Projects support those most at-risk due to climate change, make solar panels accessible to low-income homeowners and provide job training
Particularly in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord, local action has moved to the forefront as the best path forward in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Along with the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, the Climate Action Task Force, Carbon Neutral 2040 and the Climate Mayors Accord commitment, the Verde Fund is one of Santa Fe Mayor Javier M. Gonzales’ signature environmental programs. In addition to combating climate change, it is intended to conserve water and build resiliency and sustainability into the core of Santa Fe’s way of life.
The fund’s mission is threefold: reduce systemic poverty, achieve carbon neutrality, and empower Santa Fe’s workforce. “The fund makes sure taxpayer money is put to good use supporting local families who feel like they’ve been left behind deal with costs of food, water, electricity and other resources that are rising as a result of climate change. These dollars can connect families who are out of work to opportunities that come with an economy finally focusing on sustainability at a high level,” the mayor said.
Santa Fe’s City Council allocated an initial $300,000 for the first round of programs. In December 2016, city staff began reviewing competitive bids from local companies and groups that fit the fund’s mission. After interviews with finalists by a committee that included community representatives and issue-experienced staff, the city is proposing to award two community-led initiatives with funding for the 2017 cycle. A Council review and approval process began last month.
· One awardee, the Verde Community Impact Collaborative, is a community-wide collaboration among 12 organizations, including YouthWorks, the Food Depot, Reunity Resources, MoGro, ProScape, Wildfire Network, Interfaith Leadership Alliance, Dashing Delivery, All Trees Firewood, Santa Fe Community College, SFPS Adelante Program for Children, Youth and Families Experiencing Homelessness and Santa Fe Public Schools. The collaborative will receive $200,000, and partners will contribute an additional $300,000 in-kind, to meet specific goals on climate and poverty issues: food security and greenhouse gas production, home energy-efficiency, wildfire mitigation, biofuel reduction and recycling, youth homelessness, job creation and career training.
The project will:
· Create jobs and train 40 young people in sustainability careers like weatherization, healthy food production, biofuel reduction and greenhouse management;
· Deliver 750 meals per day featuring local produce to 12 Homework Diner sites;
· Provide 50 boxes of fresh produce to four distribution sites that work with families in need;
· Reduce the risk of catastrophic fire in 75 acres of the Santa Fe wildland-urban interface;
· Design a permanent housing pilot with local families to get four young people off the street;
· Reduce CO2 emissions by 36 tons per year through wildfire mitigation, biomass recycling and energy efficiency/weatherization efforts; and
· Save low-income families money on utility bills through energy efficiency/home weatherization.
Melynn Schuyler of YouthWorks said, “We’ve set big goals for our community-wide impact project. Our partnership will connect local young people to the economy that they have been traditionally denied entry to, while helping vulnerable families address hunger, save money, build resiliency and prepare Santa Fe for the impacts climate change will have on all of us.”
· The second is a grant, in the amount of $100,000, which will go to Homewise, an organization focused on housing and financial health for low-income families. The award will support five years of Solar Opportunity Loan Fund expansion. Homewise will leverage the initial investment into an additional $400,000 of debt capital, which over five years will enable 20 households per year at 80 percent or less of the local median income to access PV solar systems using long-term, low-interest loans and make energy and water conservation upgrades. Homewise projects will:
· Reduce CO2 emissions by 89 tons per year through solar PV installation in each year of the program and reduce CO2 emissions an additional 18 tons per year through efficiency upgrades;
· Save low-income families money on utility bills; and
· Reach out to the community through the Santa Fe Community College and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center to locate and qualify the 20 households.
Mike Loftin, Homewise CEO, said, “Partnerships like this one have real potential to change lives and open up worlds of access. Homewise is proud to be working with the city and the Verde Fund, leveraging an initial investment into five years of solar installations on homes for middle-class Santa Feans who are eager to save money, conserve water and electricity, and play a vital role in the sustainability of this community.”
The combined total of city investment, organizational in-kind matches of $300,000, and Homewise debt capital leverage of $400,000, means that an initial city input of $300,000 will have the effect of $1 million in investment into jobs and sustainability in the neighborhoods where it is most needed.