Readers' Choice Awards 2011: Meet the Finalists

For the first Whole Living Awards, featured in our April 2011 issue, we asked readers to submit their nominations for a "Readers' Choice Award," which honors a woman doing remarkable work on behalf of the environment, health, or sustainability in her community. 

Our winner, Tina Quinn (pictured), was recognized for her impressive work encouraging environmental education in her local schools, as well as lobbying to remove a common waterway pollutant from automobile brake pads. Here, meet Tina and five more amazing women we selected as finalists for the Reader's Choice Award -- each one deserves a major salute! 

Winner: Tina Quinn
Hometown: Palos Verdes Estates, California
Nominated by: Debby Stegura, a colleague

About the winner: Tina first started working on environmental issues in 1986, when she used her real estate broker's license to purchase land for hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains with the local land trust, Mountains Restoration Trust. In 1990, she cofounded a nonprofit organization called Sustainable Conservation, which believes that protecting the environment can also be good for business. 

Today, Tina continues as an active board member at Sustainable Conservation, whose most recent accomplishment is having signed into law SB346, which phases out copper from being used to make vehicle brake pads. Copper is the largest human-generated source of contaminants in California's urban watershed runoff and harms salmon, shellfish, and other aquatic species. SB346 was called "the most important bill for the environment passed in the state of California in 2010." 

As if Tina's statewide (and even national) impact were not enough, she uses her abundant energy, intelligence, and wit to educate her community about environmental and sustainability issues. As president of the local PTA council, representing 16 schools in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, she challenged PTA presidents to "Do one thing differently -- something good for the environment at your school to change the way people think." This started a wave of change in the district with recycling, garden, and composting projects. 

Three years later, thanks to Tina's efforts, each school has a Green Week in which all of the district's 12,000 students participate. In December 2010, Tina cofounded another nonprofit organization, Sustainable Palos Verdes Schools, to support the environmental activities in the school district. The idea is that by saving the planet we will save teachers' jobs -- and she couldn't be happier doing it for her three daughters, her husband, and her community.

Finalist: Sue Burns 
Hometown: Lake Leelanau, Michigan 
Nominated by: Lisa Brookfield, general manager, baabaazuzu, inc. 

About the finalist: "Sue started baabaazuzu 17 years ago and has been making handmade, one-of-a-kind outerwear and accessories out of upcycled woolens ever since. The company saves a ton of textiles per month destined to be in the landfill, and turns them into beautiful wearable art. Over the years, Sue has incorporated smaller and smaller pieces in her designs to further reduce waste. She is also one of the larger area employers, providing jobs to 18 people in-house and contracting with other local manufacturers to provide another 20 jobs, including contracting with a service provider, Grand Traverse Industries, which gives work to people with special needs and disabilities." 

Finalist: Joanne Campbell 
Hometown: Croton-on-Hudson, New York 
Nominated by: Brooke Thomas, her daughter 

About the finalist: "My mother has been a whole-living and holistic health-care provider her whole life. In 1996, Before the trend of green living, she took her critical-care nursing skills and traded up to become a holistic nurse. She was the 96th person in the world to complete this training, and she put her learning into action immediately. She dreamed of an alternative healing space within a hospital that offered nutrition, exercise, and alternative care options. Fast-forward to today, and it is clear she has more than accomplished her goal: She has successfully implemented several health and wellness programs in the New York and New Jersey area. She is currently the director of the Wellness Club in Mohegan Lake, New York. She is a pioneer, leader, and inspiration in the field of alternative healing." 

Finalist: Karen "Mimo" Davis 
Hometown: St. Louis
Nominated by: Becky Homan, garden writer, retired garden editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

About the finalist: "Mimo is a horticulturalist working hard in inner-city north St. Louis -- in what is otherwise a food desert -- teaching residents how to grow their own fruits, herbs, and vegetables. One of her current projects, as the horticulture educator at Lincoln University's Urban Impact Center of St. Louis, started out as an effort to find farmers to provide fresh produce to the year-old North City Grocery Co-Op. But she had a better idea: Take the two acres behind the store and turn it into farmland. Another of Mimo's projects is helping women prisoners at the city hall's medium-security institution build a series of terraced vegetable beds. Mimo's work took her last October to Torino, Italy, representing St. Louis at the Terra Madre conference launched by Slow Food International to give a voice and visibility to small-scale farmers." 

Finalist: JoAnne Grabinski 
Hometown: Meriden, Connecticut
Nominated by: Ginny Chirsky, president of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association 

About the finalist: "JoAnne is currently working on a Master of Arts in experiential health and healing; her culminating project is a butterfly and bee garden at the QRWA headquarters. The aim is to create a sanctuary for butterflies and bees, as they are nature's pollinators and key components of a healthy and sustainable food source. Recently, honeybees have experienced colony collapse disorder, where they leave the hive for no apparent reason -- the tremendous impact is no bees, no pollination, no food. The garden will lay the foundation for QRWA's Environmental Educational Center, a place where kids and adults can learn about nature and the strengthening of this fragile relationship. This is the start of something good -- for ourselves, our community, and our environment." 

Finalist: Dorothy Hight 
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska 
Nominated by: Mary Rydesky, CEO, Transition Management 

About the finalist: "Dorothy has spent 35-plus years training native Alaskans from rural villages (mostly not reachable by roadway) to work as community health aides in 200-plus local clinics. In places where doctors and nurses do not live due to remoteness, these aides become the source of wellness advice, sickness treatment, and first response in times of crisis. This program is unique in the United States, and Dorothy is unique in her knowledge and dedication to this program. Moreover, she has influenced multiple generations to focus on blending traditional wisdom and modern health care."

About the Readers' Choice Nominees

  • 42 percent launched a business or nonprofit
  • 21 percent are local/organic foodies by trade
  • 10 percent were nominated by their mothers
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