The Sustainable Environments Program is working to overhaul our country’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure with a new approach that will foster healthier, sustainable, and just communities.  We believe in the potential of what we call “next generation infrastructure” to improve transit systems, make buildings more energy efficient, better manage our water systems and rebuild regional food systems. Focusing on urban areas and their surrounding suburbs, we seek solutions that connect and improve these infrastructure systems in ways that maximize positive impacts and minimize negative environmental, economic and social consequences.

Our infrastructure systems are overburdened by increased demand, extreme weather, and shrinking public budgets. The urgency and opportunity behind this challenge is driving us to look at our past grantmaking efforts around smart growth, climate and energy, and green economies through a lens of next generation infrastructure. Currently, many decisions about infrastructure repair and replacement are disjointed, short on authentic community engagement, and limited to traditional engineering approaches that waste money, restrict opportunity and damage  the environment. By taking a systems-based approach, we can deliver better services to more people to the benefit of the environment and economy.

The Sustainable Environments Program seeks to create just and sustainable communities in four ways:

  • Sustainable Transportation Networks & Equitable Development Patterns

    We support clean, affordable, equitable, high-quality and efficient transportation and land use development that better connects critical services, jobs, schools, housing and other regional destinations.

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  • Just Energy: Shifting Power to People

    We support energy system solutions as the means to build power and leadership in low-wealth communities and communities of color.

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  • Urban Water Management

    We support efforts to capture storm water and slowly release it into the existing network of drains, pipes and sewers, or reuse it where it falls to cultivate natural green spaces.

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  • Regional Food Supply

    We support ways to make it easier to get local, sustainably produced food from our farms to the markets closest to where it’s grown, and to better connect food producers and consumers.

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We seek organizations that:

  • Promote meaningful collaborations and an integrated approach to infrastructure solutions (i.e., ways in which transportation, energy, water, and food systems can be combined);
  • Focus on infrastructure decisions that better meet the needs of historically underserved communities including low-income communities and people of color;
  • Promote long-term solutions and leverage strategic infrastructure investments;
  • Highlight, especially through communications, the multiple benefits of next generation infrastructure.

We also believe that the Foundation’s three programs are strongly interrelated and necessary to create just and sustainable communities. We therefore encourage cross-cutting proposals that connect to the work of the Foundation’s Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures programs.

The Surdna Foundation is committed to continuous learning through our grantmaking. We view grant guidelines as living documents and will update them periodically to better target resources and increase our impact.

Generally, the Sustainable Environments Program does not fund:

  • Infrastructure solutions related to the waste and telecommunications sectors;
  • Programs related to toxics or hazardous waste;
  • Land and habitat conservation;
  • Animal welfare;
  • Biodiversity, natural resource or ocean management;
  • Capital campaigns or investments;
  • Individuals or academic fellowships.


Program Related Investments

Surdna's Program Related Investment Fund supports the foundation’s mission by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges.

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Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.