Opening spread of Chicago magazine's 2010 Green Awards article in the April 2010 issue
Openlands’ Jerry Adelmann anchors Chicago‘s April 2010 story announcing this year’s Green Awards–winners.


Sadly, she won’t be at the party tonight due to a work-related road trip.

GREEN Tonight at the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago magazine honors the winners of our 2010 Green Awards. This year’s winners are Terra Brockman, who is nurturing the next generation of farmers through her organization, The Land Connection; Angela Hurlock, the director of the sustainable community housing advocate Claretian Associates; Dan McGowan, who has led the greening of the Big Bowl restaurant chain; Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, the founder of the Academy for Global Citizenship, a green-focused charter school on the city’s Southwest Side; and Jerry Adelmann, the president and CEO of Openlands, a nature preservation group.

The thing about the event—which is really fun and always has great food—is that because it is, for budget reasons, closed to the public, our wonderful honorees end up mingling with us, their guests, and other leaders in the local green community. Similarly, our readers don’t have the chance to watch the always interesting mini-documentary about the winners, which is screened for the evening’s attendees. Commissioned each year by our editors Cassie Walker and Nora O’Donnell, the film taps the talents of a local artist; this year, the nod went to Suree Towfighnia, a recent graduate of Columbia College’s film and video master’s degree program. (You’ll find the links to Towfighnia’s and past years’ videos—and the accompanying profiles—below.)

Suree Towfighnia, Chicago filmmaker and owner of Prairie Dust Films
Towfighnia at work

We caught up with the 37-year-old independent filmmaker as she drove from Colorado to Arizona with her partner and their five-month-old baby. In a phone interview, Towfighnia remarked that she wanted to work on this project because the award’s goal—to identify and honor Chicagoans who are pioneers in the green movement—aligns with her professional focus. (For example, her Logan Square–based production company, Prairie Dust Films, spent five years making a documentary titled Standing Silent Nation, which is about a family that grew hemp on Native American land in North Dakota in pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle.)

One big challenge, she said, was deciding what to leave out from the hours of footage she shot in early March. "They’re all very inspired, passionate, and aware individuals," Towfighnia explained. "Each of them could be their own film. So this is just a glimpse." And, although Towfighnia considers herself an eco-savvy person, she said she was surprised to learn, during her interview with Jerry Adelmann, that Chicago has no water or land use policy to protect natural resources from development. "I always thought we were ahead of the game in terms of defining policy for big cities," she said. "I really appreciate the work that his organization is doing, because they’re at the apex of policy making on behalf of an informed citizenry."

  • Watch Towfighnia’s video and read the profiles of this year’s winners here.
  • Chicago’s 2009 Green Awards video and profiles.
  • Chicago’s 2008 Green Awards video and profiles
  • Chicago’s 2007 Green Awards video and profiles.


Photographs: (top) Ryan Robinson; (right) Courtesy Suree Towfighnia