Five Rising BIPOC Climate Leaders Selected for Tom’s of Maine Incubator Program
Each recipient was awarded $20,000 to support their work in finding solutions to help reverse climate change.
Tom’s of Maine has selected five winning members of its 2022 Incubator.
They are Aliyah Collins; Wawa Gatheru; Alexia Leclercq; Bodhi Patil; and Sanjana Paul.
Each recipient has been awarded $20,000 in funding to help support their work, in addition to access to expert mentors and opportunities to collaborate with and receive support from Tom’s of Maine in amplifying their work in sustainability.
“The Tom’s of Maine Incubator was created to elevate the next generation of BIPOC climate leaders who are rarely reflected or engaged in finding climate change solutions. Each of our winners have already accomplished so much, and we are honored to work with them toward even more impact,” said Cristiane Martini, general manager, Tom’s of Maine. “With the additional funding and mentorship our Incubator provides, Tom’s of Maine looks forward to helping our Incubator members drive environmental solutions and empower others to make a positive impact.”
“The Incubator showcases the brand’s priorities of doing good for people and the planet,” said Michelle Theodat Waring, steward for Sustainability and Everyday Good, Tom’s of Maine. Doing good isn’t new—it’s been a part of who we are since 1970. And it’s been just as important for the brand to continuously evolve and do better. So, to advance the brand’s sustainability commitment, we also revisited our goals this year and refined them to guide further efforts. The result is the Tom’s of Maine 2022 Goodness Report.”
The 2022 Goodness Report surfaces how Tom’s commitment to the planet, people, and health intersects with their mission to create a healthy future for all people. Climate change will ultimately impact everyone, but communities of color and those with less economic advantages are likely to bear the biggest burden, according to the company. Tom’s wants to address the intersection of diversity and equity with climate change and the environment, and the Incubator is a component of that work.
See related article: Morningstar Sustainalytics Appoints Yayoi Asazuma as New Singapore Director
The Next Generation of BIPOC Leaders Driving Environmental Solutions
The Tom’s of Maine Incubator is a seven-month 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. Throughout the winter and spring, the members will participate in multiple virtual workshops and trainings, plus one-on-one meetings with their mentors to continue collaboration and amplification efforts, all designed to propel their work.
Incubator members are also invited to the Tom’s of Maine Incubator In-Person Summit in Kennebunk, Maine this spring. The three-day event will provide one-on-one interactions with mentors and Tom’s leadership as well as an opportunity to workshop each member’s vision and action plan for creating impact.
The 2022 Tom’s of Maine Incubator Members
Aliyah Collins is a scholar, activist, organizer from Jackson, Tennessee. She is a graduate of Fisk University and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in divinity from Harvard University (Harvard Divinity School). Collins specializes in understanding trauma recovery and prevention as models of spiritual care. She engages African traditional spirituality as a way to use spiritual care as a tool to address the impact of structural racism against Black communities. Her passion for climate justice was sparked in 2020 after a deadly tornado disproportionally affected Black residents and students living in the North Nashville area. She has worked in communities in Nashville, Chicago, and Boston around connecting environmental justice to spiritual care. She will graduate from Harvard in May 2023 where she will continue her work on trauma-informed and community-based solutions for spiritual healing.
Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru is a Kenyan-American storyteller whose work exists at the intersections of climate, culture and policy. She is the founder of the organization Black Girl Environmentalist, an intergenerational community for Black girls, women and non-binary environmentalists. She is also the Narrative Fellow at the All We Can Save Project, a climate justice nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the success of the climate movement by providing focused support and community building for women climate leaders. Gatheru has earned an MSc. in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She is the first-ever activist board chair at the Environmental Media Association, is the youngest council member at EarthJustice and sits on the national board for Climate Power. She has been recognized as a Young Futurist by The Root, a Grist 50 FIXER, a Glamour College Woman of the Year, a VS PINK Purpose Project Winner, and has spoken on her work across the country.
