What does a sustainable future look like? In this episode, we’re breaking down why a truly sustainable future needs to be not only climate secure, but equitable and just for all. What does the industrialized world owe to developing nations for the climate devastation their economies have caused? On an individual scale, what do we owe each other as neighbors on this shared planet? How can finding community be an antidote for despair and help strengthen us as we walk into this uncertain future together? Joining us to unpack these questions and more are Kristy Drutman of Brown Girl Green, and Wawa Gatheru of Black Girl Environmentalist, two young environmental activists who are devoting their lives to this work. Plus, Sophia Li signs off on this season of Climate Talks with one last call to action.

Featuring

Kristy Drutman | Brown Girl Green | Founder

Wanjiku ‘Wawa’ Gatheru | Black Girl Environmentalist | Founder

Edward Palmieri | Meta |  Director, Global Sustainability

Eoghan Griffin | Meta | Sustainability Strategy Manager, Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta.

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing every one and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. 

Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, also includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: We have entered a new climate cadence. 

DW NEWS CLIP: A typhoon has slammed into the eastern Philippines as authorities struggle to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people.

NBC NEWS CLIP: Just north of Santa Barbara, the Alisal fire burns out of control.

ABC NEWS CLIP: This evening, flash flood watch is now across five states, and this stretches some 500 miles. 

SOPHIA LI: This year, the United States faced unprecedented climate disruptions and disasters. Winter storms in Texas caused major disruptions to their power grid; flash flooding tore down phone lines and homes, and washed out roads in Tennessee. More land in California burned than any other year on record. 

And all of these disasters claimed human lives.

Still, in spite of these very real challenges, I choose to be a climate optimist. You guys, this is the last episode of this season of Climate Talks. And if I can leave you with one idea to take with you as we close out this season it’s this: a climate optimist is also a realist. It’s our work to transcend inaction and apathy, to spark conversations and take action. When we went out in the street to speak to you about what gives you hope for the future of sustainability, here’s what you had to say.

Person 1: One thing that gives me hope is significant leaps forward like fusion power.

Person 2: I think the future of sustainability really relies on companies. There’s only so much you can do as a consumer.

Person 3: I would like to see renewable energy become so much cheaper than fossil fuels that we have no choice but to change. 

Person 4: I heard on NPR yesterday that Shell just made a commitment that by the year 2050, they will be sustainable and have sustainable practices. I think that now these big money-making energy companies are being held accountable and forced to make some changes. So I have a little hope that we’re moving in that direction. 

Person 5: Something that’s giving me hope is the fact that GM is starting to make such a priority electric vehicles. So the fact that they also made a truck. That gives me a lot of hope that the car companies are committing to it in such a substantial way.

Person 6: The ideal future of sustainability to me would be we all have our own little home with our garden, where we grow our own food. We cook our own food. If you eat meat, preferably not. But if you do, you would have your own animals that you grow, you raise. We’re not using these big factories full of animals that you kill.

Person 7: My overall hope for the future of sustainability is that we need to like, incentivize behavior that benefits the well-being of our planet and our population as a whole. 

Person 8: Compassion gives me hope.

Person 9: Something that gives me hope is levying carbon taxes. 

Person 10: Something that gives me hope is the fact that we are talking about it, the fact that we are learning and helping each other in that process to make others aware about it, gives me hope. 

SOPHIA LI: What gives me hope is, well… this. To me, there is nothing more inspiring than the community I’ve found in this movement. Getting to talk to and collaborate with other people who are engaged in climate work – especially the youth climate activists—helps me remain a climate optimist.

Also, once you begin this work, you realize, it’s a never ending process. And that’s OK. The climate crisis isn’t going to go away in our one lifetime, so the work of addressing it is a lifelong commitment. 

But the people who have made that commitment, they have the most active hope. Hope to them is a verb, hope is a practice that they are actively engaged in every day. 

We’re doing this work, but we still have a long way to go. So, what’s on the road ahead? What does the future look like—for us, and for the planet? 

Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle. In this episode, we’re talking about the future. What responsibility do each of us have to work towards a more sustainable future? 

How do we invite others into this movement along with us? What solutions to the climate crisis are we not talking enough about?

We’ll hear from Kristy Drutman of Brown Girl Green and Wawa Gatheru of Black Girl Environmentalist, two youth leaders in this space. Together, we’ll discuss the steps we need to take to build a sustainable and just future for all.

But first. Our partners at Meta are committed to doing their part to address the climate crisis, and supporting the businesses that rely on its platforms to work towards their own sustainable goals. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work.

EDWARD PALMIERI: A couple years ago, as a new father, I really started thinking more and more about the work I had always intended to do around sustainability and conservation. And realizing that I worked for a company that was so committed to sustainability was something that really inspired me.

Hi, my name is Edward Palmieri and I’m the Director of Global Sustainability at Facebook. Climate change, environmental stewardship, these are very big systemic problems and issues to tackle. And so governments and corporations and nonprofits and organizations, all of the big sources of infrastructure in our society need to come together to address these issues. 

What gives me hope about the future in sustainable living is that everyone seems to get it. There are startups, there are established corporations, there are government research projects that could really change the way we generate electricity, the way we preserve the environment and repair and mitigate the damage that’s been done. Humanity has done so many amazing things over the years. I have every confidence that we can tackle this big global challenge.

EOGHAN GRIFFIN: Hi, my name is Eoghan Griffin, I’m Facebook’s Sustainability Strategy Manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

It definitely feels like there is a bit of a groundswell at the moment, particularly in the generation below mine that are really, really engaged and really knowledgeable and have grown up with far more sort of education about issues than we would have had growing up in school. 

One of the areas I’m really excited about is how we can support the hundreds of millions of small businesses that use our platforms, we think we’re in a – a really unique position to provide training and knowledge and resources and tools at scale to kind of help businesses smaller than ours with their climate and sustainability strategy and journey. And, yeah, so I think there’s a lot of potential there.

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Edward Palmieri and Eoghan Griffin, from Meta.

If you talk to anyone who’s currently on the climate front lines right now, working every day for the survival of their home, they don’t have time or room to not be a climate optimist. They’re saying, “I have hope. I have active hope that my home will be here tomorrow.” 

Hope is an active choice for them, too. Earlier, we talked about the climate disruptions that rocked the United States in 2021. But the reality is, here in the US, we’re relatively sheltered from the climate disruption. 

The devastation of the climate crisis is always felt harder in the Global South, even though those communities are the least responsible for causing the climate crisis to begin with. For example, in Burundi—where the average citizen’s lifestyle creates so few Co2 emissions the number is often rounded down to zero metric tons—persistent drought and a lack of rainfall translates into a very real food insecurity. Most people still rely on small-scale farming to feed themselves and their communities. If it doesn’t rain, there’s literally less food to go around. 

And yet, the voices of these communities are often left out of the conversation when we talk about the climate crisis. 

If we are going to build a truly sustainable future, those voices need to be uplifted and included in this conversation. Those of us who live in G20 nations most responsible for the climate crisis need to get better at listening and step up to the plate. This movement needs everyone. 

You can’t be an environmentalist without being a humanitarian, as well. 

In this episode, we’re talking about how we can build a more stable climate and a more just future for all. I’ve invited two different youth climate activists on the show whose work inspires me and who have also chosen the path of climate optimism. For my first conversation, I’m joined by Kristy Drutman. She is the founder of Brown Girl Green, which makes inclusive media advocating for environmental justice – everything from podcasts to videos, and blog posts. After that, I’ll be joined by Wawa Gatheru. Here’s my conversation with Kristy. 

SOPHIA LI: Hi, Kristy. Welcome to climate talks. 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: So happy to be here. 

SOPHIA LI: Kristy, can you please introduce yourself and tell us your climate story?

KRISTY DRUTMAN: So hi, everyone. My name is Kristy Drutman. I am a Jewish and Filipina environmentalist, and I grew up in a small town in Southern California, and I lived near a freeway. And so I actually had really small lung capacity to the point where my classmates thought I lived in a smoking household and I didn’t grow up in a smoking household. And that was the first time where I realized, like, the place that I lived had something to do with my own health.

So I went to UC Berkeley, was like, I’m going to study environmental policy. But then Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan hit the Philippines, and that was when climate change was no longer just this distant issue in the near future. It was impacting people who look like me, like my family members. Just the idea that this could easily have happened to them, too, started to really settle in to me, that, you know, climate change is something that I needed to take action on. 

So I got really involved in climate youth activism in college, but I didn’t really see people who looked like me in a lot of environmental activist spaces or even in the environmental science or policy field. And so by the end of university, me and my friends created this organization at UC Berkeley that was focused on empowering young people of color in the environmental field. 

And so then my work transitioned from being just focused on climate advocacy to now thinking about intersectional climate activism.

SOPHIA LI: Wooh, amen. So I know you covered this a little bit, but what role do you think you play that the media isn’t covering with this climate communication? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Mostly it’s people who are not in the climate space, comedians or politicians or entrepreneurs and business people who don’t really understand how to communicate climate science to the public because they don’t fully know the issue because they don’t have the academic background. You know, I studied climate science, I studied climate policy, but I also understand how to communicate that to people who don’t understand those issues. 

And I feel like there’s not enough people bringing that to online platforms in a way that is more accessible to more people and not even doing it in a way that also brings in stories from an immigrant perspective. Discussions around barriers to access. And I think that that’s what I bring to the table. 

SOPHIA LI: So what communities and voices are always excluded from this climate conversation? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Black voices, definitely Indigenous voices, definitely Asian American voices and LatinX voices. 

When do you hear stories that are really emphasizing that experience? And also, when is it not just framed as these people who come from these communities being framed as victims? When is it being framed that they’re actually coming up with solutions? I just don’t see enough of those stories being told, and that’s concerning to me when we’re thinking about who’s actually going to be in positions of leadership and get resources to build solutions to the climate crisis.

SOPHIA LI: What responsibility do each of us have in the climate movement? Is it up to all of us? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: I think ultimately, the people who are most responsible are the people in positions of power and privilege. It shouldn’t be on grassroots community members who have to fight against these extractive industries to address the climate crisis. But unfortunately, the burden has been put on them. You know, there’s select companies and polluters who have very huge influence over the emissions that continue to increase. And I just don’t think those people are being held accountable at the rate that they need to be by any – by any means. 

SOPHIA LI: Totally. It needs to be top down and bottom up because it seems a lot of these times these people in power and privilege don’t make actions or real substantial changes unless they’re forced to by the people. 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Completely. Yeah, and I think that’s another thing like consumers and individuals also feel so powerless but the thing is, is like these companies are so scared, especially of young people like even the term greenwashing, this year is the first time I’ve ever even heard companies be like, oh, we don’t want to be accused of that.  

SOPHIA LI: What would you say to those who are disillusioned or apathetic or just too overwhelmed by the climate space? What’s the most empowering thing that they can do? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: I think the most empowered thing that you can do is to definitely find community with others. I think being able to focus on, like, your own local community can make these things feel less existential and more tangible. You can actually see the tangible impacts of that maybe even faster than pushing for policy change or doing activism, because sometimes those things do take a long time. And whereas if you’re helping your local community and you’re building community with others, that just nourishes you, and I think that people think they can just do this by themselves, and that’s just not true. Like, you have to depend on others. 

SOPHIA LI: So that brings me to what does a just future look like for you? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: There’s a term called climate reparations. It’s this idea that like we recognize the harms that have been done specifically to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities worldwide, people who live in the most impacted regions in the world. 

And the idea is how can we, as in people who are not in those most impacted areas, be able to really redistribute funds and resources to ensure the safety and the well-being of those regions that are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and the idea is to pay for the damage that’s been done by neglecting that. 

And I would say the other thing is about redistribution. When we’re thinking about building quote unquote renewable energy world or a clean energy future, we have to realize that that still is going to require extraction of resources, that’s going to require labor, and maybe not even the most just labor and ethical labor. And we have to be honest about that. Like, what is this transition going to look like? 

So when I think about a just world, I think about building the infrastructure and the technology we need to live healthier and more sustainable lives, but not at the expense of exploiting communities who are going to be at the backbone of making that possible. 

SOPHIA LI: Right. So paint this picture for me. There is climate equity in this future. What does that look like? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: To me, a climate equitable world is one where people have equitable access to green space, to clean air, water and healthy soil. In terms of our economy, it would be focused on circularity and not linearity, it would be focused on centering biodiversity rather than extracting capital from natural ecosystems. And it would be centered around reciprocity. So being able to think about if you’re taking, then you’re giving something back and you’re always thinking about the communities that are being impacted or benefited from your actions. 

SOPHIA LI: Yeah, I mean, all the things you’re saying: healthy soil, clean air, circularity – it’s actually the norm of humanity. It was the basis of Indigenous communities. So I feel like when we say these things, we’re like, oh, how can we ever do that? And it’s like, humanity did live that way. 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Yeah, exactly. 

SOPHIA LI: Last question – what gives you hope? 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: What gives me hope is other youth activists. Meeting other young people from around the world who care so deeply about these issues and advocating and intervening and speaking truth to power. Nothing else gives me more hope than that. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you so much for joining Climate Talks. 

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Thank you so much for having me. 

SOPHIA LI: That was Kristy Drutman. You can follow Kristy Drutman’s work with Brown Girl Green on Instagram at browngirl_green, or online at BrownGirlGreen.org. 

Next up, I’m speaking with Wawa Gatheru, the founder of Black Girl Environmentalist, an intergenerational community of Black girls, women and non-binary environmentalists.

SOPHIA LI: Hi Wawa, welcome to Climate Talks.

WAWA GATHERU: Hi, thank you so much for having me. 

SOPHIA LI: Wawa, tell us who you are, how you got involved in the climate space. Tell us your climate story.

WAWA GATHERU: My name is Wanjiku. My friends call me Wawa and I’m a 22 year old environmental justice advocate.

First and foremost, I feel like the different parts of my identities really inform the way that I show up in the climate movement and the reason why I’m here in the first place. So first, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a friend. I’m a very proud Kenyan-American. And I’m also a Black woman.

So I grew up in rural Connecticut, which is a really, really beautiful part of the Northeast. It’s also a place that a lot of people travel to for nature, environmental education, et cetera. 

However, my family was the only Black family, only immigrant family. And amongst that, even though environmental education and access to nature and green space was a part of my childhood, I never really saw myself in that field because literally no one who was working in that space and the way that we talk about those spaces, it didn’t really relate to me. I didn’t grow up hiking or camping. Those things were kind of seen as wealthy, white people things to do. So it wasn’t necessarily something that I saw myself in.

So I felt that way for most of my life until I was 16. So I entered into an environmental science class. 

My teacher decided to integrate environmental justice, which actually wasn’t a part of the original curriculum, so when we started to learn about environmental justice, and the way that, for instance, race is the number one indicator of one’s proximity to a toxic waste plant in the US, I got really frustrated. I was frustrated that I was suddenly finding out that environmentalism, this whole space that I had put up in my mind as this top shelf, like, white issue had everything to do with me. 

Yet, it hadn’t been introduced to me or talked about like that in my family or my friend groups. 

