Green Umbrella in the News

  • January 17, 2017 11:35 AM | Anonymous

    Source: Soapbox Media

    On June 9, Cincinnati will once again host the Midwest Sustainability Summit at Xavier’s Cintas Center. The event will feature a keynote speaker, awards ceremony and breakout sessions.

    This year, the Summit will explore new areas of environmental sustainability while taking a deeper look at equity in sustainability.

    The Summit’s goal is to bring together a broad audience of professionals — Fortune 100 businesses, small business owners, government agencies, academia and NGOs — who want to engage in thoughtful discussion, share best practices and celebrate the sustainability work that is currently being done throughout the Midwest. The Summit will also help identify areas for future regional collaborations.

    Van Jones, a leader in building an equitable green economy, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Summit. He’s started problem-solving organizations like The Dream Corps, Green for All and Rebuild the Dream, and will share his wealth of knowledge and experience in linking the economy, environment and social justice.

    A lunchtime awards ceremony will honor local small business leaders that have incorporated sustainability into their business practices. The breakout sessions will allow attendees to dive deeper into issues like energy conservation, water quality, local food access, outdoor recreation, sustainable business supply chains and waste reduction.

    Tickets will go on sale in February. Early bird student admission is $15; Green Umbrella members are $45; and general admission is $65.

  • December 30, 2016 4:19 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Stanford Social Innovation Review

    In 2012, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) made a big bet on the ability of collective impact to accelerate systems change. It committed $3.5 million over five years to a number of local “backbone” organizations, with the hope of achieving Community-level social impact on a range of complex problems in the region.

    Backbone organizations—typically composed of independent, funded staff dedicated to an initiative—are an important part of the cross-sector, collective impact approach to social change (other elements include a common agenda, mutually reinforcing activities, shared measurement, and continuous communication). Backbone staff help guide the vision and strategy of an initiative, support aligned activities, establish shared measurement practices, build public will, advance policy, and mobilize resources. These activities can all sit within a single organization, or they can have different roles housed in multiple organizations.

    GCF’s funding aimed to provide long-term operating support to six different backbones, adding a seventh in 2014, so that they could scale up their programmatic efforts and partnerships, and ultimately improve their ability to drive change in areas like education, workforce development, and environmental sustainability. The foundation also funded a community of practice to support knowledge exchange among the backbones. This year, GCF asked our organization, FSG, to determine if their bet was paying off.  FSG has developed a guide to evaluating collective impact. Here, we share an example of putting this evaluation approach into action. 

    Backbone organizations supported by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation included:

    Evaluating Community Transformation

    Evaluating any aspect of collective impact effort is challenging—change is happening at multiple levels, in non-linear ways, throughout the life of an initiative—and evaluating backbone organizations is no exception. But tracking progress across multiple success factors—such as social, political, and financial capital—can be helpful, and for this project, we ultimately developed a framework to capture community transformation on a variety of levels. The framework is rooted in the belief that innovative and structured collaboration leads to a strengthened civic infrastructure, which translates into systems-level change, and thus accelerates community-level impact.

    • Civic infrastructure. Is there a web of strong, trusting relationships between people and institutions? Backbone organizations play an important role in improving civic infrastructure by building connections, marshalling resources, enabling community engagement, and sharing knowledge.
    • Systems-level change. Insight on this level took shape through seven indicators. We looked for: a culture of learning, dialogue, experimentation, and reflection; formal organizations making changes in their practices; shifting behavior of the target population; increasing funding streams; evolving social and cultural norms; progress on advocacy and public policy goals; and resources and capacity allocated to supporting partners. Backbone agencies engage with their partners on these medium-term outcomes, because they actually influence the attainment of long-term outcomes.
    • Community-level impact. Is the collective impact initiative achieving the long-term, population-level changes it seeks? Backbone agencies help build data collection systems to track impact across health, education, economic growth, and other indicators in the region.

    The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s theory of change to community transformation.

