Seattle Foundation Blog

Climate Change - Small Actions Mean Big Changes

"It's really important that we broaden the tent and help more people see their role in the climate fight, find their voice in the climate fight." --Kathy Washienko


September 01, 2016

By Emily Wittenhagen. This article was first published in Seattle Foundation's Heart and Science Volume 2.

Kathy Washienko, environmental advocate and philanthropist focused on climate change, helps people see what their role can be in the climate fight.

“Every solar panel that goes up on someone’s roof, every mass transit line we build so people are in their car less, or [every person who] chooses to buy an electric vehicle instead of a gas-powered car – all those are steps in the fight,” said Washienko.

Washienko divides climate change into two aspects. The first being the reality that climate change threatens and can impact us. The second aspect is the ultimate importance of confronting climate change on behalf of this generation and those to come.

Valuing service and professional training in public health, Washienko puts to practice multiple reinforcing strategies in the environment movement. She invests in multi-year policy and systems change efforts led by local organizations like Climate Solutions as well as invests resources on immediate carbon reduction strategies such as Northwest SEED’s solar panel program.

“To me, [climate change is] just such a profound problem facing society that has the potential and likelihood of impacting so many facets of our lives,” said Washienko. “It just has to rise to the top. We need to get more people to understand the intense urgency of the climate problem and that there really is hope. There’s a lot we can do that can have a big impact on how climate change plays out.”

Washienko’s approach illustrates that philanthropists can benefit from investing in multiple strategies with problems like climate change.

Advisors from Seattle Foundation and Northwest Conservation Fellowship at Seattle Venture Partners have stepped forward to help Washienko with her desire to affect change that connects people with the issue. This working relationship led her to ‘frontload’ her gift in climate space and give over a five-year period instead of over a longer term.

One motivating factor in her climate fight is her daughters and the feeling of moral obligation to tell them she has done everything she can and by partnering with Seattle Foundation, Washienko has been sharing her approach to advocacy.

“Climate change can feel like a somewhat overwhelming problem to try to address,” said Washienko. “But when there are ways that a group of people each doing something relatively small can add up to something much bigger, we demonstrate and give people hope that we can tackle things more at the scale of the problem.”

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