The lights went out in many of the tall buildings on the Minneapolis skyline last March. The darkness was not ominous. Instead, the “Lights Out” campaign vividly proclaimed that TogetherGreen is delivering on its vast conservation potential.
Since launching in March 2008, the five-year alliance between Audubon and Toyota has provided leadership training, conservation education and outreach, volunteer events, and grant funding to generate impressive new engagement and results.
Participants in 240 TogetherGreen Volunteer Days put in more than 43,000 hours the first year, cleaning up waterways, improving habitat, and doing environmental monitoring. They planted tens of thousands of trees and cleared acres of invasive plants, benefiting local people and wildlife alike. Toyota employees volunteered in droves, echoing their company’s ongoing commitment despite the tough economic times.
The first class of 40 TogetherGreen Fellows carried enhanced leadership, conservation, and organizing skills nationwide. Fellow Sean Miller helped Washington, D.C., students install solar panels at their inner-city school, cutting energy consumption while discovering their own power to improve environmental quality.
On an island off Portland, Maine, Rosalie Borzik led the backbreaking work of restoring habitat for nesting terns; the project gave mainland students a first trip offshore and a lifetime of conservation inspiration.
In southwest Virginia, Christine Hannen helped residents obtain and use updated rain barrels to easily capture storm water for irrigation and more; that conserves drinking water and keeps runoff from washing pollutants into waterways and treatment systems.
Almost $1.4 million in first-year TogetherGreen Innovation Grants is already yielding conservation and engagement results. A grant-funded TogetherGreen Schools program near Denver got local students working on energy audits to aid school and community conservation. Teachers share techniques online, helping colleagues to spread the energy- and climate-saving efforts in classrooms nationwide.
Other Innovation Grant projects restored grasslands in Missouri and North Dakota, and wetlands in California; raised money to buy vital bird habitat in South Carolina; and cleaned up beaches that support horseshoe crabs and other species in New York. More successes are starting to blossom across the map.
The progress represents crucial steps in addressing big problems—from habitat degradation to wasteful consumption—that can be solved only through concerted, long-term conservation action. TogetherGreen is also broadening the ranks of those involved. Program participants are young and old; they’re Asian, black, Latino, Native American, white, and more. They speak many languages, and they come from congested cities and wide-open spaces. They mirror the growing diversity of America and are building the truly broad-based movement needed to shape a healthier future.
Dozens of new Grantees and 40 Fellows have just been chosen for year two. Like their predecessors, they’re a talented, diverse, and committed lot who will keep pursuing partnerships, inspiring new audiences, and leading innovative projects to benefit local communities and combine for broader environmental impact. Learn more about these impressive people, programs, and accomplishments at TogetherGreen.org. You’ll enjoy discovering valuable conservation actions you can take yourself, encouraging friends to get involved, and celebrating those who do.
Speaking of celebration, let’s not forget that “Lights Out” success in Minnesota. Besides saving birds and energy last spring, TogetherGreen’s support aided a broad coalition that secured a new state law requiring high-rises to turn off unnecessary lighting every year during spring and fall migrations. It’s just one of many victories that reaffirm the vision behind TogetherGreen: When we unite to Act Today, we can Shape Tomorrow.
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