    To evaluate the impact of the backbone organizations on each of these levels, we reviewed publicly available information, grant reports, and internal information provided by GCF and the backbone organizations themselves. We also interviewed backbone leaders, stakeholders, and GCF staff and board members, and surveyed organizations and individuals involved in each collective impact effort.

    Applying the Framework

    To illustrate how this framework helped us see the progress of each backbone across a number of metrics, let’s look at Partnership for a Competitive Workforce (PCW), a workforce development initiative in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana tri-state region, and one of the seven backbones GCF supported. PCW’s mission is to meet employer demand by enhancing the skills of its current and future workforce by fostering collaboration between employers, chambers of commerce, workforce boards, educational institutions, and service providers. The initiative has three main objectives:

    1. Connecting businesses with qualified workers
    2. Aligning education with employer needs
    3. Improving work readiness services to help individuals obtain and retain gainful employment

    In terms of building a trustworthy civic infrastructure, PCW has successfully brokered relationships among three sectors that traditionally have not worked well together: business, higher education, and workforce investment boards. PCW has acted as a neutral convener, using data (from workforce needs surveys, for example) and mutual interests (developing a strong talent pipeline) to spark conversations and find win-wins. They collected data from service providers and government agencies on workforce development services, awarded credentials, employment status, current income, and demographic information of clients, for example, and used it to facilitate conversations on how to improve providers’ performance.

    PCW has also excelled at systems-level change, in two areas: 1) establishing a culture of experimentation and learning, and 2) gaining active participation from partners across sectors. In collaboration with another GCF-supported backbone called Skyward, PCW facilitated the creation of a talent pipeline for the advanced manufacturing industry—the second largest source of private sector employment in Northern Kentucky. Employers were struggling to find skilled workers who had a technology background and could take on roles such as welder, or pharmaceutical or electro-mechanical technician. At the same time, Gateway Community College was having difficulties recruiting students for classes in advanced manufacturing. PCW brought both sides to the table to design a predominantly online training program through which students could obtain an industry credential in less time and at a lower cost, and move into job opportunities quickly.

    On the community-level impact front, PCW has served more than 10,000 individuals across five career pathway partnerships since 2008. Of that group, 89 percent of individuals completed training, 78 percent obtained employment, and 67 percent retained employment for more than 12 months. Those who participate in a career pathway program earn up to $7,500 a year more than the previous year.

    Community Transformation Across the Backbones

    We found a very strong civic infrastructure, a high level of systems change, and positive community-level impact at each of the organizations GCF backed.  A few examples follow:

    Civic infrastructure: The Diverse by Design (DBD) initiative facilitated by Agenda 360 and Skyward brings 150 companies together in a community of practice, with 400 volunteers and 5 action teams to strategize around inclusivity, diversity, and culture within their businesses and the region at large. Experienced companies are mentoring others on supplier diversity and the creation of employee affinity groups.

    Systems-Level Change

    • A culture of learning, dialogue, experimentation, and reflection.For Green Umbrella, experimentation has led to numerous independent, highly resourced initiatives, such as the Red Bike program (50 stations and more than 100,000 rides in 15 months), Taking Root campaign (planting of 170,000 trees), and the Tri-State Trails Master Plan (1,000-plus miles mapped).
    • Funding streams are increasing. LISC has tapped into this network to advocate for a land bank in Cincinnati, directly resulting in increased investments for demolishment and development in the region. Most notably, over the past 5 years, LISC has aligned funding totaling over $664 million in grants, private investment, and market tax credits, including a $29.5 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant in Cincinnati.
    • Progress on advocacy and public policy goals. StrivePartnership and SB6 have helped the Preschool Promise coalition to expand access to high-quality preschool through an annual $15 million levy.

    Community-level impact. The StrivePartnership has seen positive, sustained improvement across the vast majority of their student indicators, with 91 percent of its 40 indicators currently trending in the right direction.

