830637_828848_20140211_grodinsky00.jpg“Everybody’s a winner” this generation of young people has been taught. Whether awards for participation (as opposed to excellence) have hurt or helped the millennial kids is not the subject of this column. Let me borrow the phraseology, though.

We had 152 nominations for our second annual Source Awards, given to Mainers, Maine businesses and institutions that are working to make the state a more sustainable place.

We’re not exaggerating much when we say everybody’s a winner.

Last year, I wrote in this column that we were stunned by the number and scope of the nominations. That struck us with equal force this year, also their astounding quality. Features Editor Chelsea Conaboy and I took a first pass through the nominations to try to narrow a (as it turned out very large) list of potential finalists. I’d read a nomination, place it in a “keep” stack, read the next one, keep, the one after that, keep, keep, keep, all while telling myself that soon I would encounter an easy-to-eliminate nominee. Wrong.

The tremendously strong candidate pool made our jobs as judges tough. But unlike parents and schools, we couldn’t boost everybody’s self-esteem; we did have to select winners in the end – seven amazing individuals, school clubs, businesses and institutions out of a number more than 20 times that. A separate group of judges selected the three Russell Libby scholarship awardees. Read about both in this issue of Source.

As we debated the merits of the nominations, several words and phrases came up repeatedly: innovative, replicable, practical, playing a catalyst role, providing missing infrastructure… Our winners are those things and much more. They inspire us.

We hope they inspire you, too. More than that, we hope they spur you to take action yourself to make Maine and the world a more sustainable place. Teach a kid, advocate for a solar project, carpool to work (preferably in a car that doesn’t guzzle gas), compost your trash, campaign for viable green policies, love a farmer, get involved with a nonprofit, eat humanely raised and harvested meat, be a good neighbor. As Source Awards judge Barton Seaver said about the last, “You could define sustainability as the action of being a good neighbor.”

Given the scope of the challenges we face, it’s going to take every one of us.