Announcing the 2020 Blue Sky Award Winners

Nov 12, 2020

We’re excited to announce the winners of our 2020 Blue Sky Awards! Each year Clean Air Carolina honors individuals, organizations, and partners who have shown extraordinary commitment to tackling the climate crisis and improving North Carolina’s air quality.

On this Giving Day, we are pleased to present the following 2020 Blue Sky Awards to:

Alan Burns Legacy Award
Lauren Rydel

Lauren Anne Rydel is a determined 17-year-old committed to encouraging environmental awareness and sustainability at the local level. She currently holds a top leadership position in Charlotte Country Day School’s (CCDS) Environmental Awareness Council, where she educates her peers on current climate issues and works to improve her school’s sustainability through initiatives such as developing CCDS metal straws. This summer, Lauren hand-made over 100 reusable facemasks for her neighborhood to decrease single-use mask waste, and informed her neighbors of the negative impacts that single-use facemasks have on the environment. Recently, Lauren won runner-up in the CLT Future 2020 Competition where she proposed plans to promote awareness of environmental justice in Charlotte’s Historic West End,  in collaboration with HWE community leader Ron Ross and Clean Air Carolina. Lauren is deeply involved in the arts theatre, orchestra, and literary expression as well as the sciences both in and out of her academic life. When not in school during the summer, she loves to hike and witness the natural beauty of North Carolina mountains. 

Volunteer of the Year
Steve Rundle

Steve Rundle is a longtime activist and organizer presently serving as the 2nd Vice-President for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, leading the branch’s Green Jobs Development team. He also serves on the City of Charlotte’s Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP) Workforce Development and Equity External Content Group. Earlier this year, Steve volunteered countless hours on the technical setup and graphic art for Particle Falls 2020 in Charlotte, NC.

From his early days conducting educational presentations for Awakening the Dreamer, to his work with Move to Amend and other nonprofits across the Southeast, Steve has focused on the intersection of social justice and environmental issues. Seeing the enormous potential for green jobs to provide employment and career mobility for communities of color, Steve works on energy efficiency retrofit proposals that would enable the training/employment of reentering citizens. This training and work experience could lead to stable jobs, wealth building, and equitable business startups in low-income areas of the city that would do much to cure Charlotte’s last-place economic mobility position among major cities.  Steve also serves on the steering committee for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders, a coalition working to ensure the carbon reduction goals of the SEAP are met as quickly and equitably as possible. Steve serves on the Environmental Justice Task Force which seeks to address neighborhood environmental issues and concerns. Steve has done event planning and production management for Uprising to Uplifting (U2U) events, held on the anniversary of the Keith Lamont Scott killing for the past four years. In his day job, Steve is president of In Art Designs – a provider of custom digital art and murals for hospitality, healthcare, retail, and commercial architecture/interiors.

Nonprofit Partner of the Year
East Carolina University – Sustainability 

The staff of East Carolina University (ECU) Sustainability is committed to making the ECU campus eco-friendly and sustainable by working with students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding Greenville community. ECU has been a partner of Clean Air Carolina’s for several years, serving as one of our earliest AirKeepers in the region. ECU Sustainability has installed three PurpleAir monitors across the campus to help measure levels of particulate matter and other sources of air pollution. This year,  ECU joined Clean Air Carolina’s Clean Construction Partnership, committing to substantially reduce diesel pollution from campus construction sites and protecting the health of the ECU community. We are grateful for ECU Sustainability’s partnership in helping us build a healthier and more resilient North Carolina. 

Congratulations and thank you to our 2020 Blue Sky Award winners for your commitment to building a healthier and more resilient North Carolina.

To learn more about the Blue Sky Awards and our 2020 winners, visit