Alexia Leclercq is a longtime grassroots environmental justice organizer from Austin, TX. She has led dozens of environmental justice campaigns from passing national climate and chemical reform legislation and fighting against Enbridge with the Karankawa tribe, to addressing aggregate mining pollutions, fighting for water rights, relocating toxic tank farms, and organizing mutual aid reaching over 14,000 people, and more. As the co-founder of the Colorado River Conservancy, she developed a community-based strategic sustainable development plan for the Colorado river corridor in Eastern Travis County and trained 50-plus community members to test water quality; that data was used to coordinate with the City of Austin’s watershed department to address pollution from the waste treatment plant and to pass local regulations to protect creeks on the East side. In 2019, Leclercq co-founded Start: Empowerment a social-environmental justice education non-profit and her curriculum has reached over 120,000 students across the United States. Her work has been recognized by the NYC Department of Education, NYU Global Awards Center, and was awarded the prestigious Brower Youth Award and Jericho Activism Prize. She has also been invited to speak at various events such as the Bioneers conference, CUNY Climate Education Conference, and Princeton University. Alexia graduated summa cum laude from New York University where she published research on the commodification of land, and the impact of climate health during covid-19 and also researches air pollution and respiratory diseases at Harvard.
Bodhi Patil is a 20 year-old ocean climate solutionist passionate about the interconnection between Ocean Health and Human Health (OHHH). As the founder of Inner Light and co-creator of @oceanuprise, Patil believes in the power that young people have to create impact at scale. He is a second-year student in the BA and Masters of Management program at the University of British Columbia studying oceans, climate action, and business. He co-founded Sea Dragon Studios (SDS), a creative arts and digital media platform supporting youth-led, ocean-climate action and launched One World Breath. With a team of 4 fellow young impact makers, he co-won the UN Oceans Conference Youth & Innovation Forum with project INVASEA – Innovating with Invasive Species. Along with the 130 other incredible delegates of the forum, he is specially recognized by the United Nations and UN Global Compact as an esteemed ocean activist and intergenerational collaboration leader. He is a Youth Advisor for OnDeck Fisheries AI, Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Coral Morphologic, UN Global Compact Ocean Stewardship Coalition, Coextinction, Roots and Shoots, Peace Boat, World Ocean Day, Break Free from Plastic Pollution, and other love-based climate action organizations that are co-building sustainable systems which advance climate mitigation and adaptation solutions. He recently attended COY 17 and COP 27 with YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC. Recognized as an Intergenerational bright spot and impactful young leader, he spoke at multiple UNFCCC high level events and shared impactful ocean-climate calls-to-action at private climate investment forums, helping to raise funds for youth-led climate action/justice projects. As an avid surfer, diver, kelp-lover, marine science nerd, ocean-climate solutionist, and hopeful realist, he loves mother nature deeply and is aspiring to become a blue carbon expert. Join him and help further integrate meaningful youth-led solutions and intergenerational change into the UN Decade of Action 2030 agenda. He is deeply grateful to learn new things, co-create environmental pathways for other young people, and finds joy in spending time protecting and enjoying nature, especially the underwater world.
Sanjana Paul is the executive director and co-founder of The Earth Hacks Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics, and is currently a researcher at MIT’s Senseable City Lab. Previously, she worked as an atmospheric science software developer at NASA, an NSF REU participant in extreme ultraviolet engineering in the Kapteyn-Murnane Lab in JILA at the University of Colorado Boulder, and as a Conservation Innovation Fellow at Conservation X Labs.
The mentors working with these Tom’s of Maine Incubator members include the following:
Ciara Imani May – CEO and founder of Rebundle, a beauty company that is revolutionizing hair extensions with more comfort and less waste;
Kristy Drutman – Climate activist and co-founder of Green Jobs Board, a job site made for those looking for sustainability and environmental careers;
Lizzie Horvitz – CEO and founder of Finch, a company that incentivizes consumers to make better purchasing decisions by rating products based on their environmental footprint;
Isaias Hernandez – Environmental educator and creator of QueerBrownVegan where he creates introductory forms of environmentalism through colorful graphics, illustrations, and videos;
Michelle Theodat Waring – Steward for Sustainability and Everyday Good at Tom’s of Maine where she helps ensure the brand stays true to sustainability commitments, from ingredient sourcing to community engagement. Theodat Waring formerly led Communications Partnerships for the Natural Resources Defense Council.