So when I got to college, I was like let me focus on getting folks involved, particularly Black folks in the environmental space. And that kind of led me into the climate movement and realizing that, A) a lot of folks of color were already environmentalists, but the framing around environmentalism and climate action for instance, just wasn’t being done in a way that included them. 

SOPHIA LI: Was that environmental justice high school class your aha moment? 

WAWA GATHERU: It was my aha moment of a previous aha moment. When my parents first moved to the US, my mom, like, started a garden and I spent a lot of my time as a kid in that garden, not really knowing that that garden was kind of my mom’s way of connecting back with her heritage and how she had grown up. 

So that was my first experience having a really intimate connection with the physical environment. But I didn’t see it as that growing up. So when I mean, I had the aha moment, I remember us talking about food justice and food systems and equitable food systems, and particularly in the U.S., folks of color being distanced from the food system and how most of the examples of Black agricultural experience, the only thing that we talked about was slavery, and that was just subjugation to the land. And I realized that there is this real life contradiction. 

SOPHIA LI: Yes! So do you feel like the environmental justice movement is still carried on the shoulders of solely the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, the BIPOC community? 

WAWA GATHERU: I would say predominantly so and predominantly so, because if we’re talking about in the U.S. context, there’s a reason why the environmental justice movement is what it is in the U.S., and it’s because it’s a movement of necessity. People have had to step up, had to take a stand because their lives were and continue to be on the line. And time and time again, we see that race and class, but still race primarily is what informs disproportionate access. 

SOPHIA LI: Hmm. And just to rewind for a second, for those who don’t know what does environmental justice mean? 

WAWA GATHERU: Bare bones, it is essentially a framework that works to make sure that every person, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, et cetera, have equitable access to environmental benefits.

Access to equitable, culturally competent food, it means access to clean air. Clean water. It means access to green space.

SOPHIA LI: And for all of our white listeners or who aren’t BIPOC and have privilege, how can we bring them into the environmental justice movement? 

WAWA GATHERU: The most important thing to do is to listen to frontline community members, leaders, organizers, find out what they might need in regards to amplifying the work that they’re already doing. 

Because a lot of times capacity building is the issue just because of resources. In the environmental space, 50 percent of environmental philanthropy goes to the same 10 big green organizations. And then within that, when you look at BIPOC lead and particularly like Black and Indigenous led environmental organizations and nonprofits and things of that sort, we get like less than five percent of funding. So if you can put your money where your mouth is, definitely do that. 

SOPHIA LI: So Wawa, if we were able to achieve climate equity and build a more just climate future for all, what would that even look like?

WAWA GATHERU: For me, a just climate movement just means real, real justice for everyone. To me, that looks like a world free of prisons, free of a carceral system. 

Just people having access to basic human rights, having the ability to live a life beyond survival. So many people around the world quite literally are living to survive and don’t get the opportunity to live a life of passion. 

SOPHIA LI: Yes, Wawa. I so resonate with that. Climate justice is racial justice is social justice: making sure that everyone has the right to a healthy, safe, beautiful human life. 

WAWA GATHERU: Mm hmm. Exactly. 

SOPHIA LI: So Wawa, if you could go back in time, and speak to that person that was taking her first environmental justice class in high school, what would you tell her? 

WAWA GATHERU: I’d say get ready, girl! But also, I would say, you feel super alone right now. I would say this message is specifically to, you know, 16-Year-Old Wawa. 

I felt really alone whenever we would have conversations in class, while my teacher was really supportive, sometimes, some of my classmates would be like, OK, let’s stop making this about race. It’s just about climate. And I would say, get ready girl, because these little conversations that you’re having in high school, they’re going to continue. The places that you may have thought would be with the right agenda of fighting for the protection of both people and planet. 

They may not actually be on board the way that you think they are, but but but but that is why you are in this movement in the first place. You have a place. When I was at that age, I thought that I’d never find a community in the climate space. 

So I say, get ready, girl, there’s so many people that you’re going to meet that understand you and your vision and also are looking to make sure that the just climate future that we talk about includes all of us. And you’re going to really find community there and constantly be reminded of how important your work will be and how important environmental justice will always be. 

SOPHIA LI: Ah! You know what you’re doing, Wawa, you’re providing so many of those aha moments for people to start their own awakening in this journey. So my last question for you is what gives you hope? 

WAWA GATHERU: What gives me hope? I always struggle with this question. But I would say what gives me hope, it’s necessity, this is the only home we have, this is the only planet that we have. 

I think we all deserve a future! And I think what also gives me hope is the love that I experience in and inside of this movement. 

For me, I feel like climate work and climate labor is a work of love because it’s hard, it’s tiring, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s necessary. 

SOPHIA LI: Yes, yes, yes, preach. Hope is the thing that drives us forward. If we didn’t have hope for our future, or our home, then why even try? 

WAWA GATHERU: Absolutely. 

SOPHIA LI: Wawa, thank you so much. 

WAWA GATHERU: Thank you. It was such, such a pleasure. It’s so great talking to you. 

SOPHIA LI: That was Wawa Gatheru.

You can follow Wawa Gatheru’s work with Black Girl Environmentalist on Instagram at BlackGirlEnvironmentalist (all one word), or online at WawaGatheru.org.

SOPHIA LI: So every week on the show I close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners into the conversation.

This week, I invite each and every one of you to find your own climate community.  And if you can’t find one that resonates, create your own! 

It can be as unofficial as a group text chain with your friends and family where everyone shares resources, or photos of themselves in nature. 

Or, once a month, you can meet up to talk about climate anxiety—maybe you’ll be the climate optimist in your own group! And that in itself is doing the work in this space. 

By spreading hope in this movement. By continuing the work. By talking about it. You’re already doing it. 

That’s a wrap on this season of Climate Talks. We hope these episodes made you feel inspired and empowered to start—or reconnect with—your own climate journey. Thank you for listening with us as we learned more about our earth’s climate, and our responsibilities to each other. 

And maybe, you’ll start having some climate talks of your own—with your friends and family—starting to build that climate community, and continuing this movement forward. Thank you.

SOPHIA LI: You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta. Many thanks to our guests this week, Kristy Drutman and Wawa Gatheru. 

You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, please rate the show and share it with family and friends. We want everyone to get in on this conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation IRL with the people in your own life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Emily Shaw, Kathleen Ottinger and by me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Meta. To find out more about Meta’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability (dot) f-b (dot) com.

I’m always talking about climate on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me at s-o-p-h-f-e-i, that’s my handle. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of the conversation and movement.


show notes

Kristy Drutman is the founder of Brown Girl Green, (IG: @browngirl_green) a media platform that produces podcasts, videos, blog posts, and other media related to environmental justice and advocacy. She interviews environmental leaders and advocates about diversity and inclusion as well as creative solutions for coping with the climate crisis. Most recently, Kristy was on the ground in the UK, covering TEDConnect and COP26. 

Wawa Gatheru is the founder of Black Girl Environmentalist (IG: @blackgirlenvironmentalist) an intergenerational community of Black girls, women and non-binary environmentalists. She is an environmental justice advocate hailing from Kenya and Connecticut. She is currently a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford studying environmental governance. Wawa plans to pursue a public service career that empowers and supports culturally competent, community-based environmental solutions, particularly focusing on centering the expertise of frontline communities of color. 

Typhoon Haiyan (or Super Typhoon Yolanda) hit the Philippines in November of 2013. It was one of the most powerful and destructive typhoons ever recorded. The storm also caused devastation in the neighboring countries of Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guam, and more.

The show intro features clips excerpted from the following news segments:

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Climate 25 Mins

Episode 04: Breaking the Climate Science

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

Emissions. Greenhouse gases. Decarbonization. You may have heard these terms in the news lately, but what do they actually mean? What are emissions, and where do they come from? Is decarbonization a good thing and, if so, how do we achieve it? In this episode, we’re joined by Carbon Calories founder Alexander Frantzen and journalist Sarah Lazarovic to answer these questions and more. We unpack the surprising history behind the phrase “carbon footprint.” We’ll discuss the ways that we can better understand our own carbon footprint, and work to reduce it—and why putting pressure as consumers on large corporations may matter just as much as individual actions.

Featuring

Alexander Frantzen | Carbon Calories | CEO & Founder 

Sarah Lazarovic | Minimum Viable Planet | Journalist, Climate Communicator

Patrick Nease | Meta | Climate

Sylvia Lee | Meta | Climate

Lauren Swezey | Meta | FCS Sustainability

Kati Kallins | Meta | Sustainability Engagement

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta.

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing everyone and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. 

Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, also includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: So what are the most effective steps we can take—as individuals that feed into the collective—to slow the rate of climate disruption? 

Maybe you’ve heard on the news about the IPCC. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from the United Nations is one of the most trusted sources of information we have on the climate. 

The IPCC has published reports on what will happen if the earth’s average temperature warms to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

At that point, all the climate disruptions we’re already seeing will become a lot more severe. According to the most recent report, we need to scale back fossil fuel usage by 45% by 2030. That’s about 8 years. And since the world’s biggest economies—we call them the G20 nations—are responsible for 75% of global emissions, it will take commitments from all of us in order to keep the earth’s average temperature rise below that 1.5 degree threshold. 

But what does that word—“emissions”—even mean? What is a “greenhouse gas?” Do I make emissions? Do you? 

How can we think about reducing emissions, if we’re not even really sure of where they come from?

We asked you: what do you picture when you hear the phrase “greenhouse gas emissions?”

Person 1: I mean, the classic factory with a big flume of emissions first comes to mind, and then I just think of a bunch of cows. Yeah. 

Person 2: I picture the world from, you know, a big bird’s eye view. And I see everywhere where there’s humans burning fossil fuels just emitting tons and tons of noxious gas.

Person 3: Just a whole bunch of smoke. Smelly air.

Person 4: If I’m thinking about the emissions in my own life, it’s probably first and foremost the things that I buy rather than the behaviors that I do.

Person 5: Transportation, like driving a car. I also know, like, food production is a big source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Person 6: Plastic creates so many emissions. Every time I have to have, like, single use plastic – like, ugh I hate it.

Person 7: Two years ago we went vegan, I don’t know, now that we’re vegan and I have a Prius and we take mass transit and we don’t use the central air and heat. I feel like I don’t really know what would cause emissions. 

SOPHIA LI: Have you heard of the phrase “carbon footprint?” Think about a cup of coffee. Emissions are created to manufacture the fertilizer used by the farm to grow the coffee beans. Emissions are also created from the energy used to process the beans, as well as from the heat to roast them. Then, of course, more emissions are released when the coffee is shipped to consumers—whether it goes by boat, train, or plane. All of this goes into the carbon footprint of that cup of coffee.

But let’s be clear—carbon isn’t the bad guy. It’s essential to the life cycle of all living things. I’m alive right now, so that means I automatically have a carbon footprint. I breathe out CO2 as I talk. This isn’t a bad thing. We need to get out of this binary. It’s when we have an excess amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that the climate starts to be disrupted.

Part of why we don’t always think about our carbon footprint is, it’s really hard to see or calculate. How do you know what went into a book, a sneaker, or a cup of coffee before it gets to your hands? And once you find out, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?

Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle. In this episode, we’re talking about greenhouse gas emissions: what are they? What role do they play in the climate crisis? And how can we reduce the amount of emissions that we are creating?

But first. Our partners at Meta are committed to reducing their emissions. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work.

PATRICK NEASE: Hi, I’m Patrick Nease, I’m the sustainability coordinator for Facebook’s net zero team. I think a lot of people think that sustainability is just a nature thing and it’s probably at odds with the economy or with people’s livelihoods. But to me, sustainability is really the triple win between the economy, people and the environment. 

So our emissions come from all sorts of sources, some of them more obvious, such as burning fuel in a car and some of them less obvious, like forest and land use change, such as trees getting chopped down or even forest fires that burn up those trees. 

So when we release these molecules like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, they capture the sun’s radiation. It’s kind of like you get into a car on a summer day and it’s about 10 to 20 degrees hotter than – than it is outside. It’s the same idea with the sun’s radiation getting trapped inside the Earth’s atmosphere.

SYLVIA LEE: Hi, I’m Sylvia Lee. I’m the Sustainability Strategy Manager at Facebook. Everything we buy, everything we eat, transport, all emit emissions into the atmosphere. By far, the most important thing we can do is to reduce our emissions, and so removals are absolutely the last, sort of last resort. 

SOPHIA LI: Removals refers to carbon removal projects that create an additional carbon sink, be it reforestation or technology like direct air capture.

PATRICK NEASE: If you want to keep a bathtub from overflowing, it’s way more important to turn down the tap before you figure out how to drain it. And we take that same approach to our sustainability goal. We definitely want to prioritize cutting our greenhouse gas emissions before anything else.

SOPHIA LI: Still, some emissions are hard to reduce, like emissions related to employee commutes or every last piece of hardware that goes into our data centers. To address these emissions, Meta is supporting a range of carbon removal projects.

SYLVIA LEE: To date, we have focused on reforestation projects and we’ve – we’ve supported projects in East Africa, in Uganda and in Kenya, in the southeastern part of the United States. 

What is most exciting to me right now is the amount of attention, and the number of people, the amount of energy that is exploring all of these amazing technologies. 

We know that there’s not going to be one technology that’s going to solve it all. There’s no one silver bullet. We need all of them. And the fact that we have all these start ups, all these investors focusing on it. All of this is making me much more hopeful than even two or three years ago. 

PATRICK NEASE: What excites me the most is that for the first time, I feel like we don’t have to explain what climate change is. Since I’ve been working in this space over the last several years, this is the first year that we’re really learning how to turn climate ambition into actual action. So we saw last year that companies and cities more than doubled their net zero commitments, which is kind of an uncharted territory. Another thing that really gives me hope is that I’m working with so many smart people, whether it’s within Facebook or with the partners that we talk to, that all recognize this, all recognize there’s room to improve and all recognize that the urgency to act is now. 

SOPHIA LI: In addition to Sylvia and Patrick’s work, Meta team members are constantly finding ways to make their workplaces more green and energy-efficient.

LAUREN SWEZEY: Hi, my name is Lauren Swezey and I’m on the FCS team at Facebook: facilities, culinary and security team. 

The green roofs on our buildings are like a park on a roof. You can walk and you see native plants, you see birds flying everywhere. You see butterflies and bees. And there’s so much diversity up there. 

The buildings in Menlo Park are all on 100 percent renewable energy through our local provider. Not only that, we actually have solar systems on our campus, too. So we have over four megawatts of solar that’s supporting our renewable energy locally.

SOPHIA LI: The roof also insulates the building, further reducing the energy needed to cool and heat it.

As our guest Jon Leland said on our last episode, one of the most overlooked ways to have a sustainable impact is to take initiative as employees, within our workplace. 

Kati Kallins, who works on the Sustainability team, is constantly looking to engage all of Meta’s employees in the company’s sustainability initiatives.

KATI KALLINS: Hi, my name is Kati Kallins. When we talk about sustainability at Facebook, there are the operational goals that we have, but our biggest asset is our employees themselves. And if they aren’t bought into this work and if they aren’t part of achieving these goals, then we’re really not going to get anywhere.

