Diane Lewis, M.D., an environmental activist, doctor, and member of the Bedford Planning Board, has been selected by the Garden Club of America to receive its highest award for her work in conservation education.
At the 108th annual meeting of the GCA in May, Dr. Lewis will receive the Margaret Douglas Medal, awarded for “notable service to the cause of conservation education.” National medals are the highest honors bestowed upon individuals or institutions by the GCA for distinguished achievements in areas related to its purpose.
The Bedford Garden Club, of which she is a member, recommended Dr. Lewis for the award “in recognition for her work in creating a platform that inspires others to take simple, straightforward steps to protect our environment and preserve our health.”
This is not the first time Dr. Lewis has been recognized by the prestigious national gardening organization. She was awarded the GCA Zone III Conservation Award in May 2016.
Dr. Lewis has embraced education as a means for implementing change. She founded the nonprofit organization, The Great Healthy Yard Project, and her book of the same name was published in 2014. The book won the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Awards silver medal for Home and Garden Books. She also received the 2015 Advocate Award from Environmental Advocates of New York, and the 2016 Environmental Champion Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for The Great Healthy Yard Project.
An internist and nephrologist, licensed to practice medicine in New York state, Dr. Lewis recognized that water polluted with minute amounts of the chemicals found in synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers can damage endocrine systems, causing lifelong effects on humans and animals. Most of these chemicals come from private land, homes and lawns, which end up in the drinking water.
Dr. Lewis’s created The Great Healthy Yard Project to draw attention to a growing problem that often goes unnoticed. She has dedicated her work to teaching others, in nuanced terms, how chemicals end up in the drinking water and affect the body, as well as teaching alternative ways to take care of lawns and gardens without harmful chemicals. A freelance journalist, she has written op-ed pieces in regional and national papers, and speaks frequently about how to protect water quality.
“As a doctor and a mother, I understand the importance of clean air and water,” Dr. Lewis said. “The health of our families depends on it.”
In a recent issue of the Bedford town newsletter, Supervisor MaryAnn Carr congratulated Dr. Lewis on behalf of the town board and planning board. She noted that Dr. Lewis’s book, speeches, blogs and newspaper articles have raised awareness of environmental hazards and influenced national public policy. “Individuals, communities, and state and local governments across the country have pledged to care for yards without these chemicals,” she said. “Diane combines her medical expertise and her love of the outdoors to create a platform that inspires others.”
In addition to serving on the Bedford Planning Board and belonging to the Bedford Garden Club, Dr. Lewis serves on the Town of Bedford Open Space Acquisition Committee. She was a board member and chair of the Water and Land Use Task Force of Bedford 2020 for nine years, and a board member of Audubon New York for six years. In 2017, she joined the board of Earthjustice, a national nonprofit legal services provider for environmental organizations.
Founded in 1913, the Garden Club of America is a volunteer nonprofit organization comprised of 200 member clubs and approximately 18,000 club members throughout the country. It is a national leader in the fields of horticulture, conservation and civic improvement. GCA members use their expertise to support a wide array of projects in their communities and across the nation.
The Margaret Douglas Medal for notable service to the cause of conservation education is awarded upon the joint recommendation of GCA’s Conservation Committee chairman and the Awards Committee. Among the previous winners are author and environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1990, documentary filmmaker Bill Kurtis in 1997, and horticultural consultant and educator Katy Moss Warner in 2002.