About The Cooler Communities Program

The Cooler Communities Program is based on a successful pilot project from Concord, MA, called Cooler Concord. It leverages classroom education to empower students and set a whole community on the path to smarter energy choices and climate friendly action.

Since 2019, Cooler Communities has worked with dozens of committed educators and thousands of students across Massachusetts. 

Our application for participation in the 23/24 school year is now online.

Thanks to support by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, our principal funder, as well as the Feigenbaum and Beveridge Foundations schools receive grants of up to $8000 for participating in the program. Students of all ages are invited to research and create exhibits and materials on climate change, energy efficiency and related subjects within their curriculum requirements to be displayed at a district-wide event. There, vetted vendors, community members, and service providers offer advice and show ways in which visitors can take energy- and climate–smart actions that work best for them.

Everyone is encouraged to pledge changes – large or small. These pledges are tracked and followed up on, and related carbon savings calculated whenever possible.

Along with science and engineering, civics, statistics, English, art and history classes have contributed in events to date: with letters to the editor or elected officials, poetry, surveys, research projects, or flyers and murals to enrich and publicize the event. 

Watch this 4.5 minute video!

Cooler Communities encourages collaboration between municipal entities like energy commissions, grassroots volunteers and the schools. It aims to break down silos in the ways we address climate change and carbon pollution. The Cooler Communities team assists schools and towns in a multitude of ways to achieve their climate related goals. Aside from creating measurable change for the participating town and its residents the purpose of this program is to empower young people in recognizing the relevance of their learning and to give them a taste of the impact they can have in their communities.

Staff and Advisors – Cooler Communities Playbook

    • Gilda Gussin, M.Ed. Project Director and primary author of the Playbook
    • Jill Appel, CPA, MPH content advisor
    • Aimee Powelka, energy professional and climate activist from Framingham, Massachusetts – Playbook Advisory Committee
    • Uli Nagel, director of the Cooler Communities program at the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation

Gilda Gussin and Jill Appel were part of the three-person leadership team that developed and implemented the original Cooler Concord Fair, along with Brad Hubbard Nelson, PhD. All three have extensive experience in reducing CO2 emissions in communities and have led community-based Solar, Heat Pump and Weatherization campaigns, both professionally and as volunteer members of the Concord Sustainable Energy Committee.

Collaborators and Sponsors

The Town of Concord,  MA

The Town of Concord, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Community Foundation of Western MA, the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, ener-G-save and MassEnergize have all contributed financially to underwriting the fairs and/or developing the Playbook, Cooler Communities Website and Carbon Saver tool.

Cooler Communities

Cooler Communities is the brand name for the program and events (we call them Fairs; you can call yours whatever you want!) that use the model in this Playbook (e.g., Cooler Agawam, Cooler Concord, Berkshires Cooler Communities Challenge). The word “Cooler” connotes reduced burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas and gasoline that are warming the Earth. If we all work together, we can live on a Cooler Planet and Be Cooler!

Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts

Since late 2020 the Community Foundation of Western MA Cooler Communities supports the program with generous co-funding of the grants to participating school districts in Pioneer Valley.

At the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, we believe in the power of coming together to learn, give, build, protect and create for our communities.


MassEnergize is a non-profit group helping communities throughout Massachusetts reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. MassEnergize hosts a web-based platform with effective tools to help neighbors, local businesses and other organizations see good, impactful options, get recommendations for service providers, share experiences, and promote local events and track their impact.



Ener-G-save is a key program of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation. Since 2017, ener-G-save has worked in Western Massachusetts with towns, grassroots organizations, non-profits, businesses, utilities, faith groups and schools to foster energy efficiency at the community level.

Want Some Help?

If you would like some help getting started or have questions, send an email to the team that has created this Playbook. We are happy to talk with you about your project and we offer consulting services to help you make best use of the Playbook.

Share Your Ideas

Our plan is to update this site periodically with best practices and advice from communities who use this Playbook to host fairs. Please share your thoughts with us – what works well and doesn’t, what is especially helpful, what is missing and what new ideas you have! Our planet needs us to share our ideas!