Things are slowly beginning to open up again, but doubtless you remember the cascading news in the early weeks of the pandemic, much of it summed up by a single word: “canceled.” Like every other organization in America – make that the world – we had to decide early on how to go forward with the Source Awards, the Portland Press Herald’s annual recognition of the amazing environmental achievements of the state’s nonprofits, businesses and passionate individuals.

After careful consideration, we decided that, even without the usual in-person ceremony, we should give the awards this year despite the coronavirus: We all needed good news, we reasoned. Beyond that, environmental problems weren’t going to disappear without concerted action, pandemic or no pandemic. That’s when another concern reared its head: who, exactly, I worried, would set aside their anxieties in the middle of a global pandemic and take the time to nominate deserving Mainers?

I needn’t have worried. While our pool of applicants was smaller than usual this year, the quality and range may have been stronger than ever. When the Source judges met in April, by Zoom of course, our conversation was as intense and impassioned as ever, and the struggle to winnow the nominees as hard-won. (A special shout-out to two nominees cut, with difficulty, in the very final round: Jock Robie of Mainely Wormbins as well as the recycling/composting program at Manchester Elementary School in Windham. Keep up the good work!)

Thanks, too, to the judges, who freely gave of their time and expertise during a difficult spring. They are Sam Hayward, chef/partner at Fore Street restaurant in Portland; Erin MacGregor-Forbes, chief financial officer and chief operating officer at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and a master beekeeper; Brian Marcaurelle, program director at the Maine Island Trail Association and a 2019 Source award winner; Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation; Leslie Bridgers, features editor at the Portland Press Herald — and me.

Most of all, congratulations to the six truly impressive 2020 Source sustainability Award winners, three Maine Farmers and Gardeners Association scholarship winners, and our two special selections – the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation Healthy Food Champion, and the Lee Auto Malls Community Farm Champion. Well done! In a time when we need all the science, clean water, strong local food systems, caring communities and dedication we can muster, you give us hope.

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