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Sustainability Small Grant

JULY 2022 UPDATE: Effective July 2022, the Sustainability Small Grant Program will operate with a bi-annually (twice per year) application cycle. Applications will now be accepted with deadlines on June 30 and December 31 of each year. See below for details.


Sustainability Small Grant logo

Sustainability Small Grant Program

Reimbursable, maximum awards of up to $5,000 are available to eligible projects within Tacoma city limits that help protect and restore our environment. Projects that help educate residents and/or businesses on the environment and sustainable practices are encouraged to apply. Strong grant applications will demonstrate a benefit to one or more of the three Environmental Services utilities: Surface Water, Solid Waste, and Wastewater. Only not-for-profit organizations and individuals are eligible to apply. For-profit businesses are ineligible to apply.


How to Apply


1. Review all Sustainability Small Grant materials:

Program Overview

Frequently Asked Questions

Gardening / Urban Farming Information

Sustainability Small Grant Application


2. Complete the Sustainability Small Grant Application

3. Submit your completed application to sustainability@cityoftacoma.org.


Completed applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on or before each bi-annual deadline.


  Spring Application Cycle

Fall Application Cycle

Applications Open January 1

July 1 

Application Deadline

 June 30 December 31
Award Notifications July 31 January 31
Contract Start Date  On or before August 31  On or before February 28
Project Completion Projects must be complete no later than one year following award notification date.
Reimbursement Final invoices and report are due within 60 days following project completion. Reimbursement of funds will take place within 30 days of final invoice and final report submission and approval.


Projects funded are required to benefit one or more of the City's surface water, wastewater or solid waste utilities. To learn more, check out the Sustainability Small Grant FAQs.


Preference will be given to applications that: 

  • Demonstrate project readiness with a clearly defined scope, schedule, and budget

  • Indicate a minimum of 10% match of cash, other grant dollars, volunteer time (example value: $25/hr), materials, and/or professional services

  • Provide appropriate permissions/permits or letter of support*

  • Target City of Tacoma residents and take place within city limits**

  • Projects that support social equity

  • Projects that address the causes or impacts of climate change

  • First time applicants


Ineligible activities and elements include:

  • Organizations that received Sustainability Small Grant funds in the past 12 months

  • For-profit organizations or private companies (although staff and professional services can be hired to support project goals)

  • Purchase of computers, digital cameras, video cameras or other portable electronic equipment

  • Advocating for a political figure, and/or election related activities

  • Purchases that could be construed as a gift to an individual or organization

  • Programs that promote or endorse a specific religious affiliation

  • Demonstrating discrimination against any group

  • Purchase of alcohol or drugs

* If applicable

** May be waived at the discretion of the Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability and/or Sustainable Tacoma Commission


Project ideas:

  • Install a dual-port EV charging station in a public area

  • Expand Tacoma’s tree canopy by hosting tree planting events

  • Create a community garden, food forest or pollination pathway

  • Create an educational program for local residents to learn about benefits of sustainable transportation options

  • Increase environment and sustainability awareness through conducting workshops, conferences, videography, art projects, etc.

Projects may be completed in the classroom, in the community or at a business (although for-profit organizations are not eligible for funding). They also may be located along Tacoma’s numerous community gardens, parks and public spaces. Please note that permits and/or public agency requirements may apply.


For information about past grant recipients, see our list of funded projects.


For questions about the Sustainability Small Grant Program, please contact sustainability@cityoftacoma.org


Additional Grant Resources


For projects related to surface water, look to Make a Splash Stormwater Project FundingFor questions about the Make a Splash Grant Program, please contact makeasplash@cityoftacoma.org.


For sponsorship of event related expenses, such as recycling and/or portable toilets, look to Green Event & Environmental Services Event Support.


For questions about the Sustainability Small Grant Program, please contact sustainability@cityoftacoma.org


For questions about the Sustainability Small Grant Program, please contact sustainability@cityoftacoma.org


For questions about the Sustainability Small Grant Program, please contact sustainability@cityoftacoma.org


How will my application be evaluated?

Applications will be received by the Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability (OEPS), then reviewed and awarded by the Sustainable Tacoma Commission (STC). Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:


Does the project

  • Demonstrate a clear benefit to one or more of the three Environmental Services utilities?
  • Align with sustainability goals as outlined in the City’s Environmental Action Plan?
  • Provide opportunities for local partnerships and community participation?
  • Create multiple and/or long-term benefits to the Tacoma community?
  • Promote local and regional climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts?
  • Allow for measurable results and long-term, lasting success?
  • Identify a clear need for financial assistance?

Additional evaluation criteria may be considered at the discretion of the Sustainable Tacoma Commission.

Can individuals (not affiliated with an organization) apply for and receive grant funds?

