Lisa Altieri, CEO and Founder at Climate Solutions Net
Lisa is the Founder and CEO of Climate Solutions Net, creator of software tools with the mission of empowering people on climate solutions. CSN gives users a fun, easy way to learn about solutions and specific actions they can take, then connects them to work together to motivate action. Think ‘Fitbit meets Nextdoor’ for climate solutions. She is also the Founder and President of Community Climate Solutions.
Lisa’s background is a unique blend of experience including data analytics, business management, and grassroots organizing. She has designed strategic data reporting and analysis tools for Silicon Valley, and organized over 5,000 volunteers as a volunteer regional field organizer for the 2012 Obama Campaign. Lisa has a B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Economics from UC Berkeley.
How did you become interested in environmental work?
I started college as an engineering major, but could not see myself as an engineer. As I was considering other options, a major event happened — the Brazilian rainforest was burning out of control. An image, taken from space, was the first time human destruction of this magnitude had been seen so clearly. From that moment, I made the decision to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I could to take care of our beautiful planet.
I studied environmental economics at the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley because I saw that economics was being used as the reason for not doing the right thing whenever important environmental policy was considered. My logic was, ‘If I’m an expert in economics, and if I know the language, I can use it to provide powerful arguments to policy makers as to why environmental policies are viable.’ I had hoped to work in the solar industry after graduation but there were few jobs locally, so I accepted a position writing market reports for the industry. Writing was not the best fit, since I’m the type of person who likes to make things happen, so I transitioned to finance and management consulting. After a while, I owned a commercial recycling company before starting CSN.
Discuss any mentors who have helped or inspired you to reach your aspirations.
My grandmother, Donna Lawrence, was one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, she was not much more than five feet tall and incredibly strong — physically, emotionally, and in her character. She was a single parent in the 1920’s. She stepped up, made decisions, and did what needed to be done without complaint. She was a good and kind person, but didn’t put up with anything. For me to see that modeled, her confidence, kindness, and strength, was inspiring.
What inspired you to start your business and how did you take the leap to start it?
One of my Berkeley professors, John Holdren, described global warming as a real challenge for the human race. Historically, humans have responded to crises when they happen, if there’s a clear trigger and event. But there’s a lag of 30-40 years between when we emit CO2 and when we see the results. This lag creates a serious problem in understanding, acknowledging, and responding to a threat not immediately tangible in the present day. People need to understand how climate change affects them long before the flood appears in their yard. I took it as a challenge to affect change before we see the full results. For me, climate is the biggest environmental issue — if we don’t face that, it’s game over.
I became a climate activist and organizer focusing on policy. However, there is a growing chasm between policy commitments and where science says we need to be, so I looked for other ways to move climate solutions forward. Forty percent of U.S. emissions come from five daily household activities for which we have accessible alternatives. We can take actions in our daily lives to significantly lower emissions. They also save money, improve our health, and create local jobs.
Sixty percent of Americans are worried about climate, but don’t know what to do. Empowering people has massive potential. I founded Climate Solutions Net to engage people around climate solutions and give them a simple tool that makes it fun to learn and take action.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector of the environmental movement?
Go to Werenew.net and participate for free. Answer the energy profile and find actions you can take to save money and help at the household or community level. WEN can form a community group on the site, as well as form teams, and encourage others to participate!
From an interview by Cinndy Erickson in July 2020