Local Nonprofits Saving Money and the Environment
Virtually every industry is looking to adopt eco-friendly practices because of a greater awareness of environmental issues and growing energy costs. The nonprofit sector is no exception. Going green is helping organizations reduce their environmental impact and improve their bottom line at the same time. Launched in 2008, Grants to Green has helped more than 90 metro Atlanta nonprofits to do just that.
Through a partnership with The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, The Kendeda Fund, and Southface, Grants to Green gives nonprofits the opportunity to renovate or build healthier workplaces that are energy, water, and environmentally efficient. The ultimate goal is to improve nonprofit buildings’ structure to increase the cost-efficiency of operations and use the savings to provide more services.
Through Grants to Green, nonprofits in the 23-county metro Atlanta region can apply for Assessment Awards or Implementation Grants. Assessments allow the nonprofit to bring in experts to conduct an environmental efficiency scan of the building to determine areas for improvement. Implementation Grants allow the nonprofit to receive funding to execute specific environmental efficiency recommendations.
Grants to Green has helped the Elachee Nature Science Center, one of the premier environmental education centers in Georgia, save valuable dollars and reduce its energy consumption. With the support of both an Assessment Award and an Implementation Grant, Elachee has replaced an ailing heating and air conditioning unit, installed programmable thermostats in their Education Center, upgraded lighting, and educated staff about ways to improve efficiency. After implementing these few changes, Elachee demonstrated a 21 percent savings in energy use for an annual savings of just over $6,000. The organization has diverted these savings to its programs, allowing more children to learn about environmental preservation.
“The green improvements here at Elachee are so important, not only for the financial savings, but moreso for the opportunity to show our students and visitors practical measures that can be taken to make a big difference. Reducing our energy and water consumption are the most responsible actions we can take for lessening our environmental impact,” said Andrea Timpone, chief executive officer of Elachee.
A key component to the Grants to Green initiative is also the creation of Green Champions, a volunteer from the grantee organization that is responsible for shepherding the green project from conception to completion, and promoting green practices throughout the organization and its sphere of influence.
To date, Grants to Green has invested nearly $1.7 million to support nonprofit organizations in metro Atlanta. A total of 124 awards have been given to 93 nonprofit organizations. Thirty-one grantees have received both Assessment and Implementation awards. Total annual savings for nonprofits receiving Assessment awards is $42,194. Nonprofits receiving Implementation grants have seen a total cost savings of $271,303.
Grants to Green continues to help nonprofits reduce their carbon footprint, saving precious natural resources. During the first round, nonprofits that received Implementation grants have reduced their water usage by 20 percent and lowered their energy consumption by 16 percent thus far. This equates to removing 41 cars from the road, which saves roughly 380,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, a danger to environmental and human health.
Also noteworthy is the dramatic decrease in nonprofits that had no green policies in place before the launch of Grants to Green, which dropped from 21 percent to just 4 percent. In addition, nonprofits have seen big increases in energy monitoring and conservation, including new policies such as zero waste in the lunchroom and the use of green cleaning products, LED lights, and low VOC paints.
What began as an initiative to help nonprofits gain expertise and support in building healthier and environmentally sustainable buildings has grown into a larger movement of individuals and organizations deeply committed to reducing their environmental footprint and educating others about the benefits of “going green.” Grants to Green envisions the Atlanta region as a national leader in the sustainability movement and is recognized for its green nonprofit sector. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and Southface hope the program can serve as a model for other funders and their communities.