- Engaging low-income students in middle schools to devise and implement energy saving plans (Denver, CO);
- Constructing gardens to stem storm water overflows that carry pollutants and disease-laden sewage into homes and waterways (Pittsburgh, PA);
- Involving the public in hands-on strategies for restoring vanishing wetlands vital to flood control (coastal Louisiana); and
- Reducing bird fatalities caused by their attraction to the lights in high-rise buildings (Minneapolis, MN).
"Our biggest environmental problems can't be solved unless we engage people from every ethnic, racial and economic community that makes up America and help them realize their power to make a difference in their own communities," said Audubon President John Flicker. "These TogetherGreen Innovation Grants help local groups to engage people and to start achieving tangible conservation results at the same time"
More than 120 applications were submitted in the grant categories of water, habitat and energy conservation. Each winning team combines a local Chapter or unit of Audubon's large national network with one or more community organizations to better advance the twin objectives of public engagement and environmental enhancement.
"These grants are the cream of a very impressive crop," said Brainerd Foundation Executive Director Ann Krumboltz, one of many leaders from the academic, environmental and non-profit communities who served on the grants selection committee. "They will no doubt get people informed, involved and helping to make a make a difference."
Selected proposals receive grants ranging from $68,000 to $5,000, with lower amounts earmarked for further planning of promising initiatives. The grants leveraged an estimated $4.5 million in additional matching and in-kind support.
The grants are proving especially important as non-profit groups brace for the impact of the troubled economy.
"We are so excited about an opportunity to partner with Audubon on the project in Denver. We have an incredibly effective process for engaging young people around environmental issues and with TogetherGreen funding and Audubon, we can bring students balanced information to inform their energy projects," said Lisa Bardwell, Executive Director of Front Range Earth Force.
"Since the launch of TogetherGreen, we have been so pleased with the excitement surrounding the volunteer efforts and grant applications," said Patricia Salas Pineda, Group Vice President, Toyota Motor North America. "Today's announcement is an important step in the mission of TogetherGreen to show that we all can make a significant difference in improving our environment."
Audubon and Toyota launched the five-year TogetherGreen initiative in the spring of 2008 to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer and individual action opportunities that significantly benefit the environment. Community volunteer days have already begun in over 40 cities across the country and www.TogetherGreen.org helps users take conservation action and share and celebrate conservation success stories. The TogetherGreen initiative and grants programs are funded by a $20 million Toyota gift to Audubon, the largest grant in the conservation group's long history.