Blog › Cleveland Carbon Fund kicks off first project


Cleveland Carbon Fund kicks off first project

Marc Lefkowitz  |  07/06/09 @ 11:58am

The Cleveland Carbon Fund kicked off its first project last week as Mayor Frank Jackson screwed in one of 500 compact fluorescent light bulbs at St. Augustine Towers, a residence for low-income seniors in Cleveland. The Fund expects St. Augustine to reduce its carbon emissions by 47 tonnes per year and to save $5,700 a year on electricity costs.

The Fund selected two projects from the first round of applications, funding the installation of 10,000 CFLs in Cleveland neighborhoods. The three buildings in Detroit-Shoreway and Slavic Village that began projects on Thursday will install a total of 1,700 CFLs, reducing 110 tonnes of carbon and saving more than $13,000 in electricity costs per year.

For the Fund's founding partners, it's an important moment both in terms of progress on a concrete goal of replacing tens of thousands of high-carbon lightbulbs, but also in a harder to gain metric of changing minds about the way we live.

"Our measures of success are much broader than just funding carbon reduction projects. We are also focused on making people aware of climate change and their own individual footprint, and providing suggestions on how individuals can reduce their impact," says Brad Chase, climate change project manager at GreenCityBlueLake Institute, a founding partner with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Chase expects the founding partners to climb the bully pulpit and influence tens of thousands of their colleagues. For example, The Cleveland Clinic is a founding partner and has committed to establishing payroll deduction for its 40,000 employees to participate in the carbon fund.

More than the financial windfall in energy savings this could bring for lower income residents of Northeast Ohio, the Fund can drive awareness that being green and saving money are linked both at the corporate level and serve as a spark to educate residents who may not be aware of the 'green' movement. Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization, for example, views this week's light bulb replacement as a good fit with its green education initiative through its Cleveland EcoVillage program.

Two hundred of the 450 homes in Detroit-Shoreway to be completely outfitted with CFL bulbs are part of a home weatherization program where staff explain what's going into the home, and a home energy audit is offered before and after, says Cleveland EcoVillage project manager Lilah Zautner. Of those, Zautner expects 20 homeowners in the EcoVillage will volunteer to track their energy use and provide exact dollars and pounds of CO2 saved.

That data will be more convincing to neighbors than any slick brochure.

"When you have those numbers coming directly from a neighbor, and when you're talking about it at a neighborhood level, it will have more teeth behind it," Zautner says.

The same goes for St Augustine, which has one bill that it agreed to audit.

"We'll be able to take it to any senior center where people have roughly the same behavior and we can say to them 'you can spend $1000 and save roughly $5,000 dollars a year.'"

The Fund is interested in metrics of community health and economic development, Chase agrees, not just the cheapest form of reducing carbon emissions.

"First and foremost, the projects that we fund have to achieve verifiable carbon reductions and be projects that would not have otherwise happened without the Fund's support. However, in addition to funding more basic efficiency projects, we hope the Fund will spark innovative proposals from members of the community that reduce carbon emissions," he says, referring to the rolling admission for project RFPs. "It could be advanced fuels or efficiency or urban agriculture. We need to incent those ideas, and keep dollars local. To the extent it can revitalize a neighborhood or create a job, those are two big pillars of the effort."

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