World’s No. 1 eco-athlete featured at Earth Day Luncheon

2013 Environmental Excellence Award winners Rockford Chamber President & CEO Einar Forsman (left), Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (second from left), Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (second from right) and Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful Executive Director Lori Gummow (right), with the April 4 Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful Earth Day Luncheon celebrity speaker, Leilani Münter (center). Each agency supported the creation of the litter prevention, environmental awareness and beautification organization 25 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Woodman Photography and Art Studio)

Staff Report

At Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful’s (KNIB) Sixth Annual Earth Day Luncheon, race car driver and self-proclaimed “tree-hugger” celebrity speaker Leilani Münter shared how she blends support of alternative fuels and protects the environment while racing cars in NASCAR’s ARCA development league. The event was held at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Rockford, with more than 440 guests in attendance.

Münter, called the No. 1 eco-athlete in the world by Discovery’s Planet Green, said she offsets her carbon footprint by adopting an acre of rainforest for every auto race she enters. She also seeks out racing sponsors that support environmental causes, such as the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove.

Her goal is to raise the consciousness of millions of racing fans to encourage more recycling and awareness of the impact of following an earth-friendly lifestyle.

KNIB also presented four Environmental Excellence Awards at the luncheon, in keeping with the theme of celebrating 25 years since the organization was founded.

Green Zenith awards were announced by past Board President Mary Norman for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rockford and Winnebago County. They were accepted by Chamber President and CEO Einar Forsman, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R), respectively.

We recognize these organizations as supporting us at the outset, and throughout our nonprofit’s lifetime,” said KNIB Executive Director Lori Gummow. “Each of these organizations show exemplary dedication to improving and protecting the environment.”

Norman and current KNIB Board President Bob McCreath then surprised Gummow with an Environmental Leadership Award, citing her 25 years of service heading the organization.

During her tenure, hundreds of tons of clothing, metals, electronics and medications have been collected, properly disposed of or recycled, keeping them out of landfills and groundwater. She has made hundreds of presentations to educate young and old, and encourage beautification, anti-littering, recycling and reuse of resources.

Gummow has also recently been recognized statewide and by Keep America Beautiful for her efforts.

Since 1988, KNIB has engaged all elements of the community to enhance the environment and beauty of the region by recycling, reusing and renewing the world’s resources for future generations. Call (815) 637-1343, visit the website, or “like” the organization’s page at

From the April 10-16, 2013, issue

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