2023 Environmental Champions - Connecticut

Congratulations to our 2023 Award Winners

On June 3, 2023, Aquarion Water Company celebrated the five winners of Connecticut's 2023 Aquarion Environmental Champion Awards during a ceremony at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Annually, the Environmental Champion Awards recognize organizations and individuals in the large and small business, non-profit, adult, and student categories.

Aquarion's 2022 Environmental Champion Award winners posing for a group photo

Watch the Video of the 2023 Aquarion Environmental Champion Awards

Relive the inspiring moments of the Aquarion Environmental Champion Awards ceremony, held at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo on June 3, 2023. Join us in honoring the exceptional individuals who have made significant contributions to preserving our environment. Watch the recorded video now and be inspired by their unwavering dedication to conservation.

Large Business Category

HMTX Industries – Norwalk, CT

HMTX Industries, a global manufacturer of luxury vinyl tile and plank flooring products, has recently completed the construction of their new 23,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Norwalk, CT. Known as the "House Up on the Hill" (HUOTH), the building stands as a testament to HMTX's commitment to sustainability and addressing climate change. Designed by renowned architect Jason McLennan, the headquarters was built to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), making it one of the greenest buildings in Connecticut.

The HUOTH incorporates various eco-friendly features, such as the use of non-toxic materials, solar-powered mechanicals, and rainwater collection systems. It is designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding landscape, preserving wildlife corridors and showcasing ecologically restorative landscaping. The building also emphasizes biophilic experiences, integrating natural elements throughout its design to create a connection to the natural world.

Designed and built to the standards of the Living Building Challenge, the HUOTH aims to be largely self-sufficient and generate a positive impact on both people and the environment. It serves as an innovation center, providing spaces for artist-in-residence design studios, inspirational galleries, and cutting-edge product development technologies. The headquarters will produce more energy than it consumes, emit zero carbon emissions during operation, and prioritize the use of healthy and non-toxic materials.

The building's architecture encourages occupants to engage with nature, offering views of the outdoors, access to fresh air, and connections to the surrounding landscape. The top level features a green roof with panoramic views, allowing occupants to appreciate the community's natural beauty.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the HUOTH symbolizes HMTX's dedication to sustainability, innovation, and teamwork. The company aims to lead the way in regenerative design, providing a model for a more ecologically conscious future. The headquarters will serve as a quiet retreat in an urban setting, fostering creativity, collaboration, and well-being.

HMTX's new World Headquarters embodies their commitment to sustainability and serves as a unique example of a greener future.

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HMTX logo

Non-Profit Category

Connecticut River Conservancy – Hartford, CT

The Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) is an organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for the Connecticut River watershed, spanning four states. Their mission involves collaborating with partners to prevent pollution, improve habitat, and promote the enjoyment of the river and its tributaries.

Established in 1952, the CRC was created to address the significant water pollution problems in the Connecticut River and has pioneered the concept of watershed planning. Today, their work focuses on safeguarding the Connecticut River and its vast 11,000 square mile watershed, ensuring that it remains a cherished and beautiful place for generations to come.

Trash and aquatic invasive plants pose serious threats to rivers, disrupting ecosystems and harming native wildlife. To combat these issues, CRC leads two successful programs: the Source to Sea Cleanup and the Paddle with a Purpose. In 2022, these programs engaged nearly 400 volunteers in Connecticut alone, with over 1,600 volunteers participating across the entire Connecticut River watershed.

The 26th annual Source to Sea Cleanup, carried out by 126 cleanup groups across four states, removed over 37 tons of trash from the rivers and their surroundings. Meanwhile, the Paddle with a Purpose events targeted the removal of approximately 900,000 invasive water chestnut plants in Connecticut and Massachusetts, involving 50 partner organizations. CRC also advocated for the establishment of an Office of Aquatic Invasive Species in Connecticut to find long-term solutions to the problem.

These programs make a significant impact in protecting the health of natural rivers and clean water. They not only address the immediate issues of pollution and invasive species but also engage community members in actively caring for their local rivers. By participating in these programs, volunteers have the opportunity to develop a deeper connection with their rivers and become lifelong stewards of the environment. The CRC believes that through these efforts, they can inspire individuals to take positive action not only locally but also on a global scale.

The CRC's commitment to preserving the Connecticut River and its watershed exemplifies their dedication to creating a sustainable and thriving environment for both nature and communities.

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Connecticut River Conservancy logo

Small Business Category

Jones Family Farms and Jones Winery – Shelton, CT

Jones Family Farms, located in the White Hills of Shelton, has upheld a commitment to sustainable practices for over 150 years. Guided by the words of founder Philip James Jones – "Be Good to the land and the land will be good to you," – each generation has contributed their expertise to the diverse agricultural and farm hospitality operation.

The farm is divided into three locations: the Homestead Farm, the Valley Farm, and Pumpkinseed Hill where Christmas trees, strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, gourds, and squash are cultivated on 400 acres. and visitors are invited to harvest their own berries, pumpkins, and Christmas trees. Jones Family Farm also hosts more than ten acres of grapevines.

Jamie Jones, the sixth-generation farmer, established Jones Winery in 1999, which has become one of Connecticut's premier wineries.

