Congratulations to the 2023 Catalyst Grant Recipients!

The Acceleration Fund from Second Nature is dedicated to supporting climate action activities by colleges and universities. Catalyst Grants are intended to be the “spark” that jumpstarts a nascent project, or the boost needed to build capacity to advance your work on campus or in your community. The 2023 Acceleration Fund awarded 11 Catalyst Grants of up to $10,000 for projects that advance decarbonization, resilience, and/or climate justice initiatives on campuses or in communities.

2023 Catalyst Grant Recipients:

Central Oregon Community College logo

Central Oregon Community College
Bend, OR

Central Oregon Community College will prioritize the development of a campus Climate Action Plan (CAP), utilizing Catalyst Grant funding for personnel to manage the technical and operational elements of CAP creation. Their plan will organize data, identify realistic greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies, determine mechanisms and indicators for tracking progress and milestones, and lay out the college’s plan for practical renewable technologies. Funding will also support COCC’s task force and stakeholder engagement process to institutionalize sustainability in all areas, including but not limited to energy, water, transportation, food, health and wellness.

Earlham College
Richmond, IN

Earlham College’s Catalyst Grant funding will support the installation of a water line to the campus’ Miller Farm, which includes a production garden, several pollinator gardens, high tunnel, composting, and community garden. Currently, Miller Farm relies on hoses running nearly 350 feet from the nearest college-owned water source, reducing water pressure, causing damage to hoses, and resulting in occasional loss of water access. The shallow depth of the bedrock prevents successful drilling of a well, making running a water line the most effective approach to addressing the farm’s water needs.

Morehouse College logo

Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA

Morehouse College’s Center of Sustainability and Innovation will survey, monitor, and evaluate the college’s overall progress at reducing inputs through single-stream recycling monitoring metrics. With funding from their Catalyst Grant, Morehouse will collect empirical data/weights in tons of material recycled on all single-stream waste and cardboard taken off campus. The campus aims to reduce its landfill contribution by 20% and views this as a physical action tied to educational programming and its mission to create just and equitable solutions in an area that will improve the quality of life for all in the surrounding community.

Northeastern University Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub logo

Northeastern University
Boston, MA

Northeastern’s Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub (CJ&S Hub) is developing an ongoing climate justice experiential learning program in conjunction with a local grassroots environmental justice organization, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE). The program will allow Northeastern students, faculty, and staff to learn about local environmental and climate justice issues alongside community members, including local youth. It would also support the Hub’s efforts to build ongoing relationships with neighboring environmental justice communities to continue to align NU’s climate action planning with community priorities and concerns. Catalyst Grant funding will support consulting work to refine training materials, compensate ACE for their time and contributions to the program, and train ACE and CJ&S staff to administer future training sessions.

Paradise Valley Community College
Phoenix, AZ

Paradise Valley Community College’s Food Forest is a point of convergence between environmental and social sustainability, offering fresh and healthy food, a living classroom for hands-on teaching experiences, a site for community gatherings, and a flourishing ecosystem. Beyond the classroom, the Food Forest is a site for cultural awareness, honoring Indigenous history, learning to coexist in harmony with nature, a place to create and admire art, and an opportunity to volunteer time for the betterment of the community. It is an important source of information on sustainable city living for the entire Phoenix metropolitan area. With support from their Catalyst Grant, PVCC’s Food Forest will grow with the addition of new native plants, including Ironwood that help to recharge the water table and sequester carbon, and healthy, ethically sourced plants like ocotillo and Agave murpheyi that attract birds and fix nitrogen to soil.

SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, NY

SUNY New Paltz seeks to build on ten years of sustainability achievements and begin working to fulfill the third requirement of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Executive Order 22: advancing climate/environmental justice – this is particularly salient given the area’s designation by the Climate Justice Working Group of New York State as a disadvantaged community. SUNY New Paltz will use Catalyst Grant funding to bring together diverse stakeholders for engagement workshops to understand better the community’s hopes and aspirations for climate and environmental justice. This assessment process will be followed by the development of a SWOT analysis and opportunity statement with an open comment period. With campus partners, SUNY New Paltz will research climate/environmental justice practices for higher education and synthesize the findings of the assessment phase. The outcomes will include 3 to 5 SMART goals for climate/environmental justice and a report of evidence-based practices that other entities have advanced in this space.

Tecnológico de Monterrey
Monterrey, Mexico

Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Sustainability and Climate Change Plan has the mission of being a leading actor in mobilizing climate action in Mexico through four areas: Alliances and Networks, Community Education, Engagement, and Intersectoral and Interdisciplinary Projects. With Catalyst Grant funding, the school will convene public and private universities in Mexico to form a Network of Mexican Universities for Climate Action. The Network will engage the public in fulfilling Mexico’s commitment under the Paris Agreement, encourage and assist universities in setting carbon neutrality goals and developing Climate Action Plans, and create spaces for capacity building in a community of practice.