Yes, anyone may apply regardless of organizational affiliation. However, individuals must be aware that the money received through this grant must be claimed on your yearly taxes. Since grant funding is only reimbursable upon completion of the project, individuals are also responsible for any up-front costs associated with the project prior to reimbursement.

What is a fiscal sponsor, and do I need one to apply?

A fiscal sponsor can be any individual or registered non-profit that provides financial support for the up-front costs associated with the project. If an individual applicant chooses to partner with a fiscal sponsor, that sponsor will be the main point of contact for contracting and receiving reimbursement of grant funds. Upon completion of the project, reimbursed funds will be distributed to the fiscal sponsor and not the individual applicant. Applicants are not required to partner with a fiscal sponsor, but are encouraged to do so.


Other Frequently Asked Questions

Can I start my project before being awarded?
Applicants may begin their project whenever they would like. However, any expenses made prior to the grant award date will not be eligible for reimbursement. The award date will be clearly indicated on your award letter, and will also determine the timeline for contracting and project completion.


How often can I apply for and/or receive a Sustainability Small Grant?
Individuals or organizations may only be awarded one Sustainability Small Grant in a 12 month period. However, if an application is not accepted or approved and no funding is awarded, that individual or organization may re-apply again as soon as they like. If a grant is awarded, but the project is later delayed or cancelled and no funding was distributed, that individual or organization may also re-apply as soon as they like.


What can grant money be used for?
Grant money can be applied toward costs identified in the approved project budget, submitted with your grant application. These costs may include materials, transportation, equipment rental, and other approved expenses. Up to 10% of grant may be spent on food. Up to 20% may be spent on overhead or general administrative costs. The grant may not be used to fund computers, digital cameras, video cameras, or other portable electronics. The grant may not be used to fund alcohol or drug purchases. Please reference the Sustainability Small Grant Overview document for a detailed list of prohibited expenses and activities.


How do I submit invoices for reimbursement?
Effective in 2021, all grant recipients will need to create an account and become a “vendor” in SAP Ariba - online software the City of Tacoma now uses for all contracting and funding transactions. This process will take place during the initial contracting phase of your grant award. If you or your fiscal sponsor have conducted business with the City of Tacoma in the past, you may already be signed up as a vendor in Ariba. All invoices must be directly uploaded to Ariba by the grant recipient or fiscal sponsor. No invoices sent via email will be accepted. City staff will be available to answer questions and assist with the process of getting set-up in Ariba after grants have been awarded.


I have submitted my invoice through Ariba. When can I expect to receive the funds?

Once you have submitted an invoice through Ariba, funds will be distributed 30 days from the invoice date. Funds will be distributed directly to the individual or organization listed on the Sustainability Small Grant contract.


I do not have regular access to a computer or the internet. Can I still apply?
Yes. Office of Environmental Policy staff will be available to assist and explore accommodations that allow all community members to apply and navigate the award process. If you have difficulty with the application process or require accommodation, please contact us at sustainability@cityoftacoma.org or (253) 591-5172 prior to submitting your application.


What if I do not complete my project within one year of my grant award date?
Sustainability Small Grant contracts are only valid for one year following your award date. If you do not complete your project before your contract expires, invoices received after that date will not be eligible for reimbursement. Contract extensions may be available on a case-by-case basis, but justification for why an extension is needed must be communicated to City of Tacoma staff members prior to your contract expiration date. 


What does it mean for a project to benefit Environmental Services’ three utilities (Surface Water, Solid Waste, and Wastewater)?
Projects that benefit one or more of the three utilities may help protect and restore our natural resources, or help keep our city clean, safe, and livable. Surface Water benefits are those that help to keep pollution from flowing from the built environment untreated into lakes, streams, rivers, and Puget Sound. Solid Waste benefits include reducing waste generation and promoting landfill diversion through recycling, composting, or waste prevention. Wastewater is what goes down our drains and needs to be treated before re-entering the natural environment. Wastewater benefits would help ensure that our sewer systems are properly cared for, and that only correct items find their way down the drain.


What does it mean for a project to promote regional climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts?
Projects that address climate change either help our community adapt to the impacts or mitigate the causes of climate change. Most projects that address environmental sustainability issues in our community do have a connection to either climate adaptation or mitigation. Project examples that promote climate change adaptation might include installing rain gardens to reduce the risk of flooding, and planting trees to reduce the urban heat island effect. Projects that promote climate change mitigation might include promotion of public transit as a form of sustainable transportation instead of driving, or educating businesses about options to switch from natural gas to electric heating.


Who should I contact for questions about the application, program eligibility, or other information related to Sustainability Small Grants?
Contact the Office of Environmental Policy and Sustainability at sustainability@cityoftacoma.org or (253) 591-5172.