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Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions lauds local activism

Honorees were saluted at June 6 celebration in Oakton

Whether working in the private or public sectors, as individuals or with environmental or faith groups, winners of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions’ (FACS) Sustainability Champions Awards don’t just talk about trying to make the world a better place.

“They have done something remarkable: They have acted in the face of a powerful status quo, of greed and misinformation from the fossil-fuel industry, of celebrity worship,” said FACS board chairman Scott Peterson, who then listed a series of worldwide climate challenges.

FACS leaders presented the awards June 6 at Unity of Fairfax in Oakton.

“We are all connected in the bonds of mutuality,” said Rev. Richard Heiland, senior minister at Unity of Fairfax. The honorees are “trying to set up a world that works for everyone, a world that honors the Earth’s diversity and beauty,” he said.

This year’s honorees were:

• Trace –The Zero Waste Store and Secure Solar Futures were awardees in the Business category.

Mala Persaud, owner of Trace – The Zero Waste Store, serves on the town of Vienna’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission. After struggling to find financing, she put her house on the line to found her eco-friendly business and kept her other full-time job as well.

“It’s hard, but it’s really worth it,” she said.

• Secure Solar Futures’ president/CEO Anthony Smith, who founded the company in 2004, spends much of his time fighting what he said are Dominion Energy’s efforts to thwart small- and medium-sized solar installations.

• Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, who could not attend the ceremony because he was chairing the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, is a lawyer who has advocated for economic and educational equity.

• Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria, the Faith Community honoree, is classified as a Green Covenant church by the Virginia United Methodist Church for its energy efficiency and use of environmentally sustainable materials.

“Part of our faith tradition is not only to care for creation, but also to invite others to care as well,” said member Anne Wilson.

• Friends of Riverbend Park Inc. was the winner in the Group category. The group over the past 25 years has donated more than $350,000 to the park, which welcomes about 400,000 visitors each year, and holds a native-plant sale each spring. The organization also provides field-trip scholarships and promotes and financially supports the park’s annual Virginia Native American and Bluebell festivals.

• Jennifer Pradas, who led efforts to keep Blake Lane Park in Oakton from being turned into a school site, was the Individual honoree. She teaches environmental science and other subjects to homebound Fairfax County students, organizes homeless-shelter residents to help beautify local parks and serves as a site leader with the Fairfax County Invasive Management Area Program, which combats invasive plant species.

• Arlington Students for Climate Action was honored in the Youth category. The group has organized meetings with other groups to address climate change, ran a countywide free-clothing swap in February and met with Arlington County’s Climate Change, Energy and Environment Commission.

The organization also has organized park and stream cleanups, conducted food audits to reduce waste and promoted recycling and composting.

After receiving their awards, the honorees posed for a group photo, mingled in the sanctuary and partook of an ample spread of cheeses, desserts and beverages supplied by Restonstrong.