A 'Chief Energizer' Makes Sustainability Easier | Net Impact

A 'Chief Energizer' Makes Sustainability Easier

This series profiles the work happening in our amazing community, one member at a time. A member of our Boston chapter, Tess O'Brien is the Founder and Chief Energizer of CleanPowerPerks, a web-based program that rewards people who opt for clean power options. CleanPowerPerks is a finalist in Green America's People & Planet Award, and you can vote for them here. Tess founded the company after working for a wind and solar energy company for seven years. She entered the field after studying environmental science, seeing the impact of climate change firsthand with melting glaciers in Iceland, and learning about the wind energy industry in Denmark. Her passion for the environment stems from a childhood spent exploring the Adirondack Mountains with her family.

What's your net impact?

I make it easier and more rewarding for people to choose clean energy. The CleanPowerPerks model is inspired by the concepts of competitive cooperation, rewarding altruism, and monetizing corporate sustainability efforts.

What's your best advice for someone who wants to create positive change in your field?

Stay inspired. Every few months, carve out some time to get back to the root of why you do what you do. It's easy to fall into the day-to-day grind -- don't forget to occasionally step back and look at the big picture. Even if it means taking a day off of your responsibilities, you'll be much more motivated the next day once your well (and heart) is full. I stay inspired by spending time outdoors and watching films about climate change.

What do you love about your work?

What I love about my work and what keeps me motivated is that I believe people are genuinely good and want to help. My job is to make it easy for them to do their part. I don't think it's easy enough now, so I'm working to create a new program that simplifies things and makes it more fun.

What “aha” moment or breakthrough played a role in your work?

I had the idea for CleanPowerPerks before I realized it was something I could actually do myself. I saw the need for a program like this first -- something that connects the 5.4 million households in the U.S. using clean energy with businesses and brands that do the same, and gives people extra motivation to make the switch. Then one summer day a few years back, I was sitting in my office in SoHo looking out the window when I had a tremendous moment of clarity and sense of calm around the realization that I could be the person filling that need.

What’s the most inspiring book you’ve read -- and why has it stayed with you?

Visiting Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell. It's non-fiction but written in a really engaging and honest manner, which is why I think it's stuck with me. He visits a collection of the world's most polluted places, but writes from the tourism angle. He manages to uncover the beauty in these places and humanity within the people around the issues, which otherwise would be pretty black and white.

What stands out about your career journey?

For me, the career journey has unfolded somewhat organically. Culturally, there's a lot of pressure to create a plan, but I much prefer to see what happens. Planning too many steps ahead is futile since things change so quickly and in unexpected ways. I think we all need to practice being present and reflective about our work -- and trust that we'll take ourselves where we need to be in our careers. A little more zen goes a long way for quality of life and certainty of path. Ultimately, satisfaction comes less from what we look like on paper and more from being fulfilled by our work and the impact we make.

You can keep up with Tess on Twitter, and you can vote for CleanPowerPerks to win Green America's People & Planet Award here.


How about you? What's your net impact? Do you have a story to tell? Advice to share? Reach out.