A Heart of Green

Last night, Hearst's green lifestyle website The Daily Green held its 2009 Heart of Green Awards, honoring those people, organizations and companies that take the green message to the mainstream -- to the "heart" of the American people. The award recipients ranged from Hollywood stars to an inspiring Ohio teacher who transformed a marketing class into a crash course on sustainability -- and transformed his students into eco-warriors.

And receiving the lifetime achievement award was none other than NRDC's President, Frances Beinecke. Anyone who works at NRDC understands the drive, passion and perseverance that makes Frances such an effective leader, but it's always nice when others from the larger green community recognize this as well. Frances is an inspirational leader as well as an extraordinary boss who is great to work with.

Here's what Dan Shapley from The Daily Green had to say:

She's a blogger, a government watchdog, a community organizer and a policy wonk - in the best sense of the word. She fights for the preservation of polar bears and our offshore environment, for the protection of children's health, for the restoration of our economy as a sustainable green machine - and for the protection of the earth's ecosystem in the face of rising temperatures.

She's an innovator, a visionary, an inspiration. As president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation's most influential environmental groups, Frances Beinecke is all these things and more.

Born in Summit, N.J., Beinecke was inspired during camping trips by the "magical landscapes" of Grand Teton National Park. The majesty of those landscapes left her with a resolve to protect wild places.

She graduated in the first Yale University class to accept women, experienced the first Earth Day in 1970 and graduated with a master's degree from the Yale School of Forestry. It was while in graduate school, during this pivotal time in the nation's history, that Beinecke first joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council, as an intern working in the Catskill Mountains, the source of New York City's drinking water.

For three decades counting, it's a relationship that has strengthened not only the woman and the organization but the environment.

She started the group's Water & Coastal Program, designed in part to fight offshore drilling, before taking a hiatus to raise her three children. She returned in 1990 to aid in a strategic reorganization. By 1998 she was named executive director, and in 2006 she became NRDC's second president.

Still staffed with some of the nation's leading legal, scientific and policy experts, NRDC under her leadership now also boasts 1.2 million members --- real people who have been inspired to take action to protect the environment. Beinecke, who serves on the boards of numerous other environmental and academic institutions, promotes the idea that "the environment is everywhere" -- and that activism benefits not just untouched wilderness and endangered species, but our homes and our health.

During her tenure, NRDC has reached out to Spanish-speaking citizens, empowered citizen journalists, and launched both an influential blog and a Web site devoted to "Simple Steps" that help the environment. And under her leadership, NRDC argues hard for laws that fight global warming and revive our economy by investing in green jobs, clean energy and sustainable communities.

"With the right policies in place," she wrote recently, "many American companies are poised to bring clean energy technology into the mainstream -- along with the thousands of jobs, reduced oil dependence, and cleaner air that come with it."

In the face of staggering challenges, she has a vision that is clear, positive and empowering.

"To be in this business," she has said, "you have to be an optimist. You have to believe that change is possible and that you're part of the solution to getting that change in place."

She is The Daily Green's 2009 Heart of Green Lifetime Achievement Award winner.