City offers green grants to community organizations

The grants are designed to help fund global warming education programs.

A one-of-a-kind grant program sponsored by the city of Minneapolis is offering thousands of dollars to support the efforts of community organizations to combat global warming. The Minneapolis Climate Change Grants are open to any nonprofit organization, and require that the organizations take âÄúconcrete action to reduce their local warming footprintâÄù and work to sign people up for the Minnesota Energy Challenge , another program targeted at reducing global warming. The grants are split into two categories: the Grassroots Climate Change Micro Grant is an award worth $1,500 and the Climate Change Innovation Grant is worth $10,000. In 2008, the city provided about $88,000 in funding through the grants and was able to raise another $90,000 through donations from businesses and local volunteers. Applications for the micro grants are due April 16 and the deadline for applying for the innovation grants is April 20. When the program was launched in 2007, it was the first in the nation to use community grants to encourage climate change, Gayle Prest, the Minneapolis sustainability manager, said. Because of the success of the program, Prest said other cities from around the country, like Boston and Seattle, are considering launching similar programs. The grants give organizations funding to launch a variety of creative and unique programs aimed at educating people about global warming on a personal level, as opposed to spreading information through brochures and pamphlets, Prest said. âÄúWe knew we wanted to do something on climate change in terms of working with the public,âÄù she said. âÄúWhen it really got down to it, we didnâÄôt want to keep inundating them with educational materials on global warming.âÄù Some previous projects have focused on raising awareness through energy fairs and community get-togethers. Other projects have worked with businesses to increase their energy efficiency. The Longfellow Community Council received one of the $10,000 innovation grants in 2008, and used the funding to help renters and landlords conserve energy and save money, Joanna Solotaroff , a community organizer with the council, said. Part of the grant funded workshops to teach renters techniques to reduce energy and heating bills. The rest of the money went to a program that provided up to $500 in matching funds to landlords working to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. âÄúUltimately weâÄôre hoping to improve rental stock, to make rental units more desirable,âÄù Solotaroff said. âÄúWeâÄôre hoping this will help lift the burden of energy costs for renters.âÄù While the Longfellow Community Council worked to improve the energy efficiency of housing, the West Bank Business Association chose to use their innovation grant to fund light bulb replacement at businesses around the community. The association helped businesses participating in an energy audit system sponsored by Xcel Energy by paying $500 of the costs associated with the retrofitting, Carol Vennewitz, an association administrator, said. âÄúWe got carbon emissions way down, we helped small business out when they wouldnâÄôt have been able to retrofit,âÄù Vennewitz said. âÄúNow weâÄôre going to use less energy in the next couple years.âÄù