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Greening By Example

One of the ways to encourage environmental change is to show what others are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. That’s the thinking behind an effort underway at the George Gund Foundation to collect examples of how its grantees are implementing more environment-friendly practices and then sharing that information on the Foundation’s website.

Since September 2007, the Cleveland-based foundation has required grant applicants to include information – called climate change statements — in their funding requests about what they are doing to make their organizations more friendly to the environment.  After having collected nearly two  years’ worth of examples, the foundation recently began making this information available on its website.

“Even though we have had an active environmental program, it occurred to us we could go beyond grants to environmental organizations and get the rest of our program areas involved” in the issue, said senior program officer Deena Epstein.  In addition to its environmental portfolio, Gund supports work in other areas, including education, the arts, human services and economic development.

In addition to information from the grantee climate change statements, Gund’s website includes sample statements for different types of organizations and links to online resources to help organizations better understand climate change and reduce their carbon footprint.

Some of the ways in which its grantees are going green – and which the foundation encourages others in a similar position to explore — include:

  • The Episcopal Diocese of Cleveland is replacing all of its compact fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs.
  • The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is implementing an anti-idling policy for its vehicles and installing special equipment to capture the soot that usually escapes them.
  • And Opera Cleveland is re-using lumber from its sets rather than throwing it away.

Grantees’ most popular activities include reducing paper usage, replacing light bulbs and finding other ways to reduce energy usage, recycling more frequently and increasing electronic communications, said Natalie Heffernan, a Gund fellow.

Epstein says Gund does not evaluate grant applicants based on their climate change statements, but it does consider the effort a valuable way to raise awareness of climate issues.

After a year of receiving climate change statements, Gund discovered a few things. First, grantees were already undertaking a number of activities — to save costs or to streamline their work — that had green benefits. Gund’s climate change statements, Epstein said, affirmed their actions. They were grateful to know their actions were environmentally friendly, Celeste-Heffernan added.

Second, Gund noticed that grantees were starting to figure out how to do more to reduce their carbon footprint.

Overall the information gleaned from the climate change statements show that grantees are taking thoughtful, pro-active and entrepreneurial steps to reduce their personal and organizational carbon footprints and giving others good examples to follow.

–Emily Culbertson


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