One of the most important messages, which I think we should all take with us, is that there’s room for everyone in the climate movement. 

Climate action and working in sustainability is an all hands on deck field. And we need everyone. This is also something that I try to tell our employees a lot when we’re bringing them into the fold of engagement is people will say to me, well, I don’t know, like I don’t have a degree in this. I’m not an expert. Like, are you sure that you want my help? Is there a way that I can participate? And what I tell them is, you know, you eat food, you spend time outdoors, you are as dependent on our natural resources as everyone. And the learning sphere is not as steep as it may seem. Yes, there are people who are experts, but there’s also a lot more people that learned on the job. And so come on in, we’ll get you learning what you need to, and just having you be part of this movement is a huge success. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Sylvia Lee, Patrick Nease, Lauren Swezey, and Kati Kallins from Meta.

As individuals, we have the power to reduce our personal carbon footprint through our choices—how we commute, how we heat and power our homes, where and how we shop. 

But hold on—let’s think a little more critically about that phrase, “carbon footprint.” You’ve probably heard it used before in news articles and even by policy makers, but most people don’t know the term was actually coined by British Petroleum—yes, that oil company, BP—in the early 2000s, as part of an advertising campaign. “Carbon footprint,” when you hear it, it brings to mind an individual person’s footprint, an individual journey, and it was coined to make it seem like the responsibility for reducing emissions falls on… well, us as individuals. 

In reality, most of the emissions released into the atmosphere every year come from the operation of businesses just like BP—not from everyday people living their lives like you and me.

Let’s be clear: individual actions do matter. They add up. They have an impact. But if we are going to reduce our emissions at the scale that the IPCC says is necessary, it will take action from private corporations, too. It’s not one or the other, it’s all of us.

So what can we do to pressure companies to reduce their GHG, or greenhouse gasses, generated by their businesses? What pressure do we need to exert on governments in order to push them into action? 

How can we work to make climate-friendly low-emissions alternatives available to all, through access to clean energy and climate positive products and services?

Joining me this week to tackle these questions are Alexander Frantzen, and Sarah Lazarovic. 

Alexander Frantzen is the founder & CEO of Carbon Calories, which calculates the carbon footprint of consumer products and shares them with the public. He has been building tools to do this work for over a decade.

Sarah Lazarovic is a journalist and climate communicator. She works to make the science of emissions and the climate crisis accessible to everyone—usually with comics. She is also the author of the un-depressing climate newsletter, Minimum Viable Planet. 

SOPHIA LI: Hi Sarah, hi Alexander. Welcome to Climate Talks.

SARAH LAZAROVIC: Hi.

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: Hi.

SOPHIA LI: Sarah, we’ll start with you. Can you please introduce yourself and tell me about your climate story? 

SARAH LAZAROVIC: Hi there, my name is Sarah Lazarovic. I guess you could say my way in was through a reckoning with the growing horrors of fast fashion starting in the early aughts, but really culminating in around 2010, when I sort of realized how bad it had gotten. And I was one of those people who tried to stop shopping and write about it. 

You know once you sort of start understanding the degradation happening all over the world because of it, it’s like a gateway, a gateway climate issue for a lot of people, women, especially. 

And I now work in climate full time. My lens is a little broader now because we need systems change. And it’s not so much about, you know, my personal jumpsuits that I own, but broader issues. 

SOPHIA LI: Yeah, but hey, if jumpsuits brought you into this movement, great! Alexander, please introduce yourself and tell us your climate story. 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: Hey, hi, I’m Alexander. I’m the founder of Carbon Calories. What brought me in really was growing up every summer spending a month in a straw thatched cottage in the forest, since the age of two. And so that really made nature really meaningful for me in my life and then in – jump forward to around the year 2000. The environmental degradation that our economies were causing became something I became aware of. And then in 2012, that’s where I started teaching myself carbon accounting, and I built Energy We Need and Wiki Carbon and now Carbon Calories. So that’s where I started actually educating myself about okay, how do we measure this, this climate change that we’re all hearing about, but how do we measure it? 

SOPHIA LI: And can you tell me a little bit about carbon accounting? 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: It’s actually very much like financial accounting. Financial accounting is about recording transactions, purchases by customers, income, expenses, all the transactions that companies record. Carbon accounting is the same thing – we itemize, how many gallons of gasoline did I burn? How much fertilizer did I use? How much energy was used to manufacture this product? Each time those activities happen, we record them. It’s about itemizing the carbon emissions as they occur. 

SOPHIA LI: So, Sarah, what does this crazy buzz word of sustainability mean to you? 

SARAH LAZAROVIC: You know, I actually don’t use that word a lot anymore. I think it’s fraught. I think what it really just comes down to is sustainability tends to be relegated to the silos of personal consumption, which is super important. But I try to just think about it as living the most low emissions lifestyle I can. 

SOPHIA LI: Sustainability is not regulated. There’s no science or facts to prove that something is quote unquote sustainable, even though other words are regulated, USDA organic in food is regulated. But when you back it up with carbon accounting, that actually quantifies it in a way that makes it credible. 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: Yeah, so I would say, in math class, when you took your exam, if you showed your work, even if you got the answer wrong, you still got 50 percent of the credit. If you gave the answer and you didn’t show your work, you didn’t get credit. And so show, don’t tell. Just show us, you know, and we’ll make a decision about what kind of impact we want to have in the world. I’ll make a decision. You know, if I want to fly, maybe I will eat less meat all year. Maybe I will not drive all year. I’ll make those decisions, but tell me. 

SOPHIA LI: And to flip that, I always say, you know, it’s like we’re giving people a quiz ten times over every time they go to the grocery store. But they’ve never been taught the material for the quiz. They may have heard someone say something about, oh, oat milk is better than soy milk. X is better than Y, but they actually have no way of knowing. 

If there is no carbon accounting information and no labeling, you know, you go in with the best intentions. But that is like a recipe for cognitive overload and also just bad decision making.

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: If you go into the supermarket and every single company decided on a different recommended calorie count on the back of their nutrition label. You wouldn’t be able to compare them. 

SOPHIA LI: How important is it to actually calculate our individual footprint compared to corporations’ and product footprints? 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: So you take two companies, Tesla and Ferrari. As a company, Tesla has a much larger carbon footprint. Its enterprise carbon footprint is much larger than Ferrari’s. Why? Because they produce way more cars. 

However, on a per product basis, a Tesla has a lower carbon footprint over its lifecycle, almost surely, than a Ferrari does. But that’s an example of how OK, we need to see product carbon footprint disclosures to choose low carbon products when we do buy, and then to reward those companies that are decarbonizing. 

So decarbonization just means how do we produce and consume our products with low carbon energy sources primarily? And so it would be how do we do those activities without relying on fossil fuels? And how do we do those activities without causing emissions from non-fossil fuel sources?

SOPHIA LI: Thanks, Alex. So Sarah, I’m curious to hear your answer. How important is it to calculate our own footprint compared to corporations’ and product footprints? 

SARAH LAZAROVIC: It is really important to understand your carbon footprint because that is such valuable knowledge for understanding the problem writ large. So many of us do not understand this at all, which is understandable because it’s super complicated stuff. Climate change only became an issue to most people fairly recently, didn’t grow up with great climate education in school. They might not have a handle on anything. They might not know what a greenhouse gas is, what carbon emissions are. So the carbon footprint is actually like one of the most perfect ways for understanding where emissions come from. 

And when you see the light bulbs flash for people when they say, oh, you know, I’m vegan, but no amount of work that I’m going to do is going to change the emissions intensity for my carbon footprint if I still fly five times a year or if, you know, I rent my home and it’s heated by a not efficient at all natural gas furnace. Right. So then they see that, and it doesn’t mean that all the burden is on them. Like, it doesn’t mean that their carbon footprint is this thing they should carry around in shame, feel guilt about or even necessarily work to bring down to zero because it’s not possible given the way we live, the systems we live in in the world today. 

But what it really comes down to is the emissions that each of us live and breathe and burn every day. 

SOPHIA LI: Thanks, Sarah. I just want to understand what is the balance between our awareness and calculation of our individual footprint versus the 100 companies that contribute to more than 70 percent of our global GHG, or Greenhouse Gasses. What is that balance?

SARAH LAZAROVIC: The thing it always comes back to, is it an individual action or is it systems change? It’s both. Is it, you know, personal emissions reduction or getting companies to drastically bring down their emissions? Obviously, the latter has much more effect, but they don’t change without the will of the people. They don’t change without us telling them, hey, we’re not going to buy X, Y or Z anymore. They don’t change without us actually reforming how we consume. So you sort of need all the pieces.

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: Just to sort of contextualize. If every single government tomorrow agreed that building fossil fuel infrastructure was going to stop and that the only thing we were going to manufacture every year were renewables, it would still take three decades for us to decarbonize the energy system. 

I think I did a back of the envelope calculation. I think that at least five percent of existing fossil fuel energy every year needs to be diverted to just manufacture renewable energy facilities in order to be on track. 

And so that’s another reason why lifestyle changes are necessary. It’s because we actually need to divert existing fossil fuel energy to manufacturing the renewables that we can only do so using fossil fuel energy. 

SOPHIA LI: Emissions, it could be tricky. How can we engage more people, family and friends, community to talk about it and how can we make that an accessible conversation?

SARAH LAZAROVIC: We have had the luxury of developing and, you know, burning a lot of carbon to create the comfortable lifestyles that we all now enjoy. When you share this information with people who have never experienced it before, it can be a shock to the system. What do you mean I am responsible for the cumulative emissions of a nation I just happened to be born in? People will not like that. 

They don’t want you to take away their – their beautiful giant car that they just purchased, and they don’t want you to tell them that their steaks are destroying the planet and actually killing people in other parts of the world as we speak. 

So, you know, with that lens, as a climate communicator, there are some basic practices that you can deploy. 

You know, just listening to people to understand where they are before you try to share where we need to go. Just even demonstrating our carbon intensive lifestyles with simple heuristics, little tools like do you know that the average American, Australian or Canadian basically has a carbon footprint 20 times someone in Pakistan? 

I think the best thing you can do is make it easy. We need the simplest ways to engage people. And I think the reason people feel frustrated because they’re like, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. You just want to take away my meat, and take away my car? No, you want to prioritize the most efficient things people can do, the most useful things they can do that don’t require multiple decision points. 

What are the actual big things? Well, it’s, you know, switching from an internal combustion engine vehicle to an EV. It’s, you know, electrifying your heating. So switching from a gas burning furnace to a heat pump, they’re like four to five really huge things and they’re quite expensive things. But they’re a decision you make once. And that decision brings your emissions down for, you know, 10 to 20 years, depending on the big ticket item that you’re considering. 

People are busy, so you can see why they push back when you’re like, can you switch to a paper straw? Like, what are the emissions reductions like, sure, globally, we want to do that. We want the system to just change to appreciate those things. But at the individual level, when it comes to the decisions that they’re able to make, you want to just offer simple swaps.

That’s the best way to get at it for people that are just starting the conversation, especially if you can highlight the what’s in it for me, which is you’re going to save money in the long run. As we decarbonize, the cost of carbon-based things are going to go up and the cost of renewables are going to go down. So in the long term, although you’ll have to pay some upfront, slightly higher costs, you know it’s going to go down. 

SOPHIA LI: We need to end on a hopeful note because I know you guys believe in this world that we’re living in. So what gives you two hope? 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: What gives me hope is every day meeting more people who are asking questions, educating themselves, shifting their buying patterns and adjusting their lifestyles based on what they’re learning and deciding where to work based on whether or not a company is decarbonizing. There are lots of us who are taking action right now. We are responding, I think appropriately, with courage and love, and we’re applying the lessons that we’re learning to our own lives. 

SARAH LAZAROVIC: We have the privilege of being alive right now in the decisive years. In the next ninety eight months where, you know, the relative habitability of this planet for all future humanity is going to be decided. You can see that as a daunting and overwhelming and despairing and doom-inducing lens. Or you can say that is a huge privilege. What can I do with these next years of my life to catalyze the best and most effective change that needs to happen? 

Because every little bit of emissions that we keep from going up into the atmosphere is lives saved in other parts of the world, is species that will not go extinct, is crops that will – will grow and feed people. So everything we do now really matters, and every bit of warming we stave off is a great, a great thing for somebody somewhere. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you both for the work that you do. Very grateful. 

ALEXANDER FRANTZEN: Thank you. 

SARAH LAZAROVIC: Thank you. 

SOPHIA LI: That was Alexander Frantzen and Sarah Lazarovic.

To view the Carbon Statements prepared by Carbon Calories, visit them online at carbon calories (dot) com. 

To see more of Sarah’s work, and to sign up for her newsletter Minimum Viable Planet, visit her website at Sarah L (dot) com. That’s sarah with an ‘h,’ s-a-r-a-h, then ‘L’ for ‘Lazarovic,’ (dot) com. 

SOPHIA LI: So every week on the show I close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners into the conversation.

As much as the IPCC report I mentioned earlier gave much cause for alarm, the report was not all doom and gloom. According to the same report, the climate could begin stabilizing in as little as 20 to 30 years once we curb our global emissions and reduce the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere. 

So go out and do something that helps make you feel empowered and hopeful in this space. Whether that’s deciding to walk or bike to work, or even growing butterfly milkweeds in your backyard—go do something that makes you feel like you made a positive difference, for yourself and for our collective planet. 

Individual actions do make a difference, and the more that we make these practices a part of our own life, the more we’ll encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same. This movement needs all of us.

SOPHIA LI: Next week on Climate Talks…

KRISTY DRUTMAN: What is this transition going to look like? So when I think about a just world, I think about building the infrastructure and the technology we need to live healthier and more sustainable lives, but not at the expense of exploiting communities who are going to be at the backbone of making that possible. 

SOPHIA LI: We’re pressing our ears to the pulse of the future! What challenges await on the horizon as we try to navigate this climate crisis and build a more sustainable earth? 

What actions are required from all of us to fight for a healthier, less erratic climate? Join us next time on Climate Talks to find out.

See you next week!

SOPHIA LI: You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta. Many thanks to our guests this week, Alexander Frantzen and Sarah Lazarovic. 

You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, please rate the show and share it with friends and family. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation IRL with the people in your life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Emily Shaw, Kathleen Ottinger and by me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Meta. To find out more about Meta’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability.fb.com.

I’m always talking about the climate on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me at sophfei, that’s my handle. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of this crucial conversation.


Show Notes

You can view the Carbon Statements prepared by Carbon Calories on their website. For more of Alexander Frantzen’s work on other carbon accounting projects (such as Energy We Need and WikiCarbon), check out his personal website

You can sign up for Minimum Viable Planet, and view more of Sarah Lazarovic’s work, on her website. You can also find her comics on instagram at @sarahlazarovic. 

In 2018 the IPCC (​​the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published a special report, which detailed the impacts of 1.5℃ global warming above pre-industrial levels, and outlined paths to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. More recently, in 2021, the first part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment was released. The report provided new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and found that immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required to limit warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C.

