Overbrook grantee GESG wins prestigious award!

On World Environment Day, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) – an organization founded by community members to combat their region’s environmental degradation – was one of five recipients of the prestigious Energy Globe award (an annual award founded in 1999 by Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann). Each year, the Award identifies five organizations that represent the best in national sustainable practices the fields of earth, fire, water, air, and youth. The award also carries with it a €10,000 cash prize, in recognition of the fact that many of the organizations have accomplished a lot with a very little, and could accomplish a great deal more with even a little more.

GESG won the award for its groundbreaking work in restoring watersheds and supporting communities’ sustainable food efforts. As part of the project, more than 289 communities in the Sierra Gorda region will receive support to preserve and strengthen their water supplies through improved agricultural techniques, including soil regeneration and carbon capture. In addition, communities will receive training on how to reduce the impact of current agricultural practices on the community ecosystems, without compromising the food production and income levels.

Congratulations, GESG!

UPDATE: and thanks to GESG's work, a new species of magnolia has been discovered! Read more about it here.

Rebuild by Design Winners Announced!

Last week, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan announced the winners of the Rebuild by Design competition; a multi-stakeholder initiative that will place New York City and New Jersey waterfronts at the epicenter of climate change resiliency planning.

Over the last year and a half Rebuild by Design brought together many of the world's top engineers, architects, policy professionals and local community members to create innovative ways to minimize flooding and protect shorelines. Among their entries: building a series of protective breakwaters in New York Harbor that slow the force of waves while serving as living reefs to rebuild the dwindling oyster population; designing "hyperabsorbent" streets and sidewalks that would mitigate storm runoff; digging channels along streets to divert stormwater; and creating buildings that are designed to flood without being damaged.

The six winning projects - which will receive a combined $1 billion in prize funding - together provide a comprehensive plan of protection, enhancement, and innovation. Check out all the winners here!

June Environmental Grants Announced!

The Environment Program awarded 17 grants this grant cycle. Of this group:

  • Five are for Latin American Biodiversity Conservation (Earthworks, Fundacion Cordillera Tropical, Mongabay, Rainforest Action Network, and The Vance Center);
  • Seven for Sustainable Consumption & Production (Clean Production Action, Food Tank, Forest Ethics, Green Press Initiative, Product Stewardship Institute, Story of Stuff, and Sustainable South Bronx);
  • One for Media (Island Press);
  • One for Movement Building (Climate Justice Alliance);
  • Two are multi-year pledges that were awarded in 2013 (LAANE and Urban Green);
  • Two are new grantees (Climate Justice Alliance and Sustainable South Bronx);
  • And in total, the Environment Program awarded $505,000 this grant cycle.

The Foundation is extremely proud of the work of all its grantees, and congratulates them on their many and impressive successes!

Movement Building

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is a newly formalized alliance of over 35 ‘frontline’ communities and grassroots groups, whose common goal is a “Just Transition” away from extractive industry and towards sustainable, local, and living economies. The Alliance members have experienced first-hand that communities of color and lower income communities often bear the brunt of polluting activities and are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. In 2013, CJA launched the “Our Power Campaign” – a campaign designed to unite these communities in fighting against polluters and fighting for alternative solutions and climate adaptive measures. In September, local environmental justice organizations in New York and New Jersey will lead CJA’s grassroots mobilization effort in relation to the UN Climate Leaders Summit.

Latin American Biodiversity Conservation

For more than 25 years, Earthworks has worked to protect communities and the environment from the impacts of irresponsible mineral and energy development. Overbrook is proud continue supporting its Campaign against Dirty Mining, which empowers grassroots groups to protect communities, biodiversity, and water resources from the impacts of irresponsible mining - and was a critical part of the successful effort to shut down the planned Pebble Mine in Alaska.        

Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT) is an Ecuadorian non-profit dedicated to empowering local communities to protect and sustainably manage their natural resources in the Ecuadorian Andes. Overbrook support will help officialize its innovative project engaging private landowners in forest conservation and pasture restoration in the buffer zone of Sangay National Park.  This program aims to prevent the advance of the ranching frontier where it can and manage it sustainably where it cannot, while protecting endangered and endemic wildlife and habitat found in the region’s cloud forests and páramos.

