Meet Our Nominees, Finalists, and Awardee: The 2014 Luminary Awards

Maybe you heard…we had a pretty great time at GBA’s 2014 Emerald Evening.  This year’s Legacy Award winner, selected by GBA, was Richard Piacentini of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. But YOU helped select the winner of our “People’s Choice” Luminary Award!

In the weeks before the Emerald Evening, we received names of an amazing group of nominees who represented the best and brightest in a variety of fields – and a committee of GBA board and staff members had the difficult job of narrowing those down to a few finalists.  After (mostly) keeping the winner’s name a secret, I am delighted to share with you not only the name of the 2014 Luminary Awardee, but also the incredible accomplishments of the other three finalists and of our wonderful nominees.


Doreen PetriDoreen Petri: Science Teacher, Erie City School District
Doreen has been a tireless advocate for sustainability education in the Erie School District.  She is first a science teacher at Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, but also known as the leader of the district’s sustainability movement.  Doreen started with a classroom-based energy education program seven years ago and eventually created a district-wide system that is now a state-wide model.  Along the way, her efforts for the district have received many awards, most notably the National Environmental Education prize in 2012.  She would be the first to point out, however, that the most important aspect of her work is the environmental education that has impacted many district students.

Doreen’s efforts have culminated in a strategic plan that will make sustainability education “sustainable” for the foreseeable future.  The Erie School District was an inaugural member of GBA’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy (GHSA) and it is remarkable that Doreen convinced school representatives to make the monthly commute to Pittsburgh for two years.  Her efforts leading the district’s GHSA team to develop a comprehensive, student-based strategy are truly amazing, while her work has gone regional through collaborations with entities such as Gannon and Mercyhurst Universities and Destination Erie.


Fred Brown

Fred Brown: Associate Director of Program Development, Kingsley Association
In his role at the Kingsley Association in Larimer, Fred’s current projects include Imagine Larimer, a web-based program focused on educating individuals and communities about sustainability; the Urban Leadership Institute, a community sustainability program focused on preparing participants for careers in green technology; and the Junior Urban Leadership Institute, a leadership program that trains youth in civic engagement and workforce development skills.

Fred has been involved in nonprofit and education work for more than two decades, but a specific focus of his work includes bridging the divide between minority communities and their knowledge regarding energy reduction planning, carbon footprint analysis, and environmental justice leadership.

Through the years, Fred has received recognition for his varied areas of expertise, including violence prevention, community organizing, and environmental justice.  In 2002, he was named a 21st Century Environmental Justice Leader by the Ford Foundation and was trained in the Climate Justice Corps in 2003.  In 2012, he was named to the Federal Environmental Justice Climate Change Roundtable for the 13 federal departments signing the president’s Memorandum of Understanding on Climate Change.

A frequent public speaker, Fred has taught courses and presented workshops locally and nationally.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education and a master’s in social work, and has published four books.  Fred is a Luminary in our region because he helps ensure that vulnerable communities have the resources they need to achieve sustainability, resiliency, quality of life, and healthy spaces for all.


Angelica CiranniAngelica Ciranni: Sustainability Coordinator, Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County (SEA)
A former GBA intern, Angelica Ciranni has used her six years at the SEA as an opportunity to effect change at some of the largest buildings in Pittsburgh.  Working closely with those at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC), PNC Park, Consol Energy Center, and Heinz Field, Angelica has been a force for change, helping achieve everything from LED lighting retrofits in parking garages to LEED-EBOM Platinum certification for the DLCC.  As a public servant, you’ll often find her working behind the scenes and with very little public recognition, but her work is well-documented and very deserving of acclaim.  Not only has she helped keep Pittsburgh’s largest LEED building (DLCC) in the national sustainability event limelight, but she’s also been working directly with Pittsburgh’s three sports teams on incorporating sustainability into their everyday activities.