University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY

Last year, the University at Buffalo updated its Climate Action Plan which has a set of ten strategies that will bring the university to carbon neutral by 2030. Three integrators are interwoven throughout these ten strategies: resiliency, experiential learning, and climate justice. The climate justice integrator calls out the need for each strategy to account for equity and justice in every program, policy, or capital improvement. Catalyst Grant funding will support a series of workshops to build sustainable relationships between faculty, staff, students, and community members to frame future climate justice work. Sessions held with community partners will focus on ecologically-based movement generation, the role of the university in planning to address opportunities and climate threats with attention to structural inequities in the region, and ideation and solutions. Working groups will then develop goals and long-term objectives to advance the ideas generated in these workshop sessions, with seed money from the Catalyst Grant funding to help with initial implementation.

University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
Eau Claire, WI

University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire is using its Catalyst Grant to build out its carbon offset investment portfolio while simultaneously supporting the development of an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) course for students to learn about the ethics and purpose of utilizing carbon offsets. UWEC’s Catalyst Grant will provide a faculty stipend to incentivize the development of the course, ideally to be cross-listed between departments in the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. The course will offer content on social impacts and governance, certified carbon offsets and their use when emissions cannot be reduced to zero through other means, and ways to reduce business travel. The rest of the Catalyst Grant funding will support UWEC’s students in building a portfolio of carbon offsets, which the university will purchase.

Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, NC

The Center for Working Lands at Warren Wilson College (CWL) is beginning the process of decarbonization by transitioning all of the college’s land operations away from fossil fuel use and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ~73tCO2e annually. The CWL is also restructuring its operations to serve as a training facility for students and regional landowners who are looking to reduce the climate impacts of land management while maintaining economic viability, removing barriers to agricultural innovation by assuming the risk of testing new technologies and providing a menu of climate-mitigating equipment and practices that land managers can try out before they make the commitment to implement. Catalyst Grant funding will specifically support the acquisition of an electric Solectrac tractor. The tractor, coupled with a solar charging station, would provide the opportunity to demonstrate a clean energy transition for one of the most used and fossil fuel-intensive pieces of agricultural equipment existing on farms across the region and world.

Western Colorado University
Gunnison, CO

Western Colorado University (Western) faces two significant climate-related challenges: being situated in an arid region of the western U.S. where drought increasingly threatens ecological stability and livelihoods and adds to the ever-present threat of wildfire and being located in one of the coldest valleys in Colorado (the Gunnison Basin) and the nation. Gunnison experiences 3-4 months annually of temperatures between -10F and 32F. Winter heating is a requirement, expensive, and dependent on fossil fuels, thus making it a challenge for Western to meet its decarbonization goals. Western recently completed its first Climate Action Plan and is hiring its first Director of Sustainability. To complement these steps forward, Western will use its Catalyst Grant funding to hire a part-time Climate Justice Intern to ensure attention at all levels to climate justice and equity and involvement of undergraduate and graduate students throughout the CAP completion process and to deliver three participatory sustainability workshops during the grant period (including a campus-wide workshop that introduces our comprehensive vision for decarbonization with a climate justice lens). The Climate Justice Intern and Director of Sustainability will also work closely with Western’s Solar Society, a student-led organization that acquires used solar panels and revamps them for affordable installation in local Habitat for Humanity projects. In addition, the Climate Justice Intern will work with Western’s student group, LEAD Sustainability, which advocates for sustainability initiatives on campus.

Recognizing Our Network’s Dedication to Climate Action

Second Nature received more than 70 applications for Catalyst Grants – more than we have ever received! The creativity and quality of the proposals demonstrates the importance and urgency of climate action on our network’s campuses and universities. We want to recognize the dedication of other institutions who submitted proposals, including:

  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Drexel University
  • Emory University
  • Northland College
  • Ohio University
  • Saint Peter’s University
  • Sustainable Cities Network, Arizona State University
  • The Ohio State University / University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign / Colorado State University
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Puerto Rico at Utuado
  • University of South Florida
  • University of St. Thomas
  • University of Utah’s Edible Campus Gardens (Sustainability Office)

Thank You to the 2023 Catalyst Grant Reviewers

A team of reviewers generously supported this project. We thank them for their time and careful review of each application.

  • Daniel Fernandez, Professor in Department of Applied Environmental Science, California State University Monterey Bay
  • Dianne Harrison, President Emerita, California State University, Northridge
  • Laura Martin, M Partner Director and Associate Director, Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, The University of Mississippi
  • Judith Ramaley, Trustee, Portland State University and President Emerita, Winona State University
  • Maynard Shaus, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and Director of Accreditation, Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Second Nature staff

About Catalyst Grants from the Acceleration Fund

The Acceleration Fund was first introduced at the 2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit. Funding for Catalyst Grants from the Acceleration Fund was made possible by an anonymous foundation. This funding opportunity was open to colleges and universities in Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network and/or University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), who are in good standing with their annual dues and reporting.