Tom's of Maine Incubator: Meet Sanjana Paul, Environmental Hacker

By Angela Tague

May 22, 2023

Respecting the environment and maintaining planetary health for all people is at the core of the Tom's of Maine mission. That's why Tom's is partnering with five Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) environmental justice advocates—including environmental hacker and renewable energy engineer Sanjana Paul—who are working hard to find solutions to key climate change challenges. The Tom's of Maine Incubator provides each member with funding and mentorship to amplify their voices and support their work.

Meet Environmental Hacker Sanjana Paul

One of the five 2022 Tom's of Maine Incubators is Sanjana Paul, co-founder and executive director of Earth Hacks. She has worked with NASA, the Kapteyn-Murnane Lab in JILA at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Conservation X Labs. To get a better idea of the work she's doing now, we asked Sanjana a little about herself and her goals.

Sanjana stands on a stage next to a microphone.

To kick us off, Sanjana, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you're from.

I'm the co-founder and executive director of Earth Hacks, an environmental hackathon organization. We focus on harnessing hackathons as a form of climate action and centering environmental justice in the tech space. We've hosted participants from every inhabited continent in the world at our events to work on a range of challenges, from creating tools for wildlife conservation to combating deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

I grew up all over the place, but mostly in Delaware. I currently live in Massachusetts. I'm an electrical engineer by training, and I've worked on environmental sensing issues like air quality and urban heat at my day job. I'm increasingly focused on renewable energy and policy.

What advice do you have for young people looking to learn about environmental issues and take climate action?

"I suggest starting with two things: learn about the root causes of climate change (the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, largely from oil and gas use, deforestation, and agricultural practices) and look for opportunities in your community to make a difference. How can you make your hometown more resilient in the face of climate challenges, address systemic contributions to climate change at their source, and improve quality of life for your neighbors, friends, and family?

You can pursue so many activities to create a more resilient, sustainable world that it can be difficult to decide where to start. For example, you could take a look at food waste disposal and transit issues in your town, investigate whether your school teaches climate change science, or help your neighbors sign up for community solar. The list goes on!"

May marks Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month. What does this moment in time mean to you?

AAPI month is a celebration of the vast, incredible cultures across Asia and the Pacific, as well as the challenges and successes of our community in the United States. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to center multiple perspectives and bring a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and ideas to the table—especially when it comes to climate action.

How do you balance your responsibilities and make time for self-care and mental health in the context of climate work?

"Answering that question is an ongoing process—it turns out it changes as you grow. To help manage responsibilities and tasks, I'm a huge fan of a good to-do list to keep track of what's going on and allow me to prioritize (a great playlist and snack supply help, too!).

I think the thing that's helped my mental health most is understanding that it's completely natural to feel anxious or stressed sometimes, especially in light of global challenges like climate change. Remembering that we're a social species and that it's important to exist in a strong community is super helpful since this can be challenging in a fast-paced, work-driven culture.

I try to make sure to spend time with friends and in nature, read cool science fiction books (I recommend anything by Octavia Butler), get enough sleep, and eat well when I can. I have a huge Pinterest board full of quick recipes that's super handy!"

Looking ahead, is there anything on your calendar that you're excited to share?

"Earth Hacks is working on a ton of cool stuff. This summer, we'll be running our Environmental Justice in Technology (EJIT) effort and hosting some EJIT fellows, who will contribute research, creative skills, and much more to help us create tools to center environmental justice in the tech space.

We're also looking forward to hosting even more hackathons this year than last year, with student hackathons from across the globe and some new service-learning events that focus on environmental justice and deforestation."

Tackling Climate Change Together

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

Join Tom's of Maine in standing with Sanjana and visit the Earth Hacks events page to browse a list of upcoming programs and learn more about how you can get involved. Don't forget to follow the organization on Instagram, too!

Image Source: Sanjana Paul

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

Young adults like Sanjana Paul are sparking important conversations about environmental awareness. The Tom's of Maine Incubator is working hard to amplify her work so we can all better understand climate change, crisis, and solutions.

Why It’s Good

The Tom's of Maine Incubator is helping to amplify the work of environmental justice advocates like Alexia Leclercq to support real solutions to real problems.