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Climate 25 Mins

Episode 04: Breaking the Climate Science

Podcast 27 Mins

Episode 03: Waste Not

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

The science around the climate crisis is no longer disputable. So now the question is, what is the role each of us can play in talking about the climate with our friends, and help bring more people into this movement? How can we debunk the myths and uplift the facts? How do we balance urgency with optimism? In this episode, we’ll speak to researcher John Cook and activist Jon Leland to unpack how we can better communicate about the climate—with skeptics and believers alike. 

Featuring

John Cook | Monash University Climate Change Communication Research Hub | Post-Doctoral Research Fellow 

Jon Leland | Kickstarter | Head of Sustainability 

Robbie Goldfarb | Meta | Critical Information Products

Sarah Sasaki Tsien | Meta | Sustainability

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta.

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing every one and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. 

Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: I see sustainability as a relationship. A lifelong commitment. If we are going to change our ways and prepare all of us for the impact of the climate crisis, it’s going to take real change from each of us. 

So what’s holding us back from collective action? Why can’t we all seem to get on the same page? The science around the climate crisis is no longer disputable, we’ve known this data for decades—so why are some people still fighting the obvious, rather than collaborating to prevent a climate catastrophe?

But beyond the data, we’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in our own lives. We asked some of our listeners in the United States: “What proof do you have that climate change is already happening?”

Person 1: This year, I’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail here on the west coast of California, Oregon, and Washington. During that experience, firsthand witnessing various fires –

Person 2: Not just the fires, but also the snowpack was pretty much nonexistent. We didn’t have to use any snow equipment. This year in particular felt like we were living through the – the consequences of climate change. 

Person 3: I work as a researcher for a human rights organization. And recently I did research on how climate-induced heatwave in British Columbia impacted the lives of older people and people with disabilities. And you realize how it’s affecting all of us, but it’s affecting especially people who are already living in marginalized situations, and it’s putting them at higher risk. 

Person 4: My dad as a farmer has been affected by climate change. They’ve had lots of issues with water supply because of the droughts in the last decade or so. He’s seen weather patterns change. A lot more heat, a lot less rain. Things that have impacted the crops he can grow and how well they – they grow.

Person 5: Half my family lives in Israel, which is a very arid country, and it seems like every summer I go back to visit it’s more oppressively hotter. 

Person 6: One thing that I remember from growing up is that the lakes were really full. And now when I go back, they’re drying up or they’re littered with trash.

Person 7: We’re seeing the flowers bloom much earlier than they used to, and we’re seeing a lot less snow and ice. 

SOPHIA LI: We’re already seeing the effects of the climate crisis in the US, from droughts and fires, to early spring blooms. For many Americans though, the ability to still deny the climate crisis comes from a place of tremendous privilege.

Knowledge is power, this science is liberation—especially when it comes to combating climate change. How can we uplift the facts, bust the myths, and form a united front against the climate crisis? How can we reach out to others and invite them to join us on this journey towards a more sustainable future? How do we promote discovery of the truth, and make that truth as digestible and irrefutable as possible?

Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle: from carbon emissions to water restoration. In this episode, we’re talking about climate science, and the best ways to communicate and share that knowledge. 

We’ll hear from Jon Leland and John Cook, two people who have devoted themselves to finding new, effective ways to communicate about the climate crisis. Together, we’ll work to equip ourselves with better ways to speak about the climate, whether we’re talking to climate change skeptics or trying to just inspire action amongst our family and friends.

But first. Our partners at Meta are committed to providing users with access to authoritative climate information from the world’s leading science sources. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work.

ROBBIE GOLDFARB: Hi, my name’s Robbie. I’m a product manager at Facebook. Naturally, when we think about myths and misinformation, the focus is about stopping the bad. How do we prevent bad actors or people who may be misinformed from sharing such information on the platform. And there’s no question that that is prerequisite. That is P0. That’s extremely important work.

But I think there’s this other angle, too, which is about how do we create an environment and an ecosystem where the norm is talking about more positive and helpful types of conversation. And we’ve seen this in the data is, you know, a concept called mimicry, which is just this idea that when one thing exists, more of that tends to exist. So in other words, it’s almost a form of social norming, by establishing this is how we talk, these are the types of things we say, that tends to perpetuate.

So the Climate Science Center is sort of a one stop shop on Facebook to find combinations of authoritative information and engaging content on the topic. So that’ll include things like content from approved organizations and partners. But also a number of other things, like we’ve developed a Myth Busters unit, which goes through some common myths and provides information on that. Similarly, we have everyday actions you can take that help people understand what are the things they can be doing in their own life to help combat climate change and some of its effects. 

The Climate Science Center is publicly available. You can access it on your Facebook app just by going into the bookmarks bar and click on Climate Science Center. And I encourage you all to check it out.

​​SARAH SASAKI TSIEN: Hi, I’m Sarah and I work on climate and sustainability at Facebook. The Climate Conversation Map helps researchers and nonprofit organizations study and better understand how climate conversations ebb and flow over time and region of the world. And right now, it is really the best geospatial dataset of its kind. 

You can better understand at the country level what countries are most interested and talking about climate. You can find out at what times of the year and what events are happening when conversations spike. So it’s been a really interesting way for our external partners across the world to get more specific understanding of what drives conversations on platforms like Facebook and when that triggers.

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Sarah Sasaki Tsien and Robbie Goldfarb from Meta. 

Something I hear a lot in the climate space is, “But I don’t understand the climate crisis.” And I respond, “That’s OK.”

Not everyone is a climate scientist. And there’s so many things out there in the world, like the internet or electricity. And we don’t understand exactly how it works, but we know how to use it. And that’s the same thing with the climate crisis. We may not understand every component of it, but we can still use what we know to continue to power our lives to live the best way that we can.

I think oftentimes we’re led to believe that it’s climate skeptics versus climate believers. It’s this battle between the two. But actually, it’s not so binary. 

Yale and George Mason conducted a study earlier this year that found about 10 percent of the American population are climate deniers, or they dismiss climate. The study also found that less than 50% of Americans think their friends and family will hold them responsible to take real action in climate change. 

So it’s not necessarily about changing the minds of climate skeptics. It’s about bringing those who already believe in the climate crisis into the movement even further. Like Robbie said, we need to create an environment where having conversations about the climate is the norm—so we can encourage and support each other to renew and uphold our commitments to living sustainable lives, and also invite others to join us in that commitment. 

So today on the show, I’m excited to welcome John Cook and Jon Leland to talk about the best ways we can communicate—with believers and skeptics and everyone in between—about the urgent realities of the climate crisis. 

John Cook is a psychologist, an author, and a research fellow with the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub. His research focuses on understanding and countering misinformation about climate change, with an emphasis on using critical thinking to build resilience.

Jon Leland is an environmental activist whose work focuses on drawing attention to the widespread impacts of climate change. He’s also Kickstarter’s Head of Sustainability and VP of Insights.

SOPHIA LI: Alright, hi John and Jon.

JON LELAND: Hi.

JOHN COOK: Hi.

SOPHIA LI: Can you please introduce yourselves and tell me your climate story?

JON LELAND: My name is Jon Leland. I grew up in Washington, DC, and back in 2011 or 12, I started doing policy consulting for the Palau mission in the United Nations. So Palau is a very small island nation in the Pacific. I actually wound up going to the United Nations Security Council Conference on Climate Change, their first one ever back in 2012 and saw the president of Nauru get up and speak and talk about losing his country. That country is going to be underwater probably within the next 50 years, and it will just disappear from the face of the Earth. And he was heartbroken and on the verge of tears. That really woke me up to the stakes involved in how present the issue is, which back then seemed a lot more remote and far off to me and I think a lot of other people than it does now. 

JOHN COOK: My name is John Cook. I’ve been working with Facebook on writing evidence based fact checks and publishing them on the Climate Science Center.

My climate story began getting into arguments about climate change with my father in law. He was and still is a climate denier. We were having a family get together, and he was throwing out all these arguments on why climate change was a hoax and not real. And like any son in law who is motivated to win an argument, I started building a database of all the possible arguments that might come up at the next family get together and what the science said about each one of them. 

At some point I realized other people have family members who promote a lot of misinformation about climate change. So I started this website, SkepticalScience.com, and a couple of years into that, I got an email from a cognitive scientist, Stephan Lewandowsky, who sent me research on how to debunk effectively versus how to debunk badly. And I was doing it badly. I was doing all the things that you shouldn’t do. And that led to me doing a Ph.D. in cognitive science and researching how to counter climate misinformation and communicate climate change better. 

JON LELAND: Does he believe in climate change now? 

JOHN COOK: What I’ve learned is that people whose beliefs aren’t formed by evidence are very difficult to persuade with evidence. So the bad news is no, he doesn’t accept climate change now. The good news is I’ve had similar conversations with my own dad, who was also a climate denier way back when, and he eventually did change his mind. 

SOPHIA LI: Jon Leland, tell us about how you first got started in climate communications.

JON LELAND: You know, the first project that I did was ‘This Place Will Be Water’, which is a project where people can look up where in their communities will be underwater due to climate change. And then they put these biodegradable stickers up showing just like what will be transformed as a result of climate change.

Most people believe in climate change but don’t want to think about it. It is overwhelming and terrifying. And so what most people do most of the time is just put it out of their minds. 

So ‘This Place Will Be Water’ is a project where one it gives people something to do if they are feeling that kind of anxiety and wanting to start to participate in the discourse. And I think putting these messages in places where people aren’t expecting them and localizing it to their communities can change the way that they receive those messages. 

SOPHIA LI: Yeah, I like that you brought up that actually, the majority of people are not climate deniers. About 10 percent of the American population are climate deniers, or they dismiss climate. The majority of us believe in it, but we’re just not willed into the action. We’re still not willed into the mobilization yet. 

JON LELAND: I think we use those climate deniers as a little bit of scapegoats. 

SOPHIA LI: Yes!

JON LELAND: We point to them and say, well, they’re the problem. 

SOPHIA LI: I don’t have to do anything!

JON LELAND: You’re right. The problem is all of us that actually believe in climate change, and we need to get our act together to push for systemic change. 

SOPHIA LI: John Cook, would love to hear your perspective on the most effective ways that you’re communicating about the reality of the climate crisis. 

JOHN COOK: This is a bit of a simplification, but I see three kind of main audiences amongst the public. There are the dismissives, that 10 percent that you referenced, I think the latest data showed it more like eight percent. It’s slowly shrinking. Then there’s the fifty eight percent of the US public who are concerned or alarmed about climate change. And then the other 30 odd percent who are kind of more disengaged or cautious. Changing the dismissives’ minds, if you have limited resources, I don’t think that’s the best use of your time. 

So it’s the other two groups that are important. Amongst the 58 percent who are concerned or alarmed, most of those people don’t talk about climate change with their friends or family or their social networks. And so it’s like Jon said, it’s about activating the people who are already on board with the science but are inactive. 

What I focus on is just getting people having climate conversations, trying to break that climate silence, because that is one key part of building that social momentum towards real change. But the other group, the disengaged group, are vulnerable to misinformation from the dismissives. And so it’s also about inoculating the disengaged and then moving them into the concerned and alarmed group.

SOPHIA LI: How do you balance the alarmist doom and gloom scenario with the hopeful optimism in this space?

JOHN COOK: I think that those two messages, the – the problem and the solution need to be coupled together. If we only communicate these kind of hopeful, positive messages, then the climate action doesn’t have that urgency that the science requires. But if we only communicate the doom and gloom, then that can paralyze people.

JON LELAND: It’s really easy for people to go to sort of inaction and despair and anxiety. And there’s a lot of eco-anxiety. And so the question is, well, what’s that story you’re telling about why the future can be better? And not just that the future can be better, but that you can meaningfully participate in making that future better. That is one of the biggest questions I’ve been asking within the climate space, and it’s a really difficult question to answer. 

SOPHIA LI: What are the pathways of agency that you found that is the most impactful? 

JON LELAND: We do need to put pressure on corporations and politicians. The more that individuals list this as their number one priority in voting and make that clear in every form, who they donate to, what they say, how they talk about politics that is really important.

Finding ways to empower people to talk about this within their own networks and communities is really important. Things that don’t work as well is something like, honestly, you’ll get something like a climate strike where it’s one day of action – that doesn’t really seem to move the needle. 

We have a short attention span and the moments in our culture where we’ve seen the relationship of society at a broader level in climate shift in a meaningful way has been moments where climate has been at the forefront of like the social psyche for three weeks, four weeks at a time. Some sort of big report drops, there’s wildfires in California, a giant hurricane slams into Louisiana and all of a sudden, every night. Every news report, every front page of every newspaper is talking about different aspects of climate and how it’s all piling up. And that’s when you get people to shift from this sort of, like, avoidant place into an active place and a motivated place. 

SOPHIA LI: Both of you guys are not visual artists as your day job. Jon Leland, you work at Kickstarter and John Cook, you’re in academia, but you both really consider the aesthetic presentation when communicating about the climate. So how important is it to have the visual part as part of this communication? 

JOHN COOK: Before I was a scientist, I was a cartoonist. I’ve been experimenting, like running scientific experiments, testing the impact of using cartoons to engage people about climate change and using cartoons to inoculate people against misinformation. What I’ve found is there’s all these benefits – unique benefits that come out of using visual humor. People spend more time looking at it. It grabs their attention more. They’re more likely to share it. I mean, people have always been visual. That’s just how our brains are hard wired. 

JON LELAND: It’s also just way more fun. You know, working on climate doesn’t need to be a difficult slog. Working on these projects, it’s sort of finding where you see opportunity to engage the public. What would be fun to make? What skills do I bring to the table and finding ways to play with it almost, makes it a lot less heavy because it is a heavy topic otherwise. You need a balance.

SOPHIA LI: So I wanted to ask you two where do you get your news on climate change? Who do you trust to tell the truth about the climate? 

JOHN COOK: Because I follow a lot of scientists on social media. I tend to get it from the horse’s mouth. So scientists like Michael Mann and Katherine Hayhoe, is a great way to get all the latest news and research from an authoritative source.

JON LELAND: I prefer email newsletters. So Bill McKibben, the Heated newsletter by Emily Atkin. Bloomberg Green is a good publication around that from a more traditional news source. 

SOPHIA LI: If we’re having a conversation with not a climate denier, but more someone in the middle, what are some ways we can have them start mobilizing instead of just being in the eco anxiety or apathy phase?

JON LELAND: I think a lot of people are looking for, like, what’s the thing I am supposed to do for climate? And a lot of it’s just like find a thing to start doing that feels – that feels interesting or good for you. And that can be connecting with a local climate organization, whether that’s like 350.org, Sunrise Movement or River Keepers. 

There’s also, I think, an avenue of action and agency that’s a bit overlooked and very powerful, which is our role as employees within companies. Kickstarter did not have any sustainability or environmental practice or group, and I just anointed myself the head of sustainability and spun up our efforts there. And it’s like, great. I get to help make dramatic shifts now on a platform that has a huge impact on companies, billion dollar plus companies that spin up out of Kickstarter.We are carbon neutral. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint to about as low as we can manage it at this point as an organization. 

Those are things I just decided to start doing at work. And so if there is a group to plug into at your workplace, then start plugging into it. If there isn’t, consider trying to propose one.

