Chicago Mag Awards City’s Green Pioneers

For the fifth time Chicago magazine dishes out awards to local businesses and professionals who are blazing new trails in environmental ideas and concepts.

The winners have been announced in the magazine’s April issue and the honorees are architect Nathan Kipnis, restaurateurs Dan Rosenthal and Ina Pinkney, fashion designer Lara Miller, activist Kimberly Wasserman, and city worker Matthew Stewart. Chosen from a list of more than 150 nominees, they will be congratulated at a reception at the Shedd Aquarium on March 30th.

Two of the winners have been recognized for their direct work in clean energy and emissions. Kimberly Wasserman was chosen for her pioneering work with the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. The alliance, which now has over 50 participating organizations, is the result of grass-roots environmentalists coming together to lobby for shuttering a pair of outdated coal plants. With the support of Alderman Joe Moore, the coalition introduced an ordinance in April 2010 calling for an emissions reduction at the coal plants.

Matthew Stewart became one of the winners for leading the city's efforts to minimize the carbon footprint of its municipal fleet. With millions in additional federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Ac, in 2010 Stewart bought more than 300 new police SUVs that run on ethanol. Stewart also applied Recovery Act grants to retrofit 200 garbage trucks and salt spreaders with a supplemental engine and heating devices to help reduce fuel usage. In 2011 Stewart will seek to boost the number of alternative-fuel cars and trucks and pieces of heavy equipment in the fleet, either by buying new or retrofitting the old with clean exhaust control systems and idle-shutdown timers.

The work of architect Nathan Kipnis also touches on principles of emissions reduction and clean power. Kipnis designed a home with two roofs that mimic a funnel, collecting rainwater that can nurture a roof garden below. Meanwhile, solar thermal panels harness energy when the sun is at its height. The home he designed also features high-efficiency furnaces, radiant floors, and low-to no-emission finishes, which don't give off harmful fumes. For the past few years, Kipnis has been laying the groundwork for the first Midwest offshore wind farm. The proposal been met with controversy, but Kipnis thinks the farm's potential to passively power every household in Evanston is an opportunity not to be missed.

Food and fashion

Dan Rosenthal and Ina Pinkney are the founders of the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op, an open membership collective that helps make green purchases affordable and includes nearly 450 restaurants and suppliers. The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op has become an information clearing-house and vetting agency for goods and services and a buyers' club that negotiates deep discounts for members looking to stock green products or replace equipment and appliances with energy-efficient models. Last year the co-op introduced Guaranteed Green, a local stamp of recognition for restaurants that have been certified as environmentally responsible through one of two national organizations (Green Restaurant Association and Green Seal). Today, there are 23 Guaranteed Green establishments, and Rosenthal and Pinkney hope to double that number by the end of the year.

Sustainable fashion was also awarded through the work of Sara Miller, a School of the Art Institute grad whose outfits have been worn by actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Emily Deschanel. Sara pays meticulous attention to the origins of her raw material and employs a trusted local knitter to handcraft every garment in her Wrigleyville studio. She focuses on knitwear and designs architecturally inventive cardigans and dresses that can be reversed or rewrapped to create more than one look per garment.

Image credit: Flickr/Chenected