Female Founders in Climate Series
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE LI, FOUNDER OF CLEVER CARBON
For our final feature of the month, we’re hearing about Michelle’s experience as the Founder of Clever Carbon. Read more to learn how Michelle is improving climate literacy education in a hip and fun way!
By Briana Tang
March 29, 2022
The importance of climate literacy is becoming extremely evident in our society. Businesses are moving towards more sustainable operations and sourcing while consumers are gravitating towards products and services that are good for the planet.
Clever Carbon helps companies improve their carbon footprint literacy in a hip and fun way. Previously focused on consumers, Michelle realized later on that spreading carbon footprint literacy is more effective through corporations.
With sustainability as the newest pillar of employee wellness, Clever Carbon enhances sustainability within the workplace, helping corporations communicate their green objectives and stories to both customers and employees.
Michelle is the Founder of Clever Carbon, and has a lot of experience under her belt. We recently had the chance to interview her about what it was like building Clever Carbon, especially as a female founder.
Hi Michelle, it’s so great to hear from you! We’re so excited to learn more about Clever Carbon. Can we start by asking where the idea for Clever Carbon came from?
I had always felt like there was a gap in the climate content market. It’s hard to find brands that are hip, relatable, and didn’t assume people were already on the side of climate change. At Clever Carbon, we teach people about “clever” things to do instead of sustainable or climate action, so people don’t have to feel polarized or on one side or the other. We also wanted to create a hip and fun brand so it’s more attractive to larger audiences. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the story here.
I really admire how you’re providing the foundation to empower people to make their own climate decisions. Could you expand more on how Clever Carbon is leading the fight against climate change?
Sure! Clever Carbon does this in two ways. Firstly, we raise carbon footprint literacy with our two min (hip and fun!) quiz that’s free and insightful. Secondly, we help companies embrace sustainability at the workplace in a fun and engaging way.
We have a free sustainability workplace program called Clever Actions that we’re really excited about. We’re planning lots of fun activities for Earth Day. We want to take the lift out of coming up with ideas and make it as easy as possible for companies to embrace sustainability at the workplace!
The quiz definitely sounds really interesting! As the Founder of Clever Carbon, what would you consider to be your proudest moment since starting the company?
I’d say it’s definitely being able to mentor the volunteers that come through Clever Carbon. There have been over 20 so far, many who are young in their careers or don’t have climate experience yet. I feel like I’ve been able to inspire more people to work in climate and help them get a boost in landing a climate job because of the time they spent at Clever Carbon.
It’s amazing to hear about your impact on aspiring professionals. I’m so glad to see this positive feedback loop where climate founders of today are inspiring the founders of tomorrow. Obviously, starting Clever Carbon must’ve had its ups and downs. What was something unexpected that happened throughout this journey?
As I continue my journey, I learn more and more each day. I realized that we not only have to reduce carbon emissions, we also need to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order for temperatures to stabilize.
In the 1900’s, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 296 ppm (parts per million). It’s currently around 419 ppm, and some experts say we need to get down to 350 ppm in order to have a chance to stabilize global temperatures. I was never a fan of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), but now I know that it will play a crucial role.
I’m so happy to hear that you’re constantly learning. I think the best part about doing something you love is that it’s never a chore to challenge yourself to do more, learn more. Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently in your entrepreneurial journey?
I started Clever Carbon while I was still employed and never really had the courage to quit my day-job to focus on Clever Carbon full time (though I did dream about it). It wasn’t until I decided it was time to move on from my company that I had time to work on Clever Carbon, but I wish that I had had the courage to pursue my passion earlier.
Climate Lightning Round
Moving on to the Climate Lighting Round, where we rapid-fire climate-related questions at you!
What’s your favorite climate tech or topic?
Carbon labels, ocean carbon dioxide removal, and carbon accounting!
Wind, solar, or hydrothermal - which are you most excited about?
A book to add to my reading list for sure! Last question: is there any greenwashing that you’ve seen recently that you want to set the record straight on?
It bothers me a lot when companies use the word “sustainable.” Unless a company or brand is sharing their numbers and data (carbon footprint, water footprint, waste footprint, etc.), the word sustainable is subjective at best!
Thank you, Michelle, for pointing that out! That will be all for today, thank you so much for your time.
Looks like Michelle is doing big things over at Clever Carbon. It’s obvious now that consumers and companies need to examine their definitions of “sustainable” in greater detail, especially when it comes to their carbon footprints. Thank you Michelle for your time!
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