Tom's of Maine Incubator: Meet Climate Advocate Danielle Lee

By Laurie Fanelli in Thinking Sustainably

Tom's of Maine believes in doing good. This includes committing to use naturally derived ingredients, setting and working toward sustainable business goals to minimize its environmental impact, and donating a percentage of profits to local charity organizations. Doing good also means supporting future climate leaders through the Incubator Program—now in its second year—which provides funding, mentorship, and support to five environmental champions from underrepresented communities.

Meet Danielle Lee, Climate Advocate

Content creator and climate advocate Danielle Lee works as a product manager at the electric vehicle (EV) charging start-up Terawatt. As the creator behind batterygirlie on TikTok, the Stanford alum uses her platform to help Gen Zers connect with careers that highlight climate solutions at work. Some of Danielle's focus areas include the impacts of artificial intelligence, the uses of renewable energy, and turning a passion for the environment into a fulfilling profession.

We were lucky enough to get a chance to ask her about restoring the climate, connecting with peers, and making the climate space more inclusive for diverse voices across the globe.

Tell us about your background. What started your interest in environmentalism?

My family is from South Korea, but I grew up all over Asia. From a young age, I was exposed to environmental disasters caused by industrialization and extreme weather events. I've been passionate about environmental conservation ever since, but I didn't know how I could meaningfully fight the climate crisis until I started college. At Stanford, I learned about exciting technological innovations that would address the climate crisis, and from there, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in climate tech! As I noticed a growing interest in climate jobs among my peers, I wanted to share learnings and advice from my and my friends' careers in climate.

What do you hope to gain from the Incubator Program?

I applied to the Tom's of Maine Incubator to join a community of young, bold climate advocates who are creating meaningful change toward climate restoration. I'm so excited about this opportunity to learn from my mentor and peers in the program about how to bring my mission—to scale Gen Z's impact on climate restoration through their work—to life.

What is the current project you’re working on usingg the support of the Tom’s
of Maine Incubator Program?

Currently I’m most focused on learning how best to empower Gen Zers to scale their impact on climate restoration through their work. As Gen Z enters the workforce (we’ll make up a quarter of the US workforce by 2025), we need to be seizing this opportunity to support and implement initiatives that will reduce corporate carbon emissions. Corporations, particularly large, public organizations, have an exponentially larger carbon footprint than an individual person or group, which makes it so critical for young people to influence and mitigate the carbon emissions of the organizations they’re a part of.

There are many ways to tackle this problem, but a few I am pursuing right now include working on other content mediums and hosting community events. One exciting event that I’m planning is an early career climate panel during SF Climate Week, which I hope will 1) educate students and recent grads about climate technologies and early career roles at climate organizations and 2) kickstart a community of Gen Zers who want to fight climate change through their jobs. I’m also looking for people to partner with on these endeavors; to anyone reading this who’s interested in getting involved, please reach out!

How do you think we can make the mainstream environmental movement more inclusive and representative of diverse voices?

Every organization needs to prioritize diversity.

The mainstream environmental movement needs to be more diverse and representative of the communities that have been most affected by climate change. I believe we can make this happen by creating spaces where diverse people are empowered to share their perspectives on climate issues and solutions for their communities. Opportunities like the Tom's of Maine Incubator are so important, and I'm hopeful that more organizations will follow in its footsteps.

In what ways do you see climate change disproportionately impacting underrepresented communities?

While 12 percent of the global population has emitted 50 percent of all historical man-made carbon emissions, developing countries and underrepresented communities are unfairly bearing the brunt of climate change's effects. A really horrible example of this is how the US has shipped billions of pounds of plastic waste to other nations in the past decade, including countries I grew up in, like Vietnam and the Philippines. This waste ends up in our oceans, causing contaminated water, lower crop yields, and health risks in surrounding communities that lack the resources to protect themselves.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is coming up in May. How do you hope to inspire others in this community to join the fight against climate change? Why is climate change work important for this community?

I hope to encourage other Asians to join our efforts in climate restoration by highlighting the work of amazing climate advocates and leaders in our community. Asians make up 60 percent of the global population, so many Asian countries are going to be disproportionately affected by climate change. It's critical to engage the diverse and multicultural AAPI community in climate work so that we can help create solutions that will effectively address the climate issues we face.

Who comes to mind when you think of someone in the AAPI community who inspires you?

I've been so inspired by young climate activists, like Kevin J Patel, Kristy Drutman, and Aditi Mayer, who have shared powerful messages that have inspired climate awareness and action from their communities. I often feel self-doubt and imposter syndrome whenever I think about the mismatch between the impact our generation needs to make on our climate and not yet being in traditional positions of power. Seeing young climate activists boldly share their thoughts on how our leaders have failed to responsibly steward the Earth, as well as demand for more, fills me with great hope.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get involved in climate organizing but doesn't know where to start?

There's no better way to start getting involved in climate organizing than to show up at events that are already happening in your community. There's something powerful and healing about being around like-minded people who are acting on their passion for environmental conservation.

Supporting a Greener Future

The Tom's of Maine Incubator is designed to propel the next generation of leaders innovating environmental solutions. The program provides funding, mentorship, amplification, and support to young changemakers, helping them Do Good. For Real.

Keep up with climate advocate Danielle Lee by following her on Instagram and TikTok or join her community of passionate Gen Zers supporting climate solutions at work. We can make a difference together!

Image Source: Danielle Lee

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

The Tom's of Maine Incubator program aims to empower and support climate advocates like Danielle Lee as they explore innovative ideas and initiatives that promote a better future.