The Heschel Center, which for years has been churning out graduates that achieve environmental excellence, took home an award of its own for its 12-year-old Environmental Fellows Program.

The program was one of seven organizations and individuals to receive an Environmental Excellence Award, distributed along with NIS 50,000 to each winner by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and President Shimon Peres at a ceremony Sunday.

Aside from Heschel’s category of “associations and organizations,” winners were chosen in the “personalities,” “young entrepreneurs,” “volunteers,” “local government” and “industrial and commercial” sectors.

Every academic year – except this one, as the program is undergoing development – the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership selects about 20 midcareer fellows to train together on sustainability issues on a weekly basis. The group members tackle different issues together and explore their own personal projects, hailing from a wide range of perspectives – social justice, industrial, political, Arab, Jewish, male, female, North, South and Center, Jeremy Benstein, associate director of the Heschel Center and director of the Fellows Program, said. For the center, the opportunity to bring together a diverse range of environmental leaders in a setting where they can merge their skills “through interdisciplinary interaction” is key.

“In most recent years – including this year – the leading candidates in the fields that this prize has been given in are graduates of this program,” he said. “It’s become clear that this program has become central to shaping to environmental work and promoting sustainability.”

The second winner of the “organizations” category this year, non-profit group Eretz Carmel, boasts one such graduate as its founder – Amiad Lapidot, according to Benstein.

Eretz Carmel began in 2004 in the Moshav Kerem Maharal, when Lapidot went door-to-door to his neighbors, distributing waste separation bins. His vision, which gradually expanded further and further, became a model for the Environmental Protection Ministry’s own “separation at source” program, which is currently being implemented in cities and towns throughout the country. Staff members of Eretz Carmel’s plan and guide waste separation efforts around the country, and their contributions have led to the adaptation of such a system in over 17,000 individual households, according to organization data.

Other prominent Heschel fellowship graduates include MK Dov Henin (Hadash), MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), the Environmental Protection Ministry’s deputy director-general for policy and planning, Galit Cohen, executive director of the Life and Environment umbrella organization for green groups, Naor Yerushalmi, and Noam Goldstein, vice president of Dead Sea Works.

During its off-season this year, Heschel’s Environmental Fellows program is undergoing a “research and development” phase, and among many other projects is focusing on creating a better networking system for the 180 alumni who have completed of their program.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger