Today it's not just activists in the Sierra Club who are being recognized for their efforts to save the planet. The list of those receiving awards for environmental excellence has grown to include business people, educators, professional organizations and civic officials.
A Moorpark-based manufacturer, Kavlico, Inc., was recently honored in a New York ceremony for its smog control devices, as well as for shifting its focus from defense contracts to environmental technology.
This combination produces a double benefit for our county: It promotes clean air and job retention. It's also good for business.
Kavlico has made sensors for the engine emissions systems of GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles since the mid-'80s. Since then, the company has grown from 250 to more than 700 employees. What's more, the smog control devices are now in such demand that the company is planning to add several hundred jobs over the next few years.
The group that presented the award to Kavlico, the Council on Economic Priorities, scouts the country annually for firms that have distinguished themselves in similar manner, by producing environmentally friendly products and converting from defense to civil manufacturing.
I've mentioned the council before in this column because it also publishes a useful consumer-products guide called "Shopping for a Better World."
The selection of Kavlico was made by a group of distinguished environmental experts, mostly from the East Coast. I'm glad they cast their net far enough to catch what's going on in our county. Unfortunately, that kind of recognition of local efforts doesn't happen often enough.
Of course, this column has regularly profiled such eco-minded companies for years. But there obviously are more as-of-yet unsung eco-heroes--and now may be the time for them to receive their due.
This week, for example, the California Department of Education begins accepting applications for the divvying up of $250,000 in statewide environmental education awards, funded by the DMV's "vanity plate" surcharge.
Various schools last year received thousands of dollars from the fund. Alas, none were in our county. But the cash awards are available again for the best environmental education projects submitted for activation in the 1993-94 school year.
Educators in Ventura County have until June 18 to prepare and mail their applications.
Not to be outdone by the California Department of Education, however, Gov. Pete Wilson's office has just announced its own environmental awards program, aptly named the Governor's Economic and Environmental Leadership Awards.
"California needs to foster a permanent conservation and environmental protection ethic that fully embraces both resource conservation and sustainable economic development," Gov. Wilson said in a press statement on Earth Day.
"For example, our leadership in conservation and environmental protection has already resulted in a $20 billion environmental technology and services industry in California," he said.
Translation: California business can stay in business by being environmentally friendly--and the governor is looking for examples like Kavlico to prove it.
Readers may be able to help get some local people into the running by calling or writing the state officials responsible for the award, who are taking nominations now.
Individuals, companies, professional, educational and service groups, as well as local government bodies, may even nominate themselves.
Unlike the Department of Education awards, there is no cash going to the winners of the Governor's award, but recognition on a statewide level is often useful in winning other, bigger things down the pike. That includes increased funding from national organizations, and even industrial contracts for environmental products.
Besides that, though, such awards also call attention to our county as a good place to live and work.
Let's do what we can to support our local eco-players like Kavlico.
For information on the California Department of Education's Environmental Education Grant Program, call (916) 653-7026 or (916) 657-5374. Application forms will be provided and must be returned by June 18. Nomination forms for the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards may be obtained by calling (916) 653-5656 or (916) 445-3846. These must be filed by Aug. 27.