Female Founders in Climate Series
An interview with Kristen Kammerer, Founder and CEO of Gen E
For our final feature this year, we interviewed Kristen Kammerer of Gen E. Read on to learn how Kristen is helping consumers fight climate change with their spare change.
By GreenPortfolio Team
March 30, 2023
It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed in the face of a big problem like climate change. But there’s always some way to take action. We were excited to speak with Kristen Kammerer of Gen E for this feature about how spare change from your everyday purchases can have an impact.
Gen E is a modern environmental brand that makes it easy to support a healthy planet while living your best life. Their micro-philanthropy app automatically rounds up your purchases and gives the change to vetted nonprofits fighting climate change.
Kristen brings extensive experience in marketing and fighting climate change to Gen E. She has an interesting story to tell about how Gen E got started when she was looking to take back control over the environmental impact of her consumption.
Can you tell us the story of how your company started? Where did the idea come from? And what specifically inspired you to get into fintech?
Five years ago, I quit my job and decided to focus the rest of my life on fighting climate change. During my journey of figuring out what that meant for me, I was trying to realign my lifestyle to fit my values of environmentalism. But I saw how difficult that was and how dedicated I had to be to develop new habits that were friendlier towards the planet. I also found it so frustrating that many of my daily choices were impossible to decarbonize or ‘deplasticize.’ The negative environmental impact of so many of my choices were completely out of my control. Since I wasn’t going to go live off the grid, and I’m not the type of person to just stand by and do nothing, I knew I had to create a new way to push my environmental values forward now in a way that was relevant to my lifestyle as a busy, adventurous city dweller.
It was in thinking about this moral dilemma around how my spending and consumption caused environmental harm and wishing that it didn’t, that I was inspired to build Gen E. I wanted to solve for people who care about the planet and the impact humanity has on it, yet they likely don’t have the time or attention to dig into the overwhelming amount of information and recommendations out there. And let’s face it, we all know that making lifestyle changes or sticking to a new habit doesn’t exactly have a high success rate. The solution had to be easy and instantly fit into a modern lifestyle.
So the idea of linking a positive action to all our consumption formed for me. Since everything we buy and consume takes from the planet, let’s automatically send something back, almost like a ‘thank you for your service, Earth.’ And the way Gen E micro-philanthropy works is that you link your credit card to the app, and then every time you make a purchase, you automatically round up your change or give a percent of your purchase to a fund of environmental nonprofits that you select. It’s a way to be proactive and make the choice to support the environment in your daily life, but with minimal effort. And I decided we’d give to the best environmental nonprofits doing the groundwork to protect all life on Earth because they exist to be dedicated to the cause, yet they are severely underfunded and overlooked. In fact, only 3% of philanthropy goes to environmental causes, and even less supports climate change specifically.
So Gen E is helping to close this funding gap, with a new way to move money from people to planet. The reality is that money moves the world, and innovation in fintech has opened up a world of possibilities, including using fintech for good. Gen E is inherently fintech because we’re a modern tech company tying micro-philanthropy to credit card transactions. Or as I like to call it, we are “phintech”.
What do you want potential customers to know about your company?
That we built Gen E for you. We’re here to support anyone who is feeling uncomfortable about the current and future state of our home planet. It’s important to us that our product is simple and beautifully designed so that people will enjoy using it. We built our micro-philanthropy app with that in mind - it’s one simple thing you can do that will contribute to a positive impact. You can set it and forget it if that works best for your life. Gen E does the work for you - we research, vet, and curate high performing nonprofits tackling the spectrum of environmental causes so you can choose to support what matters most to you. We track and manage all your activity and provide you with annual tax statements so you can get your tax deduction for your donations.
And we stand for Modern Environmentalism, which means living your best life while also prioritizing a clean and healthy environment. To support this lifestyle, we have an awesome newsletter curating top climate news and pop culture, written by our resident climate comedian, because we’ve gotta have some fun. And you’ll find resources and articles on our website that discuss various topics of a modern lifestyle through a relatable environmental lens.
Lastly, Gen E is organized as a Public Benefit Corporation, which means our purpose of raising awareness and funding for the environment is legally bound. And we even hold a seat on our board for Mother Nature, since all our decisions ladder up to her.
