Global Environmental Leadership Award

Image of statue

The Walden Woods Project Global Environmental Leadership Award recognizes significant achievement in the areas of climate stability, biodiversity, natural resource stewardship, human understanding, and global environmental policy. It draws its inspiration from the foundational thinking of Henry David Thoreau and builds upon his ageless principles of environmental stewardship, global interconnectedness, and personal responsibility.

henley-redfordRobert Redford is recognized the world over for the roles he has played and the projects he has directed or produced throughout a distinguished stage and film career. His passion remains to make films of substance and social/cultural relevance, as well as to encourage others to express themselves through the arts. Believing that it is the unexpected and uncommon, which ultimately enlivens the cultural ecology of a society, Redford has nurtured several generations of innovative voices in independent film through his non-profit Sundance Institute and Film Festival. Harvard Business Review observed, “Sundance has become to Hollywood what Silicon Valley has been to the high-tech industry.”

He is an ardent conservationist and environmentalist, a man who stands for social responsibility and political involvement and an artist and businessman who is a staunch supporter of uncompromised creative expression. His life-long passion for nature and issues of justice has resulted in Redford being widely acknowledged as a highly effective and dedicated political and environmental activist.

Redford has received numerous awards for his environmental work, including the 1989 Audubon Medal Award and the 1987 United Nations Global 500 Award, the 1993 Earth Day International Award and the 1994 Nature Conservancy Award. He was also the recipient of the 1997 National Medal for the Arts by President Clinton and the 2001 Freedom in Film Award presented by the First Amendment Center. He was honored with the 2002 Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts: Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2004 Forces for Nature Lifetime Achievement Award from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In December 2005, Redford accepted the Kennedy Center Honors for his “distinguished achievement in the performing arts and in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the life of our country.” And, in 2011 he was named Conservationist of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation.

The Walden Woods Project is proud to present its second Global Environmental Leadership Award to Robert Redford.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

In 2014, the Walden Woods Project recognized one individual and three organizations that have focused on unique environmental challenges at a local, regional or national level.

These Challenge Awards highlight a focus of purpose and effort that has allowed the recipient to create new opportunities and solutions to a specific pressing question. Their efforts serve as a model for others who would face similar challenges and who seek an effective, constructive and sustainable outcome. As such, they represent many others who could be similarly recognized.

Student Conservation Association–Charlestown, NH/Arlington, VA


The Student Conservation Association (SCA) empowers America’s young people to plan, act, and lead while making a tangible impact in conserving our nation’s natural and cultural resources. Engaging youth from diverse backgrounds in hands-on service to the land, SCA protects and restores national parks, marine sanctuaries and urban greenscapes in all 50 states. This practice also yields an additional impact on the individual, as studies show the SCA experience promotes personal growth, inspires lifelong stewardship, and provides a pathway to productive careers.

The nation’s first and largest youth conservation corps, SCA was founded in 1957 by Liz Putnam. A recent college graduate at the time, Liz first proposed the idea of a “Student Conservation Corps” two years earlier in her senior thesis. From there, SCA launched a nationwide youth conservation movement and this summer the organization marked a milestone by deploying its 75,000th member.

Nine of out 10 SCA alumni remain active in conservation and sustainability through their careers, studies or volunteer activities, a persuasive indication that SCA is fulfilling its mission of “building new generations of conservation leaders.”


Accepting the Award on behalf of the Student Conservation Association were Kevin Hamilton, Vice President for Communications, and Sophia Bass-Werner, SCA Alumna and UMass Boston student.

For further information, visit

Deepika Kurup–Nashua, NH

"USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image"
“USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image”

Deepika Kurup is a junior at Nashua High School South. She has been passionate about solving the global water crisis ever since she was in elementary school, as she was exposed to the water problem at a very early age. Deepika developed a novel pervious composite that filters water, and harnesses sunlight to purify water through a process known as photocatalysis. Her method is a green, sustainable and cost-effective technique for degrading organics and destroying bacteria in wastewater.

Earlier in 2014, she was honored at the White House with the United States President’s Environmental Youth Award from the Environmental Protection Agency. Also in 2014 Deepika was the national winner of the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize. She was also invited to present at the 2013 White House Science Fair. In 2012, Deepika was named “America’s Top Young Scientist” after winning the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. In her free time, she enjoys giving talks and writing articles to encourage students all around the world to pursue science, technology, engineering and math, and to increase awareness of the global water crisis. Deepika is also an ardent fan of martial arts and has a black belt in karate and taekwondo.