    Room to Grow

    Finally, while we uncovered many successful efforts, we also saw some areas where all the backbones could grow. These included:

    • Incorporating an equity lens when evaluating community-level impact by developing a set of goals, strategies, and metrics that disaggregate progress by race, class, gender, geography and other important factors 
    • Increasing community engagement through all stages of design and implementation (for example, upfront input, co-creation, and sustaining solutions) by embedding the community voice in every aspect of the work
    • Developing community leaders into “system” leaders who can get others to understand the complexity of the change process, and focus on the “health of the whole” versus just the success of their own organization or interest area

    The good news is that backbone leaders are already shifting their practices to address racial equity and co-create solutions with communities.

    Change requires time and patience; however, most collective impact efforts are probably making progress on at least one level of this evaluation framework. But no matter where your effort stands, it is important to track and articulate these metrics.

  • November 18, 2016 4:28 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WCPO 

    CINCINNATI -- A walk in the park is not just a recreational pastime. It's serious business.

    That's the trend local developers are beginning to notice, as access to parks, trails and other walkable or bikeable outdoor amenities are becoming key draws for those looking to rent or buy new homes.

    Jim Cohen, with Blue Ash-based CMC Properties, is a developer picking up on this trend.

    "People are really starting to want to live in cool towns with bike paths, rivers, trails, parks," Cohen told WCPO.

    The phrase "cool towns" is indicative of the two key demographics Cohen said is driving this trend: young professionals launching into adulthood -- often referred to as millennials -- and Baby Boomers or other empty nesters looking to downsize or relocate.

    For these groups of potential renters and buyers -- which make up around 70 percent of the U.S. population -- it boils down to finding a place that encourages activity and a sense of community: "What they want today is a community that invests in an urban core and a healthy, active lifestyle," he said, and that means pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

  • November 10, 2016 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Business Wire

    Cintas Corporation Supports Green Umbrella’s Waste Reduction Initiatives

    Regional group aims to drastically reduce landfill waste by 2020

    November 10, 2016 08:48 AM Eastern Standard Time

    CINCINNATI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With America Recycles Day approaching on Nov. 15, Cintas Corporation (NASDAQ: CTAS) has signed the Green Umbrella’s recycling pledge in an effort to help Cincinnati achieve a top ten ranking on the list of the most sustainable cities in the U.S. The Green Umbrella, an alliance of organizations across 10 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, hopes to reduce landfill waste by 33 percent by 2020 through rotating recycling initiatives.

    “Paper is one of the simplest things to recycle, yet the landfill in Hamilton County, Ohio, is comprised of roughly 30 percent paper,” Pamela Brailsford, Senior Director of Supplier Diversity and Sustainability at Cintas Corporation and Green Umbrella board member. “Raising awareness of the importance and ease of paper recycling will help our organization, and many others, cut back on unnecessary landfill waste.”

    The Year of Paper initiative, which has been in place since 2015, encourages individuals and organizations to make a pledge to recycle more paper. This category includes everything from documents, magazines and newspapers to corrugated cardboard. The campaign will run through Earth Day 2017, at which point the Green Umbrella will select a new material to divert from landfills, such as electronics, food waste or plastics.

    Cintas is just one of many organizations that has embraced the effort to increase commercial and residential recycling rates. It is using the corporate toolkit prepared by the Green Umbrella’s waste reduction team.

    “Although recycling is voluntary and not mandatory, the more individuals and organizations that we can get on board with it, the better we position this region for sustainable growth,” said Elena Pfarr, Green Umbrella’s Co-Chair of the Waste Reduction Team. “We hope to add 50 new corporate pledges each year in order to make the biggest impact.”

