Outstanding Leader Nominees

Damon Barron - Founder and Owner, TreeCycle America (1st Place Winner)

Damon conceived the idea for TreeCycle America a few years ago and has since developed his passion for upcycling Charlotte’s downed trees that would otherwise end up in the landfill.  He used his own funds to establish a sawmill and kiln to process local Charlotte area trees into usable lumber. He has given talks to numerous organizations and established a Facebook page to spread the word about the benefits of using urban lumber. Damon even presented a TEDx Charlotte talk in 2015 about his concept.

Damon has developed a system by which newly planted urban trees will be given a certification number that will follow them until their eventual harvest and milling into products 100 or more years after planting. Users of the products will know that the tree was planted and cared for thoughtfully by their ancestors so they could enjoy its shade throughout its life and could continue to enjoy its function and beauty as durable wood products. This is a fantastic example of sustainability in thought and deed!

Bill Zuehlke - Curriculum Coordinator & Science Dept. Chair, Charlotte Latin School (2nd Place Winner)

For the past 5 years Bill has educated and created a campus wide TEAM of students and staff to reduce,recycle,compost and divert waste from the landfill. The original waste assessment at Charlotte Latin was done by students in his class in February 2011. At that time,7% of the waste stream was recycled and the remaining 93% headed to the landfill. By the 2014-15 school year, 77% of the waste stream was being recycled or composted and only 23% headed to the landfill. Today, 84-86% of waste is being recycled or composted. More than 3500 pounds of organic food waste was composted this week! The composting program has been so successful that the school has invested in its very own composter so that composting will be done on campus. In addition, Bill has planned events at Charlotte Latin to reach out to the community to educate and to encourage electronics recycling, proper disposal of household hazardous waste and safe disposal of pharmaceuticals with the help of law enforcement.

I met Bill soon after his students did their first waste characterization study. It is beyond inspiring to see an educator so dedicated to creating lifelong learners who understand the impact of their choices and behaviors. Bill never gives up. He just learns from the obstacles and remains focused.

Jill Walker - Dilworth Community Association (3rd Place Winner)

Jill has chaired the DCA Land Use Committee for many years (at least 10, and perhaps since inception), has negotiated dozens, possibly hundreds, of improvements to commercial and residential development  proposals, and acted as DCA point person on multiple Char-meck Planning initiatives. These last include the East Blvd. Pedscape Overlay Zoning District, the South End corridor Transit-Oriented Development Overlay Zoning District, and others (please don't underestimate what Jill has led and initiated action on for Dilworth - this nominator will fill out additional facts as needed).  

Kevin Gedney - Efficient and Renewable Energy Engineer, Energy Wise Solution

Kevin Gedney exemplifies the gold standard in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy. As an educator and trainer for a number of programs including LEED, HERS, Energy Star and BPI. Kevin expresses his passion for tools and practices that reduce our carbon footprint. He works tirelessly with builders and tradesmen on a daily basis to encourage the highest quality workmanship. Kevin personally facilitates energy retrofits on existing homes and insures that both the design and implementation of air sealing and insulation provide the highest benefit to the building environment. Customers show a great deal of appreciation for his detailed explanation of work that is done. Kevin's knowledge is widely sought after in the industry. Customer referrals and so great that Energy Wise Solutions does not have to advertise for business.

Kevin's detail and follow-up are his trademark characteristics. Every one of his business partners and customers become part of his family of energy efficiency and renewable energy advocates.

Steve Copulsky - Central Piedmont Group of Sierra Club Treasurer and NC Sierra Club ExCom Chair

Steve has been one of the driving forces behind the local Group and NC Chapter of Sierra Club for over 20 years. He has repeatedly taken positions of leadership within the organization and has served in the important capacity of Political Chair for many years. Steve researches the environmental stances of political candidates on many levels and the environmental voting records of elected officials seeking re-election. He oversees Central Piedmont Group endorsements of candidates who show concern for environmental issues and take progressive stances on protecting and enhancing the environment. He has his fingers on the pulse of activity related to clean air and water, smart growth choices and land preservation. Steve is also an Outings Leader and tries to foster concern for the environment by helping people explore and enjoy the outdoors.

Steve is a practical, effective leader who always steps up. He is the keeper of our organization's history. He is outgoing and always tries to balance work and fun.

