Congratulations to our 2020 Winners!

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Roxanne Williams Draper

While raising her four sons, Roxanne volunteered as a docent at the Henry Doorly Zoo, a Teacher Naturalist at Neale Woods and an educator at Gifford Farm. These activities focused her energy on the activities she most enjoys: teaching about nature, working with students and enjoying time outdoors.

In the early 90s, she created Sunset Hills Elementary School’s Outdoor Classroom where teachers and students were able to utilize a beautiful landscaped area for reading, creating art, eating lunch or just enjoying being outside.

She served as the first Director of Education at Lauritzen Gardens from 2001-2004. While there she created educational programming including Scout badges, Little Sprouts, volunteer training and all of the workshops that were offered to gardeners and other interested community members.

As a teacher at Underwood Hills Early Childhood Center, she helped to develop an outdoor classroom with vegetable and flower gardens and a composting site.

From 2013 until retiring in January 2019, Roxanne served as Executive Director of City Sprouts. As a Master Gardener, she developed educational programs for all ages, preschool to adult, that emphasized the importance of understanding and respecting our environment. She helped to develop two community gardens and was involved in the creation of several neighborhood gardens. While at City Sprouts, Roxanne was frequently called upon to join in community based efforts to address environmentally sensitive unmet food needs throughout the city.

She now teaches part time at Kindernook, a preschool with an arts and nature based curriculum on a site that contains a pond, native plantings and lots of wildlife.

Currently, she is also volunteering with Countryside Church on the Tri Faith campus to plan a community garden and orchard that incorporates wild flowers, a pollinator garden and raised vegetables gardens.

Congratulations to the 2020 Friend of the Environment Lifetime Achievement Recipient, Roxanne Williams Draper!

INDIVIDUAL: Blake Johnson

Blake Johnson is known for dedicating his time to Habitat for Humanity of Omaha’s Green Team, taking on his responsibilities like a second full time job! He believes deeply in zero waste principles and pushes hard for those around him to be excellent stewards of the environment. Blake is amazingly effective at getting people to buy into environmentally-friendly practices, and his effective leadership has taken Habitat for Humanity of Omaha’s operations to the next level. In 2018, Blake helped develop a scrap metal recycling program at Habitat with 100% of the proceeds going to subsidize Veteran home repair projects. To date, the program has salvaged over 50,000 lbs of metal and has added over $6,000 to the program as resources that once would have been lost to the landfill. Habitat’s Green Team has been awarded Nebraska Recycling Council’s Green Team of the Year award, and has facilitated solar installations, community gardens, and is introducing composting to its headquarters this spring.

Congratulations to the 2020 Friend of the Environment Individual Award Recipient, Blake Johnson!

YOUTH: Audrey M. Anderson

Audrey is a senior at Omaha North High School and participates in the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Zoo Academy. She has had a lifelong interest in animals and science. In eighth grade, she successfully completed a science fair project on the drought tolerance of butterfly milkweed that led her to become an advocate for pollinators and their vital role in ecosystems. As a result, she has been a participant in annual butterfly counts and given Monarchs on the Move presentations for 4-H.

Recently, Audrey has taken her advocacy into research. Since the summer of 2019 when she was selected for the Haddix STEM corridor program, which pairs high school juniors with Creighton University researchers, she has spent over 1,000 hours studying bees and bee health to determine indicators that can help determine when colonies are in danger or suffering stress. Her project focused on whether resilin, an elastic protein found in insect wing joints, varies between honeybee age classes. During her research, she took 1,765 images of wing joints and collected 12,865 points of data.

As a part of the Haddix program, Audrey could have supported or assisted a scientist with ongoing research. Instead, she designed her own research project, committing extra time above and beyond the initial opportunity with a vision for continuing a species survival plan. She hopes someday a test will be developed for beekeepers to use to determine the health of the bees and predict the overall health of the hive.

These are not Audrey’s only volunteer or conservation based activities. As a junior, her science fair project was on soils/water waste/nutrient leaching. She has also led several efforts to interest young girls in science and STEM careers, interned at Fontenelle Forest for two summers, and volunteered with the HDZ Zoo Crew for nine years. As a Zoo Academy senior, she has participated with other group members in a project to teach older elementary students about local biodiversity. Her grades, conduct and professionalism is exemplary.

Congratulations to the 2020 recipient of the Friend of the Environment Youth Award, Audrey M. Anderson!

NONPROFIT: Habitat for Humanity of Omaha ReStore

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha ReStore began operations in 2000 with a mission to offer affordable, eco-friendly ways for those living in and around the Omaha area to purchase quality new and used home maintenance and building supplies. The organization now operates two nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently-used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances at up to 70% off the retail price. ReStore sells these items to the general public with the proceeds benefiting the construction of new and renovated homes in our area. In 2016, these outlet stores generated enough revenue to build or renovate nearly four homes in our community.

In addition to providing the public with low-cost building materials, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha’s ReStore and Deconstruction Program helps the environment by diverting usable materials from local landfills. Since 2001, over 20,800 tons of materials have been diverted from the landfill, and in 2019 over 10,000 items were given a second life.

The program also works with individuals and contractors to help with deconstruction, removing salvageable materials and reutilizing quality items to build more homes in our community. All proceeds sold from items salvaged go towards affordable housing in our community.

Congratulations to the 2020 Friend of the Environment Non-Profit Award Recipient, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha ReStore and Deconstruction Program!

BUSINESS: Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers goes beyond any other store of its kind by making special efforts to support the health of people, the economy and the environment. It supports a sustainable planet by avoiding single use plastic bags at check out since 2009, providing customers with reusable bags and reused packaging boxes instead. Natural Grocers also recently phased out single-use plastic bags in its produce department by offering recycled paper bags and compostable produce bags. By only selling 100% Organic Produce, Natural Grocers is helping to reduce pesticide use on a massive scale. In September of 2018 and 2019, it raised more than $50,000 for the Organic Farmers during its Organic Month celebration. Additionally, Natural Grocers sources environmentally-friendly products such as rainforest alliance coffee & chocolate, as well as 100% grass fed meat & dairy products. Its two locations in Omaha, at 78th and Dodge and 180th & Center, are notably providing important essential services during this time of a global pandemic.

Congratulations to the 2020 Friend of the Environment Business Recipient, Natural Grocers!