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Overview of the Prize

Celebrating grassroots environmental leaders who take significant action for our planet

Our Mission

The Goldman Environmental Prize honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring all of us to take action to protect our planet.

About the Goldman Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes grassroots environmental heroes from roughly the world’s six inhabited continental regions:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Islands & Island Nations
  • North America
  • South & Central America

The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.

Our History & Founders

Reflecting a lifetime commitment to philanthropy and environmental issues, the Goldman Environmental Prize was founded in 1989 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman. The duo envisioned the Prize as a way to demonstrate the international nature of environmental problems and draw public attention to the global need for action. By rewarding ordinary individuals for their outstanding environmental achievements, the Goldmans hoped to inspire others to emulate the examples set by the Prize recipients. 

Continuing a Legacy

The recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize are announced annually in a live ceremony timed to coincide with Earth Day (with virtual ceremonies during the global COVID-19 pandemic). The Prize is awarded in its home city of San Francisco, California, with a lively award ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House, followed by an eco-friendly reception at City Hall. Prize winners also travel to Washington, D.C., for a smaller ceremony. Prize winners each receive a bronze sculpture in the shape of an Ouroboros. Common to many cultures around the world, the Ouroboros, which depicts a serpent biting its tail, is a symbol of nature’s power of renewal.

The first Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony took place on April 16, 1990. It was timed to coincide with Earth Day, and the date was coincidentally also Richard’s 70th birthday. The Goldmans sent out over 3,000 invitations, expecting only a small fraction to attend. Instead, 1,600 people sent RSVPs and, on the day of the event, a lively and supportive audience cheered the six inaugural Goldman Environmental Prize winners. 

“People of ordinary backgrounds doing extraordinary things to save our Earth.”

—Richard Goldman