In 2012 the conservation news outlet Mongabay launched its non-profit arm in order to fill what founder Rhett Butler perceived as a gap in in-depth reporting on key issues affecting forests and the communities that depend on them. Last year's Special Reporting Initiative focused on local management of common pool resources. This year's SRI will explore the effects of Brazil's crack down on deforestation in adjacent areas and answer the question: Is Brazil's success displacing deforestation to other Amazon countries? Under its Special Reporting Initiative program, will have an expert panel select a winning proposal, with the chosen journalist producing a series of high-quality articles under an open Creative Commons license to be shared on other web sites or turned into derivative works, including articles for other publications, books, and even videos and film.

Since 1985, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has campaigned for the forests and their inhabitants by working to transform the global marketplace. In the coming year, RAN will put pressure on America’s biggest importer of palm oil, Cargill, in order to convince them to publicly adopt palm oil safeguards in an effort to minimize the social, environmental and climate impacts of the company’s global palm oil trading operations in tropical forests. By convincing Cargill to adopt these safeguards, RAN hopes to catalyze a domino effect among major agribusiness palm oil traders.

The Vance Center advances global justice by engaging lawyers across borders in the areas of the environment; human rights and access to justice; free expression, media, and information; and health and development. With support from The Overbrook Foundation in 2014, the Vance Center's Environment Program will expand its work in Mexico, Ecuador, and Brazil by offering pro bono legal services to additional local and regional environmental organizations in these countries that lack the financial resources for these services.

Sustainable Production and Consumption

Clean Production Action designs and delivers strategic solutions to replace the toxic chemicals used in products and by companies with scientifically-validated green chemicals, sustainable materials, and environmentally preferable products. This year it's launching both the Safer Chemicals Toolkit and the Chemical Footprint Project. The Safer Chemicals ToolKit will empower individuals and organizations by creating common language on the demands for sustainable solutions to toxic chemicals, through a mix of training and vetted technical and advocacy resources. The Chemicals Footprint Project will demonstrate progress about safer chemicals by measuring the chemical footprint of businesses, in the same manner that carbon footprints spurred public awareness of and push of energy use.

ForestEthics mission is “to protect endangered forests, and wild places, wildlife, and human well-being.” In response to an unprecedented scramble by huge fossil fuel corporations in North America to export as much coal, oil, and tar sands as possible to world markets, ForestEthics is galvanizing a network – OilNet - to prevent increased refining and transport of these fuels to the West Coast, the quickest and cheapest path to Asian markets.  With the Overbrook Foundation’s support of its network, ForestEthics will halt the new threat of the radically expanding oil-by-rail “pipeline on wheels.” ForestEthics also became the new home of Business Ethics Network (BEN) in 2013, a network of 700 individual campaign activists and over 150 campaign organizations, which provides numerous trainings to its members, as well as consulting, networking opportunities, and other resources.

Food Tank is a new organization created to reframe the current policy conversation about the food system. Food Tank seeks to align agricultural systems with nutritionally sound and environmentally responsible production, and connect sustainable growth for farmers with healthy food for eaters. Food Tank publishes original content several times daily and seven days a week, including video, articles, columns, reports, and investigative journalism. In 2014, Food Tank will continue to strive to become the go-to resource and convener on food and agriculture issues. It will focus on innovative, environmentally sustainable approaches to alleviate hunger, obesity, and poverty by highlighting emerging research, and global stories of success in agriculture. Food Tank is also partnering with the James Beard Foundation to create a rigorous and interactive rankings system of the top 250 sustainable food organizations.

The Green Press Initiative works to reduce the environmental and social impacts of the pulp and paper industry by shifting large paper-consuming sectors to recycled and Forest Stewardship Council certified papers and through efforts to accurately account for the greenhouse gas impacts from harvesting trees. In 2014-15, Green Press Initiative (in partnership with the Environmental Paper Network) will build awareness and broad-based support for a new methodology for forest carbon accounting that challenges the notion that harvesting trees for paper is carbon neutral. In addition, support will be utilized to advance continued measurable recycled fiber and FSC gains in the US book and newspaper industries, and continue advocating for US book publishers to cease purchasing paper sourced from endangered forests in Canada and Indonesia.

Founded in 2000, the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) tackles the problems of our current system of waste management by encouraging product design changes, mediating stakeholder dialogues, and advocating for “producer responsibility,” whereby manufacturers fund and oversee the environmentally responsible management of their post-consumer products and packaging. In 2014 and 2015, PSI will provide technical expertise and guidance to states seeking to implement producer responsibility programs for batteries, carpet, packaging, and paint.

