Seneca Park Zoo Society’s Environmental Innovation Awards honor local and regional innovators working to create solutions to current environmental issues. This event celebrates leadership in environmental stewardship and brings together people seeking sustainable solutions and working for a greener tomorrow.

Join us on March 28, 2024 for a morning of inspiring conversation and stories of local and regional conservation. Enjoy breakfast, award ceremony, and meet others during the Networking Showcase as we share ideas that better our region. Afterwards, you can choose to attend the symposium for a deeper discussion and Q&A.

Together we can connect, care for, and conserve wildlife and wild places.

2024 Awards Finalists

Nominee: Noah Moretter 
Project: Noah’s Recycling 

Noah has been passionate about the waste and recycling industry from a young age and started “Noah’s Recycling” in 2020, at age 12. He donates his time to collect recyclables and has expanded his business to include more residences, local businesses, country clubs, and senior living facilities across the east side of Rochester. Noah’s efforts contribute to the environmental well-being of his community, inspire his peers, and serve as a reminder of the collective responsibility we all share in safeguarding our planet.  

Nominee: Rhianna Yates 
Project: Nature Awareness on Ontario Pathways 

Rhianna has always been interested in conservation and nature, and as one of the first cohort of female scouts in the Boy Scouts of America program, she used her Eagle Project to make a difference within her local ecology. She designed and built 18 signs with facts and QR codes that direct pedestrians walking local trails to learn more about nature and invasive species between the Ontario Fairgrounds and the Canandaigua Trailhead. Her hope is that through becoming aware of native and invasive species, people can be more proactive in protecting our environment. 

Nominee: CooperVision 
Project: CooperVision Net Plastic Neutral Initiative 

In 2021, CooperVision pioneered the world’s first net plastic neutral contact lens with its clariti 1 day brand and has since expanded the initiative to include all of the company’s most popular contact lens brands. To achieve plastic neutrality, CooperVision funds Plastic Bank’s collection, processing, and reuse of general ocean-bound plastic waste that is equal to the weight of the plastic contained in designated products in 27 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.  

Nominee: Wegmans, Jennifer Callol – Sustainability Department Manager 
Project: Sustainable Packaging  

The Wegmans Sustainability Department supports initiatives including the sustainable packaging priority area, with a specific focus on packaging for products that come out of Wegmans manufacturing facilities and the departments they supply within stores. The company has a dedicated team for their Zero Waste initiative with a goal of 90% waste diversion by 2025. 

Nominee: Staples, Inc. 
Project: National Recycling Services Campaign  

In September 2022, Staples launched a new and improved national Recycling Services campaign in its approximately 1,000 stores nationwide. Customers can bring any brand of office technology in any condition, regardless of where they purchased it, to Staples stores for free recycling. The company incentivizes customers to participate in recycling by giving them Rewards dollars, offering exclusive coupons, or discounting new products. 

Nominee: Rochester Regional Health 
Project: Decarbonization of Rochester Regional Health 

Following Rochester Region Health’s 100% renewable electricity pledge, they have now committed to the decarbonization of the entire organization. In partnership with RIT, RRH is developing a roadmap which includes plans for decarbonization across all 600+ unique physical locations. The roadmap will include site-specific energy efficiency and/or renewable energy deployment opportunities across the multitude of systems and buildings owned by RRH, modeling decarbonization pathways for others to emulate.  

Nominee: Dena De Leo-Heath 
Project: Upcycle Irondequoit  

Dena created the “Upcycle Irondequoit” Facebook group because of her love of the environment and her community, and to save as much waste as possible from going into landfills. By working together, the group finds ways for items to be reused, refinished or donated. Dena personally drives around daily to spot curb items to then be potentially saved by the 4,600 members in the group.  

Nominee: Dan Switzer 
Project: Keep Gates Clean 

A project initially started in 2020 to clean up the streets of Gates, “Keep Gates Clean” connects community members via Facebook to create a volunteer base group who walk the streets and pick up trash. Dan has led the group through example and successfully garnered Town support to provide road safety shirts and other supplies for volunteers. Dan is helping build pride within the community and inspires residents to act for their local environment. 

Nominee: Dominic Sherony 
Project: Conservation of High Acres Nature Area 

Dominic has contributed to the conservation of the High Acres Nature Area in Perinton through collaboration with the WM team to help create a Conservation Action Plan. This site of about 300 acres is owned by WM and is currently being developed as a nature area with wetland, trails, ponds, scrub vegetation, woodland, and other varied habitats. He has also helped to recruit volunteers for trail maintenance, collaborated with RIT students to identify issues that impact different wildlife habitats, and led nature walks for student groups and the Rochester Birding Association.  