    For more information, and to take the pledge, visit

  • October 20, 2016 3:35 PM | Anonymous

    Source: The Clermont Sun 

    What: Area’s largest outdoor events sampler returns to the Tri-state Sept. 24 & 25. Green Umbrella is excited to present the 13th Annual Great Outdoor Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 25. This outdoor events sampler will give Greater Cincinnati residents the opportunity to sample the best outdoor recreation and nature awareness programs available in the region. Participants can enjoy over 100 free events at 40 different locations throughout the area over two days. This perennial favorite is expected to draw 10,000 visitors this year.

    Some of this year’s activities include:

    · Learning to kayak, canoe or fish
    · Exploring the tree canopy on an exhilarating zip line plunge
    · Relaxing with yoga in the park
    · Hiking up a mountain
    · Collecting and discovering the critters that live in our region’s waterways

    All of these activities plus many more are available to adults and children alike, free of charge, during Great Outdoor Weekend, one of the largest events of its kind in the country.

    When: Sept. 24-25, 2016; all day

    Where: Over 40 locations throughout the Greater Cincinnati region

    To view more information on specific events held by participating organizations, go to:

    Great Outdoor Weekend is presented by Green Umbrella and, the Tri-State’s year-round guide to the outdoors. Sponsors for this event include The Cincinnati Wild Flower Preservation Society, Cohen Recycling, Great Parks of Hamilton County and The Nature Conservancy Ohio Chapter.

  • October 20, 2016 3:33 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Northern Kentucky Tribune 

    Southbank Partners has been honored with the 2016 Trail Project of the Year award for the Riverfront Commons Project. The award was presented at the Regional Trails Summit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Aug. 26th.

    “It is exciting to receive an award from your peers,” said Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland. “To be recognized by other people who develop and work on trails in our region validates the success of the Riverfront Commons project.”

    The Fourth Annual Regional Trails Summit was presented by organizations the Tri-State Trails and Green Umbrella. This year’s topic was “Making the Economic Case for Trails”. The program covered topics such as the OKI 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, using trails as an economic tool, and building public support for trails.

    Southbank Partners promotes and manages economic development and infrastructure improvement projects in the Northern Kentucky Ohio River cities of Newport, Covington, Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow and Fort Thomas.

    “It is quite an honor to be recognized as we continue to move forward with Riverfront Commons,” said Southbank board member Roger Peterman, a member of Fort Thomas City Council. “Much has been accomplished but there is also much to be done to realize our vision of a hike and bike trail along the entire Northern Kentucky riverfront. Public support is a key to realizing our dream and this recognition tells the public we are well on our way.”

  • October 20, 2016 3:32 PM | Anonymous

    Source: The River City News 

    It has only just begun - but Riverfront Commons is now an award-winning trail.

    The ambitious recreational trail project that will eventually stretch from Ludlow in the west to Fort Thomas in the east, linking Northern Kentucky's River Cities, was honored at last week's Regional Trails Summit.

    Tri-State Trails and Green Umbrella sponsored the annual summit, held on Friday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

    “It is exciting to receive an award from your peers,” said Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland. “To be recognized by other people who develop and work on trails in our region validates the success of the Riverfront Commons project.”

    The Fourth Annual Regional Trails Summit’s topic was “Making the Economic Case for Trails”. The program covered topics such as the OKI 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, using trails as an economic tool, and building public support for trails.

    Southbank Partners promotes and manages economic development and infrastructure improvement projects in the Northern Kentucky Ohio River cities of Newport, Covington, Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow, and Fort Thomas.

    “It is quite an honor to be recognized as we continue to move forward with Riverfront Commons,” said Southbank Board Member Roger Peterman, also a member of Fort Thomas City Council. “Much has been accomplished but there is also much to be done to realize our vision of a hike and bike trail along the entire Northern Kentucky riverfront. Public support is a key to realizing our dream and this recognition tells the public we are well on our way.”

  • October 20, 2016 3:26 PM | Anonymous

    Source: WCPO Cincinnati

    Robin Carothers has had trails on the brain for decades.

    "It's a public health and safety and an environmental issue," she said.