As a public authority representative, Angelica regularly engages in larger discussions about community sustainability, district energy, and resiliency on projects such as the Lower Hill Redevelopment, Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal steam plant, and Pittsburgh 2030 District.  A strong supporter of LEED projects of all types, it’s a little known fact that she is also responsible for supervising the DLCC’s public art collection.  If you’re wondering how healthy and high-performing spaces happen over and over again in Pittsburgh, look no further than Angelica, who has been leading these efforts from the shadows since her graduation from the University of Pittsburgh.  With SEA’s late-1990s commitment of the DLCC to LEED certification as her cornerstone, Angelica has personally led two LEED Platinum certifications (DLCC, EBOM and SEA, CI) and seeded what could become a third (Lower Hill Redevelopment, ND).  She exhibits diligence and commitment to certified green places for all — traits she’ll bring to PNC Financial Services in late August 2014, when she becomes their Sustainability Analyst.


LauraLaura Nettleton: Owner & Principal, Thoughtful Balance
Laura’s firm, Thoughtful Balance, is a sustainable architecture and design firm in Pittsburgh.
Dedicated to sustainability and energy conservation, Laura began the company through the realization that she didn’t need to wait for certain clients or projects in order to utilize green building practices, but instead could use those practices as a way to approach design through any project on which she worked.  Laura has been involved in many LEED-certified projects in Western Pennsylvania, including the Felician Sisters Convent (see the USGBC project profile here) and Homestead Apartments (the first LEED-certified affordable housing project in our region).  Her firm was also the first in Western Pennsylvania to embrace Passive House, a rating system that can save 80% of energy used in normal buildings.  (One of the firm’s projects is an 1,800-square-foot house that is heated and cooled for about $30 per month.)

Laura became interested in energy-efficient design in 1995 while working at Perkins Eastman Architects, where she was a founding member of the firm’s Green Committee.  Now, she is the president of PHWPA – Passive House Western Pennsylvania (formerly the Pittsburgh Energy Network) and writes a quarterly newsletter (Positive Energy) that engages the broader public in ideas about energy conservation and sustainability.   Laura’s portfolio includes the first certified Passive House in Western Pennsylvania, the first multi-family Passive House retrofit in the U.S., and the first Passive House health clinic in Pennsylvania.

“We operate from the basic premise that all buildings we create will be analyzed for the footprint they make,” says Laura.  “Environmental stewardship is what we do and is an integral part of the services we provide.”

Laura is a true Luminary in Western Pennsylvania because she has used her knowledge and experience to make healthy, sustainable buildings more accessible to everyone (through both pro-bono and mission-based work, and her commitment to healthy and durable affordable housing) and because she has been the catalyst behind introducing a new type of green building to our region.


Kirsten Christopherson-Clark: Administrator, Waldorf School of Pittsburgh

Kirsten is a dynamic leader, an inspiring educator, and, quite simply, a gem of a human being.  As the administrator of the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh (WSP), she has led the school’s community in a whole-grounds and facility study to best understand how to bring a cohesive vision for the whole grounds into reality, with a focus on rejuvenating the earth, the building, and our relationships with each other.  Kirsten also chaired the school’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy team and expansion committee, and helped clarify and deepen understanding of what it means to be a “green school.”  This work has influenced the entire community and, through her leadership, the community has committed to being a green and healthy place where conscientious decisions are made beyond cleaning products, paints, and construction work – although these are quite important to her.  For Kirsten, sustainability is more than understanding the physical plant of the school building – it is about creating a culture where every person is valued and contributes to the well-being of the community.

One of Kirsten’s talents is working collaboratively with others and this is evidenced in the Green & Healthy Schools Academy and expansion committee work, as well as her work on the board of trustees, finance committee and chairing the school’s administration.  She leads by example, but also wants to work with others.  Her respect and interest in others allows for groups to make healthy and clear decisions that are in the best interest of the school as a whole and she often does not take the credit she deserves for helping facilitate excellent decision-making.

