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March 11, 2009

I, the resident homekeeper of Oikos mou, am an Environmental Services Customer. What that really means is that I pay the trash bill. But the City of Tacoma can hardly talk trash.

Normally I toss the City’s little cute bulletin, Enviro Talk, into the recycling upon its arrival. But the issue that arrived today featured a compelling headline that caught my eye: “Get Cash to ‘Make A Splash.'”

City of Tacoma awards up to $50,000 a year in environmental grants to help educate residents and protect and restore our surface water resources.

So I went to to learn more. I admit I could use $50,000.

The program has been around at least since 2003, so I can’t blame the Stimulus Bill for this one.  I can only hope the Stimulus won’t fund the program in perpetuity.

The grants pay up to $2,500 per grantee. Individuals, businesses, and non-profits are encouraged to apply. In the past, such things as puppet shows have qualified.

One need not go into hock to contribute to the local environmental cause. One need not volunteer one’s time. One might even presume one should be compensated for making one’s yard chores more efficient. And one certainly need not go hungry while undertaking a virtuous green gig.

Up to 10 percent of the grant may be spent on food. Grant money can cover up to 20 percent of personnel or labor costs for project/event development, oversight and coordination. A disposable camera and film developing can be included in grant costs.

In other words, common things that scores of people do, like spend money on their yard, or take some kids for a walk along a creek and point out things, can be funded by city grants.

I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s efforts, but here’s an example of a grant project that received $2,500 in Citybucks last year:

Creation of two rain gardens on a private level lot 10 feet away from the residential house and away from utilities for the purpose of capturing runoff, preventing pollution and protecting and restoring surface water resources.

No doubt a worthy endeavor, but it honestly never occurred to me not to pay for my own yard modifications, no matter how environmentally friendly they were. I’m just so new to the planet that I never paid any attention to the opportunities my city provides people to use public money on their own yards. I’m hipper now.

Here’s another virtuous emprise that could not have happened without 1,341 Citybucks:

Proctor Farmers Market – Rain Catchment Project
Installation and maintenance of a 350-gallon cistern off an alley adjacent to the Market site. The cistern will collect and store rainwater from neighboring roofs. This conserved water will be used by the Market’s flower and plant vendors and will also be used for market clean-up. The project will include several educational components, allowing us to educate Market patrons about water conservation and the problems of pollution from stormwater runoff.

Funding for this project went for installation and maintenance of a cistern, but presumably it also paid for the “educational components.” If so, has anyone ever heard of volunteering? Or does everyone who does anything he doesn’t ordinarily get paid to do have to get paid for every charitable act, even when he’s simply improving his own property?

Here:  I have some absolutely free educational input to improve civic life in Tacoma: Hang up and drive, and leash your dog.  I won’t give away the thrilling plotline I am developing for the puppet show I will unveil, should I secure a $2,500 grant.

But don’t let me be a damper. Tacoma’s Big Green Brother has free money for you, and you might even be able to write a disposable camera (see city’s website for proper disposal) into your grant.




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