Climate

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, 350.org 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 350.org 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.

Media

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.

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.

2013 Brower Youth Awards

Earth Island Institute, the non-profit organization providing support for environmental activism for over 30 years, recognizes the importance of encouraging youth leadership in the environmental movement. Each year, it awards six environmental activists, aged 13 to 22, for their outstanding efforts to promote ecological sustainability and social justice.

Two of this year's winners, Jonathan Ferrer of UPROSE in New York and Arielle Klagsbrun of  Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment in St. Louis, are rising leaders in the grassroots environmental movement. Their two organizations also sent members to the Overbrook-convened "Building Equity and Alignment" Initiative in mid-July; part of the ongoing effort to strengthen the environmental movement. And Chloe Maxmin was the key driver in getting Harvard University to begin the process of moving away from investments in coal and other dirty energy - the main thrust of 350.org's new campaign.

All of this year's winners proved again the power grassroots organizations and youth leadership have, as well as the need to recognize this strength in the ongoing struggles against extreme energy and environmental and climate injustice.

Urban Green making Urban New York even Greener!

Last week, the Bloomberg Administration released its highly anticipated "Building Resiliency Report," which addressed a comprehensive set of zoning and structural changes that New York City should undertake to be better prepared for the next Hurricane Sandy. At the request of the Administration, the Task Force tasked with writing the Report was led by Overbrook grantee Urban Green.

The Report offers a series of innovative but manageable changes to zoning and building laws in the upcoming decade. The 250 recommended measures - from requiring emergency lights in stairwells to installing flood barriers to wind-resistant windows - would initially affect only new construction, but could be applied to existing structures, depending on how many of the measures are approved by the New York City Council.

And, while the estimated price tag of $20 billion seems high at first, the cost-factor changes when one considers that Hurricane Sandy cost the City almost $19 billion - and that a future storm could cost even more.

For an overview of the recommended changes, please see Urban Green's executive summary. We are exceedingly proud to be able to support Urban Green in its work and role as key stakeholder in redefining the landscape of New York City, so that generations can enjoy the Big Green Apple - and not just on a canoe.

Weekly Environment Grantee News!

Hello All,

In what will hopefully be a weekly occurrence, The Overbrook Foundation's Environment Program proudly presents "Environment Grantee Round-Up - All the Sustainable News that's Fit to Print!"*

In a huge coup for the Dogwood Alliance and forests in the Southern U.S., International Paper – the largest paper supplier in the United States – has agreed to expand the acreage of FSC certified forests and committed $7.5 million to conserve forests in hotspot eco-regions. It has also agreed to work with Dogwood Alliance to map endangered and other high conservation value forests and to discourage the future conversion of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations. This agreement comes after years of advocacy by groups like the Dogwood Alliance. Small in size but big in impact, the Alliance has helped convince companies like Staples, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, and McDonald’s to upgrade their environmental and paper-procurement policies. This gradual build-up of support by clients of International Paper then created a domino effect, where paper producers like Domtar and Gerogia-Pacific also began working with Dogwood, and which in turn finally caught the attention of International Paper. Read and watch more about Dogwood's success here.

The Alliance for Climate Education was mentioned in a New York Times article on the "Next Generation Science Standards" - a sweeping set of suggestions to bring current science curricula in line with scientific changes, including teaching about climate change as early as middle school. The standards aren't binding, but 26 states have committed to seriously considering their adoption.

Green for All released a report, "Staying Green and Growing Jobs:Green Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance as Career Pathway Stepping Stones," in conjunction with American Rivers. Among other highlights, it notes that water utilities investing in green infrastructure can outsource operations and maintenance (O&M) work to workforce development programs that train individuals in green infrastructure – and that in fact, some already do. Operations and maintenance work also gives disadvantaged community members access to jobs and career on-ramps while performing the work required by water utilities.

CREST (the Center for Responsible Travel) is holding its Second Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism Development in Los Cabos, Mexico on May 15-18. CREST was one of the many organizations involved in preventing the proposed mega-development in Cabo Pulma (along with fellow Overbrook grantee Pronatura Noroeste), and it works to ensure that sustainable development becomes the norm, not the exception. Co-hosted by Stanford University, this conference will bring together a select group of developers, designers, operators, and investors involved in sustainable development of large-scale coastal resort and vacation home projects in ways that are integrated with local communities and the native landscape. You can check out the details here.

And that's it for now - check back in next week for more!

* Name be changed in future posts for the sake of brevity. Suggestions welcome!

Overbrook Grantee 350.org helps introduce the End Polluter Welfare Act into Congress

On May 10th, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), joined by Overbrook Grantee 350.org, introduced the "End Polluter Welfare Act" legislation into Congress. The bill aims at cutting billions in federal subsidies currently given to the oil, coal, and gas industries.

The bill notes that fossil fuels are subsidized at 6 times the rate of renewable energies: $72 billion in 2002-2008, compared with $12.2 billion for renewables. By contrast, in 2011 alone, the five largest oil companies earned a combined $137 billion. Furthermore, the new bill would not only prevent millions of tons annual carbon emissions, it would save billions of dollars. For example, $12 billion would be saved by repealing a 2004 law that allows fossil fuel corporations to take deductions by claiming they are manufacturers, one of many such exemptions.

The efforts of Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison were supported by 350.org, a global grassroots coalition that seeks to curb carbon emissions by using social media and online campaigns to catalyze public protests. For instance, in the wake of the Heartland Institute's billboard attacks likening climate change believers to the Unabomber, it immediately organized online counter-protests. The backlash resulted in the pull-out by several high-profile funders from the Institute. 350.org also offers a host of resources on organizing events, protests, workshops, and campaigns.

While the bill will certainly face daunting challenges in both the House and the Senate (where climate change deniers grow ever more vocal), its introduction signals a new willingness to tackle entrenched energy interests. And, by partnering with next-generation grassroots organizations like 350.org and harnessing broad-based public support, such bills may finally have a chance to succeed.