Isom IGA owner Gwen Christon in front of the community grocery store located in Kentucky

OFN member Mountain Association financing helped Isom IGA owner Gwen Christon make efficiency upgrades and install solar.

Five Ways OFN Members Celebrate Earth Day Every Day 

Climate change and extreme weather significantly impact rural, urban, and Native communities. CDFIs and other mission-driven lenders are advancing innovative solutions to support a just clean energy transition that leaves no one behind.  

Read time: 4 minutes

For OFN, Earth Day isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s a rallying cry, a call to action, a reminder of the critical role that CDFIs and other mission-driven lenders will play in fostering sustainable and resilient communities.  

Historically underinvested communities disproportionately bear the brunt of extreme weather and climate impacts. As climate change intensifies, and these events occur at increasingly frequent intervals, we are called to act fast and work together.  

President Biden set out an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, led by the launch of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. At OFN’s annual conference last fall, OFN President and CEO Harold Pettigrew said, “The success of this initiative, a once-in-a-lifetime $27 billion investment, was placed on the shoulders of community lenders. This was the fullest recognition that for this $27 billion to leave no community behind, we are needed to ensure its success.”  

A just clean energy transition cannot happen without community lenders. 

OFN’s members are committed to financing solutions that create good jobs, preserve the environment, help consumers and businesses save money, and create a more sustainable future for all.  

Want to know how? Here are five climate snapshots:  

Financing Durable Homes 

Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) builds community resilience by financing solar power, battery backups, window and roof upgrades, and aging-in-place upgrades. In Florida, which is ground-zero for climate change, SELF is helping communities become resilient to climate change and recover quickly from disastrous weather events. 

Creating Jobs and Boosting Rural Economies 

“Energy efficiency does exactly what it says: It helps you save money,” said Gwen Christon, owner of the grocery store Isom IGA. Mountain Association financed solar panels for the community grocery store, which created cost savings. And with those savings? Christon created ten jobs. Nearby business owners have followed suit, installing solar energy and hiring more workers with the savings.  

Reducing Waste and Food Insecurity 

CDFIs are specialized lenders that invest where mainstream finance won’t or can’t. Chicago Community Loan Fund provided critical bridge financing for Green Era, a renewable energy facility and green oasis in the middle of Chicago.  

Green Era is leveraging advanced technology to turn food waste, a high emitter of greenhouse gases, into an energy source. Additionally, the state-of-the-art facility is educating the community on clean energy sources, creating local jobs, and training young farmers in their urban farm, which feeds neighbors facing food insecurity.  

Providing Hands-on Technical Assistance to Help Businesses Adapt to Climate Change 

CDFIs are “capital plus,” providing capital and technical assistance and consulting services through personalized and trusted relationships with clients. Climate lending is no different. Too often, the technologies and products that create sustainable businesses are complex and can be challenging to finance.

CDFIs like Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) understand this. For one family-owned Maine fishery, CEI organized a trip to Japan to learn the traditional methods of scallop farming. Paired with a capital investment, this support created a profitable and sustainable local business.  

Convening The Right Partners to Create Impact 

CDFIs leverage public and private partnerships for positive community development. In the Pacific Northwest, Craft3’s partnership with the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and Washington State Parks, is preserving land and waterways that are critical to the tribe and surrounding communities. Mission-driven community lenders have deep knowledge and connections in the communities where they operate, which allows them to be key partners to underserved and often overlooked groups and bring financing where it’s needed most. 

Not just on Earth Day, but every day, CDFIs are committed to environmental sustainability, economic empowerment, and community resilience. With this unprecedented investment in our industry, together we can deliver clean energy and other sustainable solutions that leave no community behind.  

OFN has put a stake in the ground, issuing a strong call to action: By 2028, 100% of CDFIs will become climate lenders. 

In the fight of our lives — and for the good of our shared future — join us.  

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