Program Recipients

Springfield Area Green Leadership Program

This is a list of those businesses and organizations that worked to meet SSI requirements for levels of certification as a green business.  Bronze level represents an entry level position, silver must include two operations that significantly address renewable energy, tree/pollinator climate support, waste reduction or water conservation.  Gold level represents three operations addressing climate.  Large solar install, significant tree/pollinator sanctuaries and innovative waste practices are given extra weight.

Bronze Level 

Springfield Vintage – Bronze
Unique shops that express creative thinking help downtowns thrive.  Springfield Vintage is a quirky yet elegant place where one can purchase gently used goods with some comfort that the waste stream is smaller because of it.

Downtown Springfield, Inc – Bronze
Downtown Springfield, Incorporated has a team member that coordinates sustainability both in their office and in downtown Springfield, as well as the Old Capital Farmer’s Market. During staff meetings discussions investigate opportunities for training in sustainable practices. 

Silver Level 

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster Presbyterian has created an Earth Care Team that works with staff to initiate sustainability projects at the church.  The team communicates with congregation members and employees on sustainability tips, events and initiatives at the church.  It also promotes environmental stewardship practices at community events.  Westminster Presbyterian has focused its sustainability efforts in three areas: energy efficiency, waste reduction and biodiversity.  In addition to recycling conventional items like office paper and aluminum cans, Westminster Presbyterian recycles Christmas tree lights, dry-cell batteries and printer ink cartridges.  It has installed high-efficiency HVAC systems and upgraded lighting to LED technology.  The church has incorporated native plants into its landscaping to attract pollinators, installed nesting boxes and feeders for birds, and phased out the use of fertilizers and chemicals on its property.

Prairie Engineers – Silver
Prairie Engineers is known for its ecological surveys, from basic ecological evaluations to more intensive flora and fauna investigations.  They provide comprehensive expertise in habitat surveys, protected and endangered species surveys, and identification of potential ecological mitigation and enhancement options.  Their business office recycles, has energy efficient lighting and thermostats, uses only dry methods to clean outdoor hard surfaces and has solar panels as well as solar tubes installed on their roof.

Ecofluent – Silver
Ecofluent is intended to help people become more fluent in all the options available to help our planet.  With the growing population and increased need for food security and sustainability, they have planted over 200 fruit trees throughout Springfield.   Ecofluent provides education and resources for sustainable living including the use of low water use aquaponic facilities, composting, waste reduction and alternative energy.  It also is working to ensure all income levels have access to sustainable living practices.

Food Fantasies – Silver
Food Fantasies, operating since 1989, has offered locally grown fruits and vegetables, pesticide free produce and a variety of alternatives to beef products.  They offer fresh vegetarian lunches for takeout as well as vegan baked products daily that are organically sourced.  Packaging is recycled and a special fund can be contributed to if a customer chooses to skip the bag at checkout.  Non-plastic toiletries and earth friendly household products are a staple. 

Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church – Silver
Douglas UMC installed 69 solar panels and 2 inverters in the winter of 2019.  The church is surrounded with mature trees and shrubs.  Along with its regular recycling program, they are now redirecting compost material from social events to a nearby community garden.  A set of washable dinnerware is kept on hand for staff and low toxic cleaning methods are utilized for washing. They utilize energy efficient lighting.  Douglas UMC started the “Wooden It Be Lovely” project which offers hope and employment to women healing from lives of poverty, addiction, and abuse. They have continued to support this operation even though it now has it’s own 501 c3 status.

Creative Reuse Marketplace – Silver
Creative Reuse Marketplace, or CRM, is a coalition of diverse local organizations and innovative leaders within the community interested in working together to create a reuse, upcycling marketplace. Today the partners include the City of Springfield, Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, the Springfield Art Association, Inner City Mission, Third Presbyterian Church, and Sustainable Springfield, Inc. Awarded funds were used to create a workforce development training program for homeless or underserved women, as well as a location where upcycled materials for crafting or school projects are donated, sorted and/or redistributed locally.

The Keep Store – Silver
The Keep Store is Springfield’s First Refillery. What is a refillery?  A refillery is a place where you bring your own reusable containers to fill up personal care items and bath, kitchen & cleaning supplies to reduce the vast amounts of plastic waste piling up from dwindling recycling resources. The Refillery brings bulk sustainable brand products to Springfield to reduce single use plastics. They and their vendors ship items with minimal packaging that is recyclable or compostable wherever possible. 