Nominee: Greg Benoit 
Project: Irondequoit Seed Library, Irondequoit Public Library 

Greg spearheaded a collaborative group to research and implement the Irondequoit Seed Library at the Irondequoit Public Library, a resource where community members can take out a variety of ornamental and edible plant seeds at no charge and are then encouraged to return seeds they harvest back to the library for future users. Greg organized meetings, gathered stakeholders, and designed the location as well as distribution methodology for the seed library, further connecting the people of Irondequoit to their natural world and providing a roadmap for others to start their own program.  

Nominee: Jane Daloia 
Project: Women of Water: Non-profit Environmental Education Group 

Currently under Jane’s leadership, The Women of Wastewater (WOW) group is comprised of environmental professionals affiliated with the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Water Environmental Association. Established in the early 2000’s, the group connects women from various environmental industries to promote mutually beneficial relationships among women, facilitate networking opportunities, and allow less experienced individuals to find guidance from veterans.  

Nominee: John Schull 
Project: EcoRestoration Alliance 

Jon is a biological psychologist and the co-founder of the EcoRestoration Alliance, an impact network of scientists, earth stewards, storytellers, and grassroot leaders united in the conviction that ecosystem restoration, conservation agroecology, accelerated rewilding, and allied practices can solve the climate and biodiversity crisis. ERA’s members convene and collaborate to develop programs, and work with Indigenous, rural, and urban communities worldwide to advance ecosystem restoration, human health, youth leadership, and community development.  

Nominee: Kyra Stephenson 
Project: Nature-based Learning Coach at Anna Murray-Douglass Academy School #12 

Kyra is in her second year of developing an entirely new role – Nature based Learning Coach. In this role at Anna Murray-Douglass Academy School #12, a Rochester City School District school, she has built out a program that leads classes in nature-based learning, provides an in-school nature center for learning, manages two partnerships, and collaborates with teachers to empower them to use nature-based learning as a core strategy in their pedagogy. Her reach spans all grades from pre-K to 8, all students including a significant number of students learning English and in special education, families, and other educators. 

Nominee: Lisa Baron 
Project: Greentopia 

Lisa has served as Boad Chair of Greentopia since 2014 and been a driving force behind Greentopia’s efforts to protect Rochester’s urban green spaces, expand access to parks and open space, and reimagine the role of High Falls and the Genesee River in support of Rochester’s future. With a bold vision for what High Falls can be, founded on protecting the falls and river corridor and creating new access opportunities for people to enjoy these spaces in a reimagined experience, Lisa remains a tireless advocate for this initiative.  

Nominee: Simeon Banister  
Project: Genesee-FLX Climate Collective 

Simeon is the co-chair of the Genesee-FLX Climate Collective, a collective impact initiative focused on equitably expediting our region’s transition to clean energy. Through this work, Simeon guided the development of the Genesee-FLX Climate Action Strategy, which identifies effective, locally relevant climate solutions that will target our primary emissions sources and maximize the co-benefits of climate action for our community. He is a champion for environmental justice in our region who has incorporated this into the Community Foundation’s priority areas and led many conversations with key community leaders about the importance of climate action and environmental justice. 

Nominee: Western New York Energy 
Project: E85 + PHEV: Fueling Fresh Air 

Western New York Energy is proud to be an early adopter in combining technologies to help fuel clean air. To serve as an example, they purchased a 2023 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and successfully converted the vehicle to accept a higher blend of renewable ethanol, E85. This vehicle proves combining technologies can lower carbon intensity for superior environmental performance while providing greater flexibility and reliability at a lower cost to consumers. 

Nominee: Dutton Properties 
Project: Glenny Building 

Dutton Properties strives to implement green technologies into difficult and adaptive reuse projects, such as in the Glenny Building, a 6-story historic building in Downtown Rochester with residential, office, and retail space. It is equipped with LED lighting while the heating, cooling, and domestic hot water are produced by geothermal energy paired with electric heat pump technology. It serves adjoining structures, allowing buildings to share thermal energy thereby substantially lowering energy waste and increasing efficiency.  

