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Growing Green: Honoring Leaders Who Are Changing the Way We Farm and Eat

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Tomorrow night NRDC will do something it has never done before: give out the inaugural Growing Green Awards to leaders in the sustainable food movement. Selected by a panel chaired by Michael Pollan, the best-selling author of the Omnivore's Dilemma, the winners will be celebrated at NRDC's San Francisco benefit.

Why is an organization better known for its policy papers than its culinary expertise wading into foodie territory?

For two critical and timely reasons. First, food production takes an enormous toll on the environment--from spilling pesticides into our drinking water to releasing fossil fuels into the atmosphere. NRDC's Growing Green Awards recognize that sustainable food is potent way to solve multiple ecological challenges at once.

And second, we want to honor the people who have fed America's growing interest in better farming and eating. From the White House garden to the school cafeteria, more and more people want healthier options for their families.

I myself have recently embraced new habits. Two of my daughters are serious sustainable agriculture enthusiasts, and last year, they inspired me to plant a garden in our yard in the Bronx. Now, in addition to the deliveries from our community sustainable agriculture program, we have homegrown kale, chard, lettuce, carrots, and, unlike President Obama, beets.

We also eliminated beef from the family diet. Between the environmental devastation from factory farms and the large carbon footprint that comes from the beef industry, my family decided this was the right commitment for us to make.

Just five years ago, these choices would have seemed unusual outside of a few progressive centers. But today, they are becoming mainstream. Farmers markets, organic food sections in supermarkets, and locally sourced menus are commonplace now. (Click here to see which local foods are available in your area right now.)

The Growing Green Awards celebrate the people who helped unleash this transformation. These are the people who roll up their sleeves and give us the models for how farming and food preparation can best nurture us and the planet.

Here are the winners of this year's Growing Green Awards:

• Will Allen, has won the Growing Green Award for food producers. As the founder of the Growing Power National Training and Community Food Center, Allen has pioneered a closed-loop system in which water from fish tanks is used to fertilize organic vegetables--all in the heart of urban Milwaukee. (Read this feature on Allen's award in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

• Fedele Bauccio has won the Growing Green award for business leaders. Bauccio, the founder and CEO of Bon Appetit Management Company, has been a pioneer in the food industry, and offered an excellent example that even large food industry companies can embrace sustainable practices.

• James Harvie has won the Growing Green award for thought leaders. Harvie, a founding member of Health Care Without Harm, works to remind the health care industry what should be obvious but isn't: health care institutions should promote food that keeps our bodies and our environment healthy.

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