SOPHIA LI: So my last question for you two, is what gives you hope? 

JOHN COOK: It’s easy to be discouraged when you look at the lack of climate action, often at the federal government level or at international negotiations. But what gives me hope is seeing just—there’s so much action happening at other levels. So whether it’s within businesses. Also, local government levels and just individuals. Like I’m a huge Greta Thunberg fan. I think that what she’s doing is really important for building awareness and momentum and that has sparked so many climate conversations. Seeing that kind of passion and momentum gives me hope.

JON LELAND: Everything with climate is an exponential curve. And that’s true in a lot of very bad ways. But I think that’s also true in terms of innovation and participation in this crisis. And that gives me hope. You know, there is so much interesting good work to be done that is going to require all of us to participate in it. Facing a challenge this interesting and complex together as like the totality of humanity coming together to save the planet? That, to me, is just actually very exciting and positive and sounds very fun to me as – as challenging as it’s going to be in practice. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you two so much for joining this week’s episode and for giving all of us hope in communicating about the climate.

JOHN COOK: Thanks very much, Sophia. 

JON LELAND: Thank you so much.

SOPHIA LI: That was John Cook and Jon Leland. 

For more information, check out John Cook’s website dedicated to climate science & rebutting climate misinformation: that’s SkepticalScience.com.

To join Jon Leland’s campaign, This Place Will be Water, and make climate change more visible in your community, go to this place will be water.org.

And be sure to check out the show notes, for recommendations from John Cook and Jon Leland about where they find their climate news.

SOPHIA LI: So every week on the show I close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners, into the conversation.

I often say processing the climate crisis is like processing grief. There are seven stages. The first one is denial. I was there, too. We deny that it’s happening because it’s just too overwhelming. It’s too sad. And at the end of the day, we want to reach a level of acceptance. 

So the call to action for this episode is to ask yourself, which stage are you in? Are you sad? Are you angry? Wherever you are, it’s OK. Processing the climate crisis is a lifelong process and a journey. 

SOPHIA LI: Next week on Climate Talks…

SARAH LAZAROVIC: Every little bit of emissions that we keep from going up into the atmosphere is lives saved in other parts of the world, is species that will not go extinct, is crops that will – will grow and feed people. So everything we do now really matters.

SOPHIA LI: We’re clearing the air—literally and figuratively! We’ll be talking about greenhouse gas emissions. What are they, what role do they play in climate change, and what can we do about them? Join us next time to find out. 

See you next week!

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta. Many thanks to our guests this week, John Cook and Jon Leland. 

You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, please rate the show and share it with family and friends. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation IRL with the people in your life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Emily Shaw, Kathleen Ottinger, and me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Meta. To find out more about Meta’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability.fb.com.

I’m always talking about the climate on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me at @sophfei. That’s my handle! Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of the conversation.


Show Notes

Skeptical Science is a website developed by John Cook devoted to climate science & rebutting climate misinformation. 

Join in Jon Leland’s campaign, This Place Will Be Water.

John Cook is using cartoons to educate people on climate change with his project, Cranky Uncle

John Cook follows scientists Michael Mann (@MichaelEMann) and Katharine Hayhoe (@KHayhoe) for more information on the climate. 

Jon Leland reads newsletters to stay up to date on climate news: Bill McKibben, HEATED from Emily Atkin, and articles from Bloomberg Green.

Jon Leland recommends getting involved in local chapters of organizations like 350, the Sunrise Movement, and River Keepers
The 2021 report, Climate Change in the American Mind, referenced by Sophia and John Cook, found that only 15% of Americans think that global warming is not happening (and only 9% are “very or extremely” sure it is not happening.) The survey was conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The report is available in full online.

 

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Podcast 27 Mins

Episode 03: Waste Not

Podcast 22 Mins

Episode 02: Water Stewards

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

What if everything you bought—from your phone to your clothes to your dining room table—was made to be infinitely repaired and remade? Circularity is the essence of nature: resources like water and energy are passed from one organism to the next. It is a process which generates no “waste,” because everything is (re)used. So what if our systems for making things mimicked nature’s systems? We’re joined by designer Korina Emmerich and writer Emily Stochl to discuss the climate impact of the fashion industry, the changes we must make to support a more sustainable future—and how we can while still having fun expressing ourselves through fashion. Together, we’ll explore how to make the ways that we shop and live, a little more circular.

Featuring

Korina Emmerich | EMME Studio | Founder, Designer

Emily Stochl | Remake | Advocacy Manger

Leslie Collins | Meta | Responsible Supply Chain 

Jonathan Rowe | Meta | Data Center Sustainability

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta.

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing every one and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. 

Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: In order to fully address the climate crisis, we need to radically rethink the ways that we live, work, make and consume. A new way of living is the model of the circular economy, which proposes that “circularity” will reduce the impact on our natural resources, conserve materials, and inspire innovation.

But what does “circularity” even mean? And how is it different from recycling or up-cycling?

Think about the life cycle of a tree. It starts out as a tiny seed. 

To grow, it draws water and nutrients from the earth, and energy from the sun. 

When a tree dies, it eventually falls to the forest floor, and as it starts to decompose, it gives energy and nutrients to fungi, moss, and all other kinds of organisms. 

In a way, when the tree dies, it also comes back as a new life—in a new form—as a mushroom, a beetle, you name it. 

This cycle is the essence of nature, the bedrock upon which all stable ecosystems are built on: resources constantly being regenerated. Unfortunately, our economy isn’t built that way—at least, not now. Just think about it: disposable cups, single-use plastics, fashion collections 16x a year leading to seasonal trends – which encourages us to get rid of our perfectly good things and replace them with new ones. 

Welcome to consumerism. Phones and appliances that stop working after just a couple of years. 

Much of that waste simply can’t go back into the market, because of the way it was designed, manufactured, or even marketed. 

But all that waste has to go somewhere… and no matter how responsible we are in disposing of it, there are always consequences for our earth and its ecosystems. And for us, too, as humans.

All of this waste can feel like the norm, but that’s not true. Waste wasn’t always the norm. Our current way of consuming requires us to reframe our way of thinking around the way we design, produce, and buy goods. Considering the entire life cycle of a product. 

This is what’s known as the circular economy: the push to move from a linear path, where resources are extracted and consumed to create products that are then discarded, to a circular path where the life cycle of those resources can be infinite.

So we asked you: What’s one thing you wish you could keep forever and didn’t have to always replace?

Person 1: One thing I wish I didn’t have to replace is clothes.

Person 2: Toothpaste.

Person 3: Toothbrush.

Person 4: Garbage bags. 

Person 5: Sketch pad, drawing pad.

Person 6: Mine would be LaCroix cans. It’s like our whole trash can is LaCroix.

Person 7: My shoes.

Person 8: My car.

Person 9: Maybe, deodorant?

Person 10: I wish my phone were easier to upgrade so I didn’t have to replace it every year.

SOPHIA LI: And what about a car? I once had to send an entire car to a landfill, just because one of the parts wasn’t replaceable. 

In contrast, my all time favorite piece in my apartment is my dining room table. The wood was reclaimed from the rooftop of a church in my neighborhood, and now it’s where I have dinner every night. Maybe in a next life… it can be a hardwood floor in my future home.

But to truly address the climate crisis, our individual actions aren’t enough—we need to pressure every institution, company, and government to adopt the principles of circularity, and work to form a more sustainable and regenerative economy. 

Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle: from carbon emissions to water restoration. In this episode, we’re talking about circularity. 

How does it relate to sustainability, and how can we make this the norm?

Joining us today are Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl, two people who are passionate about sustainability, and are working to make the way we shop and consume a little more circular.

SOPHIA LI: But first. Our partners at Meta are committed to embedding circular principles into how they design, build, and operate all along their supply chain. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work.

JONATHAN ROWE: My name is Jonathan Rowe, and I lead our data center design, engineering, and construction sustainability program.

LESLIE COLLINS: Hi, I am Leslie Collins, and I lead the responsible supply chain program. 

JONATHAN ROWE: So I think of the circular economy as one where we are moving away from a model of making stuff, using it, disposing it, to something where we are more mindful of keeping materials, resources out of landfills and continuing to be useful for people. How can we use less stuff in the first place? How can we use better stuff? And then what are ways that we can be thoughtful about design to keep that stuff out of landfill by designing for durability, disassembly, reuse so that things aren’t just ending up in holes in our land? 

LESLIE COLLINS: The most sustainable hardware is the one that we don’t need to buy new. There is many ways that we can think about using what we have even longer. And especially, I think, here in the US, with our resources being so plentiful that it can become easy to just buy new off the shelf things or replace a phone every few years. But making that mind shift even in very small ways is going to make a substantial difference. 

JONATHAN ROWE: The best piece of advice I have for anybody interested in how they can have more circularity in their lives is questioning that instinct that you need something new. I moved to San Francisco about 15 years ago and granted, I know in lots of places this may not be possible, but in San Francisco, I remember walking around as a very young and kind of poor architect in an expensive city, being surprised by how many things there were just like out on the street, people moving and just leaving a couch or a bookshelf or a lamp out on the street. And I was kind of notorious for snatching those goods up and furnishing my apartment with them. 

LESLIE COLLINS: When I started in this space in the late 90s sustainability wasn’t a sexy topic, especially inside companies. It was more of, I wouldn’t say, an afterthought, but more of an add on for companies that had a lot of money. And just to see the partnership now within government, companies, citizens like it’s pretty remarkable to see how front and center the topic is now. And I think it’s going to really enable us to make the changes that we need to make. 

JONATHAN ROWE: One of the things that gives me a lot of hope is the amount of sustainability jobs I see in my LinkedIn feed. When I started in sustainability in my career about 15 years ago, 16 years ago, I was a junior architect. I was latching on to the sustainability thing. I was teaching my coworkers about LEED and green building principles. And there were a lot of naysayers that were like, Jonathan, this is just a fad. What are you doing? Pick something else. And I’m glad I stuck with it, because here we are, the seriousness with which society is taking sustainability. They see the impacts of climate change. They are visible. They are right in front of us and seeing the way corporations are really investing in people that know how to help and want to help and inspire future generations to get it right.

SOPHIA LI: The work Leslie does to help keep Meta’s supply chain running has a focus on both people and environment. Jonathan’s work keeps Meta’s data centers operating efficiently. They are constantly looking for ways to make these centers more sustainable. 

When they construct a new center, they look to make positive impacts in the environment and in the communities where those centers are located. 

In their data center in Odense, they’re putting the principles of circularity into direct action.

JONATHAN ROWE: Data centers generate a lot of heat because they are full of computers that we have to power up with electricity to keep them running, to keep our platform and our services working. And in Odense, we were able to partner with a local municipality to capture that waste heat from the servers in our data halls and send it to a facility that takes that heat and distributes it to homes in an adjacent neighborhood.

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Leslie Collins and Jonathan Rowe from Meta.

So in Odense, all that heat—all that energy, which would normally be dispersed—is captured, and used to warm almost seven thousand homes in place of other energy alternatives. These kinds of energy recovery programs will play a crucial role in the circular economy, and are a great way to manage wasted energy. 

Wait, can we just really quick talk about the word waste for a second? In indigenous communities, waste is an asset. Think about food waste, it can become compost. Whereas in western culture, waste is stigmatized and seen as just trash. Waste can also be an asset, if only we could think more critically and creatively about it — let’s rethink how we talk about waste. 

This is particularly important to consider in the fashion industry.

Textiles, garments, footwear, accessories—seasonal trends encourage consumers to keep buying more, even when our closets are already full. And when things fall out of style, they often end up in landfills… where, if the clothing is made of synthetic fibers, it will sit for hundreds of years before decomposing. 

But it doesn’t need to be this way. Environmentally conscious brands are beginning to shift towards more circular systems, where clothes and accessories are designed from the start to be made again, and also, to be kept in use for longer. And more people are participating in the circular economy than ever before by investing in quality pieces that will last, specifically seeking out sustainable brands and upcycled goods, and buying vintage and pre-owned goods.

So today on the show, I’m excited to talk to Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl, for a deep dive into circular fashion. 

Korina Emmerich is a designer and activist. Her New York-based clothing brand, EMME Studio, is committing to circularity through its use of upcycled, recycled, and all natural materials. 

She also sits on the Board of Directors at the Slow Factory, a nonprofit that transforms harmful systems by designing models that are good for the Earth and good for the people, and works as a community organizer with the Indigenous Kinship Collective. 

Emily Stochl is the Advocacy Manager at Remake, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the industry through advocacy and educational campaigns. 

She is the host of Pre-Loved Podcast, a weekly interview show about all things vintage, thrift, and secondhand. She is an active volunteer with the Sunrise Movement.

SOPHIA LI: Hi, guys. 

KORINA EMMERICH: Hi. 

EMILY STOCHL: Hi, thanks for having me. 

SOPHIA LI: Can you please introduce yourself and tell me your climate story? Korina, let’s start with you.

KORINA EMMERICH: I’ll actually introduce myself in Twulshootseed. [Twulshootseed] So basically, I just said, hi everybody. My name is Korina Emmerich. I’m originally from the Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup Tribe and I currently reside in Lenapehoking, which is the occupied territories also known as New York. 

As an indigenous person, we are stewards to this land and it’s a responsibility that I hold to protect the land and reduce my own footprint here and prepare for the next generations. 

I think that when it comes to fashion, it’s a very extractive industry and a big part of what I do is to try and show people that you can have some semblance of success within this industry and also be extremely responsible in the textiles that you use and the way that you produce your items. 

When we’re young, we’re taught that there’s no disconnection between where our bodies end and the natural world begins. So it’s really something that’s a part of me, that the health of the planet is my own health, that what happens to the Earth is what happens to me. The basis of my climate story is I just have a lifelong responsibility to the land. 

SOPHIA LI: Wooh! Thank you so much. Emily, what about you?

EMILY STOCHL: Hi, everyone. My name is Emily Stochl. And I grew up in St. Louis, so grew up in a city, wasn’t a super outdoorsy kid myself. I actually, you know, connect a lot of what I learned about the climate and climate organizing back to my grandmother, who was a labor organizer. 

She worked at a plastics factory and was a single mom, raising six kids, and she worked there for 30 some odd years. She actually quote unquote “retired” to take care of me full time. 

When I started to get interested in the sustainable fashion movement, it was through the fun and creativity of vintage and secondhand. But then my eyes got opened up to the harms of the fashion industry, as happens with so many of us. And I started to understand, you know, millions of mostly young women around the world working to support their families were not being paid fairly, we’re not in just situations. And I just couldn’t disconnect that from my upbringing and my understanding of my grandmother as an organizer. And so that’s when I got started with fashion activism. That’s when I got started with Remake, a global fashion activism nonprofit. Because I’ve always been passionate about, you know, we can’t have sustainability without social sustainability, without justice for people, too. And so I really connected with that organization because of the tie to human rights, as well. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you both so much, Korina, Emily. So, tell me your definition of sustainability. Korina, we’ll start with you. 

