The Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council is now accepting nominations for its 2014 Environmental Awareness Awards, which honor groups and individuals for their commitment to environmentally sound activities.
The awards, given since 1990 and biennially since 2003, recognize contributions in five different categories: individual, institutional, business, agriculture and student, according to Brenda Dinne, a special projects coordinator with Carroll County Land Use, Planning and Development.
"The Environmental Advisory Council has a subcommittee for the awards [and] everyone that is nominated will be reviewed by that subcommittee," Dinne said. "The Environmental Advisory Council will recognize a winner for each category."
Sandra Zebal has been a member of the all volunteer Environmental Advisory Council - and the awards subcommittee - since 2008 and will be one of the judges evaluating the nominees.
"We have three people that judge the nominations myself and two others," Zebal said. "Most of the time we agree, but if there is a disagreement, the one gets an honorable mention.
Nominations can be made by anyone, according to Zebal, and people can even nominate themselves, the main criteria being that the nominee had been involved in some activity that conserved or raised awareness of environmental resources.
There are several methods by which nominations can be made, according to Dinne, the first being to print a form from the Environmental Advisory Council website at ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/eac, fill it out and return it by mail. There are also links to interactive forms on the website that can either be emailed in, or simply filled out on the website.
Nominations must be received by March 1, Dinne said, giving the judges enough time to make their decisions ahead of the awards ceremony that will be scheduled for some time in April.
"We try to hold an awards ceremony around the week of Earth Day," Dinne said. "In the past what we've done is have the Board of Commissioners and the Environmental Advisory Council jointly recognize the winners at one of the commissioners' open sessions. If we can do that again this year we will."
In 2012, the last year the awards were given, Zebal said the council honored Paul Kazyak in the individual category for his work with the environmentally focused Venturing Crew 202 Boy Scout Troop; the Northrop Grumman Sykesville location for the business award; and awarded a three way tie between Gateway School and Crossroads Middle School, the Linton Springs Elementary School Green Team and the Sykesville Middle School Green Team for the institutional award.
There were no nominations for the agriculture category in 2012, and only Northrop Grumman was nominated for business, reflecting an ongoing trend, according to Zebal.
"We wish we would get more nominations in agriculture and business," she said. "There are so many people in the [agriculture] area that are already doing a lot in terms of soil and water conservation, there should be numerous people out there. They are required to do so much that they would be a shoo in."
In 2010, there was only one nominee and thus one winner in the agriculture category, Jackie Coldsmith, owner of De La Tierra Gardens, a one acre organic produce farm in Taneytown. She said she believes there are many other Carroll County farmers, organic and otherwise, that should qualify for a nomination.
"It's very important to recognize people's achievements in their movement toward a more environmentally sustainable way of farming, to be sure," Coldsmith said. "With conventional farms, there is a lot being done with soil conservation, cover crops and such ... I think it's more a matter of someone nominating them."
Zebal said that it may well be the case that many people in agriculture are simply unaware of the awards or are unaware that their current practices are nomination worthy.
"We are trying to get the word out to those folks by reaching out to organizations," Zebal said. "The Future Farmers of America, and the Carroll Soil Conservation District people.
Zebal said that the awards could be self-reinforcing, that the more agriculture winners and honorable mentions are publicized, the more people will think to nominate others, and the more everyone will think about environmentally friendly practices.
"Hopefully, when they see the results of the competition, the publicity about the winners, it has an education aspect for the community," Zebal said. "It's to promote awareness of the environment, to encourage activities and to acknowledge accomplishments."