Christophe Addison - Owner/Operator, The Greener Supply

Christophe is known far and wide in Charlotte as the "green packaging dude" - he's single-handedly responsible for ridding many area restaurants/places of business of non-recyclable/environmentally unfriendly take-out boxes, cups, cutlery, napkins, toiletries, you name it. Start talking to any local restauranteur/bakery/coffee house about how awesome your bioware packaging is, there's a 95% chance Christophe's been to see them, brought them samples, and is about to start serving them or already is. He's on a mission to lessen the waste created in the Queen City and it's amazing to behold. At last year's VegFest, for instance, held on Commonwealth Ave and Pecan in May, when people had trouble understanding which containers were waste vs compost vs recycling, he spent most of the 3-block long festival hand sorting people's trash. I've seen him dive into dumpsters to fetch discarded flourescent tubes in order to bring them to the proper recycling facility on multiple occasions.

This man is PASSIONATE about lessening the footprint we, as human Charlotteans, leave on this planet. Waste is his enemy and he's constantly thinking of new ways to reuse, recycle, repurpose. He lives his beliefs and it makes him a great spokesperson for waste reduction.

Clark Barlowe - Chef/Owner, Heirloom Restaurant

I work tirelessly to provide better quality food to an entire community. Locating my restaurant in a food desert of Mecklenburg County and then working with the Health Department, CMS, and area non-profits to provide better quality food to everyone. Sustainability has been my focus from day 1. I only source ingredients from NC farms, producers, and small businesses to make my restaurant not just a community business but a fixture of the community.

I never say no to something that can provide others with better quality food. From the Fresh Look Initiative with Mecklenburg Health Department, allowing our community to buy ingredients from Heirloom, to my work with CMS, and the state's homeless population. No other chef takes on what I do.

Bruce Henderson - Journalist, Charlotte Observer

He has been quietly and consistently covering environment and energy for 15 years with the Charlotte Observer, where he has been a journalist for 38 years.

He is consistent. He is knowledgable. He is the primary source for energy and environment news and developments in Charlotte. There is no else like him.

Jessika Henry - Co-owner, Ivy's Diaper Service

Jessika has painstakingly taken on a company in honor of her best friend, and increased awareness and availability of cloth diapers to the Charlotte and surrounding community. With her time and commitment the business has saved thousands of diapers and wipes from clogging landfills.

Jessika's commitment to the environment and providing accessibility and education to Charlotte and surrounding area about cloth-diapers.

Marcus Carson - Sustainability Manager, Mecklenburg County

Marcus Carson deserves this award because he’s making people think about the role they play in Charlotte’s future. About a year ago, I sat down with Marcus to learn more about his work as Mecklenburg County’s Sustainability Manager and I was impressed by his ability to clearly and concisely explain how every resident can play a part in making Charlotte a safer, smarter and more sustainable place to live and grow. In his role, Marcus manages 11 working think tanks focused on creating a vision for the future of our rapidly growing region. Additionally, Marcus has facilitated partnerships with more than 130 private, nonprofit and government organizations in support of these efforts.

Marcus' commitment to Charlotte's well-being is inspiring and his approaches are innovative. Each weekend, Marcus’ weekday words translate into action, as he takes to our streets on two wheels diverting food waste from landfills and placing our “trash” into the hands of local composters.

Aaron Newton - Lomax Farm Coordinator, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Aaron Newton manages the Lomax Incubator Farm, a USDA certified Organic teaching farm in Cabarrus County where the primary mission is to train the next generation of farmers. Aaron partners with Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Cooperative Extension NC State and UNCC to make educational opportunities available on the farm; not just for farmers-in-training but others in the community who want to learn more about growing food. The Lomax Farm includes a community garden and a 20,000 square plot used to grow food for local hunger relief efforts. Lomax Farm offers space for beekeepers and for local brewers who want to grow their own hops. Tours throughout the year provide the public with a way to learn more about not just where their food comes from but where the next generation of farmers is coming from. Aaron and the Lomax Farm are important assets in our effort to develop a healthier and sustainable food system in the Charlotte region.

Aaron has been able to knit together the broad coalition of people necessary to make the Lomax Farm a successful farm business incubator and in doing so has established a model for land-based farmer training in the Southeast.