The Story of Stuff Project was founded in 2008 to change the way we make, use, and throw away Stuff to be healthier, sustainable, and just. The Project’s animated movies have garnered more than 42 million online views worldwide and motivated viewers to support hundreds of environmental campaigns and projects. In 2014, the Story of Stuff will launch a new YouTube series called “Ask Annie,” inviting the audience into a kitchen table conversation with founder, Annie Leonard. It will also continue to move its now 500,000 Community members through deepening cycles of participation in both the Project’s Community and their own. Its Boot Camp will provide basic training in civic participation for 1,000 of its Community members and will implement technology enabling Community members to set up and manage their own campaigns.

The mission of Sustainable South Bronx is to address economic and environmental issues in the South Bronx – and throughout New York City – through a combination of green job training, community greening programs, and social enterprise. The organization’s Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training Academy (BEST) prepares unemployed and underemployed South Bronx residents for jobs in the green sector, and its SmartRoofs social enterprise employs program graduates as it undertakes environmental and ecological projects throughout the city. The Overbrook Foundation’s grant will promote demand for a new kind of workforce in the field of recycling. The grant will support: (1) the development of a marketing campaign that highlights how Sustainable South Bronx’s social enterprise has successfully saved building owners both money and staff resources by conducting activities that aim to promote recycling; and (2) the outreach efforts necessary for the social enterprise to obtain new contracts pertaining to recycling work in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan.


Island Press seeks, develops, and disseminates new ideas and tools for environmental problem solving. Its mission is to provide the best ideas and information in the field to those seeking to understand and protect the environment and create solutions to its complex problems. Island Press identifies critical information needs, consults with leading experts, vets new ideas through peer review, and develops books and other tools and resources as the basis for public education aimed at helping ideas take hold and forming sound policies and practices. Its focus areas include oceans and water; energy and climate change; the built environment; ecosystems; and policy, economics, and law.

February Environment Grants Awarded!

The Environment Program awarded 7 grants this grant cycle. Of this group, one is for Latin American Biodiversity Conservation, four for Sustainable Consumption & Production, and one for Media. Additionally, a grant was awarded to the Wildfire Project as part of the Environment Program's increasing focus on 'movement-building.' This does not include six pledge grants, three of which are for Latin American Biodiversity Conservation (Imaflora, Root Capital, and the Wildlife Conservation Society), two for Sustainable Production and Consumption (Environmental Paper Network and NRDC), and one for Media (Grist). Our two new grantees are the New York Harbor Foundation and the Wildfire Project. In total, the Environment Program awarded $205,000. The Foundation is extremely proud of the work of all its grantees, and congratulates them on their many and impressive successes!

Biodiversity Conservation in Latin America

The Overbrook Foundation awarded the Environmental Investigation Agency a renewal grant of $55,000 for General Operating Support. This award comes on the heels of a recent victory for elephant conservation: the Obama Administration's decision to ban virtually all commercial sales of ivory in our out of the U.S., a victory for which EIA deserves no small amount of credit. It also published a widely-cited report on the illegal flow of timber from pristine Russian forests, to Chinese manufacturers, to big name brands in the U.S.

Sustainable Production and Consumption

If acting as watchdog for illegal timber harvesting in vast wildernesses wasn't challenging enough, aims to keep fossil fuels in the ground - and its production revenues out of the pockets of higher education. It's been mobilizing thousands of college-age students across the U.S. and around the world to push their colleges, universities, and foundations to divest from companies that engage in fossil fuel extraction. A critical endeavor, and one that requires constant pressure. Overbrook was able to award $40,000 to for General Operating Support.

The Dogwood Alliance - whose mission is to conserve the vast forests in the Southern U.S. through advocating and pushing for sustainable industry practices - has also seen important victories in 2013. It convinced several major companies to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and pulp, instead of the industry-supported Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and successfully brought its first carbon credit project to market. We hope that our renewal grant of $15,000 will be of use to Dogwood in the continuation of its Paper Campaign and its Carbon Canopy Project.

UPSTREAM, née Product Policy Institute, was awarded a $15,000 grant for its Campaign for Sustainable Products and Packaging. While EIA and Dogwood Alliance focus on keeping the trees in the ground and holding producers accountable, UPSTREAM looks at returning responsibility to manufacturers for products once they've been used. The Campaign aims to prevent marine debris, plastic pollution, climate change emissions, and natural resource depletion through sustainable packaging and product policies. It builds stakeholder literacy and political power to achieve EPR packaging policy in the public’s interest and mobilizes citizens to put public pressure on brands through the Make It, Take It market campaign. It also continues to develop the CRADLE 2 Coalition into a powerful national network to build political support for EPR for additional products.

