The Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition is proud to announce the recipients of the second cycle of our Empowerment Grant funding program! To align the Coalition’s work with Justice40 and the Climate Funder’s Justice Pledge, Midwest BDC has committed 40 percent of its annual budget to re-granting work, either through Participation Stipends for our Coalition Members or through our Empowerment Grants. 

Organizations that take action on one or more of the Coalition’s five domains of work; equity, market transformation, consumer inspiration, public policy, and research, are encouraged to apply for the granting program. Recipients are determined by a sub-committee of the Midwest BDC Equity Working Group with Coalition staff providing support as requested by committee members. 

As part of the process, organizations submit a formal application, followed by online site visits conducted by members of the Grants sub-committee of the Equity Working Group. A rubric is used to score the different applications on their merits such as organizational need, alignment with MWBDC priorities, clearly outlined project goals, and potential to build capacity for the Coalition and broader Building Decarbonization movement. Members of the Grants sub-committee of the Equity Working Group also provide the final approval of prospective awardees.

Our regranting approach is unique in its commitment to justice, as well as the equitable, transparent granting process we practice. The Grants sub-committee is predominantly people of color representing local and state leaders in Environmental Justice, with a wide range of experience working to improve quality of life through clean energy, efficiency, and electrification in under-resourced communities. Communities of color face disproportionate negative impacts of extreme weather, air and vehicle pollution, and high energy bills. By continuing this program, the Midwest BDC is set on building power in Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities and facilitating an incubation program in which local organizations and community leaders gain experience with the ins and outs of the grantmaking process.

In the first cycle of the program, a total of $518,500 was invested into BIPOC-led community organizations committed to building power in BIPOC communities across the Midwest. Building on the success of that first year, we were able to regrant $270,002 in the form of Empowerment Grants and $203,000 of participation stipends in this second cycle of the program, with a funding period of September 2022 – September 2023. 

Read a little more about each of our 2022-2023 Empowerment Grant recipients below!

Black Women Rising Ohio

Black Women Rising is a non-profit organization that centers the lived experience of women on the issues that impact them the most. BWR is a black female-led, grassroots, multi-issue organization that connects the voices of Black women, women of color, Clergy, and faith leaders to build power and win campaigns on issues of healthcare, repro-liberation, voting rights, racial and economic justice, violence against women, harm reduction and trauma within the community. Their work has been focused on educating, organizing, engaging, and building with women in the Appalachian region of Ohio. In June of 2021, BWR launched the Black Appalachian Coalition, a four-state campaign to address the toxic harms of fossil fuels, the need for electrification, and the climate and environmental impacts at the intersections of racial, economic, and equitable solutions for renewable energy.

The goal of Black Women Rising’s work is to continue providing education, awareness, and resources to their community, faith-based organizations, and organizations across the Ohio River Valley. Rural Appalachians are no strangers to the harms of extraction, exploitation, and exclusion. However, they are often left out of conversations about environmental harms, despite being some of the most impacted, 

With the funding from the Empowerment Grant, BWR plans to build relationships with Clergy and those in the rural and suburban areas of Appalachia to build a base, capacity, and a leadership pipeline of engagement with MWBDC. By hosting listening sessions and creating a regional Clergy team, Black Women Rising will deepen the relationships between community members and the Coalition, while bringing new folks into the equitable building decarbonization movement. 

Eco-Environmental Solutions Michigan

In 2013, a lifelong passion for improving our environment, along with a substantial shortage of reputable demolition service providers, motivated Gary Ringer, to initiate a “green building” deconstruction business. His company, Eco-Environmental Solutions, specializes in deconstruction – the process of taking apart old buildings and salvaging parts of them for reuse, instead of sending all the scrap materials to landfills. The mission of Eco-Environmental Solutions is to educate communities and eradicate environmental inequities where our most vulnerable reside. Their work highlights the work necessary before any energy efficiency measures can be completed.

With the funding provided by the Empowerment Grant, Eco-Environmental Solutions plans to purchase air monitors, hire and train staff, conduct community outreach, and create 100 healthy home kits for distribution. They plan to conduct indoor air monitoring and combustion appliance safety and efficiency inspections, environmental remediation (asbestos, lead, mold, and radon), and assist homeowners with weatherization.

By building a person-centered, holistic health approach among homeowners, renters, and others who reside in low to moderate-income neighborhoods, EES works to reduce housing and health disparities for those who have historically been burdened by environmental injustices.

Zero Carbon InitiativeMN Minnesota

Zero Carbon InitiativeMN is working in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to persuade companies to measure, manage, disclose, and ultimately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. No other local organization is gathering this type of data and providing it to the marketplace. From building legislative coalitions, to supporting local groups and events, to representing hard-working organizations in court, they work to create sustainable, long-term change. 

For the 2022-2023 year, Zero Carbon InitiativeMN’s goals include: 

  • Increasing partnership and participation of BIPOC organizations that receive funding from Minnesota Pollution Control, DEED, DHS, Education, Health, and Public Safety Agencies. 
  • Advocating for the above funding agencies take a holistic and comprehensive approach to program participants. 
  • Establish network-building activities between BIPOC communities, funding agencies, and funding recipients. 
  • Extend the time period to respond to RFPs and ensure that the criteria for awarding building contracts are clear, open, and transparent.
  • Develop targeted zero carbon and electrification legislation that expands opportunities and improves outcomes for BIPOC communities and new business developments. 
  • Conduct quarterly listening sessions with community members. 

With the funding provided by the Empowerment Grant, Zero Carbon IntiativeMN will be able to secure an office space to conduct their work out of and hire an office assistant. They plan to establish a Green Team to begin gathering and analyzing emissions data. 

