The Pando Sustainability Awards 2024: Recap and winners

Some 400 registrants from throughout the Southland came to the Caltech campus to celebrate the ingenious projects young people have innovated for a sustainable future. Photograph credit: Cyndi Bemel.

The Pando Sustainability Awards 2024: Recap and winners

By   |  May. 30, 2024

The excitement was palpable at The Pando Sustainability Awards, held on April 14 on the Caltech campus. For the first time in the Awards history, real-world sustainability projects developed both by the Pando Days program for higher ed and Magenta House program for middle schools were honored, while a wholly new program, Camp Pando, was introduced that aims to foster the work of non-traditional learners. The event also marked the official beginning of the Pando Days ’24 season.

Sixteen Pando Days projects from the 2023 season were in the mix this year aimed at implementing regional sustainability goals, created by 12 participating colleges and universities. The lounge and gardens at Dabney Hall brimmed with students, professors and project advisors eager to connect with leaders of Los Angeles County’s sustainability community with the aim of moving projects forward in local communities.  

Nowhere was sustainability star power more in evidence. The keynote speech was presented by Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party, Betty Yee (see more on Betty Yee’s keynote speech). Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, was given Pando’s Immortal Earthkeeper Award for Lifetime Achievement and delivered stirring remarks (watch this space for Fr. Greg’s comments). 

LA County’s sustainability office was represented by the Chief Sustainability Officer Rita Kampalath, who highlighted the state of County Sustainability as more fully outlined in a presentation to the Chief Sustainability Officer Taskforce.  LA Unified School District’s Christos Chrysiliou, founding Chief Eco-Sustainability Officer, spoke powerfully about the intersection of sustainability and K-12 education.  

Pando Days 2024-25 sponsor Metropolitan Water District’s Director Dennis Erdman introduced a water spotlight for the upcoming Pando Days season, joined by LA County Sanitation District’s Wendy Wert. Christian Cruz of the Clean Power Alliance threw a spotlight on power. 

LA County Supervisors offered official scrolls to all Pando Days project teams, honoring their work. Aaron Ordower, from the office of Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey Horvath, made the individual presentations.

Pando’s own Vice Chair Ed Bacon returned to his hometown of 22 years to MC the event, which Pasadena Now picked up in a feature article. Pasadena City Councilmember Jason Lyon welcomed the assembly. LA’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) Taskforce chair Heidrun Mumper-Drumm opened the event as a Taskforce meeting.  Pando’s Founding Chair John B. Cobb, Jr. reflected on our role in education and the urgency of this moment in history. 

Citrus College is awarded the Vision and Creativity Award by Rita Kampalath and Andy Shrader. Citrus shared the honor with ArtCenter, CalArts, and LA Trade Tech. Photograph credit: Cyndi Bemel.

And the winners are…

Even the rain that forced those assembled inside infused the healthy, good-natured competition with a spirit of collaboration and common cause.  And the award announcements did not disappoint.  

For Pando Days ‘23, tie votes were recorded in all three competition categories, showing how uniformly outstanding the past season of Pando Days projects were.

Four projects shared the Vision and Creativity Award:

In the Runner-Up Overall Category, the award was shared by:

  • Mount Saint Mary’s University of Los Angeles, “Probing For Resilience Phase 2: Planting the Garden,” which builds on the school’s Phase 1 project from 2022 to implement plans to replace traditional landscaping with native plants.
  • And University of Southern California, “A Pilgrimage to the River,” which highlights water and climate change issues on a walk led by USC’s Eco-Chaplain, using nature-inspired spiritual practices to reduce climate crisis-induced stress.

And two projects shared the First Prize Overall:

Magenta House

The event marked the first in which Magenta House, Pando’s sustainability program for middle school students, was honored at the Awards. “Home Sweet Home” awards were announced for first, second, and third place winners.  (For those new to Magenta House, check it out at

Two projects were awarded the Third Place prize: Palms Middle School, with “Pollution Under the Radar,” an Instagram account and podcast revealing how “eco-friendly” cars negatively affect the environment; and Woodland Hills Academy Humanities Magnet, with “Every Drop Counts,” an informational campaign about wasteful agricultural practices and ways to avoid them in the future.

Byrd Middle School received Second Place for “Jeans & Dreams,” a business upcycling clothes to save water while spreading awareness of the importance of conservation.

And the First Place winner: Woodland Hills Academy Humanities Magnet for “Project Friendly Fashion: Reducing the Effects of the Fast Fashion Industry,” a school-wide initiative to help reduce the fashion industry’s negative impacts on the environment and people.


Over 300 middle school students participated across the LAUSD system.

Mikala Rahn (wearing pink in middle), founding CEO of Learning Works Charter School, surrounded by Camp Pando participants and team leads. Photograph credit: Cyndi Bemel.

Camp Pando launch

Included in the Awards was Pando’s newest program, Camp Pando, focused on non-traditional learners.

Developed in collaboration with Learning Works Charter School and Homeboy Industries, Camp Pando applies the Pando Day’s model over a condensed timeframe to a cohort of young people aged 18-24 who are no longer in school.

Developed in collaboration with Metropolitan Water District and LA Metro, Camp Pando envisions using the County’s 12,108 bus stops as a network of sustainability. (Read more). 

Go here to see the full Awards program.  Go here to see photos from the day.

Members of the Pando writing team include Rich Binell, Alexi Caracotsios, Amy Goldberg, Rebecca Schmitt, and Eugene Shirley.