A lot of laughter, drinks, a few war stories, and a room full of encouragement made an event to remember at Thompson Hotel Chicago this week as gb&d honored the 11 winners of the Fifth Annual Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards (WSLA).
“This is a really beautiful platform and beautiful community,” says winner Gina LaMotte, founder and president of EcoRise, a nonprofit that provides K-12 classroom programs focused on sustainability, design thinking, and social entrepreneurship. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into to be honest, but meeting all of the fantastic leaders here, I have to say it feels extremely refreshing to be surrounded with what I will call proudly feminist climate believers and activists who are all doing our part to make the world a better place.”
The Chicago awards dinner included speeches from Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney, Halstead/MetroFlor’s Chief Sustainability Officer and WSLA Alumnae Group Chair Rochelle Routman, gb&d President Laura Heidenreich, and gb&d Publisher Chris Howe as well as the winners. More than 100 people attended.
“I am so deeply honored to be here,” says Andrea Traber, one of this year’s winners and Integral Group’s US West Sustainability + Resilient Design Leader. “There is no other award that actually does this in the world.”
WSLA aims to create a central hub that identifies and connects the most powerful women at the forefront of sustainability. The globally recognized award celebrates and advances these top-level female sustainability executives who then, in turn, support younger women with dreams of reaching such levels of success.
Winners of WSLA are inducted into the WSLA Alumnae Group, now 66 members strong. Lisa Colicchio, a 2015 WSLA award winner and vice president of sustainability at CBRE, is now the alumnae group’s program chair, working to help fulfill Routman’s vision of empowering women and bringing them together to continue to make change in the field of sustainability. “It’s an amazing group of women who really are sustainability champions all over the world,” Colicchio says. “But it’s not just about winning the award; now we have a responsibility to do better and make the environment better for all of us.”
This week also marked the inaugural WSLA Summit with speakers Sandra Henry, Chicago’s chief sustainability officer, and Arathi Gowda, associate director at SOM, in Chicago, coinciding with a service project by the WSLA Alumnae Group. As part of their service, the group volunteered at Deborah's Place, a Chicago organization that gives shelter to chronically homeless women. “It was very inspiring. No matter how dark their world is right now, they still have hope, they still have laughter, and they still have community.”
Colicchio says she’s extremely honored to be part of the prestigious WSLA group—one she says is becoming more and more impressive. “Thank God I won it early because I don’t know if I could compete these days,” she laughs. “It’s really an amazing accolade that every year keeps growing in importance.”
The 2018 WSLA winners making an impact on our environment are: Jane Abernethy of Humanscale; Ranae Anderson of Universal Fibers, Jennifer Berthelot-Jelovic of A SustainAble Production, Dr. Christine Bruckner of M Moser Associates, Gina LaMotte of EcoRise, Yasmeen Lari of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, Kimberly Lewis of USGBC, Sara Neff of Kilroy Realty Corporation, Kimberly Pittel of Ford Motor Company, Andrea Traber of Integral Group, and Alicia Daniels Uhlig of International Living Future Institute. “We’re going to do great things together. We’re stronger as a group than we are as individuals,” Routman says.
gb&d presented WSLA in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council and Halstead/MetroFlor. Winners were selected by a judging panel that includes Rochelle Routman of Halstead/MetroFlor and chair of the WSLA Alumnae Group, Marisa Long of USGBC, Amanda Sturgeon of International Living Future Institute, and Chris Howe and Laura Heidenreich of gb&d. The dinner took place prior to this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. The event was held in partnership with USGBC and ASPECTA by Metroflor and sponsored by EY, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, and Kilroy.