Future of Forestry frontman Eric Owyoung was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Greenpeace's Southern California Chapter last month, due to a clerical error by the organization's administrative offices.
Owyoung said he attended the local "Leafy" Awards banquet on March 21 at the San Diego Holiday Inn Express, believing he was going to receive an award from an obscure, "hipster-friendly" music association. But instead, he was singled out as "a leader in tree preservation activism and awareness."
"I knew something was off about this music awards thing," Owyoung recalled of that night. "I noticed nobody there looked like the 'music crowd.' I should've known what was going on when I saw a 'carbon footprint reduction' tip jar next to the bartender."
Owyoung said that as he began plotting his escape route about an hour into the ceremony, a spotlight appeared on him, and Leafy Awards Emcee Dexter Farmington announced him as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"At that point, there wasn't much I could do," Owyoung said. "Everyone was looking at me, and a lot of people expected me to go forward. So I did."
Speaking to a crowd that immediately gave him a standing ovation, Owyoung gave a curiously short speech, merely stating, "I have been, and always will be, dedicated to, um, Future of Forestry," which received a raucous round of applause. He was handed the 15-pound "Golden Leaf" trophy.
"Indeed, this young man is and always will be dedicated to the cause," the emcee said. "We are forever grateful for the tree management plans Future of Forestry has put into place over the years."
Farmington cited Future of Forestry as having produced a number of "independent, forward-thinking" forest plans, including the "Travel" series, "Advent" and "Twilight," among others.
Owyoung quickly bowed out of the ceremony after receiving the Golden Leaf. "I was completely confused," he said. "And I felt totally guilty. I mean, before I came to the ceremony, I had just tossed last year's phonebook in the garbage--not the recycle bin."
The ride, though, came to an end the next morning, when Owyoung received a phone call from the administrative secretary of the Greenpeace chapter.
"She said, 'Um, we're gonna need that trophy back,'" Owyoung recalled. "She said the award actually was supposed to have gone to a nonprofit organization named Forests of the Future. That definitely made a lot more sense."
In an official press release, the Greenpeace chapter stated that the mix-up was due to "multiple and repeated clerical errors" by "one of several interns," and that the organization would review its "fact-finding and fact-checking mechanisms" in the future.
"While we appreciate Mr. Owyoung's music and the fact that his band name indeed creates conversations about the long-term viability of trees, we recognize that we made a serious mistake at the 2014 Leafy Awards," the statement went on to read. "We are deeply sorry about the confusion and wish Mr. Owyoung well in his future endeavors."