Irmo resident Jane Hiller, education director with Sonoco Recycling in Columbia, has been named as the winner of the 2020 South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award during a ceremony held at the State House in Columbia. Governor Henry McMaster presented her with the award.
“We have focused considerable efforts on protecting South Carolina’s environment and natural beauty over the years, but we simply can’t do it without the help of extraordinary South Carolinians like Jane Hiller,” said McMaster. “Ms. Hiller’s work to teach the young people of South Carolina about the importance of being good stewards of our environment will pay dividends for generations to come and certainly deems her worthy of receiving this prestigious award.”
The General Assembly established the South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award during the 1992 legislative session to recognize outstanding contributions to the protection, conservation and improvement of the state’s natural resources.
During the ceremony, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Director Robert H. Boyles Jr. described Hiller’s contributions:
“Ms. Hiller is recognized and respected by her peers as a keystone member of the environmental education community of South Carolina,” Boyles said. “She is an environmental educator of exemplary service and leadership, and her works have been directed to thousands of citizens through her work with the South Carolina Green Steps Schools initiative, the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina and Sonoco Recycling.”
Hiller is a former classroom teacher who understands the challenges teachers face as they seek to provide meaningful learning experiences about environmental stewardship within their schools. In 2003, she applied her “teacher-understanding” and passion for environmental education to co-founding the S.C. Green Steps School initiative.
The S.C. Green Steps School initiative is a partnership. It is currently sponsored by the Environmental Education Association of S.C., the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), Keep the Midlands Beautiful and Sonoco Recycling. Hiller, as an extension of her work with Sonoco Recycling, has been a constant leader in the partnership, actively directing and developing the Green Steps School initiative. She has established practical projects and a statewide network of expert mentors to support and inspire thousands of students and hundreds of K-12 teachers to engage in hands-on environmental projects in classrooms and schoolyards across the state. The projects of Green Steps Schools cover a range of environmental topics, including wildlife habitat, school gardens, composting, erosion control, water quality, air quality, energy efficiency, waste reduction, resource conservation and reuse, and recycling.
As an outgrowth of her passion for environmental education and care for her teaching colleagues, Hiller has been a long-serving leader within the Environmental Education Association of S.C. There, she has been a mentor to hundreds of teaching professionals, using her skills at team building, communications and networking to be a constant provider of ideas, information, and opportunities to strengthen the profession and the programs of environmental education in South Carolina.
In her regular job, Hiller is education director for Sonoco Recycling, responsible for educating local governments, agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools and citizens about the importance of waste reduction, resource conservation, reuse and recycling. She has reached thousands of people each year with information and inspiration to reduce waste materials.
As recipient of the 2020 Environmental Awareness Award, Jane Hiller joins a line of 26 previous winners recognized by the award. Each year the public is invited to submit nominations that are then reviewed by an awards committee, which includes representatives from the state’s natural resource agencies. In judging nominees, the committee considers excellence in innovation, leadership and accomplishments that influence positive changes affecting the natural environment. Members of the awards committee represent the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, S.C. Forestry Commission, SCDNR and SCDHEC.
Jane Hiller (center) was honored as the 2020 recipient of the S.C. Environmental Awareness Award. Pictured with her are (left to right) Governor Henry McMaster, state Representative Chip Huggins and SCDNR Director Robert H. Boyles Jr. SCDNR photo by Joey Frazier