KORINA EMMERICH: It’s existing between climate justice and human rights. So I think when I first started working in fashion, ethical production was probably my number one focus. And just paying people living wages. And I think that in this industry, the consumer has gotten so used to things being so dangerously inexpensive to the point where it’s at a human cost. Everything that I do in my clothing line EMME studio is made to order so I don’t overproduce and I don’t have garment waste. I try and find ways to reinvent all the scrap materials that I gain. 

Also working in upcycled and recycled materials, as well as working in all natural materials. The cornerstone of my brand is to use wool fibers. I think wool is one of the most magical fibers, is just really environmentally friendly. It’s a renewable fiber. It can be recycled, composted, it can be an additive to the soil. Yeah, it’s like my number one go-to when I’m working. 

SOPHIA LI: Emily, tell me your definition of sustainability.

EMILY STOCHL: You know, I used to kind of summarize it simply with, you know, sustainability or a sustainable fashion space is one that’s just for people and planet. But now I’m starting to think about, like, I want to live in a fashion future that is just, but that’s also regenerative and joyful and beautiful and kind of throwing in some of the magic that I think sustainability can bring to us as well. 

SOPHIA LI: And Emily, what does circularity mean to you?

EMILY STOCHL: Circularity, like as a concept, it’s not a linear model, it’s a circular model so that at the end of a resource’s use, that resource can then be used again. Obviously, there’s a lot of complexity to that in the, like, linear world that we live in today. But that’s the basic idea is that what exists can come around and be used again. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you. Korina, what do you think circularity means?

KORINA EMMERICH: I mean, circularity to me is making use of something, but at the end of life it goes back into basically nurture future generations. The lifecycle of any animal or fish that directly impacts the trees, the soil, everything else that grows around it. So it’s all about the entire ecosystem and sustaining our – sustaining our way of life. 

SOPHIA LI: Korina, I want to hear a little bit more about how indigenous communities have always embraced circularity. 

KORINA EMMERICH: We have a term that’s called all my relations, and it really is that every single thing in the world that you interact with is related to you. What you put inside of your body to what you put inside your head, what media you consume, every single thing, but-

Salmon, for example, so my people, I’m Puyallup. I come from the Pacific Northwest. Salmon is our number one food source. So salmon, their lifecycle directly impacts the cedar trees. It directly impacts every single thing that we interact with as a community that sustains us as people, because cedar and wool go into clothing and salmon is the food that sustains us. One thing that’s happening right now with the fall in the salmon populations is that the nutrients aren’t coming from the marine, from the ocean, and they aren’t coming back to the upper watersheds in order to create those marine rich nutrients that go into the trees. So because they’re being blocked by, you know, human industrial obstacles, then it’s directly impacting so much more. 

And I think a lot of times we can get into the mindset that we’re the ones in control and everything is for our use. And I think that’s a mindset that we really need to get away from. And I think we’re just becoming more and more disconnected to what’s happening to the Earth. 

SOPHIA LI: Oof, yeah. Emily, I wanted to talk about waste. Does waste exist, can waste be an asset? 

EMILY STOCHL: You know, much of what the fashion industry makes today is waste. We could think about everything that’s being produced as being a potential asset. But there’s so much that’s being produced that it’s never going to be able to all be used as an asset, realistically. 

You know, as a person who loves second hand, as a person who believes in the potential of circularity, I think that all possible waste could also be a possible asset. I’m not sure we can ever get to that world where it is circular, where it’s all being reused unless we pull back significantly from the very beginning production. 

Great researchers like the OR Foundation who are doing a lot of work in the global secondhand fashion industry. They propose that it will likely take a reduction of around 80 percent in order for the amount that is being produced to be something that is manageable within the secondhand supply chain, distributed, localized networks of resale, and things like that.

SOPHIA LI: Right, I once read a stat, actually, it was from the OR Foundation, that there are enough garments in the world to dress everyone until the end of time, the end of humanity. 

EMILY STOCHL: Everything we need exists already. One hundred percent. 

SOPHIA LI: Korina, talk to me about slow growth. 

KORINA EMMERICH: I’m extremely slow. I would say my items are not easily consumable. Things sell out pretty fast. I do very limited runs, so it’s kind of like get it while you can mentality within my business.

It’s very slow growing, and I just have kind of accepted that this is the timeline that I have chosen. And design and my clothing line is only a percentage of the work that I do. It does not define me as a person. It is my creative outlet and it’s something that I just truly love. 

SOPHIA LI: What’s the most sustainable thing you can wear? 

EMILY STOCHL: Ooh, the clothes that are already in your closet.

KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I mean, I wear things until they’re threadbare. It’s like, I say, I’m a unfashionable fashion designer!

SOPHIA LI: Mmm. And is buying fast fashion second hand is that quote unquote sustainable? 

EMILY STOCHL: I don’t have any problem with buying fast fashion second hand, as long as your intention is to keep it in use. You know, something that I really encourage folks who are maybe newer to second hand, haven’t tried it out before is try searching out brands that you’re already shopping with second hand instead, and maybe that helps you make the transition easier. But what you can’t bring over is those shopping patterns. You know, where the piece is purchased. But then next season, it’s not the piece that you love anymore. Right? I encourage people to try to leave that fast fashion mindset at the door. 

KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I – you know, I think that in these kinds of conversations, people can feel like we’re shaming people who buy fast fashion, and I want to be clear that that’s like never my intention because I know a lot of people don’t have the monetary ability to afford sustainable fashion because it does come at a higher price point, especially if it’s made ethically. And a lot of people aren’t geographically in a place where they have that, you know, access to second hand or anything. Like the corporations in the fast fashion and their turnovers that they have on a weekly basis is the – is the issue and it’s not necessarily the individual. 

SOPHIA LI: My last question for you two is how do you find hope in this movement? 

EMILY STOCHL: I find hope through people, they inspire me so much, their stories, their passion, that feeling that we’re all here for each other and we’re going to make sure that we’re all OK. 

KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I completely agree. I think community is the biggest hopeful thing for me is, you know, breaking down these walls that have been built up. I am also just like so insanely inspired by the younger generations. Every single day I’m impressed by the younger people and their drive to create a better future for themselves and to educate themselves. And, you know, knowledge is our greatest weapon. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you both so much for talking to us and talking to me. I learned so much myself and appreciate you both so much in this space. Thank you. 

KORINA EMMERICH: Thank you. 

EMILY STOCHL: Thank you. 

SOPHIA LI: That was Korina Emmerich  and Emily Stochl.

You can learn more about Korina’s brand, and order one of her beautiful made-to-order pieces yourself, at EMMEStudios.com. That’s e-m-m-e studios (dot) com. While there, be sure to follow links to learn more about the other organizations Korina works with, including the Slow Factory and the Indigenous Kinship Collective. 

To find out more about Emily’s advocacy work at Remake, check out remake.world 

The Pre-Loved Podcast, Emily’s show about thrifting and vintage finds, publishes weekly, and is available on all major podcast platforms. 

SOPHIA LI: So every week on the show, I close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners, into the conversation.

This week, I’m asking you to do a little exercise. Financial advisors say the best way to understand money is to be hyper aware of how we use it. Similarly, the best way to understand our waste is to be hyper aware of how much we’re throwing away, instead of allowing the act of discarding something to become a thoughtless action. 

So I encourage you to count the number of times you throw something away in ONE day. Every time you throw something in the waste bin, add a tally to your notes app. Once you start to pay attention, you may be surprised at how quickly the waste adds up….

But this isn’t meant to shame or guilt anyone… It’s just the first step in understanding our own behaviors and attitudes around waste, and the habits we have formed. That’s the only way we can begin to make a more conscious effort to resist these habits, create less waste, and move towards a more regenerative future. 

SOPHIA LI: Next time on Climate Talks…

JOHN COOK: We were having a family get together, and he was throwing out all these arguments on why climate change was a hoax and not real. And like any son in law who is motivated to win an argument, I started building a database of all the possible arguments that might come up at the next family get together and what the science said about each one of them.

SOPHIA LI: We’re digging into climate information. We have known the facts of climate change for over thirty years. So why is it so hard for people to agree on the reality of the climate crisis, never mind work towards a solution? Join us as we explore the best ways we can communicate—with believers and skeptics and everyone in between—about the urgent realities of the climate crisis. 

We’ll be taking a quick break next week in observance of Native American Heritage Day, but we’ll be diving into this topic on November 29th. See you then!

SOPHIA LI:You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta. Many thanks to our guests this week, Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl. 

You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, give us five stars! And share the show with your family and friends. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation with the people in your life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Kathleen Ottinger, Emily Shaw and by me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Meta. To find out more about Meta’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability.fb.com.

This conversation is always evolving and I’m always thinking about it. So let me know your thoughts… You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @sophfei. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of this conversation.


Show Notes

Korina Emmerich is the founder of slow fashion brand EMME Studio. She also sits on the board of The Slow Factory, and works as a community organizer with the Indigenous Kinship Collective

Emily Stochl is the Advocacy Manager at Remake, where she helps lead campaigns such as #NoNewCothes and #PayHer. With Remake, she helped raise awareness of and support for  California SB62, the Garment Worker Protection Act. (You can read more coverage concerning the signing of this legislation in Vogue.) She also produces the weekly interview show Pre-Loved Podcast, and organizes with the Sunrise Movement

The OR Foundation is a non-profit organization working at the intersection of environmental justice, education and fashion development. Their research focuses on bringing transparency to the global secondhand fashion industry, specifically in Ghana’s Kantamanto Market. From more for Liz Ricketts, the founder of the OR Foundation, you can check out her open letter to the fashion industry in Atmos: This Is Not Your Goldmine. This Is Our Mess.

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Podcast 22 Mins

Episode 02: Water Stewards

News Triple Pundit

3 Things to Know About Engaging Employees in Sustainability

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

Water is one of our most precious resources. If we’re going to make sure there is enough water for future generations to live, we need a revolution in the way we think about and use water. We’ll hear from Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, on the work he’s doing to restore and protect local watersheds, as well as the steps he takes in his own life to be a water steward. Plus, Sophia’s friend Jess comes on the show to talk about what it’s like living under drought conditions in Los Angeles.

Featuring

Todd Reeve | Bonneville Environmental Foundation | CEO

Stefanie Woodward | Meta | Water Stewardship

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Facebook.

The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing every one and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: Water is one of the earth’s most precious resources. For some of us who are lucky, water is so accessible in our lives that we don’t even think about it; we take it for granted. But because of the effects of the climate crisis, some of us have to think about every drop.

[PHONE RING SFX]

— Like my friend Jess, who is currently living under drought conditions in Los Angeles.

[PHONE RING SFX]

SOPHIA LI: Hi Jess!

JESS: Hey Soph.

SOPHIA LI: How’s it going in L.A.? 

JESS: It’s good, sunny and beautiful.

SOPHIA LI: Sunny and beautiful. But any rain yet? 

JESS: Actually, we had rain two nights ago. 

SOPHIA LI: Oh my gosh. It actually finally rained. Wait, so before that, how long was it since it hadn’t rained?

JESS: Honestly, I don’t remember the last time it rained. 2021 has been a really dry year, like notably dry. I moved to L.A. in 2017 and there was a lot of talk about like what you could and couldn’t do because of the drought.

You could only water your your lawn for a certain amount of time. People who had private pools couldn’t really fill it up that summer. 

SOPHIA LI: Cuz you used to live in New York and now when you live in L.A., is it part of your mindset now to be conscious of water in a way that you didn’t when you were on the East Coast? 

JESS: Definitely. Yeah. In L.A., it’s a big topic of conversation here. I take pretty quick showers. You know, I try to keep it within five minutes. My former roommate, she took 30 minute showers and I don’t know if I was judging her because I wanted to get into the bathroom or because I knew that like, well, what are you doing in there? How much water are you wasting, you know? That was kind of something that I definitely would think about. 

SOPHIA LI: That’s so interesting. Well, thanks so much for chatting, and I’m so glad it rained a few nights ago.

JESS: Thank you.

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Jess for calling in from LA.

But Jess isn’t the only person we spoke to. We also reached out to you, to hear about your relationship with water.

NATALIE: One way that I preserve water every day is I play music when I’m in the shower. So I don’t accidentally take too long of a shower because I know from the lengths of the song how long I’ve been in there. 

BARBARA: OK, so my spaghetti water, right, at the end of the night, I let it cool, in the morning, I put it on my plants. My houseplants. 

VIHANU: Recognize the fact that running dishes through the dishwasher is like more efficient than than doing dishes by hand in the sink.

NATALIE:  There is an online community called Hydro Homies, that is for people who love to drink water. And I think there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of ice water. And I love to look at the memes made by people of the Hydro Homes Subreddit about that topic.

VIHANU: I grew up in India and access to clean water wasn’t always possible when you’re traveling. So a lot of it involved planning around like knowing how much water you needed to bring with you if you’re going on trips and sort of being wary of water that you can get at restaurants or things like that. 

SOPHIA LI:Water isn’t just a resource, it’s foundational to us — we ourselves are made of over 70% water.

Every week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle. And in this episode, we’re talking about water. How can we conserve it? What can we do to support, and if necessary, restore, our local watersheds? 

We’ll talk to Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, whose work focuses on protecting ecosystems to preserve access to fresh water. We’ll unpack the meaning of the phrase ‘water stewardship,’ and how each of us can put that practice into action. 

But first, we’ll hear from Facebook’s Water Program Manager, Stefanie Woodward, to see how Facebook is prioritizing water stewardship as it works towards its commitment to becoming Water Positive by the year 2030. 

— Wait, hold up, what’s water positive? This means restoring more water than is consumed. Okay, let’s hear from Stefanie.

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: Hi, my name is Stephanie Woodward and I’m the water program manager at Facebook. I first became interested in water growing up in the desert in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Someone I know put this really well. He once said that if climate change is a shark, water is the teeth. If you think about it, a lot of the impacts of climate change are related to water, whether it’s drought or flooding or intense weather or agriculture. So many of the impacts come back to water. 

Something I often think about is how essential water is to the food we eat, the clothes we wear. Even, you know, energy. There’s really water embedded in all these different aspects of modern life. 

SOPHIA LI: As part of her role as the Water Program Manager, Stephanie is helping to lead the efforts on Facebook’s newest water goal, which focuses not only on reducing their operational water use, but also on restoring local environments. 

STEPHANIE WOODWARD: Right now at Facebook we’re focused on becoming water positive by 2030. This means that we’ll restore more water than we consume globally. We’re starting our work towards this goal with watersheds that are high water stress, where we have operations.

There’s one called the Mason Lane Irrigation Efficiency Project, where through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, we’ve partnered with the Nature Conservancy to help modernize a very leaky section of agricultural irrigation infrastructure to help keep water in Oak Creek instead of it being wasted. And that is a place that I often go with my family in Arizona and grew up going to. So being able to have an impact in a place that I know and love is really meaningful. 

My hope for the future of water stewardship is for it to be more a part of the conversation around climate change and for more companies, more institutions to be able to engage on water stewardship. Because I know that it can be kind of a high barrier to entry, but I think there’s room for everyone.

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Stefanie Woodward.

In 2020, projects supported by Facebook restored about 595 million gallons of water to regions experiencing high levels of water stress. 

