TITLE: Senior Program Officer
FUNDING AREAS: Climate change and energy efficiency in Massachusetts
CONTACT: Mariella.Puerto@barrfoundation.org, 617-854-3500
IP TAKE: As a climate change champion and controller of one of Barr's largest initiatives, Puerto wields a pretty powerful grantmaking wand.
PROFILE: In Boston, like most cities, aging infrastructure is the main culprit in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some estimates put inefficient buildings as the source of 70 percent of all emissions in the city. Reducing GHG emissions and combatting climate change in Boston and the state of Massachusetts is the primary goal of the Barr Foundation's environmental strategy. Their granting strategy is two-fold, equally divided between: 1) supporting energy efficiency in buildings, providing funding for projects as varied as increasing efficiency in low-income housing to conducting energy audits of homes across the state, and 2) supporting mindful transportation and smart growth.
The foundation awards approximately $58 million in grants annually, with 30 percent, or roughly $17 million, going to benefit emission-reduction programs. The program's goals are clear: to help Boston and Massachusetts meet or beat 2020 and 2050 GHG reduction targets and become national models for reducing emissions.
Senior Program Officer Mariella Puerto is one of the gatekeepers of the foundation's climate change purse, which is one of the foundaiton's largest giving initiatives. For the four years previous to joining the foundation in 2001, Puerto was Deputy Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Program, and previous to that she was founding director of the Boston Lead Action Collaborative, a public-private partnership created to address the high rates of childhood lead poisoning in Boston. Puerto has her bachelor's degree in political science from Brandon University in Canada, and her master's degree in political science from Ohio University.
To get a sense of the types of projects Puerto funds, an analysis of past grants offers clues. For instance, Barr gave a recent grant of $125,000 to the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) to "catalyze the market for 'zero net energy homes' — homes that actually generate more energy than they use," a press release said. For one, NESEA's program clearly targets the program's goals, but its work also has a far reach and is forward-thinking.
"NESEA is a terrific partner," Puerto said in a press release. "Its members have played critical roles in nearly every zero net energy building in the northeast. And they've worked so far up the learning curve that some of their buildings are now cost-competitive with conventional construction."
The program also has a focus on developing energy-efficient solutions for low-income housing. In the past, Puerto has provided funding for Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation's "Green Retrofit Initiative", which was a partnership of several organizations focused on updating affordable housing. The project was designed to benchmark energy consumption in affordable housing, determine the biggest problem areas, and provide guidance on implementing upgrades. In all, some 2,000 families and residents were able to make changes, resulting in a 19 percent reduction in energy consumption.
"This means fewer carbon emissions to be sure," Puerto wrote in a foundation blog post. "It also means lower costs for tenants who pay for utilities directly; lower costs for property owners who foot the utility bill themselves (reducing pressure to increase rents); and more comfortable homes and long-term housing stability for tenants.”
Information about the foundation's climate program can be found online. Keep up with Puerto's news and views on her section of the Barr blog. For fundraisers who feel their work aligns with Barr's strategies, the best way to introduce their work to Barr is to complete the foundation's inquiry form.