Jones Winery prides itself on showcasing the best of Connecticut by using a high percentage of local fruit in their wines. With over 20 years of winemaking experience, they offer a wide range of distinctive wines. In 2021, Jamie's commitment to environmental sustainability led to the installation of a solar array that powers the winery's production and bottling facility, harnessing the sun's energy to power the facility just as the sun powers the growth of grapevines and ripens the fruit in the vineyard.

Jamie, along with his wife Christiana and parents Terry and Jean, continues to be a respected leader in the industry. He holds positions as Director of the Fairfield County Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, and the Governor's Council for Agricultural Development. Their dedication to Connecticut agricultural excellence is evident in their commitment to sustainable practices and the production of exceptional wines.

Jones Family Farms and Jones Winery have created a harmonious living environment in the picturesque White Hills, with neat stonewalls, well-maintained fields, and a peaceful atmosphere. The farm's longevity and success reflect the ongoing efforts of the Jones family to sustainably care for the land while providing a memorable experience for visitors.

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Jones Family Farms logo

Adult Category

Diane Lauricella – Norwalk, CT

Diane Lauricella, a resident of Norwalk since the 1980s, is a passionate environmental advocate who believes in making informed choices through research and honest public communication to protect our health and natural resources. Her journey began as an intern with the First Taxing District Water Company, where she helped identify the source of trichloroethylene (TCE) pollution in Norwalk's water supply. This experience sparked her love for research and fact-finding, leading her to become an Environmental Investigator for the Connecticut DEEP Hazardous Materials Management Unit.

Diane's dedication to her community led her to join the local League of Women Voters of Norwalk, where she organized Norwalk's first Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day and advised the City on waste management and the use of less-toxic products. She also became involved in various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Norwalk River Watershed Association, where she served as Chair and advocated for the importance of watersheds and environmental education.

In addition to her community involvement, Diane started her own environmental consulting business, the Environmental Innovations Group (EIG), and actively participated in chambers of commerce and environmental committees. She has been a strong advocate for waste management, recycling, and food waste reduction, working towards holistic approaches at the state and local level.

Diane's passion for a clean energy future led her to organize the Norwalk Energy Task Force and subsequently serve on the Mayor's Energy and Environment Task Force. She has been advocating for healthy school environments, leading efforts to address indoor air quality concerns and urging a thorough assessment of artificial turf fields' potential health risks.

Throughout her years of community service, Diane has played a vital role in preserving open spaces, organizing cleanups, and promoting environmental justice. She has been a driving force behind the protection of Fodor Farm, the creation of community gardens, and efforts to improve water quality and stormwater management.

Diane's dedication to environmental causes has earned her recognition as the "conscience of Norwalk." She continues to actively contribute to various organizations, such as the RecycleCT Foundation, Norwalk Tree Alliance, and the Mayor's Water Quality Committee.

With a firm belief in the importance of vigilance in democracy, Diane looks forward to helping her community prepare for a sustainable and successful future.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal with Diane Lauricella

Student Category

Hilary Holmgren – Stratford, CT

Hilary Holmgren is a dedicated advocate for environmental causes, particularly concerning the well-being of Long Island Sound. In addition to being a student at Stratford High School, she also attends the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture School, where she has gained hands-on experience through boat trips and trawls, as well as constructing underwater rovers to explore the depths of the Sound. Hilary has also managed the school hatchery, overseeing various marine species such as crayfish, lobsters, tilapia, urchins, and koi. She has even raised salmon from eggs and released them into the Connecticut River. In recognition of her exceptional work as a hatchery manager, she received the Outstanding Hatchery Manager award and was honored with the title of "Seaworthy Oceanographer" in a UConn Early College Experience course.

Hilary recently served as an emcee for the Youth Climate Summit, a national virtual conference for teenagers. Also, she was one of only twelve individuals chosen as Salt Marsh Stewards, responsible for assisting in the restoration of the Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford. This marsh is part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and provides a significant habitat for birds. Hilary and the other stewards, alongside supervisors and volunteers, undertook restoration efforts, such as planting native shrubs and perennials, removing invasive plants, and creating space for spartina patens grasses. Over 155,000 new plants were replanted as part of the restoration initiative.

In addition to participating in the restoration, Hilary engaged with visitors to the marsh and collaborated with local bird clubs and teen groups. Her ability to communicate effectively with both adults and peers made her an outstanding representative of the conservation project. Hilary's contributions were recognized when she was chosen as the sole spokeswoman for the group, delivering a speech outlining the project at an Audubon ceremony, where she had the opportunity to meet Audubon organization leaders.

After enduring long hours of work, mosquito bites, and scorching sun, the marsh was eventually opened to the public in August of 2022. A ribbon cutting ceremony, attended by the mayor, members of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Connecticut DEEP, US Fish & Wildlife, US and State Senators as well as Members of Congress, marked this milestone. Her ultimate ambition is to work in the marine environment, prioritizing aquaculture and conservation, and implementing sustainable practices to preserve natural aquatic ecosystems and boost fish populations.

Hilary cherishes living in a Connecticut beach town and finds fulfillment in assisting others.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal with Hilary Holmgren

View Past Winners

See our list of past Environmental Champion Award winners.

View Winners