But recycling and reuse needn't be focused only on man-made pollutants! That's the premise of the New York Harbor Foundation's Billion Oyster Project, for which it was awarded a first-time grant of $35,000. The Foundation - which supports the innovative New York Harbor School on Governor's Island - aims to engage all New Yorkers in re-discovering their waterways. And what better way than through our stomachs? The Foundation is collecting oyster shells from restaurants to be used to build beds for the baby oysters (or "spats") and eventually, provide a home for oysters and the dozens of other flora and fauna that utilize them. Chilled Sauvignon Blanc at happy hour not included.


Sometimes, of course, one wants a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth. Real Food Media Project aims to satisfy both through informative visual media, busting 'Big Ag' food myths and supporting alternative sustainable visions. The grant of $25,000 for General Operating Support will also go to the publication of its inaugural film contest, which you can vote on here!.

Movement Building

And if you're still searching for that spark, look no further than the Wildfire Project. Founded by one of the lead architects of the Occupy movement, it fuses political education, skills training, group development, and direct organizing support in a curriculum tailored to specific needs of groups in actions. Too often have movements bloomed, only to wither on the vine through lack of interest or support. But if the movements have had the change to develop strong roots, there is a much greater chance of success for the social, political, economic, and ecological justice we are still lacking. We are proud to be able to support the Wildfire Project through a $20,000 General Operating Support grant.

Mongabay selects Winner for its Special Reporting Initiative

After unveiling its inaugural "Special Reporting Initiative" competition this past August, Mongabay and its expert team of panelists officially selected a winner this past month. Wendee Nicole, a journalist who has written for a wide range of publications, will examine how Elinor Ostrom Nobel Prize-winning work on polycentric governance and decentralization applies to efforts to conserve biodiversity.

The fellow will receive to $20,000 to fund the top proposal: $15,000 as a stipend and up to $5,000 for reporting and travel costs. They will have three months for travel and research and three months for writing, and are guaranteed publication in Mongabay as well as any other publication interested in running the story. intends the Special Reporting Initiative to be an ongoing focus of the organization, designed to raise the attention to and focus on innovations in biodiversity conservation. It asks applicants to consider and suggest the next "big idea" in tropical biodiversity conservation, what new models conservationists are employing and what social and economic effects they have, as well as their direct impact on biodiversity. In addition, it seeks to raise awareness about effective models emerging out of sectors outside traditional tropical biodiversity conservation, like healthcare, microfinance, poverty alleviation, and energy production.

You can read more about Wendee Nicole, her project, and the Initiative here

Environment Grants Awarded at November Board Meeting

The Environment Program awarded 17 grants this grant cycle. Of this group, four are for Latin American Biodiversity Conservation, six for Sustainable Consumption & Production, and one for Overbrook's newest program portfolio: Movement Building. This does not include six pledge grants, three of which are for Latin American Biodiversity Conservation (Amazon Conservation Team, Amazon Watch, People and Plants International), and three for Sustainable Production and Consumption (As You Sow, Forest Ethics, and ioby). Our two new grantees are the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Reserve and the Movement Strategy Center. In total, the Environment Program awarded $410,000 in November to its grantees and $2,012,500 in 2013. The Foundation is extremely proud of the work of all its grantees, and congratulates them on their many and impressive successes!

Biodiversity Conservation in Latin America

The Overbrook Foundation awarded The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) a second grant of $20,000 for its work as a research and advocacy organization whose mission is “to promote tourism policies and practices globally so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity." Its Sinaloa Sur Initiative, begun in 2012 and covering some 100 kilometers of largely undeveloped coastline in Northwestern Mexico on the eastern shore of the Gulf of California, is an ambitious sustainable tourism project, for which CREST is providing tourism expertise.

Relatedly, The Overbrook Foundation continues its support for Pronatura Noroeste, a non-profit active in the Cabo Pulma region of Mexico and instrumental in shutting down a mega-development planned for the region - which holds the only coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. Pronatura received a grant of $50,000 for its work on integrating sustainable tourism into the region.

Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P (GESGIAP) is Overbrook's newest grantee in its Biodiversity Conservation portfolio, and we are very glad to start our mutually beneficial collaboration. Sierra Gorda is a grassroots organization, founded in 1989 by a group of local Mexican citizens in an impoverished but ecologically rich area of central Mexico. Its objective is to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as well as build a sustainable economy based on environmental education, payments for environmental services, and the operation of a network of private nature reserves. It received a $25,000 grant on its payment for ecosystem services research, as well as its development of alternative ways to measure carbon capture.

Moving further south, into Ecuador, Nature and Culture International received a $45,000 grant for its work conserving and managing crucially important ecosystems in Southern Ecuador, including the dry Tumbesian forests, the Andean cloud forests and paramo, foothill Amazonian forests and the pacific foothill forests and wetlands in the El Oro province. The Conservation Fund will focus on the establishment and management of protected areas by municipal governments located in southern Ecuador, comprising land in four Provinces with an area of approximately 87,500 acres.

Sustainable Production & Consumption

The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) received a $50,000 grant for general operating support. ACE was founded in 2008 to educate high school students about the science behind climate change and inspire them to take action. Not many organizations can say that their work has reached over 1.6 million five years into their formation. Nor could many claim that they’re actually changing peoples’ minds on climate change. However, ACE is doing both. It recognizes that it is critical not just to raise awareness of climate change and its effects among youth, but to actively engage them in the debate and encourage them to take leadership roles.

Tackling movement building and leadership development from the lens of business is the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), which received a $25,000 grant, also for general operating support. Since 2012 it has added 45,000 new businesses and 50,000 individuals, bringing its membership up to 165,000 and 300,000, respectively. Its top leaders have met with President Obama, testified at Congressional hearings, organized the first-ever Business Summit for a Sustainable Economy, and built a presence at state-level in 14 states, with a goal of creating a vision, framework and policies to support a vibrant, just and sustainable economy.

A world-wide coalition tackling one aspect of our currently un-sustainable economy is the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). It received a $40,000 grant for its work in the U.S. and Canada (major hubs of incineration emissions). Its two-part strategy focuses on both stopping unsustainable practices and advancing solutions. In keeping with GAIA’s broad purpose, the network’s core activities include: organizing regional and global meetings for collective strategizing; hosting active e-mail lists that provide a virtual space for member-to-member support; and facilitating skill-shares and global days of action. GAIA also mounts multifaceted, proactive efforts to promote recycling, reuse, and composting as key environmental, climate, and job creation strategies.

Groundswell received a $40,0000 to continue its work, both innovative in practice as well as in scope. Founded in 2009, it has developed a model for “civic consumption” that builds on the power of community infrastructure to help groups realize their power to achieve social outcomes through purchasing decisions. Its Community Power Project (CPP) helps mission-based organizations purchase clean electricity at a reduced price, and its Strong Homes Program helps homeowners and residents procure discounted home energy efficiency services as a group, reducing their energy usage and expenses. Through CPP, Groundswell has seen nearly $8 million funneled to clean electricity, 5,000 tons of carbon abated, and 120 non-profits seeing an average of 15-20% reduction in their energy bills. In 2014, Groundswell will expand its Community Power Program into Baltimore and Philadelphia.

The Overbrook Foundation awarded Health Care Without Harm - whose mission is to transform the health care sector, currently a major polluter, and to reduce harm to human health and the environment - $50,000 for its Healthier Hospitals Initiative. The Initiative has grown to 13 Sponsoring Systems, comprised of the largest, most influential heath care systems in the U.S., and with 850 hospitals participating, it is almost halfway to meeting its goal of enrolling 2,000 hospitals (35% of the entire healthcare sector). These hospitals represent more than $21 billion in purchasing power. The six specific Content Challenges of HHI are: Smarter Purchasing, Safer Chemicals, Leaner Energy, Healthier Foods, Less Waste and Leadership.

Movement Building

And last, but certainly not least, The Overbrook Foundation debuted its new program portfolio focusing on "movement building" by, appropriately, awarding $50,000 to the Movement Strategy Center (MSC). Intimately involved in the development of Overbrook's "Building Equity & Alignment Initiative" (of which more information may be found on Overbrook's main environment page), MSC is dedicated to transformative movement building. It partners with more than 300 grassroots organizations, alliances, networks and foundations that operate at local, regional and national levels. The organization places the experience and leadership of those most impacted at the center of its work, and the majority of its partners are organizations led by low-income, people of color, immigrant, youth and other marginalized populations.