    Carothers is the founding and current executive director of Groundwork Cincinnati - Mill Creek, a nonprofit she spearheaded more than 20 years ago. Groundwork focuses on youth and environmental education; restoring and maintaining area rivers, watersheds and their natural resources; building trails; and revitalizing neighborhoods within the West Side's Mill Creek corridor -- which touches more than 40 of Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods. 

    She's had such an impact, in fact, that the regional trail-advocacy coalition Tri-State Trails presented her with one of three 2016 Trail Awards during its annual Regional Trails Summit, held Friday at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. She also served as a panelist during Friday's summit.

  • October 20, 2016 3:19 PM | Anonymous

    Source: Macy's Green Living

    If it seems like there are farmers markets everywhere, it’s because there are. According to the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Marketing Service, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has increased 124 percent since 2004, from 3,705 to 8,284 today. Some companies are even getting into the act, hosting regular farmers market events for their employees – including Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, and of course, Macy’s.

    Sponsored by the Cincinnati GoGreen ERG, the Macy’s Market Days are offered monthly during the summer season in the front lobby of our Cincinnati headquarters, and features local farms and and other local and sustainable businesses. Vendors offer a variety of products, including fresh produce, bread, granola, honey, soaps and other locally grown and made items. The GoGreen ERG says the market is designed to encourage associates to buy local, reducing their carbon footprint.

    Good for the Environment

    How does shopping at the farmers market reduce your carbon footprint?

    Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate, which uses a tremendous volume of fossil fuels as well as other natural resources. Food at your local farmers market travels much shorter distances, dramatically reducing that environmental burden.

    Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than most farmers market farmers, as well as generating toxic by-products that contribute to pollution of water, air and land. The vast majority of farmers market farmers utilize sustainable farming practices, conserving natural resources and reducing environmental impact.

    Good for You

    Farmers markets feature locally grown, healthy food that’s in season, providing the opportunity to taste it at its peak. Fruits and vegetables allowed to fully ripen in the fields simply taste better, and are often better for you, as locally grown foods are packed with nutrients rich in your specific climate and region. 

    Farmers market fare offers the opportunity to connect more closely with the seasons: you’ll find fresh greens, asparagus and strawberries in spring, sweet corn and melons in summer and pumpkins and squash as the season shifts towards fall.

    “But I don’t like vegetables,” you might say. Well, we think you’re missing out, but there are lots of other reasons to go to the farmers market. Many offer much more than fresh fruits and vegetables. You can find meats, eggs, cheeses, locally made condiments and sauces, pasta and fresh baked goods ranging from breads to cookies and cakes to pies. At many markets, you’ll even find fresh flowers and garden plants.

    It’s also a unique opportunity to meet and talk with local farmers and food artisans and learn more about where your food comes from and how it’s produced. You’ll also often find recipes, cooking tips and food demonstrations that can help you discover local food treasures and eat a healthier, happier and more sustainable diet. The best benefit of shopping at a farmers market? It’s just plain fun. Farmers markets are social hubs, where families shop together, meet friends and enjoy live music and food trucks as they connect with the community around them in fun new ways.

    Take the Local Food Pledge

    You can support sustainable foods and farming by taking the Local Food Pledge – simply pledging to shift 10 percent of your food budget to locally grown food, and enjoy fresher, healthier food that helps reduce your carbon footprint. For most families, that’s about 13 dollars a week, according to Green Umbrella Executive Director Kristin Weiss. The Cincinnati-based sustainability alliance leader also says “If 10 percent of Greater Cincinnati took the pledge, it would generate more than $56 million for the local economy.”

    Fresh, healthy food that simply tastes good, a chance to connect more deeply with your local community, a stronger local economy and a smaller carbon footprint. What’s not to love?

    Find Your Local Farmers Market

    Where can you find your local farmers market? The National Farmers Market Directory has a great search tool that can help. In addition to listing markets and locations, it includes details on days and hours, products offered and payment options (some farmers markets accept credit cards and food program payments).

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