Bay resident honored as environmental groupís top volunteer

Brenda O’Reilly receives Earth Day Coalition’s volunteer of the year award from Scott Sanders, EDC’s executive director. Photo by Denny Wendell

Brenda O’Reilly, a longtime Bay resident and member of the city’s Green Team, was this year’s recipient of Earth Day Coalition’s volunteer of the year award. Brenda has long been a supporter of EDC and has also served on the ZeroWaste NEO committee of Sustainable Cleveland 2019.

Last spring, Brenda led a zero-waste initiative for the annual EarthFest event at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, working with a large group of volunteers, 250 vendors and 13 food trucks to minimize waste.

“Brenda educated all of our vendors and contractors and led the design of our Marquee Exhibit where every visitor to the festival could see the cumulative production of our streams of organic materials headed toward landscapers, recyclables off to be repurposed and a minimal amount headed to landfill as waste,” said Scott Sanders, EDC’s executive director and also a Bay resident.

As a result of the efforts to compost and recycle waste produced at EarthFest, nearly one ton of organic material was diverted from the landfill.

“We significantly reduced total waste generated (for example, using bulk service condiments instead of single serving packages) and our guests enjoyed the event as much as ever. That’s what zero waste is all about,” Brenda said.

It was her work at EarthFest that sealed her standing as Earth Day Coalition’s volunteer of the year, but Bay residents have been the beneficiaries of Brenda’s efforts for years.

A founding member and one of the leaders of the Bay Village Green Team since its inception in 2007, Brenda has promoted sustainability and zero-waste initiatives across the city. In the last several years, she has worked with the Dwyer Center, Bay Skate and Bike Park Foundation and BAYarts, among others, to incorporate zero-waste goals into their events. She has also written numerous grant proposals to fund recycling projects within the city and spearheaded the project to install a Buckeye Industries drop-off container outside the Dwyer Center for residents to recycle household waste not accepted curbside.

Brenda is also an Observer contributor, writing under the Green Scene column, educating readers about composting, reducing waste, storm water runoff, organic lawn care and other eco-friendly topics.

A tireless advocate for sustainability and green initiatives in Bay Village and beyond, Brenda prefers to work behind the scenes. Taking center stage to accept her award at Earth Day Coalition’s 25th anniversary benefit on Nov. 19 was out of character for her. The spotlight, however – and the recognition – were well deserved.

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Volume 6, Issue 24, Posted 11:44 AM, 11.25.2014