We Can Do Better by Going Green

Guest Correspondence


We can do better.

That’s a personal mantra of Harvest House executive director Erin Minor. Harvest House has transformed thousands of lives by offering housing, critical social services, and neighborhood revitalization to our most needy. But last week, Erin and her team helped launch, of all things, an environmental initiative. One that will go a long way toward putting money back into their programs.

The collaborative initiative is called Partners for Green Places. It began when the sustainability offices of the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County pitched a promising idea to Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. The opportunity: help seed a program that incentivizes human service and environmental nonprofits to invest in strategic energy upgrades, which will save them operating dollars that they ultimately can redirect to their mission-driven programs and services.

The two foundations invested $75,000 each, which earned a matching grant from the national Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. Additional contributions from the participating nonprofits raised the total to $375,000 to launch the two-year program.

The grant program employs the following strategies:

·      Conduct energy, water, and solar audits of nonprofit facilities to identify cost-saving sustainability measures and provide “energy roadmaps” for future investments toward net-zero-energy facilities.

·      Implement pilot improvement projects at three nonprofits and track the cost reductions and the programmatic impacts of those savings.

·      Pool additional funding from which other nonprofits can apply for matching funds to implement recommendations in their audits.

·      Help nonprofits educate clients and visitors about the improvements and how they can achieve comparable results in their own businesses or homes.

In addition to Harvest House, the other two agencies in the pilot phase are Historic Spanish Point and Children First. Historic Spanish Point executive director John McCarthy calls the project an “unexpected dream come true.” His facility sees 25,000 visitors a year. That’s a heck of a lot of people who could benefit from learning how to conserve some energy and water in their daily lives—particularly in the setting of an older, historic structure.

Children First, meanwhile, serves hundreds of the youngest members of our community’s next generation. In typical fashion, CEO Philip Tavill eloquently summarized why his organization was all in: “We could save money, support mission, and do it all by doing the right thing.” So, Partners for Green Places is both a green grant program and a budding sustainability movement.

But we can do better...

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and William G. and Marie Selby Foundation have joined the collaboration. The Community Foundation added $50,000 to the funding available for energy audits and upgrades, and one of its donors has granted $200,000 for a pilot solar-investment program to help nonprofits finance renewable energy investments and adopt on-site solar power. Selby Foundation, meanwhile, is furthering the movement by incorporating energy-efficiency requirements into its grant funding, which supports many local nonprofit capital projects.

But we can do better...

That’s what DreamLarge, founded by Gulf Coast Board member Anand Pallegar, believes. Seeing the potential for even greater impact, DreamLarge has invested in a strategy, brand, and platform to showcase this union of philanthropy and sustainability and to use it as an inspirational tool. Now the Partners are creating an alliance of nonprofit organizations that can motivate the for-profit sector with their commitment to sustainability and greener practices in their work and their communities.

That energy was palpable at last Monday’s launch event, fittingly hosted at Girls Inc. of Sarasota County. The nonprofit’s headquarters is home to the largest solar array in the county, generously funded by the Barancik Foundation as an investment in the future and a model for the present.

Which proves exactly why this initiative is for everyone.

Mark S. Pritchett is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Photo courtesy GCCF: DreamLarge founder Anand Pallegar.

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