, designating Reston as “biophilic” community.
Craig Carinci, Director of Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Stormwater Planning Division. Mr. Carinci provides excellence in leadership through monitoring and improving stream health. During his tenure as Director, Fairfax County has restored over 100,000 linear feet of streams, facilitated by his open-minded leadership and business acumen that fearlessly encourages his team to push forward on initiatives and collaborate with partners to achieve cost savings.
The Environmental Excellence Awards for organizations and businesses went to Trace the Zero Waste Store, which can be found at 140 Church Street NW in Vienna, and the grounds committee of the Montebello Condominium Unit Owners Association.
Launched in fall 2021, Trace sells entirely plastic-free household and personal care products, including towels, cutlery, lotion and bags for food storage and waste.
“The store’s owner, Mala Persaud, goes above and beyond to educate residents through the Zero Waste Store’s website and community events,” the OEEC said. “There is always a good turnout whenever Ms. Persaud co-hosts a ‘Recycling: Ask Me Anything’ event with the Fairfax County Solid Waste division.”
The Montebello condo association’s grounds committee consists of 14 members tasked with helping preserve, maintain and enhance the residential property at 5905 Mount Eagle Drive in Huntington.
“Members put in many hours each year to develop and advocate for projects, identify and address threats to the grounds, introduce new approaches, undertake citizen science projects, host resident engagement programs, communicate through newsletters and materials, and much more,” the OEEC said. “Their impact benefits the residents, the neighborhood and the county.”
All of the award winners will be honored at a ceremony this fall, though an exact date and location haven’t been announced.
“We are fortunate to have these leaders working tirelessly in our community to preserve and protect the natural world we all share,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Their contributions make a significant impact and inspire others to join in the effort to build a more sustainable future.”
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