This summer The Rotary Foundation (TRF) released guidelines for environmental global grants which both expand and fine-tune the initial Environment Policy statement from July 2021. The guidelines offer sound advice to equip applicants to achieve a “positive, measurable, and sustainable influence” in reducing the harm of environmental hazards on communities and regions. While only Global Grant Projects must comply with these guidelines, districts and clubs will create more effective and durable environmental projects by following strategies in this guidance.

To be eligible for a global grant, a project needs to fit at least one of the four Rotary objectives for the environment.  The guidelines include twelve Action Goals that applicants can address under the Objectives.  Action Goals 1-8 are essentially the same as in the July 2021 policy statement. New action goals 9-12 invite applicants to address land use planning, enhancing environmental innovation, graduate school scholarships for environmental careers, and including the environment in Global Grant projects that advance other Rotary humanitarian Areas of Focus in protected natural areas. The policy’s interdisciplinary approach is most welcome.

Most noteworthy is the frequent discussion of advocacy, going beyond just education and awareness-building.  Past RI presidents Ian Riseley and Barry Rassin have both encouraged advocacy in your local communities as part of Rotarian service. “When you attend a community meeting,” Ian says, “wear your Rotary pin; it will make a difference in how they listen when you speak.”  The guidelines also underscore the importance of working with appropriate governmental agencies and NGOs in community assessment, permitting, funding, and institutionalizing the interventions of the project so that the change is long-lasting and sustainable. This is a departure from Rotary’s historic preference to develop projects without engaging government.

Read more for a summary of TRF’s four Environment Objectives, eligible Action Goals, and guidelines for community needs assessment, budgeting, and evaluation.

Photo: DG Kikis López de Arbesú, D4185, describing the artificial reef in the Sea of Cortez for which the Rotary Foundation is now reviewing a Global Grant application. Participants on the Rotary Environment Tour sponsored by three Rotary Districts in México (see related article) will get to see this project.

Here are The Rotary Foundation’s four ‘environment global objectives:
I. Nature and Biodiversity Conservation: We need to strengthen biodiversity and ecosystems as we pursue food, water, shelter, consumption, and production, because “biodiversity loss affects our planet at every scale, and because we are connected ecologically [to] nearly every family of organisms.”

II. Climate Change Mitigation by reducing human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) accumulation in the atmosphere. GHGs include not just CO2, but also methane, and the CFCs family, which is less prevalent but more potent. Projects should reduce sources, support sinks, and prevent releases. Applicants are encouraged to work on nature-based solutions.

III. Sustainable Livelihoods means shrinking our ecological footprint so communities’ economic wellbeing is protected by flourishing natural systems, healthy soils, safe water and climate adaptation.

IV. Environmental Equity means “having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment to live in,” with an extra obligation to marginalized communities that suffer disproportionate impacts and/or have been historically disenfranchised.

Photo: European Rotarians are leading the quest to provide families in Kenya with Solvatten solar water purifiers. These help save lives, time, and money, and prevent deforestation by reducing families’ need for firewood.  The technology promotes both equity and sustainable living.

A Community Assessment led by the host community is an ESSENTIAL first step to any Global Grant application. This policy spells out how to combine inquiry about the community’s goals and its cultural, technical, and financial conditions with an analysis of the specific environmental challenges. Effective training and education in support of your project should be in the local language and driven by needs identified in the community assessment. The assessment builds community buy-in. This assessment must drive your project plan.

The policy describes four key strategies to ensure environmentally sustainable projects:

  • Respecting local and indigenous knowledge and sharing information collaboratively
  • Engaging the local environmental advocates as partners
  • Institutionalizing progress by working with appropriate government entities, and
  • Ensuring adequate funding for the project and beyond, so it will be self-sustaining beyond the grant term.  Revolving loan funds are a possible source of support.

Significantly, the guidelines encourage working with relevant government agencies to develop the Community and Environmental Assessments.