Joining me this week is Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. 

Stephanie mentioned Bonneville earlier—they’re one of Facebook’s partners, working to restore local watersheds.

Todd and I will talk about what it means to practice water stewardship, as well as the importance of prioritizing access to clean water as a human right. 

SOPHIA LI: Hello, Todd. 

TODD REEVE: Greetings, Sophia. How are you today?

SOPHIA LI: I’m doing well. Greetings. Todd, first off, what is your own climate story, where did you grow up, how did you become involved with this great love affair with water? 

TODD REEVE: I grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, and spent my time in and around creeks and rivers and lakes across the state and across the region. So from my childhood through adulthood, I have been working in the field of rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and in particular in this region, salmon and steelhead fisheries drive a lot of the work. 

And so a lot of my work early on was around wading through rivers and streams, tracking salmon and steelhead in airplanes and on foot, snorkeling in rivers and streams, et cetera. And so I became intimately familiar with these water bodies in the Pacific Northwest and across the West.

SOPHIA LI: And do you remember your very first, most vivid moment with water as a child that made you fall in love with this passion. 

TODD REEVE: I do. Camping with my family as a very young child, I would create little dams across the streams and I found a rock that I called the scooda minor for some reason. And I recall thinking that this rock out of the river was incredibly special because it held water and it dispersed water. And we kept that scooda minor rock for a long time. So that’s my first memory, maybe as a two or three year old of sitting in the river and playing with the rocks and moving the water around. 

SOPHIA LI: I love that I still do that I still get so infatuated with rocks in oceans and riverbeds. They are incredible. So what does water stewardship mean to you? 

TODD REEVE: Water stewardship is a term that is likely very poorly defined and used in a lot of different ways. But it’s about building awareness of the challenges in the water space and being proactive and trying to take care of these watersheds, these places that capture and store and filter and deliver the water. Might be up in the forests, in the headwaters, might be in the cities where there’s stormwater runoff, might be on farms where there might be nutrients or other issues associated with water quality.

SOPHIA LI: And do you consider yourself a water steward?

TODD REEVE: That’s a great question and no one’s ever asked me, but the answer is yes. And from my home and having a rain barrel to working with partners and trying to help on a large scale. Absolutely. 

SOPHIA LI: And should we all be water stewards?

TODD REEVE: Yeah, that’s an incredible question, and I think it’s very much the crux of the matter. And the answer is yes in a very, very big way, that each year, each day we’re learning more about the challenges that our water systems face and the impacts. And we’re realizing that we’ve taken water for granted. 

And what we’re seeing as we look at, let’s say, the news stories across the country, it used to be thought, oh, sure, there are some water issues, let’s say in the desert southwest, it’s arid. And and maybe those people need to worry about water. But what we’re finding is across the country with toxic algal blooms in the southeast, with lead in the pipes in many communities, with large scale catastrophic forest fires, with depletion of groundwater, with low reservoir levels, drought. Everywhere, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand the water issues and to take steps. 

SOPHIA LI: Hmm. So you’re saying if we all took a minimal responsibility in being water stewards, perhaps we would have more access to water on a collective level?

TODD REEVE: I think that’s absolutely right. And what I think is incredibly inspiring about this water work is in some cases, it really isn’t that complicated. Right? Using water more efficiently, more effectively, capturing rainwater, buying products that are grown with less water or more responsibly with water, being aware of how your consumption habits relate to a water footprint. All of those things are relatively easy. But we’ve had the luxury, I think, in this country of not having to worry about that very much. And I think what we’re seeing now is increasing stress on these water systems. And so the importance of acting collectively and taking small, medium and large actions where we can to be a water steward and contribute to solutions.

SOPHIA LI: What is not being reported on in the media that we need to be talking about.

TODD REEVE: In large part, managers of water, water utilities, large scale, you know, development interests have wanted to believe that there’s enough water for everyone forever. That’s been a mantra right through development, irrigated agriculture, development of urban areas. And I think what we’re finding is that the cracks in that story are emerging. 

There just isn’t enough water to go around for every use as it currently stands. Drought, fire, those are affecting these water supplies. Those are changing how much water is available for humans. 

The previous hundred years, the amount of snowfall and rainfall that fell and the amount of runoff and water that we could rely on has fundamentally changed. It’s hotter. It’s drier, the soils are more arid. And so as a society, I don’t think we are acknowledging that there’s a paradigm shift. And with a paradigm shift, we need action, we need urgent action and we need collective action. 

SOPHIA LI: And when you’re talking about this new paradigm, how do individuals adapt to this new paradigm? How can we better support this paradigm?

TODD REEVE: I think the first step is acknowledgment of the change and that we’ve had the luxury of using water relatively inefficiently in a lot of ways. Right. You know, green lawns in very arid summer climates, a lot of urban areas that are water stressed. I think 50 percent of the water use in the summer is for outdoor landscaping. So just a super simple example of where perception of water availability versus the reality of water availability. If we think about where the majority of water is used, in most cases, people will say roughly 70 percent of our water use is for irrigated agriculture. That’s critical, right that grows food, that grows fiber, creates our products, our diets, those support rural communities. Critical that we provide that water and we sustain those irrigated agricultural communities, but at the same time there’s a lot of work that can be done to invest in infrastructure, to deliver water more reliably. 

SOPHIA LI: I think this like on demand culture and society, we’ve gotten used to, we’re going to have to reverse it and put our ecosystems first before our personal preferences for aesthetics over outdoor landscaping, et cetera. I want to dive into some terminology. Can you describe what a water footprint is? 

TODD REEVE: Talking about our water footprint is analyzing how much water a person, a company, a business utilizes in their operations or in their life. And when you think about a human water footprint, you could consider how much water goes into the cotton shirt that I bought yesterday, how much water goes into the hamburger that I ate yesterday, how much water did I use showering, et cetera. And so all of those numbers add up to a water footprint, which is the amount of water that’s utilized associated with my lifestyle, my habits.

A company also has a water footprint, right. When they think about their supply chain, how much water is used to grow the food that they then process and turn into a product, how much water is used directly in their operations? And you start to realize sometimes your water footprint comes from places that you didn’t previously expect. And in a human lifestyle, for example, it might be in – mostly in the products that you buy as opposed to how long your showers are, just as one example.

SOPHIA LI: What do you do personally, I’m curious, to reduce your water footprint or to be aware of it?

TODD REEVE: I took out all of the irrigated lawns on our property. I put in a rainwater barrel and I use that to water our plants. I take very, very short showers and put in low flow showerheads and fixtures on our bathrooms and faucets. 

But another one that people don’t think about is energy. Water used for thermal cooling plants, water used treating water, both wastewater and to purify water. And so there’s a lot of ways that one can reduce a water footprint by reducing energy. And so in our own home, using compact fluorescents, trying to be energy efficient, also is reducing our water footprint where I live.

SOPHIA LI: And Todd, why is it always the case that underserved communities have the least access to clean water?

TODD REEVE: Well, I hope it’s not always the case, as you say. 

SOPHIA LI: Or usually the case.

TODD REEVE: But it is often the case. 

SOPHIA LI: Often the case.

TODD REEVE: Yeah. It’s a really discouraging trend. I’ll use an analogy that you hear sometimes in the water space is: water flows toward money. 

Affluent communities, affluent cities, large companies, typically those are prioritized for investment in infrastructure and clean water and underserved communities are increasingly being left behind.

SOPHIA LI: It’s just one example of environmental racism that we see in our systems and structures. So what is the first step we can start taking in not taking water for granted?

TODD REEVE: A step that’s really important to me is spending a minute to go online and see where your water comes from. 

Everyone has, or many people have a water utility, right. And so if you if you type in your water utility and say, you know, where does the water come from for San Francisco or where does the water come from for Memphis, Tennessee or whatever it might be, in 60 seconds, you can learn a lot about how complex and intricate our water supply systems are. Does all your water come from the forested watersheds, you know, 100 miles away? Is your water pumped over the mountains from an entirely different region? And so very quickly, you’ll start to realize and understand how those water supplies may be at risk and where there are important policies or actions that you might take to be a part of the solution, you know, rather than sort of an uninformed water user on the downstream end.

SOPHIA LI: Right, and then once we have that awareness, every time you’re in the shower, brushing your teeth, you have this fascination and gratitude for, wow, this water traveled hundreds of miles or came from xyz source. That’s beautiful. Last question. What’s what’s giving you active hope today? 

TODD REEVE: Well, one thing is crisis is opportunity. Right. And so the last decade has shown us so much more information about where we are realizing water stress, where there are challenges. Water’s so fundamentally important to who we are and everything that we do that it polls as one of the very most important elements for our entire society. And so this is often seen as a nonpartisan issue. It’s about water for people. And so I think that’s why I actually have a tremendous amount of confidence that we’re on track to solve this.

SOPHIA LI: Yeah, it’s a water revolution. And I love that you said crisis is an opportunity because in Chinese, the Chinese character “crisis” has the word opportunity in the character. So, Todd, thank you so much.

TODD REEVE: Oh, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate the chance to discuss wonderful questions.

SOPHIA LI: That was Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. You can learn more about their work at b e f dot org.

SOPHIA LI: So every week, I like to close the show with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners, into the conversation. 

This week, after my talks with Todd and even Jess, it got me thinking about…

Where does our water even come from? As Todd says, when we know how far our water travels to reach our sink, our shower heads, our tap water we drink– we can have a deeper appreciation that water isn’t always a given. 

The simplest way to understand this is… to Google it.

I, of course, had to look up where my water in Brooklyn comes from and I discovered that it comes from 19 different reservoirs upstate in the Catskill Delaware watershed. So, where does your water come from? Did the answer surprise you? Let us know with the hashtag #fbclimatetalks and next time you take a sip of water, share some gratitude for where it came from. 

SOPHIA LI: Next week on the show, we’re getting circular—talking all about the circular economy. 

KORINA EMMERICH: When we’re young, we’re taught that there’s no disconnection between where our bodies end and the natural world begins. So it’s really something that’s a part of me, that the health of the planet is my own health, that what happens to the Earth is what happens to me. 

SOPHIA LI: Circularity is the essence of nature. Think about how when a tree dies, it goes back into the earth and comes back as new life, in a new form – as a mushroom or a moss. So when it comes to products, the circular economy is when our current systems mimic nature’s systems. 

We’ll hear from people who are working to transform the way we shop and consume, moving from a linear path that ends in waste, to a circular path that gives new life and purpose to each product that is made.

SOPHIA LI: You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Facebook. Many thanks to our guests this week, Todd Reeve and shout out to my friend Jessica Shoer for calling in. You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, please rate the show and share it with family and friends. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation IRL with the people in your life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Emily Shaw, Kathleen Ottinger and by me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Facebook. To find out more about Facebook’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability (dot) f-b (dot) com.

I’m always talking about the climate on Instagram and Twitter. You can find me at s-o-p-h-f-e-i, that’s my handle. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of the conversation.


Show Notes

For more information on the Bonneville Environment Foundation, visit their website. You can learn more about the Mason Lane Piping Irrigation Efficiency project through Business for Water, a Bonneville Environmental Foundation program.

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Podcast 20 Mins

Episode 01: What is Sustainability?

Podcast 2 Mins

Introducing Climate Talks

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

Sustainability. It’s a buzzword, it’s a big word. It can mean everything and nothing. But what does “sustainability” even mean today? And does it have the same meaning for everyone? In this episode, host Sophia Li sits down with climate change educator Ariel Maldonado and filmmaker and activist Anya Sastry to discuss what sustainability means to them, why this idea is so important, and why each of us needs to reframe our relationship with sustainability in order to work towards a more secure and just future for all.

Featuring

  • Ariel Maldonado | GoGreenSaveGreen | Environmental educator
  • Anya Sastry | Activist and filmmaker 
  • Edward Palmieiri | Meta | Global Head of Sustainability
  • Amanda Gardiner | Meta | Sustainability  Innovation & Engagement
  • Marlo Tablante | Meta | Sustainability Transparency & Positioning
  • Carolyn Campbell | Meta | Renewable Energy
  • Kati Kallins | Meta | Sustainability Engagement
  • Eoghan Griffin | Meta | EMEA Sustainability

Transcript

SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Facebook. The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing everyone and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to. Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, includes us. 

I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.

SOPHIA LI: Sustainability. It’s a buzzword, it’s a big word. It can mean everything and nothing. But what does sustainability even mean? And does it have the same meaning for everyone?

CHORUS OF VOICES – WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN TO YOU?

MAX S.: When I think of the word sustainability, I think of mostly the future and what we have ahead of us.  

EOGHAN GRIFFIN: It’s definitely not about being perfect, but it’s all about making – making a bit of a change and – and holding others accountable for that change as well.

SONO: We need to get to a point where we’re actually becoming stewards of the earth.

KATI KALLINS: Climate action and working in sustainability is an all hands on deck field.

SOPHIA LI: I grew up in two different countries and four states – Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and every summer my family and I would go back to China to visit my grandparents. So my perspective was shaped by multiple cultures and multiple climates. 

A huge part of my upbringing and my understanding of nature actually came from my grandparents and parents. My grandparents are Buddhists, and in Buddhism, you have a relationship with nature that is reciprocal. 

They taught me that before you cook a meal, you say thank you. They tended to their gardens, and expressed gratitude for the crops and the water and all the seasons. They didn’t talk about sustainability, they didn’t even have a word for it, but it was a lifestyle out of necessity.

Today, a lot of people think of sustainability as a persona. As someone who recycles or carries a reusable water bottle or bikes to work. And sure, all of those things are important. But to me, sustainability is first and foremost a relationship. It’s a symbiotic relationship between us and the natural world that we’re all a part of. 

The way we talk about sustainability, it’s just not working. The problem with envisioning sustainability as a person, is that the word gets loaded with shame and guilt: focusing on all the things I’m not doing enough of. All the things I could be doing better. So today, in this episode, we address the word head on.

We’ll hear from Ariel Maldonado and Anya Sastry, two people who have devoted their lives to coming up with new ways to communicate about the climate. And together, we’ll create a new conversation about sustainability that is empowering and hopeful. Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle: from carbon emissions to water restoration. 

We’ll learn about these sectors in the climate movement from multiple perspectives: activists, founders of NGOs, scientists, and you. We’ll dive into our relationship with our planet, and how we can repair it, think more critically about the ways we give and take – for a better future. 

SOPHIA LI: But first. Our partners at Facebook are committed to making their operations and impact more sustainable. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work, and this word.

CAROLYN CAMPBELL: Standing at the base of kind of one of the turbine towers. You have to totally crane your neck.

SOPHIA LI: For example, Facebook is one of the largest corporate buyers of renewable energy. When they open a new data center, they focus on also adding wind and solar energy to the grid to support the data center’s operations. Someone who has seen one of these wind energy farms in action is Carolyn Campbell. 

CAROLYN CAMPBELL:  We were able to go down to Texas to visit one of our wind farms. We saw some of the turbines being delivered, the turbine blades coming in on big, long trucks. So that all gives you a sense of the scale and the impact and and the significant infrastructure investment that’s happening to make these projects come to life.

