When discussions of society's "gaps" arise, thoughts go to well-documented education outcomes between white students and students of color. But there are also major disparities when it comes to pollution and climate change.

That's why pending projects that address environmental disparities matter and merit support. Last week, the Minneapolis Foundation announced that three organizations will receive nearly $70,000 for projects that include electric car-sharing, promotion of clean-energy sources and energy audits. The efforts can help low-income communities save money on energy costs, clean up the environment and involve the younger generation in improving neighborhood health and safety.

Through the grant program, Hourcar will receive $25,000 to work with Xcel Energy and Minneapolis and St. Paul on a new electric car-sharing program. The effort will involve 150 electric cars in the Twin Cities, half of which will be placed in lower-income areas such as north Minneapolis. Access to vehicles will provide transportation for many who cannot afford cars, and using them will reduce air pollution. Research shows that poorer people of color have disproportionately higher pollution-related health problems.

Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, will use a $17,500 grant for a youth- led environmental justice project. Young people from several congregations will be paid to conduct energy audits, shadow energy assessors and develop plans to increase energy efficiency at Shiloh Temple International Ministries and a mosque, Masjid An-Nur, in north Minneapolis. The two congregations and 26 nearby homes already share a group of solar panels.

And MN Renewable Now will use $25,000 to promote clean energy alternatives (including upgrading heating and cooling systems) in north Minneapolis. That can help reduce stress on household budgets by lowering utility bills for residents.

The welcome initiatives were made possible through the Minneapolis Foundation's Climate Action and Racial Equity Fund — an effort designed to reduce greenhouse gases and address racial inequities. The McKnight Foundation contributed $100,000 to the fund, and another $22,000 came from the Xcel Energy Foundation and other contributors. A second group of grantees will be announced in November.

Too often, low-income communities are not economically able to make the initial investments in energy efficient, pollution-reducing projects. That's why these relatively small nonprofit grants can have a big long-term impact. The funds will help jump start environmentally sound practices that can narrow health and other gaps.