All of the hard work and great advancements Kirsten has achieved at WSP has changed the school and community for the better, but it is really working with her that makes her the perfect person for this award.  Kirsten brings a sparkle with her wherever she goes and each person who meets her experiences a true and pure interest and respect.  These qualities make her truly inspiring to work with and someone who illuminates dark times with light, creatively and carefully helps resolve conflicts, and creates an environment filled with warmth, caring, laughter, and a striving for excellence in work.  She inspires the best from those with whom she works and is truly worthy of being called a Luminary.

Kirsten holds a B.A. in international communication and German from Dana College and an M.Ed. and Waldorf Teaching Certificate from Antioch New England Graduate School.  Previous to being the school’s administrator, Kirsten was a class teacher in several Waldorf Schools, including Milwaukee (at the first public Waldorf School), in Ohio (at Spring Garden Waldorf School), and at the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh.  Since becoming a Waldorf teacher in 1996, she has brought a palpable interest in helping students, colleagues and parents form genuine connections to the earth, as well as to each other.


Gary Diley: Vice President of Technical Services and Environments, Erie Insurance

The late Dr. Suess may call this VP of technical services and environments, Gary Diley, the “Lorax of Buildings” for Erie Insurance’s headquarters and its various owned or leased branch locations (Harrisburg, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Murrysville, Philadelphia, PA; Peoria, IL; Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, IN; Hagerstown and Silver Spring, MD; Rochester, NY; Charlotte, NC; Nashville and Knoxville, TN; Canton and Columbus, OH; Richmond, Roanoke and Waynesboro, VA; Parkersburg, WV and Waukesha, WI. )  In his nearly 30-year career with ERIE, Gary has created and maintained sustainable building environments for approximately 795,000 GSF of ERIE’s owned properties.  His contributions for ERIE and broader planning efforts for energy efficiency through ENERGY STAR partnerships, lighting innovations, LEED certification, waste management and recycling, commissioning, and productivity benchmarks are inspiring.

He’s forged partnerships and supported community efforts with his technical services and thought leadership for organizations such as the Erie School District’s Green Schools Board, Gannon University and Mercyhurst Environmental committees, the Perry Square Alliance, Environment ERIE, and several property management organizations. In 2008, he formally created and currently leads the Fortune 500 corporation’s EcoERIE sustainability efforts.  Gary hold an MBA and Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Penn State University.  He is also a LEED Accredited Professional. 


Amy George: Sustainability Coordinator, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh

Amy George is the first of her kind…the first on-staff sustainability coordinator at any YMCA in the country.  As such, she is ensuring that organization – which is committed to building a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all – is also creating healthy spaces in which it carries out its mission.  In her role,  Amy serves as the catalyst to integrate sustainability into the YMCA culture through association-wide program development, coordination, and integration.

Under her direction, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh has developed a stringent green building policy to evaluate the best methods for minimizing environmental impacts and creating healthy and safe spaces for its community.  The Y has also tested innovative strategies in its swimming pools, such as adopting a moss filtration system to greatly reduce chlorine levels (which can result in swimmer’s lung and other health issues).  Amy works to build partnerships with organizations like Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and Grow Pittsburgh to produce urban gardens at Y branches that help feed the community and provide healthy examples for kids in the Y summer camp program.

In addition to her role at the Y, Amy serves as the secretary of the board of directors at Construction Junction and volunteers with multiple community sustainability and environmental groups.  She is a LEED Accredited Professional and holds a Master’s of Science in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University.  Prior to joining the Y, Amy practiced interior architecture and design in Chicago, where she focused on integrating sustainability seamlessly into the built environment.

Through her work, Amy has been building national examples.  She regularly fields calls from YMCA branches across the country with questions about how her sustainable activities can be duplicated.  The U.S. Green Building Council has also contacted her to see if there are opportunities to develop a formalized model for other branches.  Amy’s innovative path and her true commitment to creating healthy spaces for all are what make her a Luminary in Western Pennsylvania.


