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The Russell Family Foundation Announces $3.5M in Climate Grants & Investments

Funding supports small farmers, clean energy, climate infrastructure and more

December 6, 2023 (Gig Harbor, Wash.)The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) today announced $3.5 million dollars in grants and investments supporting organizations fighting climate change. Fifteen grants totaling $731,000 were awarded within its Food for Climate Solutions and Catalytic Climate Finance programs, and $2.8 million in investments were given to two organizations focused on conservation and renewable energy infrastructure.

Eight organizations serving Western Washington were the inaugural recipients of the Food for Climate Solutions grants, totaling $531,000. This new program, announced over the summer, supports the sustainability of local farm businesses by providing access to emerging technologies and models, regenerative and climate-resilient farming practices, and provides one-time support for regional infrastructure projects.

“We are thrilled to announce the first Food for Climate Solutions grantee partners that are doing critical work in Western Washington,” said Fabiola Greenawalt, senior program officer at TRFF. “Recognizing the fundamental role of food, we acknowledge that the methods employed in its cultivation can play a pivotal role in tackling the pressing issues posed by climate change.”

Catalytic Climate Finance grants were awarded to seven organizations totaling $200,000 supporting their general operating efforts. The program prioritizes four core pillars, including accelerating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, providing early-stage funding for grassroots movements, fostering collaborative climate actions, and promoting a just transition to a sustainable, Net Zero carbon future.

“In addition to achieving Net Zero by 2030, we are committed to ensuring a ‘just transition’ that leaves no community behind,” said Kathleen Simpson, CEO of TRFF. “The Catalytic Climate Finance program calls for collaborative efforts to bridge the investment gap in climate solutions, ultimately working towards a swift and equitable journey to a sustainable planet.”

The Foundation further approved a $2.3 million investment in BTG Timberland Investment Group (TIG) driven by the investment’s newly formed partnership with The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is advising TIG on how to improve their sustainable forest practices across their funds and is actively monitoring the adoption of FSC practices, progress on conservation projects, and the implementation of carbon projects. Another $500,000 was invested in Generate Capital PBC, which builds, owns, operates and finances solutions for clean energy, water, waste and transportation.

“These investments will continue to move our portfolio toward our 2025 Interim Emission Targets by investing in climate solutions oriented decarbonization technologies and nature-based strategies,” said Simpson.

Food for Climate Solutions grants include:

Community to Community, $75,000

Community to Community Development (C2C) is a women-led organization in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, Washington, that supports Latinx and Indigenous immigrant rights and farmworker organizing. C2C offers training and mentoring to create farmworker-led efforts such as unions, cooperatives, and organic farming. C2C is also part of national movements on food sovereignty, cooperative development, climate policy, and racial justice. Funding will support costs associated with purchasing of equipment for packing, cooling, and cold storage that supports the economic vitality of their farm at Tierra y Libertad Cooperativa.

Kulshan Carbon Trust, $70,000

Kulshan Carbon Trust (KCT) is a non-profit accelerating local adoption of natural climate solutions (NCS) in NW WA that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, regenerate ecosystems, and revitalize rural economies. They use community engagement, technical support, collaborative supply chain development, and market incentives to support small landowners in implementing climate-friendly practices. Funding will support expansion of their Community Biochar Program to enhance farmer access, gather data on biochar soil impact, create revenue opportunities for regenerative farmers, and establish a regional model “proof of concept” in our region.

Pierce Conservation District, $75,000

Pierce Conservation District (PCD) conserves and restores Pierce County’s natural resources benefiting both urban and rural communities. PCD’s urban and rural agriculture program, Harvest Pierce County, invests in people to foster and sustain an equitable and healthy community-based food system. Funding will help with the development of an incubator to support new BIPOC farmers to gain access to land and technical assistance for starting sustainable farm businesses.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund, $75,000

Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) is a nonprofit founded in 1997 to restore abundant marine resources and connections to them. PSRF focuses on restoring living marine habitats and native species, such as Olympia oysters, bull kelp, and pinto abalone. PSRF also works to re-forge connections with healthy marine resources through restoration actions, shellfish gardening, and community events. Funding will support efforts to restore Tribal First Foods and sea-to-land nutrient pathways through the cultivation of Olympia oysters or seaweed collection to improve adaptation and resilience practices at shellfish farms and upland farms.

Restaurant 2 Garden, $75,000

Restaurant 2 Garden is a community-led project that launched in November 2021 to provide free compost to the gardeners of the Chinatown International District (CID) neighborhood in Seattle. Restaurant 2 Garden aims to create a decentralized and hyper-local community composting system, eliminating the need to transport food waste and compost in and out of the neighborhood. Funding will support the expansion of pilot project into a community-scale composting operation in the CID, promoting the circular economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by processing food waste into nutritious fertilizer.

