From bike transit to sustainable and equitable water use, this year’s environment grant finalists are helping to ensure healthy communities for all. SVP’s Environment Grant Committee members reviewed dozens of letters of inquiry and conducted phone interviews with 15 nonprofits before selecting the following five. Learn about their vital work below!
Bike Works promotes the bicycle as a vehicle for change to empower youth and build resilient communities. For two decades, they have offered bicycle-centered solutions to a host of social and environmental challenges. Bike Works takes unwanted bicycles from greater Seattle and gives youth and adults the means to refurbish the bikes – keeping them on the road and out of landfills. These bikes are then distributed to youth and adults who might not otherwise have access, thus increasing transportation options that are healthy for people and our environment.
Beyond transforming bikes and transit, Bike Works also changes lives through year-round educational programs that nurture a sense of belonging and teach environmental stewardship. Through one of their signature programs, Earn-a-Bike After-School, students learn bicycle repair and safety skills while refurbishing bicycles for people in need, and then earning one for themselves.
In 2016, Bike Works partnered with over 60 schools, community centers, libraries and nonprofits to provide low-cost and free programs to more than 2,300 youth and adults throughout the Seattle area. Plus, Bike Works’ Bicycle Shop and BikeMobile keep people rolling with affordable repair services while providing job training opportunities.
City Fruit makes the greatest and fullest use of Seattle’s urban fruit tree canopy. They harvest fruit from backyards and public parks, donating the best into the emergency food system. They also maintain fruit trees on public land throughout 16 orchards, and offer a variety of education programs each year.
Since 2008, City Fruit has collected over 165,000 pounds of fruit and worked with 50 meal programs, food banks, and community organizations to feed children and families while consistently increasing productivity. In 2014, they used 68 percent of the fruit they collected via donation, diversion, or sale. In 2016, they used 98 percent of the fruit.
In addition to care and harvesting, City Fruit engages and educates community members through regular classes on fruit tree maintenance, workshops on pruning and fruit preservation and their intensive tree stewardship training program. Plus, last year City Fruit hosted their summer camp in partnership with the Urban Food Systems Program at Seattle Parks and Recreation in the Rainier Valley. More than 150 campers attended “Fruit Science” classes, workshops, and Fruit Fridays at no cost to their families.
Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association
For more than 20 years, the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA) has brought together neighbors, nonprofits, businesses and local government to help ensure an urban corridor where ethnically diverse families want and can afford to live with access to healthy food options, arts and cultural activities, educational opportunities, and abundant parks and green spaces.
Their environmental programs connect neighborhood and city residents to nature in multiples ways. Through the Urban Forest Restoration program, 3,000 volunteers are restoring over 50 acres in the West Duwamish Greenbelt while learning about forest ecology. In the EcoARTS program, DNDA delivers quality environmental arts programming where it’s needed most, in some of the most financially impoverished and culturally rich parts of Southwest Seattle.
Most recently, DNDA began re-purposing a former Seattle City Light transfer station and enhancing 144 square feet of critical wetlands. They aim to improve the quality of storm-water runoff flowing into Longfellow Creek, while providing hands-on environmental education. Over 160 school-sponsored 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students have already taken part in arts and science activities, song, and storytelling at the site to date – and that is just the beginning!
Washington Green Schools
More than one million young people attend Washington’s K-12 schools, and these institutions have the opportunity to be centers for change in our communities. That’s why Washington Green Schools aims to help every child attend a green and healthy school that teaches, models, and practices environmental sustainability.
While environmental education is a mandate in Washington, many schools lack the resources to meet this requirement. Washington Green Schools addresses this need through school district-level collaboration, professional development for teachers, classroom resources, and a system for schools to implement sustainability projects and track their progress – ultimately reaching 50,000 kids from 75 schools each year.
Participating schools form “Green Teams” made up of students, teachers, staff and volunteers who lead action projects focused on energy, water, waste and recycling, school grounds and gardens, healthy school buildings, and transportation. These projects engage students in problem-solving and critical thinking, and 97% of participants report that engagement leaves them feeling prepared to tackle environmental challenges in their communities. Plus, schools and school districts often conserve resources and save money – sometimes as much as $100,000 – that can be re-invested in their students.
Washington Water Trust
Water is finite, but society’s demand for it is not. And in the face of climate change and a growing population Washington Water Trust (WWT) finds smart, balanced and enduring solutions to this age-old problem. Focusing on collaboration rather than litigation, they act as a liaison among diverse stakeholders such as individual land owners, private businesses and local tribes to ensure water acquisition is equitable and sustainable.
Specifically, WWT focuses on water rights acquisition and transfer, water banking, consultation on water management alternatives, conservation and water rights assessment and special drought-year conservation. To illustrate this in practice, WWT may help landowners design more efficient irrigation methods, change the time or place of water diversion, identify natural storage options, or purchase and lease water in order to protect instream flow during critical migration, spawning or rearing seasons for endangered species.
Through their varied and inclusive approach, WWT has completed water projects and found solutions that others thought impossible. They have restored healthy flows along more than 500 miles of stream and secured more than 28 billion gallons of water to remain instream, so fish, agriculture, businesses, wildlife and native traditions can thrive.
In a few weeks, SVP’s Environment Grant Committee members will visit these nonprofits to learn more about their work and meet their teams. Then, the difficult decision-making process begins to select one organization as SVP’s next investee. The investee will receive a $30,000 unrestricted grant with the intention of multi-year funding. The grant will be coupled with volunteer and paid consultants who will help to strengthen the organization for greater impact.
If you are interested in participating in SVP’s next grant committee, which kicks off in the fall, please email Ben Mitchell.