The Green Awards class of 2009 (from left): Howard Learner, Brant Rosen, Jessa Brinkmeyer, Brenda Palms Barber, Orrin Williams, and Harry Rhodes. See more photos in the gallery »

Guests were still arriving at the celebration, and already, new partnerships were popping up among the 2009 Green Awards honorees. Jessa Brinkmeyer and Brenda Palms Barber talked about how to get Palms Barber’s line of honey-based beauty products into Brinkmeyer’s shop, Pivot. Meanwhile, Harry Rhodes, of Growing Home, ticked off ways the six winners were interconnected. “We all work and partner together,” he said. “It’s a small world.”

On April 15th, about 140 guests joined Chicago magazine at the Shedd Aquarium to fete these six Chicagoans who were being celebrated for greening their communities. Honorees included Brinkmeyer, owner of the eco-friendly fashion boutique Pivot; Palms Barber, who runs Sweet Beginnings, which employs ex-offenders in creating natural honey-based products; Brant Rosen, a rabbi who helped construct the greenest house of worship in the country; Harry Rhodes and Orrin Williams, founders of the nonprofit organic farming company Growing Home; and Howard Learner, who, as head of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, has helped reduce mercury pollution in Illinois.

Guests watched a short documentary about the honorees, then spent the evening enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres among the fish and sea turtles in one of the Shedd’s salt-water sea habitats. The take-home message: green can’t be put on hold until the recession is over. “A cleaner and greener Chicago isn’t only good for the environment; it’s good for the economy.”

To read the profiles of the six Green Award recipients for 2009, go to


Photography: Steven E. Gross