The New American Road Trip will give St. Louis innovators $10,000 for fighting climate change

By Amanda Woytus (St. Louis Magazine)

On Friday, September 21, St. Louis innovators will get the chance to win $10,000 as part of the New American Road Trip contest. Sponsored by ClimateWorks Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Hewlett Foundation, The JPB Foundation, and The IKEA Foundation, an electric car departed San Francisco on September 14 after the Global Climate Action Summit. It’s driving cross-country, stopping in cities along the way to hear about how people are combating climate change and reducing their carbon footprints. It asked local businesses and nonprofits in cities like Las Vegas, Boulder, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis to participate in an Instagram contest: Post a story about how your organization is innovating in the area of green tech and carbon emissions reduction, and be entered for a chance to win $10,000.

Two who applied from St. Louis: Citizens for Modern Transit, a local transit advocacy agency, and Dutchtown South Community Corporation, an organization that helps to enhance the Dutchtown, Gravois Park, Marine Villa, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods.

For Citizens for Modern Transit, the contest was a natural fit—“We already have a program that reduces carbon emissions,” says Mallory Box, its director of programs and membership. Citizens for Modern Transit’s Try & Ride program lets users test the transit system and even offers personalized routes. It has a 72 percent retention rate, says Box, which has a “huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions.” The $10,000 would help with implementing new programs and promoting ones already in effect.

Box says the best part of participating in the New American Road Trip contest is that, well, it was fun: “For me, it was almost like an experiment. I had a week throw stuff together on Instagram, and it was a blast.” And regardless of what happens, “we hope to continue the work with or without the funds,” she says.

Sunni Hutton, community development manager for Dutchtown South Community Corporation, says if they win, they hope to use the money to fund a new green social enterprise. “We’re really looking to create impact that would last past this grant,” she says.

The organization is already in the middle of a huge waste-reduction initiative. It noticed that when it would go through neighborhoods during cleanups, it was picking up food and consumer packaging, cigarettes, mattresses, tires, construction debris, furniture, and Styrofoam. It started doing education workshops and implemented programs like Styrofoam-Free Cherokee. Now they want to turn all that trash into a business—and they’ve already gotten started with Chairs on Chippewa. Dutchtown South takes illegally dumped furniture and works with Jenny Murphy from social enterprise Perennial to turn the pieces into “sidewalk seats.” The extra $10,000 would help them grow the green enterprise even bigger with new initiatives.

On Friday, you can join Box and Hutton—along with other applicants—at the Cortex Commons, at 4:30 p.m., to find out who won the $10,000. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson will be on hand to speak, and there will be local music and food trucks. You’ll also be able to test electric cars. The event is kid-friendly, and for more information, see the New American Road Trip contest event page here.

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