The Nature Initiative has organized its activities through a series of Initiatives each of which commands dedicated resources, support and fundraising. Our current initiatives are as follows:
The Katrina Initiative
Started in 2005, this was our first initiative. This initiative was a response to the environmental damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Our efforts to restore the Gulf Coast's environment continues to this day. We have made financial contributions to support their post-Katrina cleanup and restoration efforts. To date, the Mississippi Audubon Society, with our financial support, has delivered over 10,000 trees to homeowners in the devastated region. All of these trees are native species which absorb water quickly in flood-prone areas. We have also provided guidance to those responsible for reconstructing municipal parks in New Orleans by encouraging the use of native species and environmentally intelligent replanting practices.
The Recycling Initiative
Launched in 2006, the recycling initiative has collected over 190 cell phones,185 books, 45 CDs, 8 bicycles, and four laptop computers for recycling. Our approach is to accept the good from donors and then transfer them to other sources, usually charities, that reuse the items. Reuse is by far the cleanest and most efficient means of recycling. Donations of reusable items have been made to Goodwill Industries, Housing Works Charities, Recycle-A-Bicycle, the Interfaith Nutrition Network, and other worthwhile organizations.
Keeping used cell phones and computers out of landfills has huge environmental benefits. These items contain a large number of hazardous substances known as Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic chemicals (PBTs) included mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and lead, all of which can linger in the environment for a long periods of time and may have continuous adverse affects on humans and other animals.
In 2008, NI started to petition and challenge corporations and other large organizations to increase recycling and reduce waste. Since then, NI has provided guidance to these entities and encouraged the use of paperless systems, soy inks, recycled paper, and reuse of resources. Engaged organizations include the City of New York and the 200,000 member State Bar of California. In March 2009, after over a year of campaigning by NI, the State Bar of California finally shopped sending a hard copy monthly (20+ page!) newsletter to each of it's members and switched to an electronic version. Let us know if you can suggest other corporations that require similar guidance with their recycling and sustainability efforts.
The Trees Initiative
Since 2008. The motivation behind this initiative is our fundamental belief that planting trees has a tremendously positive impact on the earth's environment. We plant trees by organizing plantings, providing volunteers for community plantings and teaming with other charities and corporate sponsors to get trees in the ground in an expedited and economically efficient manner.
Results: 2600+ trees planted, including 2000 as part of the New York City Million Trees Project and 655 with the National Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service's Friends of the Forest Program.
Here are just a few ways that trees help us:
Trees keep our air supply fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
In one year, an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is expelled by a car driven 8700 miles.
Trees keep our air supply fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
Trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.
Trees cut down noise pollution by acting as sound barriers.
Tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water as well as protecting watersheds.
Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Trees along streets act as glare and reflection control.
The Microlending Initiative
Since 2007, we have teamed with our partner Kiva.org to provide micro-loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing nations. These borrowers have traditionally had a very difficult time getting loans from a bank because they either have no credit rating or the amount they are asking (usually under $1000) are so small that banks have no financial incentive. NI provides loans for projects that have certain environmental merits. We do not derive any interest or income from these loans and are able to re-lend funds as soon as they are paid back. This "recycling" of loan proceeds allows even small donations to have a really tremendous and lasting impact. Our first loan was to a pedicab operator in Peru who needed to make repairs to his "zero emissions" vehicle.
Results: We have made loans in Bosnia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Phillipines, Mongolia, Cambodia and across Africa. Many of our loans have already been paid in full - our current default rate is 0%,
The Clean Air Initiative
This project began in 2006 with a letter writing campaign designed to change the practices of major US cities in how they approve cars for use in commercial taxi fleets. In June 2006, New York City became the first major city to respond. In that year alone, the number of taxi licenses that were reserved for hybrid cars was increased ten fold. It has increased every year since, and many other municipalities have followed suit. Some private taxi companies, in response to campaigns like ours (and rising gas prices), have even switched to hybrids without governmental requirements, realizing that environmental sensibility and economic savings are not mutually exclusive. Our goal is 40mpg fuel efficiency requirements for taxi and livery cab fleets nationwide.
NI has also petitioned for the elimination of motorized traffic in parks and wilderness areas. Though defeated in our support of NY Intro 276, a bill that would have banned cars in NYC's Central Park in the summer of 2006, we have seen the city respond by expanding car-free hours in the park, increasing the number of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, and even shutting down major roadways for "summer streets" events every year since 2008. We encourage our supporters to pursue similar changes in their communities. Closing parks to cars will have undeniable results, including a reduction in noise and environmental pollution, while encouraging increased use by urban residents.
The Land Initiative
Started in 2010, this initiative calls for donations to be used for the protection of wild places or other land which has significant environmental benefits. Our first grant for this initiative was in support of the Trust for Public Lands' efforts to purchase and preserve the Maho Bay Camps property in Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John. St. John is one of the few truly underdeveloped Caribbean islands, mainly because 2/3 of the island is preserved as wilderness. Maho Bay operates an eco-friendly operation on a leased parcel of land in the National Park. The lease is currently set to expire in 2013. If we are able to collect enough to purchase the land, we can avoid having an environmentally harmful hotel take over the leased parcel. Learn more at http://www.maho.org/.
In March 2010, NI began our support of The Norwalk Land Trust's Campaign for Farm Creek Preserve. Farm Creek Nature Preserve is 16.2 acres of waterfront property and wetlands on the Farm Creek tidal estuary that empties into Long Island Sound. The challenge of this land preservation project is that the property is located in a populated and highly desirable New York City suburb where land and home prices command a premium. As a result, the project is the costliest that the Norwalk Land Trust has ever tackled. NI prides itself in supporting community organizations like this that operate efficiently and use ground roots fundraising and municipal support to accomplish environmental goals.
Tidal estuaries are a vital part of a healthy Long Island Sound ecosystem. Development along Connecticut shores has destroyed more than 60 percent of Connecticut's coastal marshes since 1914. Tidal estuaries and salt marshes are the feeding grounds, nurseries, and safe havens for hundreds of species. They are the second most productive ecosystem on our planet after a rain forest. This land parcel, now saved from development, is a lovely, quiet area enjoyed by people, animals and birds.
In addition to publishing The List (found on this site) which lists things that regular folks can do everyday to help the environment, we also support other activities that educate the general population on environmental issues. We our proud to be sponsors of the 2013 Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC (http://www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org/). The film festival, now in it's 19th year (!), features over 155 films (many of them free to the public) on environmental issues, designed to raise awareness and understanding of critical issues that are too often ignored in film. We encourage you to head down to DC in March 2013 to take in some shows and perhaps volunteer. We have supported the firm festival since 2011.