Naomi Muchiri, director of operations for AGI, says collaboration is the key to getting federal funds.
“It is clear that when we collaborate with other organizations and communities, then we are able to not only eye each other’s progress but can find ways in which we can replicate or ‘cookie-cut’ the same projects in each municipality,” Muchiri said in an e-mail to Birmingham Weekly.
The hope is that AGI can streamline applications for stimulus funds. Incorporated as a 501(c)(6) non-profit, the organization is funded by annual dues from its members. Members can include municipalities, school boards and public utility boards, all of which will pay dues of $1 per resident or customer, up to a maximum of $50,000 for major municipalities, and greatly reduced caps for the smaller members. Muchiri says that Birmingham, Hoover, Lipscomb, Graysville, Fultondale and Fultondale’s gas board have all adopted resolutions supporting AGI. Other potential collaborators include Jefferson County and the city of Homewood (Homewood City Councilor David Hooks serves on the organization’s administrative board, as does Jefferson County Commissioner William Bell).
Potentially, this all adds up to a lot of money — about $220,000 in dues. What will AGI do with that cash? The organization has already applied for a $350,000 grant for a recycling program dubbed ‘SUSTAIN ME,’ and there are many other potential funding sources.
The major grant source is the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Alabama is eligible for $31 million in EECBG grants, which fund projects that improve energy efficiency. Of that total, $7,321,200 is allocated specifically for Birmingham, Hoover and Jefferson and Shelby counties. Smaller municipalities can apply for a portion of the $10,350,200 in EECBG funds administered by Alabama’s Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA
Muchiri says that AGI is also collaborating with ADECA on a proposal for funds from the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, or SEEA. SEEA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which is offering $500,000 in funds to municipalities "to design and implement an effort not unlike a political campaign, sustained for five-seven years, to achieve unprecedented gas, electricity and water savings by retrofitting buildings and installing renewable technologies in all end-use sectors."
Application deadlines are looming for both grants - ADECA must receive EECBG grant applications by May 7, and SEEA proposals are due May 15.
Despite the impending deadlines, Muchiri and AGI Executive Director Don Baylor are brimming with optimism and potential ideas. Baylor and Muchiri met Monday with Metro Birmingham YMCA District Vice President Cham Norman, Jr, at the Shades Valley Y. Plans are in the works for a renovation and overhaul of the 40-year-old Shades Valley Y facility, and as a non-profit organization the Y could receive some funding for green retrofitting as part of either Homewood or Jefferson County. Throughout the course of the hour-long meeting, Baylor and Muchiri rattled off a series of possible grant-getting proposals including LEED certification, sidewalk expansion, building pedestrian walkway over or under Lakeshore Drive that connects the Shades Valley Y to the 5-mile Lakeshore Trail, installing a "green pool," carbon footprint and energy efficiency surveys and even installing solar panels on the roof of the facility.
Though the economic and environmental benefits of ‘greening' were emphasized at the meeting with the Y representative, Muchiri also stressed the importance of green education. She recently returned from a research trip to Boston, Mass. - a trip suggested by Jones Valley Urban Farm founder Edwin Marty - where she met with representatives from The Food Project in Boston. The Food Project encourages local sustainable agriculture by constructing 8 foot by 6 foot raised garden beds (much like the beds at JVUF) for organizations in the Boston area.
"Forty percent of what the [gardens grow] they give to local charities and 60 percent is sold at their Whole Foods," Muchiri says. "So what they're really encouraging is local agricultural practices. They've expanded to actually building raised beds in residential areas, which is really, really neat."
Muchiri hopes that AGI, in conjunction with JVUF, can bring this program to Birmingham and maybe even to Birmingham's YMCAs.
"Imagine President Obama coming down and walking around and saying ‘What a Y this is!'" Baylor mused at the Shades Valley meeting. "I always think about that."
To learn more about the Alabama Green Initiative, call (205) 327-8394 or visit www.agigreen.com.