Celebrating movers & shakers in green building

Our Annual Limelight Gala & Emerald Awards Ceremony is the largest annual gathering of sustainability professionals in Illinois. Save the date for our 2024 event on October 17th at 333 N. Green in Chicago!

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Limelight + Getting to Zero Summit 2022

Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Awards

The Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Awards, launched in 2008, recognizes outstanding individual or organizational achievement helping to put Illinois a path to 100% net zero buildings by 2050.

Each year awardees are determined by the Illinois Green Alliance governing board and honor the industry influencers, advocates, and thought leadership advancing net zero design, technology, and policy.

if you'd like to suggest a potential awardee our Board of Directors should consider, fill out the contact form.

Awardee suggestions can be made at any time of the year. Awardees are selected by September 1 and recognized at our Emerald Awards Ceremony in October.

Have a recommendation for consideration?

Submit the green building leader, company, or organization here:

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2023 Emerald Award Recipient

Sarah Elizabeth Ippel

Illinois Green’s 2023 Emerald Award for Individual Achievement is Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder and Executive Director of the Academy for Global Citizenship, and CEO of Cultivate Collective.

Her uncompromising 20-year commitment to sustainable communities is reflected as a leader in the education and community revitalization fields. While the recently completed Cultivate Collective hub that houses the Academy for Global Citizenship on Chicago’s Southwest side, championed by Ippel, serves as a first-of-its kind net zero project, it is just the most recent example of her long-standing commitment to reflect the environmental values of the school in the physical design of the building. Throughout her career she has leveraged her experience from one project to the next, each time raising the bar for what can be accomplished.

“I am inspired by the way she brings the sustainability components of the buildings as an opportunity to influence the educational curriculum, improve the health and wellness of the
community and engage the community in the process,” said John Mlade, Illinois Green Alliance’s Board Chair.

For her work, Ippel was named one of Monocle’s Top 20 International Pioneers in Education and visited the White House to receive a national award from the Obama administration in 2011. Forbes named her one of the nation's “top five game changers in education” and was the recipient of the GOOD 100 list of “people pushing the world forward through doing.” In June 2022, Crain's Chicago Business recognized Ippel as one of their “notable leaders in sustainability.”

2023 Emerald Award Recipient

Cook County

Recognized this year with the Emerald Award for organizational achievement is Cook County.

Their leadership on an ambitious goal for carbon neutrality by 2050 is driven by a commitment to improve the health and resiliency of the county’s most disadvantaged communities. For example, Cook County’s recent purchase power agreement includes support private investment in local solar and energy job training programs, environmental biodiversity and habitat protection for the solar site, and local economic development through job creation. The full project will provide jobs for approximately 450 tradespeople during construction.

Cook County has also allocated over $130m in American Rescue Plan Act funds to making its communities, especially under-resourced communities, more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change.

They aren’t just setting climate goals and a net zero pledge — they have a plan for how to get there – and for how to bring communities in the county along with them,” said John Mlade, Illinois Green Alliance’s 2023 Board Chair. “Cook County is measuring their progress not just in carbon reductions, but in the community impacts that result from those reductions, like jobs created and the health improvements of residents.”

Projects include green infrastructure for community flood mitigation, assistance with municipal climate resiliency planning, helping for moderate income households to go solar, new recycling services in the south suburbs, providing electric vehicle infrastructure in south and west suburban areas where it’s lacking, brownfield cleanup, pollution prevention assistance for businesses, and many others.

See past Emerald Award Winners: 2022 | 2021

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