Evaluation: It is essential to gather baseline data at the assessment phase, to be able to measure success throughout.  (ESRAG’s iRotree app, downloadable to your phone, can help you record that information.) You will also need to identify environmental threats, cultural practices that should inform the project, and the environmental changes – both good and bad – that you expect. On pages 20-21, the policy gives detailed guidance around data collection for baseline, measuring interim progress to allow for revisions, and post- project results to enable improvement, sharing and scaling.

Applicants need to review land ownership around the intervention, the end-of-life management of technologies, and the impact of the project beyond its site.

Budget: The guidelines recommend that you spend more on people than hardware, hire local experts and technicians, and develop co-funding partners beyond Rotary. Source environmentally sustainable materials locally, being clear about ownership and management. Allocate 10% of your budget for evaluation.

Global Grant projects eligible for funding in addition to demonstrating one or more of the environment area global objectives (above), will match at least one action goal (below).

  • Action Goal 1: Hands-on conservation. Each project is very site- and context-specific. Replanting or rebuilding populations of appropriate native species can be combined with removing invasive species. Read pages 18-19 for specifics on scientifically-sound, wholistic tree-planting and other plant projects, and strategies for preventing or removing plastics from waterways.
  • Action Goal 2: Community natural resource governance and management emphasizes projects to build capacity in local communities, including governments, grassroots, organizations, and NGO’s, and aligning with peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives.
  • Action Goal 3: Agriculture, fishing, and primary production includes funding for projects that promote regenerative agriculture and food security by reducing food waste and addressing food deserts. Consulting indigenous knowledge is important.
  • Action Goal 4: Climate, energy, and electricity lists small-scale renewable energy systems, energy efficiency projects, community solar, decarbonizing transportation by changing infrastructure, and land use planning. The guidelines include detailed advice around solar and household and consumer energy use initiatives.
  • Action Goal 5: Resilience and adaptation includes resilience strategies for the vulnerable and conservation strategies that anticipate climate-induced migration.
  • Action Goal 6: Environmental education and communication addresses targeted advocacy and strategic communication campaigns, including supporting environmental human rights. School-based education efforts should also align with Basic Education and Literacy guidelines.
  • Action Goal 7: Material life cycles and circular economy discusses recycling and upcycling, reducing food waste, and composting, and working upstream to reduce demand for plastics. Applicants must supply details about the economics and flow of materials to reduce waste.
  • Action Goal 8: Environmental public health includes reducing risk of exposure to toxins and improving access to nutritious food for vulnerable groups, as identified by project beneficiaries themselves.
  • Action Goal 9: Land use focuses on creating, maintaining and expanding protected areas including working with land trusts and conservancies. Rotarians can even create nature preserves.
  • Action Goal 10: Environmental innovation means working with Community and Economic Development guidelines to create environmentally friendly rather than destructive income opportunities, including small scale eco-tourism. As with other goals, the project should include local capacity-building, not just supplying equipment.
  • Action Goal 11: Environmental careers, pages 21 -23, can be eligible for Rotary graduate scholarships for those pursuing environmental studies.  Indigenous students can apply for scholarships for graduate work on integrating environmental and Indigenous studies.
  • Action Goal 12: Guidelines for Rotary’s other six Areas of Focus (AOFs) have been updated to include ways to combine environmental sustainability with other Rotary humanitarian goals such as Peacebuilding, Disease Prevention, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. If you see potential synergy with another AOF, read that AOF’s guidelines and consult the RI regional grant officer for the proposed project site to see how best to make the case for your Global Grant policy. The environment may be a secondary AOF if the project in support of a different AOF is located within or near protected natural areas.

This Justa stove, well-suited to Central American cooking preferences, is an environmental health solution: it significantly reduces women’s and children’s exposure to the dangerous particulates in smoke from cooking indoors over an open fire.

The guidelines conclude with links to other Rotary International resources, including RI’s Environmental Cadre of Experts and a link to a recorded ESRAG workshop on planning successful, sustainable environmental projects. That web page also includes a link to request planning help from ESRAG.