Kidzeum of Health and Science – Silver
The Kidzeum of Health and Science – a vital part of the exhibits and camps at the Kidzeum offers hands-on sustainability awareness for students and visitors. On the grounds are native pollinator beds, recycling, roof solar panels, and exhibits on solar energy savings.  Recently, children planted 100 milkweed plants next to a new butterfly garden at Southwind Park.  Susan Helm and Brenda Larison, dedicated to planting pollinator gardens throughout the city, collaborated with Kidzeum and the Springfield Park District on this project.  The Kidzeum’s partnership with District 186 provides summer day camps which focus on STEM/STEAM literacy and social-emotional learning through exploration and play, where sustainable concepts are included.  Bicycle parking, efficiency in lighting, recycling, low toxic  cleaning  chemicals  use,  and  a   water bottle fill   station  are additional sustainable features at the school.

Springfield Art Association – Silver
The Springfield Art Association maintains 10 acres that host two native pollinator gardens, a grove of mature trees and a memorial tree-planting program with 13 trees planted to date.  Their recycling program is extensive. Director Betsy Dollar received sustainability training from Springfield’s Waste and Recycling Programs Coordinator Adena Rivas along with Kidzeum staff.  In addition to recycling traditional materials, creativity is utilized in reuse of all art supplies in various projects.  Staff recycle used clay weekly for reuse in classes and outside sales. Periodic sales of books and used art materials are also held. Throughout the years, earth care principles have been incorporated in many programs. Their new lab building on 5th St has high efficiency heating and cooling with motion sensor lighting, and water efficient plumbing.  

Gold Level

Crawford, Murphy & Tilly
​Several years ago, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly created a sustainability committee to oversee environmental and energy efforts at the consulting firm, including the development of an annual plan that guide its sustainability mission and initiatives.  The sustainability committee provides opportunities for staff to suggest ideas and strategies for greening the firm’s engineering programs and services.  CMT also encourages staff to participate in local sustainability initiatives, such as native plant restoration projects.  CMT has focused its sustainability efforts in six areas:  energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, vehicle emissions, green purchasing and biodiversity.   CMT’s recycling program has diverted 20% of the office waste from landfilling.  The firm has reduced building energy consumption by over 70% through a combination of equipment upgrades and the installation of a 394-kilowatt solar plant.  It is purchasing Energy Star computers and phasing in T-5 lighting fixtures.  Finally, CMT’s 25 engineering professionals routinely counsel communities and clients on ways to incorporate sustainability elements into infrastructure projects. 

Westminster Presbyterian Church – Gold
Westminster Presbyterian has created an Earth Care Team that works with staff to initiate sustainability projects at the church.  The team communicates with congregation members and employees on sustainability tips, events and initiatives.  It also promotes environmental stewardship practices at community events.  Westminster Presbyterian has focused its sustainability efforts in three areas: energy efficiency, waste reduction and biodiversity.  They have a commercial kitchen that keeps waste to a minimum from church and outside social events.  In addition to recycling conventional items, Westminster Presbyterian recycles Christmas tree lights, dry-cell batteries, and printer ink cartridges.  It has installed high-efficiency HVAC systems and upgraded lighting to LED technology.  The church has incorporated native plants into its landscaping to attract pollinators, installed nesting boxes and feeders for birds, and phased out
the use of fertilizers and chemicals on its property.

Maldaner’s Restaurant – Gold
Maldaner’s Restaurant works with its staff and local resource experts to identify and implement sustainability opportunities at the restaurant.  It has focused efforts in 6 areas:
Energy efficiency through led lighting, Waste reduction, Water conservation, Green purchasing, Renewable energy through rooftop solar panels and Biodiversity in their pollinator and bee rooftop farm.
Meals are made with locally grown fruits and vegetables and 10-15% of the restaurant’s energy needs are provided by the 50-panel solar facility.  The rooftop is also home to a beehive and native plant container garden for local pollinators.  Maldaner’s has sponsored several sustainability related events in the community including the Curb Your Car Commute Challenge, Annual Earth Awareness Fair
and Capital City Century bicycling event.

Crawford, Murphy & Tilly – Gold
Several years ago, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly created a sustainability committee to oversee environmental and energy efforts at the consulting firm, including the development of an annual plan that guide its sustainability mission and initiatives. CMT has focused its sustainability efforts in six areas:  energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, vehicle emissions, green purchasing, and biodiversity. CMT sustainability efforts are most visible with installation of 2,180 solar modules at the firm’s Springfield office providing approximately 75% of the office’s energy needs. As an infrastructure consultant CMT advances sustainability for communities with its in-house   environmental services team bringing expertise in air quality, natural resource management, environmental protection and a specialized “Quality of Place” practice that aids in developing more walkable and bikeable environments..

Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation – Gold
The Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation has a Green Sanctuary Team that meets monthly to develop ways the congregation can function in a more environmentally sustainable manner.  They focus on energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, vehicle emissions, green purchasing, renewable energy and biodiversity.  The team also sponsors an Ecology Camp every summer where local youth can learn about energy efficiency, recycling, and habitat protection.  ALUUC has recently completed converting their facility lighting from CFL to LED and a 5-kilowatt solar system has been installed.  A grove of trees has been established to provide shade, habitat, and a carbon sink for the atmosphere.  Thanks to Andrew Brunson and Becky Croteau, a prairie diverse in native species to replace 20 percent of the mowed lawn on the property has been established. 

Horace Mann Insurance Company – Gold
Horace Mann is one insurance company with a clear understanding of the major impact of climate change on the wellbeing of our planet. The company has made a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions – cutting their absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They began a major carbon-reduction initiative in 2019 at their Springfield headquarters, which included installing a new, more efficient HVAC system; installation of more than 500 solar panels; adding LED lighting and lighting motion sensors and replacing single-pane windows at the facility with double-pane insulated glass. Due to these improvements, they have reduced their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by more than one-third in two years, well on the way to meeting their goal. As an insurer, investor, employer, and corporate citizen, they continually work to better understand and manage climate risks that directly affect the insurance industry, their customers, insurance products and their investment portfolio.  Their $29.4 million green investment portfolio includes equity stakes in 36 LEED-certified real estate properties and 34 green investments. On their Springfield campus, Horace Mann has 8 workplace EV charging stations, bicycle parking, native plant beds supporting pollinator life, and a healthy grove of mature trees is maintained around the company grounds.

Illinois Environmental Council Office – Gold
The IEC has installed 9.72 kw of rooftop solar panels which offsets about 8 tons of carbon emissions each year. This equates to more than 40 percent of the building’s total annual consumption. Their kitchen includes a complete set of reusable items including cloth napkins for large local meetings by members and a compost area on site. The office uses boise aspen 100 % recycled copy paper and is set up to support video/phone conferencing, which is used internally as well as to support their membership by having groups utilize these sustainable facilities for meetings and events. IEC has recently lined the length of their office front with pollinator raised beds and are exploring a rooftop garden. 

Jubilee Farm – Gold
Creating and maintaining a wildlife habitat is one of the major reasons Jubilee Farm began. An important part of their ministry is the education of people on the environmental impact of one’s lifestyle.  With the help of students and volunteers, they have been actively engaged in on-going restoration work of their 164-acre site for over ten years. Through an Illinois Native Plant Society grant they have re-seeded large areas with native flowers for pollinators, resulting in some plants emerging never seen there in the past.  Migratory birds benefit from this restoration work in annual trips from South/Central America to the boreal forests in Canada. The farm has installed avian protections through bird and bat boxes, planted several dozen new trees over the years, and has maintained and protected a large, forested area on the farm. Jubilee Farm recycles more than just traditional materials including used motor oil, dry cell batteries, compact fluorescent bulbs, electronics, all scrap metal of varying sizes as well a variety of items including wood, fiber, and other reusable materials that are either reused or given to local used goods organizations. The farm has installed a rainwater collection system on the farmhouse that channels rainwater from the roof into the cistern for watering the garden. To reduce water use, they avoid planting any flowers that require a great deal of water. They have 2 hybrid vehicles and a new building which contains 16 solar panels and geothermal energy.

Audubon Society, Springfield location – Gold
The Audubon Society considers land stewardship a primary focus and staff and volunteers hold conservation a priority.  The organization has the daunting task of managing 3000 acres across 23 sanctuaries, 17 chapters and 2000 members. The facility in Springfield includes a well stocked kitchen with reusable serving ware to for 40 guests & visiting organizations cannot use disposable items. A water bottle fill station is on site, it’s state-wide policy is to provide bulk drinking water only – no disposable bottles. There is a heat-pump HVAC system with motion detecting lighting controls  throughout the building.  Materials of recycled content are used whenever appropriate, and the office recycles as many items as possible. The local office in Springfield, with the assistance of many volunteers, has created a vast wildlife habitat surrounding the building. Tree planting is their mission, and the 40 acres of the    Adams Wildlife headquarters are under the constant management to maintain and restore native habitat and remove invasive plants.

