Time to celebrate big eco-steps

April Knudsen, Living Future Institute

April Knudsen serves as the Communications Project Manager for the International Living Future Institute. You can reach her at april.knudsen@living-future.org, or 503.241.1140. Learn more about Living Future 2012.

It is that season of thanks, and while we’re constantly reminded to be thankful for the small things, today I’m going to express gratitude for some things that I think are huge – really smart people doing amazing work in an endless range of fields.

Natural Step International CEO Peter Price-Thomas recently attended the Heinz Awards in Washington, D.C, and my curiosity about the award winners led me down many a twisting Internet path to this blog post.

The Heinz Awards were established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 in honor of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, well-known in his lifetime for his public and philanthropic service.

Janine Benyus is a Heinz honoree this year, and leads my list simply because hers is the only name I recognized. The leading force behind the emerging field of Biomimicry, she may not need introduction to anyone reading this column. With her first book in 1997, then the Biomimicry Guild and Institute, followed by Ask Nature in 2008 and Biomimicry 3.8 this year, Benyus’ work is following a logical evolution, informed by the same design of nature and core principles that fired her imagination 15 years ago.

But there are four other female Heinz winners this year, and I bet most of us don’t know their names.

Sandra Steingraber is an ecologist and author of "Living Downstream," which brought together data from U.S. cancer registries and the Toxics Release Inventory, and was later adapted into a 2010 documentary film.

Joan Kleypas, Nancy Knowlton and Nancy Rabalais are all marine science specialists, contributing groundbreaking research and leadership in areas like Gulf Coast restoration, coral reef ecosystems and ocean conservation.

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