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Franklin Vilas to receive environmental leadership award

[Episcopal News Service]  The Rev. Franklin "Skip" Vilas will be among six honorees at the first annual GreenFaith Award Reception and Sustainable Soiree, November 5, at the Meadowlands Environment Center, Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

Vilas, a former rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chatham, co-founded and later chaired the United Nations Environment Programme's Interfaith Partnership for the Environment and served as the first board chair of Partners for Environmental Quality (PEQ), now known as GreenFaith.

"When the history of this time is written, Skip Vilas will be known as one of the pioneers of eco-justice," said the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, rector of St. Paul's.  "The power of his work is that it is deeply embedded in faith communities."

Under his leadership PEQ grew from an all-volunteer group to one of the few professionally-staffed religious-environmental groups in the country.  Over a decade later, Vilas' vision has born fruit as more and more religious groups engage environmental concerns and GreenFaith has become a national leader in the religious-environmental movement.
"Skip has played an unsurpassed role in placing environmental concerns on the agenda of New Jersey's religious community and beyond," said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith's executive director.  "We are proud to honor him."

The gathering will also serve as a model green event with local organic produce, cheeses, breads, beverages and humanely-raised meat being served. In addition, electricity generated at the Atlantic City wind farm will power the event, and waste will be recycled and composted.  A bird walk will precede the celebration at 3:15 p.m.

"In religious communities, food and the act of eating together are at the heart of so many rituals and traditions," said Katherine Abbott, a GreenFaith trustee. "We want to celebrate GreenFaith's work and our honorees with a delicious meal that also reflects our values."  

Other honorees include Kay Furlani, whose leadership helped place care for the earth onto the agenda of the Archdiocese of Newark and New Jersey's Roman Catholic community; Dr. John Kirk, whose leadership of the New Jersey School of Conservation and the United Nations Environment Programme's Interfaith Partnership for the Environment brought environmental education to statewide and global audiences; Richard L. Oram, founder of Commuter Check, whose work dramatically increased mass transit ridership, conserved energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in major US urban centers; Temple B'nai Abraham in Livingston, a synagogue that has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to environmental stewardship in New Jersey's Jewish community; and the Rev. Ronald Tuff, whose work at the Paterson Task Force helped fight lead poisoning and create healthier communities for all Paterson's residents.

Founded in 1992, GreenFaith is an interfaith environmental coalition based in New Jersey which inspires, educates and mobilizes people of diverse spiritual backgrounds to strengthen their relationship with nature and to take action for the earth.