Nominee: Broccolo Tree & Lawn Care 
Project: Broccolo Environmental  

Broccolo Tree and Lawn Care is a pioneer of environmental approaches and has helped set evolving standards in the lawn and landscape industry, visible in projects like green roof installations at Fredrick Douglas Library, I-Square in Irondequoit, and Cornell University, as well as Ecoswales at Seneca Park and RIT and Rochester Museum and Science Center’s rain garden. Proudly celebrating 33 years, Broccolo continues to prioritize innovative and environmentally sound approaches to lawn and landscaping.  

Nominee: ROC Paper Straws 
Project: ROC Paper Straws 

Founded by local bar owner Karrie Laughton and her mother Kathryn, the mission of Roc Paper Straws is to rid our planet of single use plastic straws one sip at a time while providing a product that everyone can count on to be safe, eco-friendly, and biodegradable. Their local manufacturing business produces straws, boxes, and labels made from eco-friendly materials.  

Nominee: Town of Pittsford, Paul Schenkel 
Project: Town of Pittsford Food Scraps Collection Pilot 

This pilot program, initiated by Monroe County Executive Adam J. Bello, aims to provide a practical solution for food waste diversion at the residential level while creating a model that can be easily expanded and replicated. The Town used existing infrastructure and protocols, including communications systems and a drop-off location at the Dog Park, to minimize the expense and difficulties of implementation. Pittsford residents have been given a food scraps collection bin and educational material on how to dispose of food waste and between September and December 2023, the program successfully diverted 37,180 pounds of food waste from landfilling.  

Nominee: Saunders Finger Lakes Museum  
Project: SFLM Streambank Restoration  

The Saunders Finger Lakes Museum, an organization driven by the mission to celebrate nature and educate the community, has worked to repair the eroded streambank of the Keuka Lake inlet using natural alternatives to restore past damage and prevent further erosion of waterways. Project outcomes include stabilizing the affected areas, reclaiming lost streambank, and documenting the process to be replicated by others.  

Nominee: Rochester ENergy Efficiency and Weatherization (RENEW) 
Project: Rochester ENergy Efficiency and Weatherization (RENEW) 

Established in 2015, Rochester ENergy Efficiency & Weatherization (RENEW) is a community investment engine that has developed an integrated, efficient approach to working with multiple community partners in housing, energy-efficiency, and environmental health by braiding and leveraging funding sources to address unmet need and make critical energy, health, and safety improvements in the homes of hundreds of income-eligible Monroe County homeowners. RENEW’s approach dramatically conserves energy and reduces the community’s carbon footprint, powers sustained homeownership and economic stabilization in underinvested neighborhoods, and cuts residential fuel costs by 20% to 50%, resulting in improved financial status for low- to moderate-income homeowners. 

Nominee: Rochester Ecology Partners 
Project: Rochester Ecology Partners 

Rochester Ecology Partners (REP) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect individuals to nature where they work, live, and play. REP envisions a network of places and programs that lead to an urban community that is connected to their environment and each other in ways that lead to sustainable and equitable economic opportunity, stewardship of our natural ecosystems and community well-being. REP strives to meet the needs of our community by developing and implementing nature-based learning programs, creating opportunities for environmental engagement in the community, and elevating and connecting like-minded efforts. 

Nominee: American Lung Association, Monroe County, WM, Clean Harbors 
Project: Monroe County Vape Collection Program  

Monroe County, in conjunction with our partners WM, CleanHarbors, SunnKing, and the American Lung Association, developed one of the first vape device collection and disposal programs of its kind in the country for these devices, which are considered hazardous wastes and are prohibited from being discarded in the trash. Through this program, Monroe County residents – including households, school districts, universities, small businesses, and others – can drop off these devices at the Monroe County/WM ecopark.  

Nominee: Goodwill of the Finger Lakes 
Project: Textile to Textile Recycling: Achieving a Zero Waste Strategy  

The textile industry poses environmental challenges through overproduction and landfill waste. Goodwill of the Finger Lakes addresses part of this issue through their retail stores, and to further expand their goal of being zero waste, they have been trialing and developing a new collaborative business model that allows for the sustainable waste management of textiles. Through trials with textile identification equipment, this would aid packaging similar textiles for optimal reuse and reclamation into new textiles, helping to reduce waste entering landfills.   

Nominee: Color Penfield Green 
Project: Clean Energy Communities Program, in collaboration with Municipal Government  

Color Penfield Green mobilizes residents of the Town of Penfield, NY who are concerned about the environment to work with their town government and complete actions that earn points in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Communities (CEC) program. They completed two clean energy campaigns earlier this year: one for Electric Vehicles and the other for Clean Heating and Cooling and Energy Efficiency. Color Penfield Green volunteers collaborated with the Town of Penfield’s Energy and Environmental Conservation Committee and the Town’s Sustainability Engineer to successfully complete these campaigns, earning them an Action Grant through the CEC program.  