Viva Farms, $75,000

Viva Farms is a Farm Business Incubator and Training Program established in 2009. They operate 119 acres, two locations in Skagit County, and one in King County, Washington. Their mission is to empower aspiring and limited-resource farmers by providing bilingual training in holistic organic farming practices, as well as access to land, infrastructure, equipment, marketing and capital. Funding will support the construction of a Market Center to help beginning and underserved farmers safely and efficiently conduct post-harvest activities and distribute their products across Northwest Washington.

Washington Water Trust, $60,000

Washington Water Trust (WWT) protects and restores rivers and streams across Washington to ensure healthy habitats for salmon and other wildlife, and to support thriving communities. WWT restores water rivers and streams by working directly with farmers, Tribes, conservation districts, irrigation districts, and agencies. They have helped to improve approximately 20 watersheds and dozens of streams throughout the state. This funding will support efforts to transform the use of Class A recycled water generated by King County Wastewater and the Brightwater Treatment Facilities which is permitted for use as food crop irrigation, benefiting both farmers and the ecosystem.

Washington State University, Kitsap County Extension, $26,000

The Washington State University (WSU) Regional Small Farms Program provides research-based information and educational programs to support a thriving food and farm sector in Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties. Since 2015, the Food & Farms team has worked closely with farmers and community members to build a profitable farming system, promote land, and water stewardship, and ensure access to healthy food. The program offers classes and workshops, farmer-to-farmer networking, technical support, access to local markets, applied research, and policy development. Funding will support expansion of educational opportunities for new and beginning farmers in Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties, and provide networking opportunities for Kitsap County farmers through a local farming nonprofit.

Catalytic Climate Finance grants include:

Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians (ATNI), $20,000

Founded in 1953, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. It represents 57 Northwest tribal governments across multiple states. ATNI operates 27 committees and subcommittees focused on areas like Economic Development, Energy, Natural Resources, Land, and Climate Resilience. These committees meet during three annual conventions to share issues, resources, and policy positions. Funding will support ATNI’s strategic planning efforts and general operations.

Clean Energy Transition Institute (CETI), $20,000

CETI’s mission is to accelerate an equitable clean energy transition in the Northwest by advancing technical and economic deep decarbonization strategies. Their vision is to equitably decarbonize the Northwest economy at the speed and scale that climate science requires. Funding will support CEIT’s Community-Defined Decarbonization (CDD) project which is to understand the barriers to decarbonizing buildings for the state’s rural and Tribal low-income, energy-burdened households and to determine whether decarbonization strategies and clean energy development could address energy inequities in these communities.

Climate Interactive, $20,000

Climate Interactive envisions a thriving world where greenhouse gas emissions are falling rapidly. Their mission is to create and share tools that drive effective and equitable climate action. To that end, they create system dynamics-based tools and resources that are policy-relevant and decision-useful for motivating climate action. They engage decision-makers who can take effective action on climate change, share their tools and resources – and support people to use them – to inspire others to take action on climate change. Funds will support their programs that galvanize policymakers across international governments, institutional investing and finance, corporates, and foundations to take effective action towards rapidly reducing GHG emissions.

Emerald Cities Collaborative, $20,000

Emerald Cities Collaborative is committed to a high-road approach for greening our cities, strengthening local economies, and bolstering democracy. They prioritize low-income and BIPOC communities in their quest for Net Zero emissions by 2030, enhancing Washington State’s Weatherization Plus Health program and expanding clean energy services. They champion workforce diversity in clean energy careers and support the growth of Women and Minority Business Enterprises. ECC collaborates with various stakeholders and advocacy organizations to ensure a lasting impact on the equitable journey to Net Zero by 2030. Funding will support the general operations of the organization.

Spark Northwest, $20,000

Spark Northwest accelerates the shift to clean energy by making affordable, locally controlled clean energy accessible to all. Their initiatives encompass supporting rural and low-wealth community organizations, advancing tribal energy sovereignty, launching the Clean Energy Ambassador Program, promoting whole-home electrification for affordable housing, and advocating for equitable policies. They collaborate with local organizations to promote energy democracy and a just transition in the Pacific Northwest. Funding will continue to build energy democracy in communities up and down the Pacific Northwest, working with local organizations to design and fund projects that deliver inspiration, education, and savings for years to come.

VC Include – Climate Justice Initiative, $50,000

VC Include, a Black woman-founded organization, supports diverse, women-led emerging managers in venture capital and private equity. They aim to nurture 200 successful, diverse, and women-led asset management firms by 2030, benefiting thousands of diverse-founded, tech-driven companies with a focus on social and environmental impact. Additionally, they strive to catalyze support for climate investment systems change, emphasizing climate-impacted Black and Brown communities.

Washington Maritime Blue, $50,000

Founded in 2018 as a non-profit “Innovation Cluster Organization” in response to Washington State’s Blue Economy Strategy, Maritime Blue unites industry, public institutions, research, and community organizations. Their goal is to advance innovation and sustainability in the maritime and ocean industry, with over 135 members. They focus on core programs like Blue Ventures, Joint Innovation, Equity Engagement, and growing the Blue Ecosystem. General operating support is needed to enhance their infrastructure, including financial systems, communication, member support, and grant development.