Sample Golden Gorge Awards event flyer, from 2019

Cornell University Golden Gorge Awards

Annual spring awards ceremony for students celebrating their accomplishments, ideas, and innovation in creating a sustainable campus, future, and world. The Golden Gorge Awards focus on the work of graduating seniors during their tenure at Cornell University, and were founded in 2018.

The Golden Gorge Awards are co-hosted by the Environmental Collaborative (ECO) and the Campus Sustainability Office to celebrate the accomplishments of graduating seniors and recognize the important role students play in creating a more sustainable campus, future, and world. The ceremony also recognizes students who pledge to commit to lifelong sustainability by presenting them with "green honor tassels" to wear during graduation.  The ceremony is held in May each year.

Students may be nominated for awards in the categories below.  
Nominations open in the Spring! Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when you can complete a nomination!


Award Categories 

  • Rookie of the Year
    This award honors an active first-year student who contributed greatly to their student organization's events, initiatives, operations and/or team morale.

  • Member of the Year
    This award recognizes an active and dedicated member of a student organization who contributed greatly to their organization's events, initiatives, operations and/or team morale.
  • Event of the Year
    This award celebrates student organizations for conceiving, planning and implementing an outstanding event for the Cornell community; an event that embodies the sustainability-related mission of the organization. All types of events are considered, including ones that are social, cultural, recreational, educational, etc.
  • Initiative of the Year
    This award recognizes student organizations for conceiving, planning and implementing an outstanding initiative for the Cornell community; an initiative that embodies the sustainability-related mission of the organization. All types of initiatives are considered, including ones that are social, cultural, recreational, educational, operational, infrastructural, etc.
  • Ripple Effect Award
    This award commemorates an influential student, student organization, event or initiative whose impact has continued to spread, gain momentum and/or create new possibilities within the Cornell community.
  • JUST Award
    This award honors a student, student organization, event or initiative for working to foster justice, inclusion and sustainability through collaboration, education and/or action within the Cornell community.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
    This prestigious award recognizes an outstanding student leader whose contributions and accomplishments span their educational career at Cornell. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award embodies vision, leadership, hard work and collaboration. They represent the brightest and most influential minds among Cornell's sustainability student leaders.
  • Organization of the Year
    This award celebrates an extraordinary student organization that contributed meaningfully to the Cornell community through its sustainability-related efforts and achievements. This award recognizes an active student organization whose members furthered its purpose through collaboration, innovation, adaptation and perseverance. The Organization of the Year represents the most collaborative, hardworking and influential sustainability student organizations on Cornell's campus.
  • Life Gives You Lemons Award (Formerly known as Biggest Fail)
    "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" This award recognizes a student, student organization, event, or initiative that "made lemonade out of lemons," or made the best of an unexpected virtual semester. This award celebrates the flexibility, innovation, and agility of the recipient to continue to make an impact in sustainability during this pandemic.

Award Winners

(May 2019) Second annual Golden Gorge Awards recognizes student sustainability leadership
(May 2018) Cornell hosts Inaugural Golden Gorge Awards for student sustainability leadership

2018 Golden Gorge Award Winners

Rookie of the Year: Ruth Park ('21, AEM) for her contributions to Currents as a new member of CUSD, and for her work during People's Climate Week.

Member of the Year: Trisha Ray ('19, ECE) for her work on the E-Board of ESW planning events, transportation and speakers, as well as for creating ESW's Monthly Movie Nights.

Event of the Year: ECOuture by Martha Williams ('20, Plant Science) for creating a space where people can learn about environmental justice in the context of the clothing industry.

Initiative of the Year: Climate Justice Cornell's Education Team for its successful promulgation of the ideals of climate justice and for motivating the current members of Climate Justice Cornell to continue the momentum they have built as an organization.

Ripple Effect Award: Clifton Stacy III for going above and beyond his required duties as an EcoHouse RA to help reform and reinvigorate their house attitude toward sustainability.

JUST Award: Tarannum Sarwat Sahar ('20, Mechanical Engineering and Economics) for her active role in the organization of People's Climate Week and Cornell Welcomes Refugees

Lifetime Achievement Award: Elizabeth Chi ('18, ESS) for organizing this year's People's Climate Week , leading ESWind, sitting as the president of Cornell Welcomes Refugees, and for promoting sustainability and environmental justice wherever she goes.

