What Is Climate Hacking?

By Ashley Ess in Thinking Sustainably

Finding solutions to the climate crisis requires more than a one-stop shop approach. Constructive action is taking place in many different forms across the globe to curb the climate's worst offender—greenhouse gas emissions—and to protect and support healthy ecosystems. But there's still work to do to further reduce environmental harm. Enter environmental hacking, also known as climate hacking or eco-hacktivism, which leverages technology to innovate solutions to the climate crisis.

Environmental activist walking down street with sign that says

Understanding Climate Hacking

The term "hacking" traditionally implies someone breaking into computer systems to access data. Environmental hacking, however, refers to leveraging technology and engineering to innovate and promote sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing climate challenges. Simply put, it melds socially responsible hacking with environmental activism.

Eco-hacktivism comprises a cadre of diverse, motivated, and environmentally minded individuals, including entrepreneurs, scientists, and students. These people develop techniques to raise awareness, advance eco-friendly practices across industries, and hold companies accountable for their impacts on the environment. Together, eco-hacktivists develop ideas and design methods and tools to minimize and prevent environmental harm.

Examples of Eco-Hacktivism

Some examples of environmental hacking solutions include:

  • Creating environmental sustainability media campaigns for public education systems
  • Utilizing data analysis to reduce homes' and buildings' energy consumption
  • Developing websites and apps to encourage organizations to reduce or offset their ecological and carbon footprints
  • Innovating equipment to harness ocean energy
  • Designing tools to combat deforestation

How the Tech Space Is Centering Environmental Justice

Environmental hackathons are also gaining popularity in the sustainability sphere. As collaborative invention competitions, hackathons bring together college students and working professionals from different backgrounds to brainstorm technological solutions to environmental issues over a short, concentrated period of time. Hackathons may present a range of challenges, such as planning a sustainable city, creating an eco-friendly transportation system, or developing poor air quality solutions.

Environmental hacking also centers on social justice. The conviction that people of all backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities deserve protection from environmental health hazards—and the understanding that underserved communities are often the most vulnerable to climate change effects—is at the core of many eco-hackivists' initiatives.

A cloudy sky.

Doing Good in the World

Tom's of Maine Incubator and environmental hacker Sanjana Paul is among the leaders of the climate hacking movement, focusing much of her work on environmental justice. Co-founder and executive director of the organization Earth Hacks, she and her team respond to the climate crisis by hosting hackathons that gather people from all over the world to create innovative, equitable, and just solutions.

Other examples of climate solution initiatives include Stanford University's Hacking for Climate and Sustainability team and Hacking Ecology's approach to universal and equitable access to water monitoring systems.

To learn more about the incredible work people like you are doing to tackle the planet's greatest challenges, check out Tom's of Maine Incubator and environmental justice advocate Alexia Leclercq.

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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

Environmental hacking is a powerful tool to identify and implement solutions to climate change.