Wanda Guthrie: Chair of Environmental Justice Committee, The Thomas Merton Center

In Wanda’s role as chair for the Thomas Merton Center’s environmental justice committee, she coordinates a number of organizing campaigns – including divestment from fossil fuel and raising awareness about the dangers associated with fracking.  Wanda is a strong advocate for creating a nurturing and sustainable world that is guided by values that secure the safety and protection of all life on the planet.

Wanda is a long-time community organizer working on environmental issues.  She founded several local groups, including Roots of Promise, Westmoreland Marcellus Protest Group, and the Divestment from Fossil Fuel Campaign. Currently she is working with the Sierra Club to gather together 100+ people to attend the People’s March in New York City to end global warming being nationally organized by Bill McKibben and   Wanda’s leadership, integrity, and ability to organize faith-based communities around environmental justice issues are what make her very special.


Mont Handley: Founder & CEO, Pitt Moss

For years, Mont has been working to create an alternative to peat moss, which is harvested from peat bogs.  Peat bogs play an important role in filtering carbon from our atmosphere.  As they come under increasing pressure from harvesting, our planet’s natural defenses are compromised.  After years of effort, Mont has developed a bio-agent that, when mixed with recycled paper, creates a synthetic alternative to peat moss.

Pitt Moss now provides commercial growers and residential gardeners a sustainable alternative to peat moss that is cheaper and has superior results.


Kathleen Hower: Co-Founder & CEO, Global Links

As the first still-usable suture was diverted from an operating room trash can in 1989, Global Links came into being and has been developing and championing sustainable practices for 25 years.  Kathleen has built a ground-breaking and award-winning nonprofit organization around principles of sustainability that are reflected in every step of Global Links’ unique and successful process of “Sharing Surplus and Saving Lives.”

Global Links has been an essential partner in the “greening” of hospitals in Pittsburgh, across Western Pennsylvania, and beyond. Providing a resource to the medical and business community that enables them to redirect usable furnishings and surplus materials away from waste receptacles to communities that need them has reduced landfill use in Western Pennsylvania, along with the unconscionable waste of valuable, life-saving goods.  In 2013 alone, Global Links diverted nearly 300 tons of usable surplus that was destined for our region’s landfills.

Global Links was the first medical surplus recovery organization (MSRO) in the United States to focus on hospital surplus and continues to be a pioneer in the field, creating programs that work within a hospital’s business model, while auditing waste streams based on daily workflow or situational circumstances (renovations, consolidations, etc).  Global Links is the only five-time winner of a Champion for Change Award from Practice Greenhealth, a national healthcare membership organization.  The award is given to honor outstanding environmental achievements in the health care sector, and is presented to health care product and service providers that have achieved success in greening their own organizations and assisted others who are committed to improving their environmental performance.

In developing countries, healthcare facilities often lack the supplies and equipment necessary to provide even basic care to their patients, resulting in needless suffering and deaths.  Over the past 25 years, Global Links has responded to this crisis with more than 500 tractor-trailer loads of donations (valued at nearly $184 million), improving the quality of care for thousands of individuals and, in some communities, making medical care available where before there was none.

An increasing amount of this usable surplus is supporting a growing network of community partners, ranging from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Operation Safety Net, Genesis House, and other free clinics, resource centers, and recovery homes in Western PA.

Global Links’ influence in our region goes well beyond recovered tons of materials, however.  The organization provides the opportunity for volunteers—over 2,000 individuals of all ages and backgrounds—to have a real, measurable impact on the environment and lives of those less fortunate.  Their experiences at Global Links provide a tangible affirmation that the world is smaller than we think and that we’re all connected.

In October of 2013, Global Links celebrated the opening of its new headquarters.  After seven years of searching for a suitable property, the 58,000-square-foot warehouse with administrative offices replaced three inefficient rental properties.  The two-story, natural light-filled facility provides an opportunity to turn an existing structure into a permanent home and renovate it to meet the needs of both people and planet. 

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