Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Kristen Kammerer, CEO and founder of Generation Environment (Gen E) is passionate about providing easy ways for individuals to take action on the planet. Gen E is a micro philanthropy app that empowers users to pledge Climate Action with Every Transaction. In this fireside chat, Kristen talks how Gen E is using its platform to scale positive environmental impact and create a community of changemakers.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Transitioning into the climate and environmental space, Kristen highlights how no action is too small to create change.
How did you start thinking about micro philanthropy?
After quitting my corporate job, I was exploring all different areas with my heightened awareness of environmentalism. I was noticing how difficult it was to move around this world. I live in New York City but no matter where you live, you’re confined by the constructs of society and the infrastructure around you.
You are making choices that aren’t totally aligned with all of your values—like taking an Uber or ordering delivery that comes in plastic. If you’re not living off the grid, you’re going to face these scenarios in your life.
I wanted to find a way to counteract that problem in a way and try to be more proactive in my daily life. I’m not the type of person to just sit back and wait.
Without working in politics, I tried to find areas where I can start to influence the systemic change that’s needed. I wanted to still make some impact in my daily life, while making positive change on the planet. I didn’t want to make more stuff because I feel the world doesn’t need more products. Even if it’s sustainable, it’s still extracting.
There’s already so many organizations whose whole purpose of existing is to focus on a spectrum of environmental issues. They’re often overlooked and underfunded. They exist because government and private companies won’t or can’t do that work.
So, it made sense for me to find ways to give money to these organizations. They’re the ones doing that work, so the least I can do is give them the money they need to fulfill their mission.
For Gen E, micro philanthropy is doing what we can as individuals to reduce our impact, especially when it comes to consumption. It’s easier said than done because certain choices available to me might not be available to other people.
How does Gen E work?
Gen E is an environmental philanthropy app that you can download on any app store. Similar to Acorns, you can round up the change of all your purchases and automatically donate it to fund any environmental organizations that you select.
Let’s say you purchase your morning coffee for $4 and you get ¢50 in change. That amount is going to your selected organizations that are here to save the planet. We constructed our platform in this format because, as humans, we are always buying and consuming. Our consumption has a negative impact on the planet. This method is like a practice of gratitude. Every time you consume, you’re giving a little back.
We commit to a pledge of giving back to the planet in our daily lives. We want to keep environmentalism at the top of our minds for our members on the app. For everyone online, we do that through a weekly newsletter where we talk about all things life but through an environmental lens.
There is a lot of back-and-forth on the idea of what matters for individual change. To what extent do you think individual action matters?
I really love the quote “Don’t refuse to do small things just because big things exist.” We need change everywhere because, fundamentally, everything in our human society—every system, institution, company, community, household—is made up of individuals. We have the power to influence those around us. For example, workers in a company can influence their CEO.
It’s a common question everywhere. Let’s use the example of fast fashion. Does it matter if we stop buying fast fashion? It does because one person becomes 5…and then 10…it exponentially grows. That’s how we can influence and make real change.
From the perspective of micro philanthropy—even if you can only give $1/month, imagine if 1 million people can do that. We can raise $1 million in a year. It’s a little amount that isn’t going to break the bank or do much to change our lifestyle. As a community, we can really make change when we come together as individuals.
How do you measure the impact of the organizations that you partner with?
It can be difficult, especially within the nonprofit and impact investing space. There’s 65,000 U.S. registered nonprofits that are focused on the environment and animals, which can be pretty overwhelming. We have 25 organizations on our platform, and it’s a dynamic and growing list. We have a vetting system and we look for a certain methodology. From our website—“Our methodology leverages existing evaluation tools, studies, scientific research, and publicly available information, such as 990’s and information from a nonprofit’s website.”These tools help us measure effectiveness, governance, financial efficiency, impact and outcomes.
We want our organizations to be in the top tiers, but we acknowledge there are organizations that are too small and haven’t been evaluated. They’re not on the radar, so they don’t have the resources to measure their own impact. Grassroot organizations whose work might be to, for example, protect their land is making a huge impact that’s hard to quantify. It arguably could be some of the most impactful back. It gets difficult here because these are areas where we can’t distill down to a data point. However, we don’t want to exclude organizations that are smaller and are doing this great work just because they’re not evaluated by existing charity evaluators.
We also find it important to talk to people of organizations who are actually working towards their specific mission. There this venture approach to philanthropy and giving that sometimes adds more problems to nonprofits. We have to trust what they’re doing. One example is MacKenzie Scott—she’s the antithesis to the effective altruism model. She does her vetting and research, but she also focuses on yield giving. It’s about relinquishing control, trusting the organization to do the work they’re doing, and supporting them with your resources.
We have relationships with all the organizations on our platform. When they can quantify and measure impact, we trust that they will. We don’t want to burden them with this extra work.
But we quantify whenever we can. We’re providing you this curated list of organizations that meet our standards. We hope this can help our members trust and feel good about what they’re giving.
How do you find and choose your organizations?
When I first started this journey, I got involved with a lot of local nonprofits and some local arms of a national organization. I started connecting and talking to people. I try to put out feelers on organizations that come across my rader and talk to them directly. They tend to know experts on the frontlines and foster these relationships on the ground. In some ways, I plug into these networks and trust that they’re building these relationships and doing the work.
What’s your vision for the future?
We’re still pretty new and we’re building our impact on our community. We launched the app a year ago. It was first in Beta, but now we have a full feature app available on the app store. We’re focused on getting the word out there and connecting with people in our community to bring more people on board. As we scale as an organization and our community, we can partner with more organizations and widen our impact!
Download Gen E here to start making an impact with your dollars today!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!