Ed Barnhart - Park & Recreation Commission

Ed is a dedicated citizen who volunteers hundreds of hours every year for Mecklenburg County. Ed currently serves as one of our Park & Recreation Commissioners. He was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners in 2010. As a leader, a liaison and an advocate, he serves as the Chairman of the Greenway Advisory Council and as Vice-Chairman of the South Region Advisory Council. In addition, Commissioner Barnhart attends numerous meetings to hear input from the citizens of Mecklenburg County. Ed has a vision and a passion for our greenways. The Mecklenburg County greenway system is becoming one of the finest in the nation. Greenways improve water quality, reduce the impacts of flooding, and provide wildlife habitat. Greenway trails provide recreation, transportation, fitness options, and economic benefits.

Jackie Jarrell - Charlotte Water

Jackie Jarrell is inspirational by searching for sustainable initiatives to implement within the water treatment utility for the City of Charlotte. Her leadership at Charlotte Water, protects the public water supply for our community, provides treatment for our water which we return to Charlotte Water after using in our homes, industries, and businesses. The treatment provided is a solution to the pollution that each of us adds into our local water supply.

She works within the current needs of our homes and business wastewater treatment with a focus on the future of ensuring what will be needed is provided. Jackie understands what is needed to remove our pollutants and seeks to understand and determine applicability for sustainable initiatives within her work.

Keith Pehl - Optima Engineering, PA

Keith is the President and Founder of Optima Engineering, PA. Based in North Carolina with offices in Charlotte and Raleigh, Optima has provided high-quality M/E/P engineering and sustainable design consulting services to architects and design professionals throughout the Southeast for over two decades. With nearly 30 years of experience as an electrical engineer, and registrations in over 30 states, Keith is a strong advocate for sustainable and Net Zero design in communities nationally. He frequently speaks to various organizations on the topics of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and Net Zero energy facilities. He is the former State Advocacy Chair for USGBC North Carolina. A native of Charlotte, he earned an MBA from UNC Charlotte and an electrical engineering degree from North Carolina State University. I do not know anybody else who would deserve this award more than Mr. Pehl.

Lori Krzeszewski - Behailu Academy

Lori is an incredible, and visionary leader. Her concern for the underserved students in our area is absolutely unparalleled. She has put into place programs at Behailu Academy that have resulted in our students receiving incredible education in the arts and, more importantly, they have found a place to belong in a place to learn to use their voices.  She is currently working on creating interim housing for students who have aged out of the foster system but still need the support of a loving home environment while they learn to live independently.

Kristopher Steele - Community Leader

He is one of the founders of Crowntown Composting, works with Keep Charlotte Beautiful on recycling at tailgating, and created an edible walkway for his neighborhood. His yard is made up of garden beds, a green house and a chicken coop. Most of it was made or constructed from sustainable sources like old wood or windows. 

Lori Krzeszewski - Behailu Academy

Lori is an incredible, and visionary leader. Her concern for the underserved students in our area is absolutely unparalleled. She has put into place programs at Behailu Academy that have resulted in our students receiving incredible education in the arts and, more importantly, they have found a place to belong in a place to learn to use their voices.  She is currently working on creating interim housing for students who have aged out of the foster system but still need the support of a loving home environment while they learn to live independently.

Nimish Bhatt - UISAC

Nimish Bhatt has been very active in our Charlotte community. He has been doing lot of humanitarian services and support each community. Recently he has initiated a service shanti Niketan which comes under his UISAC umbrella to support our seniors and serve them. Nimish is actively involved with college students and refugees for their bright future. He has been always ready and willing to help any individual or organization without looking at their religious beliefs, race or nationality. Truly an awesome Human Being and an Asset to put Charlotte community and Humanitarian Service. He truly deserve this award.

Sushil Nepal - Principal Planner, Town of Huntersville (previously with Centralina Council of Governments)

Sushil Nepal served as a Project Manager to lead the creation of our region’s first ever Regional Growth Framework that will help us guide development patterns over the next 20-30 years. This collaborative work required a process to ensure transparency among stakeholders and allowed equal opportunities for residents to participate at every phase of the project. Mr. Nepal was able to demonstrate such capacity and brought together key stakeholders to create a planning process that was inclusive, bottom-up and most importantly able to maintain such process throughout the project. Sushil demonstrated a clear vision on what and how the Regional Growth Framework product should look like to make it relevant to our communities. He was able to communicate and get buy-in from the stakeholders; the result is a user-friendly magazine and an interactive website. This nationally recognized product will serve as a resource and guide for communities within our region. More at www.ConnectOurFuture.org. Sushil now serves as a Principal Planner, overseeing the long-range transportation and land use planning efforts, for the Town of Huntersville


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