Nominee: Carbon Forestry Trust 
Project: Growing Solutions at the Intersection of Housing and Climate Change 

The Carbon Forestry Trust was established in 2021 to mitigate atmospheric carbon through reforestation and forestry management efforts. The Trust has acquired 160-acres in the Souther Tier of NYS, consisting of over-pastured open land and hayfields. They have already planted over 30,000 trees and are striving to scale up to plant 1,000,000 trees on 2,000 acres over the next two decades. The Trust is the only carbon sequestration non-profit in NYS and the only organization in the affordable housing space to bring attention to the increased need for sustainability in developed and construction industries and municipalities. 

Thank you to our Emcee & Moderator

Local Leaders Helping to Make This Event a Success!

Evan Dawson -

Evan Dawson is the host of “Connections with Evan Dawson.” He joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.

Evan is also the author of Summer in a Glass: The Coming Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes and is the managing editor/Finger Lakes editor for the New York Cork Report, a website that offers independent news, reviews, and commentary about the New York wine industry.

Simeon Banister - Moderator

 A Rochester native, Simeon Banister began his tenure as president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation on Oct. 1, 2022. Banister’s career before the Foundation spanned public and private sectors and included the New York State Senate, state Department of Taxation and Finance, the State University of New York, and several private commercial real estate firms.

Banister has been recognized for his contributions. Rochester Business Journal named him to the 2019 Forty Under 40 class, and in 2021, he was named to City & State New York’s first-ever Western New York Power 100 list.

More Information

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Richard M. Juang is the Senior Manager for Environmental Justice Policy at Ceres. A nonprofit, Ceres works with major businesses and institutional investors to support environmental sustainability and decarbonization, both domestically and internationally, leveraging capital market actors and public policy to help companies accelerate their transition to a more sustainable economy.   


Registration: 7:15am – 8am (45 minutes)

Breakfast and Awards: 8am – 9:15a (1 hour 15 minutes) – with emcee Evan Dawson and a welcome message from Symposium Speaker Dr. Richard Juang

Networking Showcase: 9:15am – 9:45am (30 minutes)

Q&A Symposium: 9:45am – 11:00am (1 hour 15 minutes) – Ostinato Rigore: Why Innovation Matters for Environmental Justice, a conversation with Richard M. Juang, Esq., Senior Manager for Environmental Justice Policy at Ceres. Moderated by Simeon Banister, President and CEO of The Community Foundation. 

Awards will be given in five categories of environmental leadership: Youth, Individual, Civic & Non-profit, Small Business, and Large Business.

Nominees are considered based on the following criteria: Innovation, Leadership, Effectiveness and Environmental Stewardship and Scalability. 

Sponsors uplift our region's most powerful innovators. Take your support further by becoming a sponsor! 

Award Categories


Open to a group effort or to an individual.

All nominees must be 22 years or younger.

Has identified and is working to create new solutions to current environmental issues.

Nominee’s work or idea has been shown to mobilize others in the community/region.

Advocate for conservation and/or sustainability.


No age requirement.

Has identified and is working to create new solutions to current environmental issues.

Nominee’s work or idea has been shown to mobilize others in the community/region.

Advocate for conservation and/or sustainability.


Open to any nonprofit, education, community-based, or government project or program, including those that involve multiple partners.

Created an innovative, scalable and replicable solution to conservation and/or sustainability issue(s) in the community/region.

Solution(s) should be original to the nominee or must be contributing something new in terms of scale or new application to a previously existing solution.

Must show evidence of solution working.

Must show evidence that solution can be shared with/taught to others.

Small Business

100 employees or less.

Must show an innovative/original solution.

Must show evidence of lowering environmental footprint or customers’ environmental footprint Solution must be replicable for other companies.

Company must have sustainability/green practices in play throughout company.

Large Business

101 employees or more.

Must show an innovative/original solution.

Must show evidence of lowering environmental footprint or customers’ environmental footprint.

Solution must be replicable for other companies.

Company must have sustainability/green practices in play throughout company.

Thank you to all of our partners and sponsors!

Breakfast Sponsor:

Showcase Sponsor:

Youth Category sponsored by:

Small Business Category sponsored by:

Large Business Category sponsored by:

connections 2024

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