Deepika’s guests at the award dinner were Pradeep Kurup, her father; Meena Kurup, her mother; and Anjali Kurup, her younger sister.

Sky Island Alliance–Tuscon, AZ

Jack Dykinga/AZ Highways trip
Jack Dykinga/AZ Highways trip

The Sky Islands are a world-renowned hotspot for wildlife diversity. In this unique place, mountain islands meet a sea of grasslands and deserts, creating habitat for a mosaic of native plants and animals – from the magnificent jaguar and white-nosed coati to the elegant trogon. However, the Sky Islands and the life they support are increasingly threatened by disappearing habitat, a hotter and drier climate, increasing border issues, and growing pressures from development.

Sky Island Alliance is a bi-national organization dedicated to protecting and restoring native plants and animals and wildlife habitat in southern Arizona and New Mexico and in northwestern Mexico. The organization protects and restores biological diversity through citizen science and reconnecting people to nature. Sky Island Alliance has put this vibrant region on the map of global conservation priorities.

Sky Island Alliance’s most exciting and meaningful recent achievements include:

  • Being the first to document ocelots alive and wild in Arizona, and documented evidence that ocelots are breeding in the region, with a photograph of a female and kitten in Sonora, Mexico.
  • Verifying two jaguars living in the Sierra Azul Mountains, just south of the Patagonia Mountains in Arizona, and identifying jaguar tracks in the Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona.
  • In cooperation with local landowners, restoring a critical corridor for migratory birds, including elegant trogons, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.


Accepting the Award on behalf of Sky Island Alliance was Jan Holder, Executive Director; Sergio Avila, Northern Mexico Conservation Program Manager; and Jessica Moreno, Wildlife Linkages Program Coordinator.

For further information, visit

Gardens for Health International–Boston-based, working in Rwanda


In Rwanda, 44% of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, despite the fact that 85% of Rwanda’s population is engaged in agriculture. Gardens for Health works to bridge that gap.

The organization operates at the nexus of agriculture and health to provide lasting solutions to chronic childhood malnutrition. Its approach pushes medical interventions beyond clinic walls and into home gardens and communities, demonstrating the crucial role agriculture can – and must – play in addressing malnutrition on a global scale.

To date, Gardens for Health has worked with over 1,900 families, helping to ensure that 7,600 children have the healthy food they need to grow and thrive. Its work is having a measurable impact on the families it serves: one year after enrolling in the Gardens for Health program, 71% of children are at a healthy weight. This year, Gardens for Health is looking beyond Rwanda’s borders, and sharing its home garden model and training methodology with NGO partners in Uganda and Burundi.


Accepting the Award on behalf of Gardens for Health International were Jessie Cronan, Executive Director; Emma Uwodukunda, Health Manager; and Conner Wear, Agricultural Technical Manager/Farmer.

For further information, visit

President Bill Clinton

Photo By: Ralph Alswang
Photo By:
Ralph Alswang

William J. Clinton was elected to two terms as President of the United States. While leading the country through the longest economic expansion in its history, President Clinton demonstrated time and again that protecting the environment and growing our economy are compatible goals. During his Presidency, he strengthened the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, blocked attempts to roll back critical environmental laws like the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, and accelerated toxic waste cleanups. He expanded national wildlife refuges and developed policies to protect our oceans, coastlines, and marine sanctuaries. He invested in clean energy research and technologies, and supported U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. He fought back attempts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, and took bold steps to preserve some of our most treasured natural resources — the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Everglades. On January 11, 2000, when he signed into law the protection of over 1 million acres, President Clinton stated, “And if you look out here, you see, 10 or 20,000 years from now, if the good Lord lets us all survive as a human race, no one will remember who set aside this land on this day. But the children will still enjoy it.”

In 2006, President Clinton launched the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to address the core issues driving climate change by working at the invitation of city and national governments and with businesses around the world. CCI creates programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are both economically and environmentally sustainable. CCI’s programs work to increase accessibility and deployment of clean energy, reverse deforestation, and reduce carbon emissions in cities and communities. By partnering with the C40 Climate Leadership Group, CCI has created a network of cities around the world that are taking action on combating climate change. Across all of its programs, CCI uses a holistic approach to address the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the people, policies, and practices that impact them. To date, CCI has helped to cut or abate more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gases in some of the world’s largest cities annually.