How is your company leading the fight against climate change?
We are democratizing both philanthropy and environmentalism, which invites more people into the fight against climate change. And as we all know, we need all hands on deck. Anyone with a smartphone and some disposable income can engage in Gen E micro-philanthropy. It takes a couple minutes to set up and then boom, your new normal is to support top environmental nonprofits fighting climate change, biodiversity loss, and the plastics crisis. Put simply, if a lot of people make this choice to give a little something back to the planet on the regular, imagine the funding we’ll provide to the most critical issues facing humanity! Again, all the climate solutions and environmental conservation initiatives and upgrades to literally everything as we know it takes funding. And we are not about to let the areas seen as ‘unprofitable’ fall through the cracks.
When it comes to environmentalism, we believe everyone can be and is an environmentalist. Do you like clean water and clean air? Do you enjoy nature? Guess what, you’re an environmentalist. Welcome! It’s fundamentally human to want ideal conditions to not only survive, but thrive on this extraordinary planet we call home. As we mentioned, Gen E stands for a modernized version of environmentalism, which makes it accessible to everyone, not just specific groups of people historically labeled as environmentalists. We all have our individual and preferred ways of showing love for nature, for our planet, for whatever it is about life on Earth that turns you on. And being a modern environmentalist is simply about embracing and owning these things you love by prioritizing their protection, while also continuing to be yourself and live your best life.
We believe that through accessible philanthropy and environmentalism, this is how we change humanity’s relationship with the natural environment, influence and change societal systems for the better, and ultimately win the fight against climate change.
We love the idea that everyone is an environmentalist by default, no entry fee required! Hearing the story of Gen E is empowering – if you’re a consumer, you can take positive action for the climate.
We had a chance to hear a bit more about Kristen’s personal journey with climate entrepreneurship.
What has been your proudest moment in founding your company so far?
It’s always a proud moment when you see the tangible manifestation of your vision out in the world ready to serve others and fulfill your mission. When I’m out meeting people and someone shows me the app on their phone, that definitely feels amazing. And then the ultimate is actually a monthly occurrence of sending grants to the nonprofits on our platform. I don’t think it will ever get old to send new revenue to organizations protecting our planet!
What was something unexpected that happened throughout this journey?
I’ll preface this by saying that it’s table stakes to expect the unexpected as an entrepreneur. And this is my second business, so I’m very comfortable with the entrepreneurial life. That said, during this journey, I ended up going through one of the most difficult stretches of my life personally. And as all entrepreneurs know, you are your business, so what’s personal is inextricably linked to your business. You really can’t compartmentalize. I had to really prioritize myself and my wellness, and I sought out people and resources that supported me through some hardcore inner work. I’ve definitely leveled up in terms of my personal wellness routine and I have a sacred morning block as part of my daily routine that has been hugely impactful in how I show up every day.
Layered on top of all this is the fact that I work in climate, aka the most existential threat to humanity. And while I’m optimistic and focused on solutions and driven by my love for Earth, it can certainly be an anxiety-inducing topic at times (hello eco-anxiety). That makes it even more important to prioritize self care and mental health. The good news is that there are so many tools to choose from to support personal growth and wellness, and I’m always happy to share what works for me!
Shout-out to an org or group that really supported you along the way?
My design and development agency, Outside, has been with me since the beginning and they are the best partners I could ask for. They’ve believed in me and the vision for Gen E from the start, and continue to support that vision through our collaboration, their top quality work, and the friendships we’ve developed along the way, which is important to me. I always look for partners who are the best at what they do, have the utmost integrity, and who are also awesome people. Outside checks all those boxes, plus they are founded on a social mission, so we are value-aligned.
Climate Lightning Round
And now for the Climate Lighting Round, where we rapid-fire climate-related questions at you!
Our first question is: what is your favorite climate tech or topic?
Conservation - 50x50!
Wind, solar, hydrothermal - which are you most excited about?
All of it!
What is your favorite book or written resource about climate that you wish everyone knew about?
Notable women you admire, whether present day or in history, who have played a role in climate/environmental action?
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Kristen!
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