Like a number of automakers, Toyota's philanthropy has been keenly attuned to STEM education in recent years, as we reported recently. What's less well known is that Toyota supports some environmental work as well. The company makes environmental grants in Japan and overseas. In the United States, it has several environmental partnerships, the most important of which is with the Audubon Society, ToyotaTogetherGreen by Audubon.
This partnership claimes to have trained more than 500 conservation leaders who have, in turn, spurred more than 450,000 people to “reduce energy use, protect wildlife habitat, and improve water quality in every state in America.” There is no figure on how many of them drive Toyota Prius hybrids, but you can see what Toyota might be after here. As the best known maker of hybrid cars, it's well positioned to strengthen its brand as the most eco-friendly top car company in the world. (Never mind the abysmal gas mileage of the monster Toyota Sequoia.) Audobon, meanwhile, has found another corporate partner with deep pockets to support its environmental work, which is quite expansive these days and includes a focus on climate change.
TogetherGreen funds two major conservation programs:
Fellowships train leaders in conservation as they get $10,000 in funding to complete a conservation project. Up to forty Fellows are chosen each year. For example, Amy Samuels, with the Onondaga Environmental Institute, got a fellowship to help local youth install and maintain a green infrastructure in central New York’s Onondaga Lake watershed to reduce storm water runoff and sewage overflows to improve the lake’s water quality and to revivify the lake‘s wildlife. Since the fellowships are intended to have a multiplier effect, a key part of Samuels’ efforts is involvement with the Onondaga Earth Corps, a youth conservation group, where she has been training the members to develop green awareness in younger children. Since 2008, Toyota TogetherGreen has chosen 260 Fellows.
The innovation grants fund projects to protect water, land, and energy resources. For example, RE-volv in California was awarded a grant of $53,534 to train college students to organize crowdfunding campaigns to install solar energy projects in their communities. TogetherGreen looks for grantees with projects that involve groups of people who are not actively involved in conservation efforts. Since 2008, the grant program has awarded more than $7.2 million to 265 projects across the U.S.
Exit the Highway was an engagement campaign designed to encourage people to take local conservation action and get back to nature on their own terms over the summer. Those who pledged to do so, and uploaded their favorite nature photos for others to enjoy, were entered in a sweepstakes to win a Prius v.
With spring nearly upon us, it’s time to prepare the supporting material needed for the TogetherGreen Fellowship Program and Innovation Grants. Applications for the two initiatives will open again later this year. To find out when and how to apply visit www.togethergreen.org. If you’re still leery about applying to a program backed by a car manufacturer, keep this in mind: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at 44.2 miles per gallon in 2014, Toyota topped the list of all gas vehicle manufacturers in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). And that includes the mighty Sequoia.