Special Mention

The Special Mention Awards gives kudos to organizations and people who have shown special leadership, excellence, and innovation toward helping our city grow in a sustainable direction. Springfield is blessed to have them in our community. 
Urban Forestry Commission – Excellence in Planning and
    Outreach in Tree Conservation

In response to local concern for tree loss, the forestry commission was reestablished in 2019.  In just two years, this team has managed to return Springfield to its Tree City status, achieve a net zero tree loss, develop youth outreach, distribute 1,000 trees to the public and secure a 20,000-tree survey grant for one quadrant from Morton Arboretum, spearheaded by Susan Allen. The grant required ordinance changes, which were written by Jan Van Qualen and reviewed by Jeff Reim.  With the first quadrant completed, the city arborist now has a clear picture of which tree types are too  numerous, their condition and how to diversify future plantings.  A system has been set up for the city arborist to quickly keep track of location, pruning/removal needs and new plantings each step of the way.  By locating mature trees that need treatment and establishing a pruning schedule, high value mature trees can be preserved instead of decaying from lack of care. Larger mature trees add to the city landscape, absorb more carbon, and lower the urban temperature. Seventy-nine different tree species were found in the survey. Statistics and other information can be found on the Urban Forestry Commission website and their preliminary report is available on our Sustainable Springfield website homepage.
Adena Rivas – Innovative Leadership and Design in Sustainable

Adena Rivas is the City of Springfield’s Waste and Recycling Programs Coordinator. Adena created a coalition of diverse local organizations and innovative leaders within the community interested in working together to make her vision of a reuse, upcycling marketplace a reality.  The coordinated effort began with a small grant awarded from the Re-Amp Network and resulted in the Creative Reuse Marketplace. Adena’s motto is “The distance between dreams and reality is action.”
Amy Shelton – Innovative Leadership and Design in Sustainable

Amy Shelton has been an avid environmentalist since high school biology and while climate change was concerning enough, once she became a grandparent, everything changed.  Seeing there were no refilleries in Springfield and taking a leap of faith, she decided to create the zero-waste refillery Keep Store while still holding a full-time job at Horace Mann.
Carey Smith and Erin Kirkpatrick – Leadership in Front Yard
              Pollinator Garden Design & Enos Park Pollinator Project

Carey Smith, who lives in the Enos Park Area, has created a living model of a well-designed sustainable front yard complete with native plants, trees, and shrubs.  In addition to her home, she manages the Enos Park Community Garden where she worked with Erin Kirkpatrick of the Sierra Club to create a large pollinator bed. Carey also worked with Susan Helm in establishing two pollinator beds at Enos Park.  The garden receives a great deal of support from Kumler United Methodist Church and partial grants from Enos Park Association as well as SIU school of medicine. SIU sponsored a set of field trip/ecology classes at the garden, which has a variety of fruit trees surrounding it’s raised garden beds.  Over 1,200 people have visited this garden in 2022.
Susan Helm – Excellence in Environmental Stewardship
and Outreach

Susan Helm, through her hard work and ability to bring people together, has founded a strong support system for pollinators throughout Springfield.  One of her beginning projects was with Michael Higgins on his rooftop garden above Maldaner’s, which is now a pollinator pocket and Monarch Waystation. Higgins says that when Helm gets something in mind, she dedicates herself to the project and inspires others to see the vision. She secured grants to pay for several plantings throughout Springfield and makes sure these survive by lugging jugs of water all over town during the growing season.

Susan presented three special awards:

Chuck Smith –
 Interurban Trail Restoration and Pollinator
Garden Project and Southwind Park Pollinator Project
Joel Johnson and Gregg Feeny:
 Interurban Trail Restoration
 and Pollinator Garden Project
Susan Helm and team: 
Alan Glossop and Art Menu – Southwind
        Pollinator Project Installation

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Our final three awards of the evening were very special Lifetime Achievement Awards for three individuals who have dedicated their lives to care and protect our Springfield and Sangamon Valley corner of the earth. The link between these three people shows what can happen when a small group of individuals dedicate their lives locally to care and protect our natural green space.  Our wild habitat is gradually shrinking as Springfield, Chatham and Rochester boundaries expand into one another. These three individuals have used their experience, courage, time, and insight to protect these areas.