SOPHIA LI: Carolyn Campbell’s work focuses on renewable energy projects. She’s one of the many people working on sustainability initiatives at Facebook. They’re a group of passionate people, working to minimize Facebook’s energy, emissions and water impacts while also protecting Facebook’s workers and the environments in their supply chain.

We spoke to some other members on the Sustainability team about what that word—sustainability—means to them. 

AMANDA GARDINER: The definition of sustainable development I always use is the ability of all of us to meet the needs that we have today, without compromising the needs of our children and future generations.

Hi, my name is Amanda Gardiner, and I lead sustainability, innovation and engagement at Facebook, and I’m calling in today from New Jersey.

The power of Facebook’s platform to inspire people to take more sustainable actions and to come together and convene in order to do that at scale is the most exciting part about my role and about being here. That’s where I see the potential for us to play a leadership role, and to do even more.

EDWARD PALMIERI: Hi, my name is Edward Palmieri and I’m the director of Global Sustainability at Facebook. When I think of sustainability, I think about getting where you need to go, doing what you need to do, but doing it in a really smart way, in a way that doesn’t sacrifice tomorrow to meet the needs of today.

MARLO TABLANTE: My parents were from the Philippines, and so I would grow up visiting Manila as a child and I was always amazed by the amount of cars, people, animals, heat. And something always sort of like resonated with me about living in harmony with our environment and with each other.

My name’s Marlo Tablante, I’m calling in from Brooklyn, New York, and I focus on our sustainability positioning and transparency work. I think we’re at a turning point at Facebook. This, what we’re doing right now. This podcast is an example of us wanting to engage more in dialogue beyond just saying, oh, this is what we’ve achieved, this is our impact. 

SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Carolyn Campbell, Amanda Gardiner, Edward Palmieri, and Marlo Tablante from Facebook.

Sustainability isn’t just an idea or an academic concept, it is real work. And it all starts with how we use this word, and how we bring more people into the conversation. Joining me this week are Ariel Maldonado and Anya Sastry, two people who have devoted their lives to thinking about how to communicate about the climate. 

Ariel is an environmental educator. She runs the Instagram account go green save green, where she shares information and resources around activism and the environment with a sense of humor.

Anya Sastry is an activist and filmmaker, and former National Outreach Director for the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. 

SOPHIA LI: Anya, Ariel, I’m so excited to talk to you both. I’m so inspired by both of your work. First off, let’s start with Ariel. Tell us who you are and where you’re from. 

ARIEL MALDONADO: My name is Ariel. I’m from Los Angeles. I’m an artist as well as an environmentalist. I started running my Instagram account, which focuses on sharing news articles, information and just like overall environmental and climate science, as well as solutions, memes and a lot of humor to get through the darkness.

SOPHIA LI: I love it. Anya. Tell us who you are and where you’re from. 

ANYA SASTRY: I’m from Barrington, Illinois, currently in New Orleans for college, and I became a part of the climate movement back in 2018, 2019 on a local and national level with the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Organization. 

SOPHIA LI: Amazing. Let’s start with Ariel. What’s your climate story?

ARIEL MALDONADO: I just started researching like all the time, and eventually I got to a point where a couple of my friends were like, well, what if you do like an Instagram? And so I started my Instagram @gogreensavegreen. 

It has definitely evolved a lot. When I first started, I was thinking like, go green, like go environmentalism and saving green, so like saving money.

And then over time, I started adding memes and I started switching from “What can I do?” to looking at like the overall systems that were in play, looking at the science that was in play, looking at the things that people aren’t talking about. 

People talk a lot about fast fashion, plastic, animal agriculture, veganism – like those are like the superstars and eventually my page – I realized that I wanted to talk about the things that aren’t as popular to talk about.

SOPHIA LI: So what are those things that aren’t as popular to talk about today?

ARIEL MALDONADO: I will say it is changing a little bit, but like who wants to talk about banking, you know, who wants to talk about how like tree scams can actually turn into monocultures and like how, you know, seaweed farmers could actually be like a really huge help. You know, those are not as, I guess, sexy to talk about. 

SOPHIA LI: So Anya, I want to go to you. What is your climate story? 

ANYA SASTRY: The point at which I really became aware of the climate crisis was back in 2018, when I first read the 2018 IPCC report. At that moment, I realized the extent to which the climate crisis is affecting our planet currently. I think before that point, it was more of like an individual, like, reduce, reuse, recycle kind of vibe for me. 

But with that report, I realized that we have these fossil fuel industries that are wreaking havoc on our planet. We have these corporations that are not acting ethically and environmentally responsible. 

And I realized that this is part of a bigger picture that we all need to contribute to and we all need to fight against. And I got into contact with a few other high schoolers through Instagram who were also really passionate about the environment and really interested in getting involved on a larger scale. And so we were thinking, why don’t we start planning these climate strikes? Why don’t we do climate strikes across the nation, youth coming out from their schools and making a stand and doing a demonstration and getting people’s, especially adults, attention to this issue because we realized that not enough adults and older, older generations and businesses were paying attention to this climate crisis issue. 

And March 15th was our first nationwide climate strike, and it made national news and national television. And it was a really successful event and experience and that just kind of catapulted the entire organization forward. 

SOPHIA LI: Anya, you entered this space in 2018 or –

ANYA SASTRY: End of 2018, beginning of 2019. 

SOPHIA LI: How old were you then? 

ANYA SASTRY: I was sixteen. 

SOPHIA LI: And what did sustainability mean to you as that 16 year old in 2018?

ANYA SASTRY: Before I got involved, sustainability just meant like recycling plastics and that kind of thing, like very small individual scale actions. But I think once I made that push into the climate movement and once I became more educated and involved with the movement, sustainability meant something that needed to be applied in many aspects of my life. 

So whether it’s with fashion or with transportation or finances. Sustainability became a thing that had to be a part of every action that I took. 

SOPHIA LI: And what does sustainability mean to you today in 2021?

ANYA SASTRY: I am a firm believer in the idea that so much of this climate crisis is a result of larger structures in society, larger racial structures and environmental structures. And I think that we, as a society, we as a country and other countries around the world need to have this radical shift in the way that we address race and environment and gender. 

SOPHIA LI: I don’t know about you two, but my parents are immigrants and they – sustainability was such a foundation, a part of their lifestyle. It was survival. It was just, it was a basic necessity. They would use every single part of a vegetable, every single part of a chicken. They would have this very symbiotic relationship with nature. How did your two upbringing impact your definition of sustainability? 

ANYA SASTRY: My parents are also immigrants, and I think like you said, Sophia, like my parents also, you know, used everything to the fullest. They didn’t waste anything. And they kind of instilled that practice in me. And I think America has this certain consumer culture, where people place importance on how much stuff you have. And I think that my parents did not share that value at all coming from India to America.

And in my own daily life, my own practices, I kind of tend towards the more minimalistic lifestyle just because that’s how they lived in India. 

ARIEL MALDONADO: When I think of my grandparents and what they’ve imparted and what I would connect to now, it’s definitely that Green Thumb. Now I’m trying to figure out actually how to do more native plants outside, to actually have a garden that works for the environment that I’m in, instead of working against it. 

SOPHIA LI: What is both of your personal stake in climate justice?

ANYA SASTRY: One project that I’ve worked on over the past couple of years is this documentary that I made back –

SOPHIA LI: Frontliners.

ANYA SASTRY: Yes, Frontliners. 

SOPHIA LI: Amazing. 

ANYA SASTRY: Thank you. So this documentary focuses on environmental injustice in two separate communities. The first part of the film focuses on the Ojibwe indigenous community in northern Minnesota. And the second part of the film discusses and shows the experience of a Latinx community in inner city Chicago.

After, you know, going to these communities, interviewing them, I just really understood how much of an impact the climate crisis and racial injustice and environmental injustice is having on these marginalized and lower socio economic groups across the nation and across the world. And I see my role in the movement as amplifying them and sharing their stories through my creative ways and my creative passions.

SOPHIA LI: What about you, Ariel? 

ARIEL MALDONADO: Having grown up with such financial instability and being in Los Angeles, you can really, really see people like, communities, entire communities living on the street in downtown. It really put things in perspective. I think there’s a lot of fear when I – when I personally think of like the disparities between like the socioeconomic conditions of people and natural disasters and like how it pans out for them once it’s all kind of said and done.

SOPHIA LI: Yeah, I wanted to ask you because you bring in such a sense of humor into this space. And I think that not a lot of people think that sustainability or the climate space is fun or funny, and you make it fun and funny. And why is it important to bring a sense of humor into this space? 

ARIEL MALDONADO: I actually use memes really strategically. When you put out a little bit of humor, you can disarm people a lot and kind of get them to, like, understand that maybe we’re not taking a jab at them. Maybe I’m not saying like, your efforts aren’t enough. I’m trying to show like larger structures in play and like memes are a good way to do that. 

SOPHIA LI: So OK, my final question for the two of you is what does the future of sustainability look like, not what you think it’s going to be, but what it should be, if that makes sense? 

ANYA SASTRY: Ultimately, the climate movement is not just for scientists, it’s not just for people who love to grow plants or who are really into, you know, like the science class from high school. Like it’s for everyone and it’s for everyone to get involved in. And so when I picture sustainability in the future, I think of everyone getting involved in ways that highlight their strengths and their passions in order to create a society that’s working for everyone. 

SOPHIA LI: I love it. So the future of sustainability to you is where everyone has a role in the movement. Ariel, what about you, the future of sustainability to you? 

ARIEL MALDONADO: The future of sustainability to me also looks like all hands on deck. I think one of the things that I’ve been most recently struggling with is how do I respond to people that say that change is challenging to them? Because I think change is challenging to all of us. 

Figure out like, what are your interests and how can you make them more sustainable? And how can you just, you know, tick a little bit forward towards sustainability? I think it’s going to be a lot of people ticking. A choir relies on the strength of the many so that if anybody needs to take a break, take a breather and like not sing at any given point, the overall choir is going to still continue to succeed. And I think that’s a really great way to sum up the environmental movement.

SOPHIA LI: I love it. So we need to all keep singing. And you know what it’s going to get uncomfortable before it gets comfortable in this climate movement. So thank you both so much, Ariel and Anya. It was such a pleasure talking to you both.

ANYA SASTRY: Thank you so much for having me.

ARIEL MALDONADO: Yeah, thank you for having me, too. This was a lot of fun.

SOPHIA LI: That was Ariel Maldonado and Anya Sastry. You can follow Ariel’s work on Instagram at @gogreensavegreen. 

Anya Sastry’s documentary, Frontliners, is available on her website, at A-N-Y-A  S-A-S-T-R-Y dot com.

SOPHIA LI: So, every week on the show, I’m going to close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners, into the conversation. 

This week, after my talk with Ariel and Anya, it got me thinking about how we reclaim this word sustainability. Reclaiming it from some kind of idealized ‘persona.’ Making it an intimate commitment between yourself and the world around us. 

There’s no perfect way to live a quote un quote sustainable life. So I challenge you to think about what your personal definition of sustainability is — and how you’re committing to it. 

Let us know! We’re launching the conversation at hashtag f-b-climate-talks. I’d love to hear from you how you use this word, and do this work. 

SOPHIA LI: Next week on Climate Talks:

TODD REEVE: Sometimes your water footprint comes from places that you didn’t previously expect. It might be in – mostly in the products that you buy as opposed to how long your showers are.

SOPHIA LI: We’re talking about one of the Earth’s most precious resources: water. For some of us who are lucky, water is so accessible in our everyday lives that we take it for granted. 

But wasteful practices in business and everyday consumption are putting our water at risk. We’ll look at ways we can all reduce water consumption, talk about how we can restore local watersheds and preserve clean water for generations to come. 

See you next week!

SOPHIA LI: You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Facebook. Many thanks to our guests this week, Ariel Maldonado and Anya Sastry. 

You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, give us five stars! And share the show with your family and friends. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation with the people in your life. 

This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Kathleen Ottinger, Emily Shaw, and me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair. 

Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Facebook. To find out more about Facebook’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability (dot) f-b (dot) com.

This conversation is always evolving and I’m always thinking about it. So let me know your thoughts… You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at s-o-p-h-f-e-i. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of this conversation.


Show Notes

You can follow Ariel Maldonado for climate news, tips, and more, at @gogreensavegreen

Anya Sastry’s documentary, Frontliners, is available on her website

The 2018 IPCC (​​The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report, which inspired Anya Sastry on her path of environmental activism, can be viewed here. It detailed the impacts of 1.5℃ global warming above pre-industrial levels, and outlined paths to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Podcast 2 Mins

Introducing Climate Talks

Water Triple Pundit

What Facebook’s Water-Positive Goal Means for Water-Stressed Communities

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

Climate Talks, a new podcast brought to you by Facebook, is a 6-episode series that features Facebook team members, partners, scientists, climate activists and influencers. Climate Talks is hosted by journalist Sophia Li, and each episode takes on sustainability topics from diverse perspectives to explore what the climate crisis asks of each of us. It also investigates the actions we can take to work towards a more sustainable future.

Climate Talks launches November 1st. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. New episodes come out every Monday.

Episodes

Transcript

Sophia Li: We asked, what does sustainability mean to you? 

Stefanie Woodward: Such a big question.

Max Santiago: When I think of the word sustainability, I think of mostly the future. 

Marlo Tablante: To me, sustainability is an active word. 

Edward Palmieri: Acting in a way that accomplishes the needs of today…. 

Amanda Gardiner: …without compromising the needs of future generations. 

Sophia Li: To me, sustainability is first and foremost, a relationship. It’s a relationship between us and the natural world that we’re all part of. 

But the way we’re talking about sustainability today, it just isn’t working. So how do we turn apathy into action? We have to change the narrative around sustainability so that we can collectively move through this climate transition with hope.

I’m Sophia Li, and welcome to Climate Talks, a new podcast from Facebook. On this show, talking about the climate is a conversation that everyone is invited to. 

Jade Pryor: Think about the air that we breathe, the lives that you would preserve when you live a sustainable life. 

Sophia Li: Each week, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle. We’ll hear from Facebook about their initiatives, from youth climate activists about what’s happening on the ground, and leading voices from across the climate movement. And we’ll also hear from you. 

Rob La Grone: You cannot destroy this planet. This is a gift to you. You share it with others. You need to take care of it. 

Max Santiago: It’s kind of our job to give back and do the best we can to keep the things that we’re given on a daily basis. 

Sono Kuwayama: We need to get to a point where we’re actually becoming stewards of the earth. We are a part of it, we’re not outside of it. 

Sophia Li: I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human, and I want you to join me. 

News

Get the latest news about our sustainability work, download reports and case studies and explore our energy dashboards.

Podcast 20 Mins

Episode 01: What is Sustainability?

Water Triple Pundit

What Facebook’s Water-Positive Goal Means for Water-Stressed Communities

2021 Sustainability Report

We envision a just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, and are working to scale inclusive solutions that help create a healthier planet for all.

To help personalize content, tailor and measure ads, and provide a safer experience, we use cookies. By clicking or navigating the site, you agree to allow our collection of information on and off Facebook through cookies. Learn more, including about available controls: Cookies Policy