Organization of the Year: Greeks Go Green for their constant collaboration and activity with organizations both on and off campus, and their successful execution of multiple initiatives including waste reduction signage in Greek houses and sustainable study breaks.

Biggest Fail: Climate Justice Cornell's First Meeting Attempt with the Cornell CFO, as Joanne DeStefano canceled the meeting mere hours before it was supposed to occur because she did not want to hear CJC's demands and rationale for fossil fuel divestment.

2019 Golden Gorge Award Winners

Rookie of the Year: Nadia Vitek ('22, CS) for her performance as G-Body Organizer of Climate Justice Cornell, and for her leadership during the Climate Divestment Rally.

Member of the Year: Lily Bermel ('21, ESS) for her dedication to the crafting of formal sustainability policy for Cornell Dining.

Event of the Year: Fossil Fuel Divestment Petition, Letter and Rally for its success in raising awareness on the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign.

Initiative of the Year: Kate Sims ('21, ESS) for Climate Change Chats for creating a safe space where people can come to dialogue on climate change issues faced by the global community, and for continually engaging and educating students on global climate change problems.

Ripple Effect Award: Brandon Hoak ('21, DEA) for inspiring others to pursue best practices through his constant advocating of sustainable behaviors, and for educating others on sustainability through his work as a compost manager, RA, and Green Ambassador for MVR.

JUST Award: Zoya Moshin ('21, ESS) for her work as a member of the International Student Union and the Womxn of Color Coalition, and her passion for educating others on subjects relevant to her work.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Chris Galantino ('19, Environmental Engineering) for his undying commitment to sustainability, and his contributions to Cornell as the co-founder of Cornell Sustainability Consultants and Ezra's Exchange, and for assisting other organizations (ECO, Greeks Go Green, Agua Clara, others) in their sustainability endeavors during his time at Cornell.

Organization of the Year: Cornell Sustainability Consultants (CSC) for making a positive impact on the greater Ithaca area in only two years since its creation. With a host of varied initiatives from sustainable brewing practices to an analysis of Tompkins County's entire waste management system, CSC has already made its mark, and its influence only continues to grow.

2020 Golden Gorge Award Winners

Rookie of the Year: Cornell Compost for their passion for composting and ability to make it fun and approachable is inspiring and admirable.

Member of the Year: Kathryn Cooke for co-founding of Epsilon Eta, Cornell’s first sustainability fraternity. She has been dedicated to ensuring the success of the organization, serving as President for a year.

Event of the Year: Climate Justice Cornell’s Wedding of Cornell and Fossil Fuels on Fossil Fuel Divestment Day.

Initiative of the Year: Lily Bermel('21,ESS)for Why Cornell Dining Needs Sustainability and Why Sustainability Needs Cornell Dining.

Ripple Effect Award: Erika Kane for utilizing her design skills and principles and employ them with sustainability in mind. For her final project, she created a curriculum for a course at Cornell that would reteach design and architectural studies through a lens of indigenous and ephemeral design.

JUST Award: Anabel’s Grocery. They provide thousands of people in the Cornell community with accessible, nutritious food. The organization hosts community dinners that use otherwise wasted food as the staple ingredients, and these dinners foster community at Cornell as well as provide free meals to students.

Life Gives You Lemons Award (Formerly known as Biggest Fail):Residential Sustainability Leaders. This new student organization works to create a culture of sustainability within Cornell’s residential communities by engaging new and returning students. This organization within a year established themselves as a new club, writing a constitution, electing an e-board, meeting weekly and even hosting a Chasing Coral Viewing Party in collaboration with other student sustainability leaders across the country.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Naomi Haber ('20,). Naomi developed Cornell’s Sustainable Waste Map, co-founded and co-implemented the Compost Managers program across 23 residential communities, diverting over 10,000 lbs of organics in its first year of operation. She has contributed to the eboards of Greeks Go Green for nearly three years, as well as being on ECO and Residential Sustainability Leaders eboards. She has been a member of Cornell Sustainability Consultants and Climate Justice Cornell, and recently won the New York State Student Sustainability Leadership Excellence Award. She is extremely dedicated, driven, and exudes passion in all of her sustainability work on campus.

Organization of the Year: GreenClub. This organization has grown immensely over the past year and has made it easy for anyone to join the sustainability. It encourages students to reduce their carbon footprint first, and then to make a positive impact through carbon offsets in areas where they cannot easily reduce their footprint.