The Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s NextGen Committee has matched a $12,500 grant from the Kendeda Fund to the Western North Carolina Green Building Council (“WNCGBC”) to restart their Appalachian Offsets program. Through this program, businesses and individuals can calculate their carbon footprint and donate an appropriate amount to offset it by funding energy efficiency upgrades for local nonprofits. With more efficient buildings, these nonprofits are able to spend less on utilities and more on accomplishing their charitable missions and offering a tangible benefit to fighting climate change.
Last year, Jay Lanier, Board member for WNCGBC and chair of the Foundation’s NextGen Committee, attended the 2015 Southeastern Council of Foundation’s Annual Conference in Asheville, where he was inspired by a session he attended on the Grants to Green® program in Atlanta. Grants to Green helps Atlanta area nonprofits renovate, expand and construct buildings that are energy and water efficient, enabling them to enjoy utility cost savings that translate into more money in the budget for their missions.
Grants to Green is a three-way partnership between Southface (technical partner), the Kendeda Fund (funding partner) and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (program partner, nonprofit network and administrative support). To date, Grants to Green has enabled close to 200 Metro Atlanta nonprofits to save close to $1 million annually on utility bills.
“I was inspired by the success that nonprofits in Atlanta were having with the Grants to Green model, and I began to wonder how we might apply the same concepts in Western North Carolina,” Lanier said. “WNCGBC was already thinking about re-launching a carbon credit program called Appalachian Offsets, and I felt strongly that we could add this Grants to Green model to it to multiply the beneficial impacts for Asheville and other nearby communities.”
WNCGBC was prepared to serve as the technical partner given its experience in the green building sector. They also knew that enough local area nonprofits existed to create a need for this program. The primary challenge was identifying a reliable funding source to minimize the cost of improvements to the various nonprofits.
“The missing piece was the funding source,” Lanier said. “We had to get creative and figure out a way to monetize the energy savings from nonprofit energy and water upgrades, and we found the answer by revamping and re-launching Appalachian Offsets. Rather than relying exclusively on philanthropic sources, we were encouraged to take a community-based approach that engages individuals, businesses and events to support our nonprofits while offering a meaningful answer to climate change.”
Appalachian Offsets was originally launched in 2005, but was cancelled as a result of the 2008 recession. With its re-launch, Appalachian Offsets is beginning to create a regenerating pool of available funds to award more local nonprofit energy efficiency grants.
To bring Appalachian Offsets back to life, WNCGBC needed $25,000 to create a website, design a carbon footprint calculator, and cover other initial programmatic costs. The Kendeda Fund and the Foundation’s NextGen Committee agreed to split these initial costs, with the hope that future operational costs can be covered by a portion of the carbon credit purchases.
“If this works as well as we hope,” Lanier said, “Appalachian Offsets will be a self-sustaining program creating benefits for our local nonprofits, our local communities, and the environment. As Ray would have said, it is ‘so right, so smart.’”