Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW)— with the help of many yearly meetings in North America as well as of individuals— works to build awareness among Friends of the spiritual importance of our human relationship with the web of life, and support growth toward living out this awareness. As part of our outreach program, we provide small matching grants to Friends meetings and churches and other Quaker organizations to put this blossoming awareness into practice. The $250 mini-grants, which have been offered for three years by QEW and are funded by donations and carbon off-sets, were provided for the following:
- a green roof for a yearly meeting kitchen
- Energy Star refrigerators
- drip irrigation for the garden and native plants for landscaping
- a school symposium on vision and energy conservation
- a school garden and worm composter
- a Friends guest house project including compact florescent light bulbs
- bike-lending program
- low-flush toilets
- meeting house solar panels
Olney Friends School, a co-educational college preparatory boarding school located in Barnesville, Ohio, was a 2010 mini-grant recipient. In October of that year, Olney hosted a gathering, at which panel discussions explored the themes of economic and environmental sustainability. Participants came together in two Spirit-led threshing sessions with the help of a Quaker facilitator to identify future long-term directions for the school. The summit affirmed Olney’s primary purpose of experiential and experimental lifelong learning rooted in care for the Earth, service to local and global communities, and the unity of spirit and practice. The Olney community further discussed the future of this emergent Olney.
A 2009 mini-grant recipient, Scattergood Friends School, near West Branch, Iowa, completed a sustainability class and trip in 2010. With QEW environmentalist David Abasz as a resource, five students and two adults spent two months studying the ecology and environment of the upper Mississippi River. The first month was spent on campus performing research, gaining skills, and forming questions to guide field research. Students picked topics that interested them, including renewable energy in Minnesota, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi river fish, phrenology (the study of plant and animal cycles), and useful and edible plants along the Mississippi River.
The second month was spent on the river, on a 518-mile canoe trip. Starting at the headwaters in Lake Itasca, they paddled 500 miles south to St. Paul. Their goals were:
- to build community
- to celebrate each other, the river, and the planet
- to conduct research on water quality and watershed issues
- to educate themselves and others about the connections between the river, energy, and agriculture
- to fundraise for nonprofit organizations working on energy and agricultural issues.
The group took daily nitrate samples from the river (an indication of fertilizer run-off) and documented the wildlife they saw—pelicans, white swans, bald eagles, otters, turtles, frogs, beavers, herons, fish, ospreys, myrkats, and various small birds including the pine marten.
During this time, the group gave classes and presentations to over 750 students at three schools, about 600 adults at four churches, and informal gatherings with Friends and others along the way. The story of the group’s journey was picked up by radio shows, TV stations, and newspapers along the way. The journey culminated with a river rally and concert at Friends School of Minnesota. Pictures are posted at http://www.paddlefortheplanet.net/.
It has been most rewarding to see our seed grants help serve as an impetus for a wide variety of Friends environmental projects. Our grant recipients have shown that with a little help from the mini-grant project great things can happen.
The 2011 QEW Mini-grants will offer matching grants for environmental projects that are between $250 and $500. The deadline for mini-grant submissions is May 2. These grants are available to Friends meetings, churches, and other Friends groups. The grant application can be downloaded at http://www.quakerearthcare.org. Look for minigrants under "Outreach." For more information, contact Bill Holcombe, the Mini-Grant clerk, at firstname.lastname@example.org.