Virginia Cooperative Extension sweeps Green Patriot Awards in Arlington

Virginia Cooperative Extension Jennifer Abel (left) and Dorothy Acosta with Green Patriot Awards

The Arlington office of Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) garnered all three Green Patriot Awards at a recent ceremony honoring environmental leadership in Arlington.

Senior Extension agent Jennifer Abel, co-founder of the Energy Masters Program won the individual award; Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (MGNV) won the Business/Group/Organization category and was also selected by the community from among all nominees to receive the People’s Choice Award. Dorothy Acosta, MGNV president, accepted the two awards on behalf of the group.

The Arlington Green Patriot Awards recognize an individual and a business/organization that exemplify environmental sustainability in more than one aspect of his/her recent life or operations in order to better civic life in Arlington, Virginia. The award program is sponsored by the George Mason University (GMU) Arlington Campus in conjunction with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Green Business Committee, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE), and the Arlington County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management.

Pam Burbul, a GMU student who nominated Abel for the individual award, noted in a recent blog post, “Community recognition of our environmental heroes, through accolades such as the Green Patriot Awards, is important to energize and perpetuate the momentum of environmental activism. Jennifer’s efforts are far reaching; the community as a whole benefits and its members are the recipients of her steadfast activism.”

Abel is co-founder of the Energy Masters Program which trains volunteers to conduct energy-saving and water-saving improvements in low-income apartments as measures that help tenants save money on electric bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since its inception in 2011, program volunteers have conducted retrofits in 571 apartments in Arlington and, beginning in 2016, Alexandria.

For the past 10 years, Abel has served on the executive committee of the Mount Vernon Group of the Sierra Club, most recently as treasurer. In that capacity, she has been able to provide mini-grants in support of local initiatives (e.g. two summer interns to raise awareness about climate change, a group that removed trash from the Chesapeake Bay, and a screening of the film Plastic Paradise).

Abel serves on Arlington County’s solid waste commission where she has been instrumental in getting single-stream recycling containers placed in county buildings and contributed to the new year-round yard waste collection initiative. She also serves on ACE’s R4 taskforce (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) which is currently focusing on increasing recycling in schools and at large outdoor events in the county.

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (MGNV) supports the work of Master Gardener volunteers who are trained and supervised by Virginia Cooperative Extension. Its mission is to educate the public about sustainable landscape management practices and home food production. Working with extension’s Agriculture/Natural Resources program, the outreach efforts of the group directly serve the needs of Arlington County’s Urban Agriculture Plan of Work, the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Plot Against Hunger, the County’s Zero Waste Initiative, storm water management, and the Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Master Plans.

With fundraising and leadership, MGNV supports expenses of four Demonstration Gardens, five weekly educational Plant Clinics, and a Horticulture Help Desk Lab that serves the public every weekday morning of the year from the Fairlington Community Center.

MGNV also provides Facebook, website, and internal communications support and assists with the costs of annual Master Gardener volunteer training. In Arlington since 1981, the organization has served many thousands of residents. In 2015 alone, 201 members reported 12,925 volunteer hours and 3,685 hours of continuing education in which they honed their skills. Through social media and direct teaching via classes, community events, and garden demonstrations they reached over 61,308 direct and indirect contacts with the public.

Virginia Cooperative Extension was founded in 1914 to bring the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.

Posted May 20, 2016