“The Impact Team was founded in a few zoom calls in mid-April 2020, the height of the pandemic in NYC and of youth unemployment.” Maya Whalen-Kipp, Director of the Impact Team, was finishing her Masters degree from Bard College when she joined Common Energy.
“I thought it was too good to be true” Natalie Lana had just finished her senior year at Loyola University of Maryland as a Global Studies major with a specialization in sustainability and environmental studies. “I was passionate about promoting environmental conservation and finding solutions to climate change, but I had no real career path set out for me.”
That is when Lucy DiSanto, head of special projects at Common Energy, brought in six students to begin designing something new.
“When I heard about the opportunity to work with Common Energy building a team of youth climate advocates who enable a tangible transition of their local utility grids to renewable energy, I thought someone was pranking me!” Natalie said.
“I knew pretty immediately that we had this really unique opportunity to be part of the nation wide energy transition,” says Maya.
Karianne Canfield, an undergraduate at Bard College, was shocked upon learning about Community Solar from the CEO Richard Keiser. “At first I thought ‘Ah yes, one more opportunity to help my community fight climate change’ but then I realized,
this is possibly the most innovative and equitable tangible action I have come across.”
Together, the team of six students designed a training program, a presentation, and a general organization system for the program launch in June 2020.
Karianne remarks “they paid me for my ideas and opinions on developing the program. It was a clear sign that the company’s priorities were
to build an opportunity for young people to be paid for their work fighting climate change and greening the grid.”
In the last year these three individuals have excelled along with the program.
“As the Director, I started mostly as an educator and organizer.” Maya has graciously led the team through thick and thin, “I had no idea the scale we would grow to. When we launched, everything was about proof of concept and developing the very basics of a training program...Within the last year we have educated hundreds of young folks on energy policy and the renewable energy future we all wish to build.
I am forever grateful for the first few cohorts that we welcomed when we were figuring it out.“
Natalie, Karianne, and a few current Mentors of the team made up that first cohort.
Natalie started as a Clean Energy Advocate and holds the record, having
signed up 60 homes to community solar. Now she is a full time manager on the team and works on building community partnerships. She was also the one who suggested the team make a charitable donation to One Tree Planted for every sign up.
Karianne also began as a CEA. However, they found their place on the team as a social media intern, and now they are a full time manager alongside Natalie. “As a communications leader I make posters, build our Instagram page, and try to find a community culture the team could cling to.”
The energy of this online community across the country is vibrant: “Every single day on the Impact Team is a new opportunity to learn and grow in my personal and professional life. I’ve been able to meet some really incredible individuals and collaborate with amazing groups such as PowerShift Network, WRISE, and others.” Natalie says.
Karianne agrees. “It is so much fun getting to chat with people every day about divestment and community action. I am honored to have met and helped so many young people on their journey into the renewable energy industry!”
And now, some of the uncertainty that came with the start of the program has dissolved. “I also have been signed up with Common Energy at my apartment for the last 6 months and I can happily say, it is truly THAT good.” Karianne likes to mention that they charge their electric vehicle with sun-power wherever they go.
The excitement across the team continues to grow. “We have officially proven the concept of this program; to engage young folks into the energy startup world. My next steps are to refine our processes and create more partnerships with other like minded organizations.” Maya looks towards future opportunities alongside her team leaders.
And while the company may focus on renewable energy, these leaders are honed in on the people they work with. Natalie shares “ I’m looking forward to seeing all of our Clean Energy Advocates thrive in this space and become local leaders of sustainability. I have already witnessed the amazing growth that people on this team can achieve, and I am so excited to help more people kick start their sustainability careers with us! “
“To echo Natalie’s point, now is the time to invest in people! I hope to be spending my time in building up others on the team enabling everyone to have all the tools they need to thrive as innovative leaders in the Clean Energy space. “ Maya adds.
Karianne, who despite sharing the love for the community the Impact Team has made, is fervently focused on other tasks as well. “ My personal dream would be to connect so many individuals to solar farms (and other renewable energy sources) that the fossil fuel industry goes bankrupt. Consider this a warning to fossil fuel execs: we WILL enable our communities to divest.”
That is the Impact Team in a nutshell: a community of young people helping our neighbors divest from fossil fuels and enable new renewables. Together we are building the skills and networks we need to not just imagine a carbon neutral future, but to push it into existence. It’s like joining one big environmental club, only you get paid for it.