The Walden Woods Project is proud to present its first Global Environmental Leadership Award to President Bill Clinton.

The 2012 Environmental Challenge Award Recipients

In 2012, the Walden Woods Project recognized four individuals or organizations that have focused on unique environmental challenges at a local, regional or national level.

These Challenge Awards highlight a focus of purpose and effort that has allowed the recipient to create new opportunities and solutions to a specific pressing question. Their efforts serve as a model for others who would face similar challenges and who seek an effective, constructive and sustainable outcome. As such, they represent many others who could be similarly recognized.

Anthony Choquette, Lawrence, MA


Anthony Choquette will enter his senior year at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts this fall. Anthony’s self-motivation and deep interest in environmental issues has led him into a wide range of activities. He has rapidly moved through the available curriculum from freshman Honors Biology to AP Biology in his junior year.

As a member of Lawrence’s Green Team, he has led in several ways –

  • from an expanded community garden in an alleyway, to volunteer work at the local Farmers’ Market and CSA,
  • from workshops about healthy eating, to projects that address invasive species,
  • from working for three years on the Spicket River Cleanup, to leading Lawrence High School’s recycling program.


Last year, he collaborated with the EPA on water quality monitoring for the Shawsheen River gaining information on potential sewage leaks. This initial project has led to an ongoing monitoring program that will report to the EPA on regular intervals. Beyond the immediate environmental impact, the project provides a valuable teaching opportunity for Anthony with his fellow students.

Anthony’s guests at the award dinner were Christal Rydle, Anthony’s Mother; Rebecca Veilleux, Lawrence High School Biology Teacher; Michael Fiato, Lawrence High School Principal; Heather McMann, Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence.

Mariah Rendeiro – Granbury, Texas


Mariah Rendeiro will be a senior at Granbury High School, 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Texas. With her project “Ironing Out Global Warming,” Mariah was one of three students selected to attend The International Environment and Sustainability Olympiad in the Netherlands in May, 2013.

Mariah’s project also earned several honors, including –

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, first place • American Meteorological Society, second place
  • Association for Women Geoscientists, first place

Mariah’s science project focused on iron fertilization wherein she tested three different iron compounds to determine which, if introduced into an aquatic environment, would cause the greatest decrease in CO2 levels. She hypothesized that the iron nitrate would be most beneficial because both iron and nitrogen would be useful to phytoplankton. The outcome of her experiment concluded that this was the case. In her experiment, the iron nitrate compound proved the most effective at carbon sequestration in its contained atmosphere, decreasing the CO2 levels by nearly 50%.

Mariah’s guests were Manny Rendeiro, Mariah’s Father and Nancy Rendeiro, Mariah’s Mother

Black Mesa Water Coalition – Flagstaff, Arizona


Encompassing over 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico & Utah, the Navajo Nation is geographically the largest Native American nation in the U.S. (larger than West Virginia). In 1967, operations began with two strip mines on Black Mesa in Arizona – the Kayenta & Black Mesa coal mines. Collectively, these mines constituted the most extensive strip mining operation in the United States. In addition to unrealized jobs, the mines have left a legacy of polluted air and land, contaminated and depleted water, and various health ailments.

The Black Mesa Water Coalition was formed in 2001 by a group of young inter-tribal, inter-ethnic people dedicated to addressing issues of water depletion, natural resource use, and health promotion within Navajo and Hopi communities. In the intervening ten years, the Coalition has achieved several significant goals –

  • The closing of the Mojave Generating Station and the Black Mesa Mine.
  • The establishment of the Navajo Green Economy Fund and Commission.
  • The establishment of the Southwest Indigenous Leadership Institute.
  • The bringing together of Navajo and Hopi communities and organizations in the development of a collective long-term vision for the region.
  • Current ground-breaking projects include the Black Mesa Solar Initiative, which aims to utilize the abandoned mine land of Black Mesa for a large scale solar installation; and the Navajo Wool Market Pilot Project.

Recipients: Wahleah Johns, BMWC Cofounder; Jihan Gearon, BMWC Executive Director; Deidre Peaches, BMWC Youth Participant