Soulardarity Michigan

Soulardarity started out of necessity when Highland Park residents were left in the dark by DTE Energy’s repossession of over 1000 streetlights in 2011. When Soulardarity came together, it was with the simple goal of restoring light to the darkness. 10 years later, they have become a locally and nationally recognized leader in energy democracy. To date, Soulardarity has installed about 17 solar street lights in their community, many of which have mesh wifi, and are on track to install 10 more by 2023

.With the funding provided by the Empowerment Grant, Soulardarity plans on:

  • Collaborating with PBSE (Polar Bear Sustainable Energy) on the EBE (Equitable Beneficial Electrification) weatherization pilot. By securing partnerships with trade professionals and We Want Green Too, they plan to subsidize the cost incurred by program participants associated with the labor of home inspections for electrification and weatherization, providing these services to Grow Solar HP-DET (Highland Park-Detroit) participants free of charge.
  • Increasing budgetary support for Grow Solar HP-DET digital marketing, event marketing, 3rd party consulting, project management, and other needs that could potentially arrive.
  • Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a Highland Park Organizer to support the AREA: Research-EBE Weatherization Pilot & Grow Solar Highland Park Buy Buy Program.

By creating community-driven examples of how solar power and other carbon-neutral energy sources can impact the economic vitality, health, and quality of life for community members, this work will demonstrate the need for there to be more intersectional power-building and wealth-building opportunities in the community solar industry.

WI NAACP Environmental and Climate Program Wisconsin

The NAACP recently celebrated its 113th year in the battle for civil rights and equality. For the past 15 years, that fight has taken to a new front to ensure that environmental protections benefit all Americans and that areas with high populations of Black people aren’t unjustly impacted by dirty air and water. The NAACP is using the court system to make sure Black communities don’t have to struggle with environmental burdens that put their health and well-being at risk. As the world focuses on taking care of the environment and fighting climate change, we must make sure Environmental and Climate Justice is at the forefront of the movement. 

The Wisconsin NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee is currently working to develop a statewide campaign to bring policymakers, environmental organizations, and residents into this work. With the funding provided by the Empowerment Grant, the Committee will work to develop a door-to-door education effort, supported by statewide communications and resources, such as a website that will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for all things Environmental and Climate Justice related. The Wisconsin NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee supports a transition away from fossil fuels that are comprehensive, systemic, and rooted in upholding our inalienable rights to air, water, food, housing, energy, and livelihoods. 

There will be three main goals of the campaign: education, resources, and action. Each of these aspects will build on each other in order to create a strong, engaged network of folks across Wisconsin. The Wisconsin NAACP State Conference of Branches currently has 7 branches around the state, each of which will be developing its own Environmental and Climate Justice Committee in their branch. By tapping into their already existing network, the Wisconsin NAACP is set up for success in building the power of Environmental and Climate Justice advocates in the state. 

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority – Michigan State Michigan

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was founded in 1920, at Howard University. The five founding women of Zeta Phi Beta envisioned a sorority that would directly affect positive change, chart a course of action for the 1920s and beyond, raise the consciousness of their people, encourage the highest standards of scholastic achievement, and foster a greater sense of unity among its members. 

Since its inception, Zeta has continued its steady climb into the national spotlight with programs designed to demonstrate concern for the human condition both nationally and internationally. The sorority takes pride in its continued participation in transforming communities through volunteer services and engagement. Through their GET ENGAGED™ Social Action Program, they have mobilized to find new ways to solve old problems that plague the communities they serve. 

Zeta Phi Beta has local chapters in Pontiac, Flint, and Southfield, as well as most of the cities in Michigan. The Sorority plans to kick off an initial phase of outreach and education to local chapters, followed by regranting to those who express interest in diving deeper into equitable building decarbonization. The goal is will be to create a state-wide Blue and White Outreach Campaign for members, their families, and local communities to learn about Building Decarbonization 101. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority has laid the groundwork to bring new voices into the building decarbonization movement and will continue supplying folks with the tools they need to get involved at the interpersonal, community, and public policy levels. 

Pilgrim Baptist Church Indiana

In March of 1919, Pilgrim Baptist Church (PBC) was founded in the East Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Southeast Fort Wayne, where East Central is located, has the highest poverty rate in the state, with almost 51 percent of residents living below the poverty line (defined as having an annual income of under $12,500). Neighboring areas see dramatically lower poverty rates, and locals reference a striking disparity in investments across the county.

In 2019, PBC’s Green Team was founded as a 501c3 organization dedicated to raising awareness about and finding solutions to environmental issues in their communities. Their vision is to transition to all-electric churches and homes and see a measurable reduction in fossil gas infrastructure in their communities. In their community, the PBC Green Team must overcome barriers such as low awareness and interest in building decarbonization, low perceived customer value, low perceived contractor and builder value, and misaligned policy. The PBC Green Team, in partnership with Purdue University’s School of Environmental and Energy Policy, has created a framework to guide the county to achieving net zero carbon emissions by mid-century – aligning with the goals of MWBDC. 

The PBC Green Team has a pilot project underway with 7 congregations that began in the Fall of 2021, supported by MWBDC funding in our first cycle of Empowerment Grants. This pilot models a supportive framework of community organizations working together to make their buildings the most energy efficient they can be and adopting renewable energy sources. With the funds from this year’s cycle of Empowerment Grants, the PBC Green Team will be able to build on their successes and support a second cohort in 2023. The PBC Green Team will continue to use its platform to raise broader community awareness, share ideas and inspiration, and provide other local churches and residents with energy audits and related solutions at a discounted rate. 

Sub-Granting Committee of the Equity Working Group: Gary Ringer, Gregory Norris, Bishop Marcia Dinkins, Hank Love, Sheila Curry-Campbell, and Hillary Thomas.