Sustainable Environments Program

Funding Agency:
Surdna Foundation

The Sustainable Environments Program is working to overhaul our country’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure with a new approach that will foster healthier, sustainable, and just communities.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.

Letters of Inquiry are accepted on a rolling basis.

Before approaching the funder or submitting an application:

  • Prospective applicants from Duke University – contact Nancy Hillsman in the Office of Foundation Relations, University Development at 919-681-0469 or
  • Prospective applicants from Duke Medicine – contact Anita Shirley in Foundation Relations and Corporate Giving, Duke Medicine Development and Alumni Affairs at 919-385-3117 or

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

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.
  • Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment: We support efforts to help people make homes, businesses and other buildings more energy efficient.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Funding Type





Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences