We had another fantastic Captain Planet Foundation Gala this year! Each year the Captain Planet Foundation Gala, held at the Georgia Aquarium, raises funds for programs which help youth develop into environmental stewards, and also provides an opportunity to recognize individuals for their extraordinary environmental stewardship. We had another sold-out crowd this year with some amazing award recipients and inspiring entertainment. The Captain Planet Foundation has recently announced it’s incredible achievement of funding one million children directly through it’s environmental education programs. The gala is an important fundraising event for the foundation, but also a time to look back on our achievements and celebrate eco-heroes that are leading the way.
Erin Brockovich received the 2013 CPF Protector of the Earth Award. Made famous by a movie starring Julia Roberts, she is a consumer advocate, author and consultant who was the force behind the largest environmental injury settlement in U.S. history. But Erin hasn’t stopped there, today she uses her notoriety to spread positive messages of personal empowerment and to encourage others to stand up and make a difference. She has written a New York Times bestseller, Final Justice With Erin Brockovich, and appeared on TV series on both Lifetime and ABC highlighting environmental injustice. As President of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is currently involved in numerous environmental projects worldwide. She took the opportunity to share with gala recipients her current project where she is mapping cancer clusters nationwide, in an effort to identify high risk areas, where environmental conditions could be to blame.
David Suzuki, Ph.D., and Tara Cullis, Ph.D., of Vancouver, Canada, husband-and-wife scientist/environmentalist/ author team who are forceful spokespeople about global climate change and founders of the David Suzuki Foundation received the 2013 CPF Exemplar Award. On a personal note, I was so excited to meet them, true eco-heroes but also the parents of Severn Suzuki who at 13 years old spoke at the 1992 UN Rio Conference and is known as the girl who silenced the world. Her speech had a profound impact on me and is something I continue to look to for inspiration.
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and UNEP’s Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 28 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the multi-award winning long-running CBC science and natural history television series The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. In 1990 he co-founded with Dr. Tara Cullis, The David Suzuki Foundation to work with “government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based education, advocacy and policy work for social change that today’s situation demands”. His written work includes more than 54 books, 19 of them for children.
His wife, Dr. Tara Cullis, is an award-winning writer and Founder, President, and Vice-Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation. Dr. Cullis was a key player in efforts to protect BC’s Stein Valley, the Xingu valley of the eastern Amazon, and Colombia’s Choco rainforest, and contributed to the successful battle for South Moresby (Gwaii Haanas), the Great Bear Rainforest, and the struggles for Sarawak in Malaysia and the Ainu regions of northern Japan.
Dr. Cullis was for years the Vancouver coordinator in the successful struggle of the Lil’wat and Lytton people to save the Stein Valley from logging.
She was the key fundraiser for the First Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples of the Lower Amazon at Altamira, which successfully blocked Brazil’s 80-dam Plano 2010. She is a founder of the Kayapo’s Pinkaiti Research Station, the first and only research station in the lower Amazon. As a direct result of these two initiatives, “Today the 5,000 Kayapó Indians control, legally and physically, a … forest totaling 28.4 million acres — by far the planet’s largest block of tropical forest protected by a single indigenous group” [Conservation International].
She was an organizer and MC of the Earth Parliament (the First Nations conference) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and has founded many organizations, including the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECHO) which made a large impact at Rio in 1992.
She founded Our Common Ground, a half-native, half-non-native group of women who put together the first computerized, annotated bibliography of educational and literary materials by, for, or about B.C. First Nations people. She founded Eco-Colombia (British Columbians for Colombia); Brazilian-Canadians for the Amazon; and North American Friends of the Ainu (working to protect the salmon-bearing streams in Hokkaido, Japan).
Her list of accomplishments is long and has impacted the world over.
Tom Szaky was the recipient of the 2013 CPF Green Innovator Award. He is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc, one of the world’s foremost leaders in eco-capitalism and the reuse of non-recyclable, post-consumer waste.
Tom came to the United States in 2001 when he matriculated as a Princeton University freshman. In 2002, he took a leave of absence to dedicate himself full-time to starting TerraCycle, which began as a two-man outfit in a dorm room in Princeton. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy only one year into starting the business, Tom turned down a million dollar grand prize from the Carrot Capital Business Plan because the investors wanted TerraCycle to become less focused on being environmentally responsible.
Even without the investor’s money, TerraCycle had its breakthrough in 2004, selling its little-known fertilizer to The Home Depot and Walmart – two of the world’s biggest retailers. Today, TerraCycle’s Global Headquarters occupies a 25,000 sq. ft. factory in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ, and is a second chance employer as part of its pledge to being socially beneficial to the local community.
In 2008, TerraCycle began works with major companies such as Kraft Foods, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Frito-Lay, Mars, Kashi, L’Oreal and many more to sponsor the collection of post-consumer packaging. With the help of these sponsors, TerraCycle pays schools and non-profits two TerraCycle points, (one point is equal to one cent) for every piece of packaging collected. These points can be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts or for cash donation to the collector’s charity of choice. TerraCycle recycles or upcycles the collected ‘waste’ material into affordable, innovative products sold online at www.terracycleshop.com and at major retailers. Today over 125,000 organizations worldwide have helped collect over 2.5 billion pre- and post-consumer wrappers, while earning over $7 million dollars in donations.
In 2012, TerraCycle became the first company in history to conduct the widespread collection and recycling of cigarette filters (butts). After developing a technology to sanitize and recycle the cigarette butts, TerraCycle started working with major cigarette manufacturers to fund the free collection of cigarette related waste by anti-litter groups and beach clean up efforts.
All of this and Tom is only 31, named the #1 CEO in America Under 30 by Inc. magazine in 2006!
Each year the Captain Planet Foundation likes to honor a youth making a difference in their community by being an environmental steward. This year Charles Orgbon III was the recipient of the 2013 Captain Planet Young Superhero For Earth Award for his creation of the organization Greening Forward.
Greening Forward youth partners come from all over the world and find Greening Forward’s +110 curriculum resources, grant programs, skill-building tools, and mentorship opportunities helpful in their youth-driven campaigns to effect environmental change at the local and global level. Currently, Greening Forward serves more than 2,000 young people directly and has impacted 10,000 other community members. Charles holds a number of national leadership positions and awards in the youth service field. Charles serves a board member for Youth Service America and Earth Force; and, a teen board member for the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter.
Charles is a shining example of Captain Planet Foundation’s mission, to educate and empower future generations of environmental stewards. Through his work he has undoubtedly also inspired future environmental stewards.
It was an amazing lineup of eco-heroes and inspiring evening for everyone. I can’t wait to see what next year brings! You can learn more about the gala and all of CPF’s award recipients at the Captain Planet Foundation website.
I would also like to thank all of our amazing and generous sponsors, particularly, the Isdell Family Foundation, Atlanta Magazine, Cadillac, Davis, Pickren, Seydel & Sneed, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, Pratt Industries, the Turner Foundation and Georgia Power.