Becky Croteau – Lifetime Achievement Award

Becky Myers Croteau has been in love with the Earth since a young child, receiving tutelage from her Native American Grandmother, who passed along wisdom and knowledge of the Earth. Becky began gardening at an early age and has continued to hone her skills all her life. She earned degrees in Biology through LLCC and Sangamon State University and taught at Ursuline Academy and Springfield High School, where she touched many young lives. After she worked with the EPA doing water quality sampling of lakes for ten years at the Illinois State Museum studying ancient plant communities. Becky’s love of nature brought her to the Nature Conservancy where they made her Site Steward for Carpenter Park. Here she organized volunteer work parties to remove invasive species and developed and planted a 20-acre prairie. Becky eventually became their Regional Site Steward for West Central Illinois, surveying and identifying high quality natural areas needing protection. At one point she did a stint as president of the IL. Native Plant Society. After earning a Master’s in Biology at ISU studying plant ecology & wetlands, Becky was hired as a Biology Professor at LLCC and was a member of the LLCC Sustainability Team. She helped many students through the LLCC Environmental Club, tended the existing LLCC prairie and developed a new prairie on campus. Numerous students of Becky’s pursued environmental related professions – environmental lawyers, environmental educators, biologists, botanists, nature restoration and environmental justice specialists. Newly retired, Becky is a member and organizes volunteers for the ALUUC’s Green Sanctuary team and is the Site coordinator for the environmental and social justice organization Faith In Place, where she continues her lifelong work of connecting people with nature.

Vern LaGesse – Lifetime Achievement Award
Vern grew up among the woods and streams where he developed a keen love of nature. It grew that much more when he worked underground construction on a 300 foot deep flood tunnel project, where during the winter days it was dark when he when in, and dark when he came out, rarely seeing daylight.  “There is nothing like being underground to give you an appreciation for life on top” Vern stated in an interview with NPR Illinois. Vern then started volunteering for the Nature Conservancy in the volunteer stewardship network.  He had a special skill set from his experience supervising and operating equipment in construction, and Vern knew how to motivate people. That would prove to be a valuable combination, along with his extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna in our Sangamon Valley watershed, benefiting many in his restoration and land protection work.  In 1995, he moved to Petersburg where he was hired by the Grand Oaks subdivision to plant prairie, manage their forest and create trails in their subdivision.  He then went on to work for the Nature Conservancy as the central Illinois land steward. Vern left the Nature Conservancy and in 1999 when Carter Brothers was looking to sell property next to Carpenter Park for a strip mall, he went on to work with a small group, including Bill Crook, to form and buy that land to protect it. The land was never sold, but the Friends of the Sangamon Valley, a not for profit land trust whose focus is in maintaining and enhancing significant lands in the lower Sangamon River watershed was born.  Since then FOSV has acquired around 400 acres and manages over 3,000 acres of property in nine counties. Lists of these properties can be found on our Sustainable Springfield website. Collaboration was key as Vern worked extensively with the Springfield Park District, Audubon Society, the City of Springfield and CWLP, and recently on Lake Springfield with property surrounding the lake.  Vern’s ability to form partnerships, talk farmers and others into preserving their land in trust for perpetuity and willingness to assist in hundreds of land projects throughout the area has been invaluable, and his work will be with us for generations.

Bill Crook- Lifetime Achievement Award
William Crook, Jr., or Bill Crook, as we all know him, was born and raised in Springfield Illinois. In the mid 70’s Bill began his career setting up his easel and sketching buildings and landscapes in Springfield. Although many just know his artwork, including his numerous sketches of the capitol dome and offices and various buildings in Springfield, Bill’s passion and knowledge extends to archeology, architecture, politics, ecology and the history of buildings, people, and the land. His artwork reflects this, transporting the viewer into whichever scene they are viewing. Seeing through Bill’s eyes give one a deep appreciation of nature, whether delving into the Sangamon River, viewing old growth oaks in Carpenter Park, or the various other landscapes he has created. Bill sees the world as a living being – he has stated “My art is a record of my hearts connections to the land, beauty and life”. He is an archivist, with almost 50 years of historical scenes in his archive, many which no longer exist. These give one perspective of the timelessness and timeliness of life in Central Illinois. When he met up with Vern LaGesse and other conservationists on his front porch in August of 1999, his passion for the land helped start the Friends of the Sangamon Valley land trust, with him as vice-president and eventually the second president of the organization. By the time he and Vern started visiting legislators to help with the process of saving the land, there were few offices that did not have a Bill Crook print hanging on the wall, which helped open the way for them to continue their mission. Years later Bill was a founding member of Sustainable Springfield and served as President on the board of the local chapter of the Sierra Club. The excellent 2017 book Bill produced – “Springfield Illinois, A Pen & Ink Artist Looks at His Hometown” lays out not only the history of the Sangamon River Valley but Springfield itself, from its start in 1832 to the Alternative Community Movement of the 1970’s and beyond. As Ron Sakolsky notes in the book, “William Crook Jr. is a visionary in the Vachel Lindsey mold…He is a shameless romantic in love with the subtle charms of the Midwestern Landscape. Through his drawings he acts as an interpreter for the bioregion, and as a deep ecology activist, he seeks to protect the local flora and fauna from human and institutional predators.”
As with Springfield’s Abe Lincoln and Vachel Lindsey, Bill will be remembered…