Tom's of Maine Incubator: Meet Wawa Gatheru, Climate Advocate and Storyteller

By Erica Loop

May 16, 2023

Doing good for people and the planet shouldn't have a barrier to entry. That's why Tom's of Maine created the Incubator program. This initiative helps support the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) climate advocates and climate justice leaders.

In 2022, Tom's of Maine is providing five outstanding changemakers with mentorship and funding to amplify their messages and help them make a lasting impact.

Meet Climate Advocate Wawa Gatheru

Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru is a Kenyan American climate changemaker, scholar, and storyteller. She's the first and only Black person to receive the Rhodes, Truman, and Udall Scholarships and the founder of the nonprofit Black Girl Environmentalist. We had the opportunity to talk with Wawa about her background, current projects, and where she sees herself in the future.

Wawa, tell us a little about your background. What led to your interest in climate activism, and what are you doing now?

As the daughter of Kenyan immigrants, I was raised with a deep connection to the land. My mother and grandmother taught me about the ethic of reciprocity and care for the planet in my earliest years. When I was 15 years old, I decided to dedicate my life to environmental justice. I quickly realized that Black girls and women were being sidelined in the climate change movement. Instead of viewing this as an obstacle, I saw it as a problem to solve.

You're the founder of Black Girl Environmentalist. What's this initiative all about?

Seeing the lack of pathways for BIPOC individuals to enter and succeed in climate advocacy and activism roles inspired me to do something. Black Girl Environmentalist is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the current and next generations of climate advocates. We empower Black girls, Black women, and nonbinary people in all stages of their environmental careers. This breaks down barriers to the climate space and makes the environmental movement accessible to everyone.

You've said that developing a social media strategy is top of mind moving forward for you and the organization. What do you have in mind?

As a climate advocate and storyteller, I view social media as key to getting my message across. I have several great campaigns on the horizon, including Instagram takeovers with key celebrities and organizations. We've also been able to develop a new project coordinator social media position within Black Girl Environmentalist.

What are you most excited about accomplishing through the Tom's of Maine Incubator?

Too many Black girls, Black women, and nonbinary individuals are leaving the environmental movement. I want every little Black girl or Black woman who wants to protect their home planet to have the space they need within this movement and to feel cared for and affirmed. I believe that the Tom's of Maine Incubator can help me reach these people and encourage them to enter or remain in this field. As for me, I'm here to stay.

Looking ahead, can you share any special projects you have coming up?

Other than continuing to expand Black Girl Environmentalist's efforts, I'm a fellow for the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and The OpEd Project. I will be publishing several op-eds to further thought leadership on climate justice. My goal is to land a contributing writer opportunity at a lifestyle magazine in the next couple of months.

Making the Changes the World Needs

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. Learn more about the Tom's of Maine Incubator program and the other 2022 leaders.

Team up with Tom's of Maine and stand with Wawa by seeing how you can get involved with Black Girl Environmentalist. To follow Wawa on her journey, visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. You can also check her out on the January 2023 digital cover of Vogue alongside Billie Eilish.

Image Source: Wawa Gatheru

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 is helping the next generation of climate advocates make lasting changes that will affect our planet.