The city of Austin's Bright Green Future Grants program, an initiative of the Office of Sustainability, surpassed $1 million in funds distributed since its inception in 2012. The landmark was announced in a city press release Wednesday.

This landmark achievement demonstrates the program's commitment to fostering environmental education

Initiated with the vision of inspiring young environmental stewards among K-12 students in the Austin area, the program has grown from its first three projects to 555 of them, involving an estimated 140,000 students. The program’s expansion was made possible through collaboration among community nonprofit partners and various city departments, including the Office of Sustainability, Austin Resource Recovery, the Austin Transportation Department, Austin Water, the Urban Forestry Program of the Development Services Department, and the Watershed Protection Department

“This program’s remarkable achievement illustrates what we often say in sustainability — that each small action adds up to a big impact,” said the city's Zach Baumer. “We are immensely proud of this program and the role it has played for more than a decade in fostering environmental education and climate action in local schools.”

The grants fund a variety of school campus-based projects, including composting systems, rainwater harvesting, organic gardens, rain gardens, bicycle academies, and wildlife habitats. The $1 million milestone was reached with the announcement of funded projects for the 2023-24 school year, detailed below.

Funded Projects for the 2023-24 School Year

The program will fund 51 student-led sustainability projects across 43 schools this year, which are expected to benefit approximately 12,000 students. Over half of the schools receiving a grant qualify for Title 1 funding, which include a larger percentage of students from low-income families. These projects will offer hands-on learning opportunities, make school campuses greener, and provide tangible benefits to surrounding neighborhoods. 

The Office of Sustainability received 113 applications from 57 schools. Projects were selected from every Austin City Council District, representing schools in Austin ISD, Leander ISD, Del Valle ISD, and several private schools. Each grantee will receive up to $3,000 to implement their project. The following projects were awarded funding through a competitive process:

  • Students will connect with nature and breathe fresh air in outdoor classrooms at Govalle, Blackshear, Casey, Joslin, Linder, Oak Hill, Overton, Pleasant Hill, Reilly, Rodriguez, St. Elmo, Travis Heights, and Zavala Elementary SchoolsUphaus Early Childhood Center, Garza High School, and Los Amiguitos Immersion, Nature and Community School.

  • Bicycle clubs will teach students how to safely ride bikes at Allison, Harris, Hart, Houston, Langford, Oak Springs, Ortega, Overton, Perez, Reilly, Rodriguez, Sanchez, and St. Elmo Elementary Schools, and Marshall Middle School.

  • Rain garden projects at Kocurek Elementary School, Whole Life Learning Center, Western Oaks Montessori, and the Ivy Brook Academy will help conserve water, provide native plant education, and minimize soil erosion.

  • School gardens at Dawson and Hillcrest Elementary Schools, Summit Christian Academy, Ann Richards School, Bailey Middle School, Cardinal Point Learning Center, St. Louis Catholic School, and Stephen F. Austin High School will help students learn how to grow healthy food.

  • Brentwood, Sunset Valley, Newton Collins, and Zavala Elementary Schools, and Summit Christian Academy will plant wildlife gardens that provide habitat for native pollinators and birds. 

  • Students at Magnolia Montessori will create a recycling and composting program for students and their families.

  • Planting and caring for trees at Blackshear Elementary School and Vandegrift High School will help students appreciate and understand the vital role of trees in our environment.

  • Ivy Brook Academy will educate students and community members about the benefits of energy conservation.