Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Example Grant - Merck Family Fund

March 14, 2006

Jenny Russell, Executive Director
Merck Family Fund
303 Adams Street
Milton, MA 02186-4253

Dear Ms. Russell:

In the fall of 2004, students at the Vermont Commons School (VCS), a private, college-preparatory school for grades 7-12, began a project called the Commons Co-op. This project set out to reduce the energy usage and associated carbon emissions at our school. Carbon emissions are the leading cause of global warming, and by increasing awareness among our own community we hope to reduce carbon emissions. Within the school, this project reduced energy dependency by 18.3% in consumption alone and then went beyond these reductions, offsetting 100% of carbon emissions through carbon sequestration.

We began by making small changes such as installing energy efficient light bulbs, turning lights of when we left the room and unplugging appliances that were not in use. Through our efforts we planted 1500 trees to neutralize the remaining emissions produced by our school. In the fall of 2005 the group began to imagine greater prospects of energy conservation by expanding into the larger community. The new focus of this organization is to certify local businesses as Carbon Zero. This Carbon Zero designation is awarded to businesses that have neutralized their carbon output by reducing overall energy consumption, introducing renewable energy sources, and funding ecologically diverse carbon sequestration projects. Use of the logo provides companies with a valuable marketing tool. To label companies as Carbon Zero, members of our project analyze the companies electricity bills and provide them with strategies to neutralize their emissions. We began analyzing energy audits and writing business proposals for likeminded companies that would be willing to follow in our footsteps.

This past fall the Commons Co-op was renamed the Carbon Zero Project. We agreed to expand our original initiative; to increase awareness, reduce energy consumption, invest in renewable electricity sources and completely eliminate carbon emissions through carbon sequestration, to outside the walls of VCS. Through our project, we aspire to not only help the environment, but also improve a company's sales and educate the community about global warming and carbon emissions. This project presents businesses with a chance to cancel out their carbon emissions through ecological restoration, while providing them with a progressive marketing strategy. Our process involves a three-pronged approach to neutralize carbon emissions, beginning with reducing energy consumption, creating a plan that utilizes renewable sources and, lastly, planting trees to sequester remaining carbon emissions.

The Carbon Zero Project combines environmental education with a proactive effort to benefit the community. This class is now conducted using a business model; the teacher acts as the boss and students as employees. Whatever is accomplished is done by the students. With all the responsibility that students are given, we are actually running the company, and we are provided with invaluable pre-professional work experience in writing business proposals, analyzing energy audits and meeting with the owners of companies and presenting them with ways in which they can combat electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions. Our future expansion will not be possible without a full time faculty member to direct the students. Through our project, we aspire to not only help the environment, but also improve a company's sales and educate the community about global warming and carbon emissions.

We request a three-year grant, for $25,000 per year, from the Merck Family Foundation to fund our start-up costs, pay the salary of a faculty member who will lead the Carbon Zero Certification Project and hire an additional instructor to manage our correspondence with businesses. Our start-up costs will include mail, website, phone, internet access, and office supplies. We aspire for self-sufficiency. After this three-year period is complete, we will have enough companies enrolled to generate funds to pay for the project's annual costs, by imposing a 1% service charge.

Although the project is still in the preliminary stages, we have received interest from many local businesses, such as Middlebury College, Healthy Living Natural Foods and JDK Design, who would like to get involved with the Carbon Zero Project. We already have two local business certified as 100% Carbon Zero. We continue to perform energy audits, analyze electricity consumption as well as write and present our proposals to businesses, and hope to sign up at least five new businesses per semester. Until this point we have been able to fund our project through the budget of the school, and are taught by an existing social science professor. It is apparent that if we are to continue our progress, we will require alternate funding from programs such as yours. We envision this certification to be equivalent to the organic label. With all the media attention on peak oil, global warming and other environmental concerns, our project proscribes a course of action. In time our project will undoubtedly draw attention of many large businesses, as well as the media.

With your help, our project will be able to expand beyond the local community, become a sustainable business and after the three-year period, become self-sufficient.

Thank you for your consideration. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Will Hayden
Ninth Grade
Ian Hollyer
Ninth Grade
Kate Costello
Tenth Grade


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