In an effort to increase its environmental impact, Green Umbrella has expanded to become one of the largest climate collaboratives in the United States.
A regional climate collaborative is a network of governments, organizations and businesses working together to take decisive action to address climate change.
Formerly a regional sustainability alliance, Green Umbrella views the transition as an opportunity to broaden the reach and depth of its sustainability and resilience work.
Green Umbrella announced the transition during its annual meeting on Oct. 18 at the University of Cincinnati’s Digital Futures building. The event doubled as a celebration of the organization’s 25th birthday.
The launch event featured live music, appetizers, drinks from HighGrain Brewing, locally made apple butter and handmade sourdough bread served by local baker Andrew Fisher and the farmer who grew the grain, John Branstrator.
But the favorite moment for Green Umbrella’s executive director, Ryan Mooney-Bullock, was hearing the audience of roughly 200 people react to the expanded impact the shift to a regional climate collaborative framework will mean.
“Right now, about 325,000 people in our region live in a community with a dedicated roadmap for climate action. But that leaves almost 2 million people who don’t. Green Umbrella’s new programming and member benefits are designed to ensure that all 2.2 million people in our region live in a community that is ready to take decisive action in the face of climate change,” she said.
Mooney-Bullock described the celebration as the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for Green Umbrella’s staff, its board and various partners to advance the region into its “next stage” of climate change preparation.
“I loved getting to finally talk about what we have been working on for so long, and to hear and feel the excitement and curiosity from our members and partners in the room,” she added.
When Green Umbrella formed in 1998, climate change was nowhere close to being a public topic, said Mooney-Bullock, who joined the organization more than six years ago. Over the past two-and-a-half decades Green Umbrella has worked with governments, nonprofits, educational institutions and businesses to address the most pressing needs facing the region.
Green Umbrella has brought $2.8 million in grants into the region over the past eight years. Mooney-Bullock said “a lot of that” money has gone back out to partner organizations or local governments to do the work.
Over the past 25 years Green Umbrella has worked across a 10-county region to address climate change and increase regional resilience. During that time the organization worked closely with the city of Cincinnati to develop its citywide climate action plan that covers roughly 300,000 people.
City Council adopted the latest update to the Green Cincinnati Plan earlier this year.
This new expansion into a regional climate collaborative means Green Umbrella now has the capacity to help build a comprehensive regional climate action plan, benefitting residents spread across 15 counties in southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana.
Communities, organizations and residents in the Greater Cincinnati region can get involved in the ThriveTogether sustainability playbook by connecting with a new online engagement tool. More detailed opportunities will be available soon.
“We will use this capacity to both support our members to build their own expertise and capacity and pull in federal funding to advance emissions reduction and equity-focused resiliency efforts throughout our region,” Money-Bullock said.
There are about 30 regional climate collaboratives across the U.S. Examples include the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact, and Greenest Region Compact.
Greater Cincinnati is now “on the map” as the largest climate collaborative in the country in terms of staff, budget and diversity of programming and resources offered, Mooney-Bullock said.
Today, Green Umbrella operates a number of programs focused on creating a more sustainable and resilient region. They include the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, the Cincinnati 2030 District, the Common Orchard Project, Climate Research Incubator, the Greenspace Alliance and the Green Schoolyard Action Network. It also provides support to the Climate Safe Neighborhoods Partnership (a program of Groundwork Ohio River Valley) and Faith Communities Go Green.
Mooney-Bullock believes becoming a regional climate collaborative will lead to new and additional funding opportunities to support larger-scale climate initiatives as well as improved cross-sector collaboration.
Green Umbrella’s annual operating budget for 2023 is about $2 million, which includes grants funding activities for this year.
Beyond the creation of climate plans, this organizational shift will allow Green Umbrella to create expanded member benefits to its members to help them reach their climate and sustainability goals.
As a group, they’ll work collaboratively over the next several years to tackle big-scale regional projects and policies.
To accommodate the expansion, Green Umbrella recently hired six new staff members to increase the size of its team to 16. New roles include a senior director of programs and climate strategy, a regional climate collaborative manager, a director of development and marketing and a greenspace alliance manager.
“This clear structure, and our expanded staff team, will allow us to work closely with members to help them achieve their climate and sustainability goals while we work collaboratively towards a resilient, equitable and thriving region,” Mooney-Bullock said.