One-Year Anniversary of US Plastics Pact, WeSolar, Climate Champ Kristal Hansley, Goldman Prizewinner Kimiko Hirata

by | Aug 27, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

U.S. Plastics Pact one-year anniversary, plus we meet WeSolar, community solar power. Climate champion Kristal Hansley, and Goldman Environmental Prizewinner, Kimiko Hirata!




We’re about one year into the launching of the U.S. Plastics Pact. The U.S. Plastics Pact is a collaborative, solutions-driven consortium led by The Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund, launched as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network to unify diverse public-private stakeholders across the plastics value chain to rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics, to create a path forward to realize a circular economy for plastic in the United States.

U.S. plastics industry leaders recognize that significant, system-wide change is needed to realize a circular economy for plastic; individualized action isn’t enough and thus, The U.S. Plastics Pact brings together companies, government entities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers, and other stakeholders in a pre-competitive platform for industry-led innovation. The goal is to collectively meet impactful goals by 2025 that U.S. plastics manufacturers could not otherwise meet on their own.

“Together, through the U.S. Plastics Pact, we will ignite systems change to accelerate progress toward a circular economy,” said Sarah Dearman, VP of Circular Ventures for The Recycling Partnership at the announcement of the initiative’s launch.

So what is this Plastic Pact, and why does it matter to us?

According to the US Plastics Pact website, more than 60 Activators – including for-profit companies, government agencies, and NGOs – have joined the U.S. Plastics Pact, representing each part of the supply and plastics manufacturing chain. By joining the U.S. Plastics Pact, Activators agree to collectively deliver these four targets:

  1. Define a list of packaging to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021 and take measures to eliminate them by 2025. ​
  2. By 2025, all plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable. ​
  3. By 2025, undertake ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging.
  4. By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%. ​




WeSolar’s mission is to bring under-resourced communities affordable access to local community solar and to assist commercial properties with energy efficiency. Too often, communities of color are skeptical about alternative energy resources. Much of that skepticism comes from lack of good information conveyed by trusted community partners.

WeSolar was founded by Howard University alum, Kristal Hansley, and it’s America’s first Black-owned solar energy company. Hansley came to understand the importance of trusted community leader communication while working at Neighborhood Sun, a regional solar company in Maryland, as director of Government and Community Relations.

“After working with solar energy developers and city leadership in Baltimore helping thousands of low-to-moderate-income families save on their utility bills, I decided to launch my own company dedicated specifically to opening community solar farms in neighborhoods like Baltimore.”

WeSolar launched in Baltimore on Juneteenth, 2020, and expanded to Washington, DC in 2021, despite the pandemic.

Hansley and her team of disrupters advocate that communities of color and low-income communities be included in this shift and have a healthy environment in the future. Through WeSolar, electricity consumers can purchase shared solar from a local project without having to install any equipment in their homes. In turn, residents save hundreds on their electricity bills. WeSolar is taking advantage of a Maryland law that states 50 percent of its electricity must come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

DEEPER DIVE: WeSolar, Black Enterprise, Vogue, Bloomberg Gree



So who is this remarkable young woman, Kristal Hansley, and what compelled her to become the first Black, female CEO of an American community solar energy company, WeSolar?

She shared an origin story recently with Bloomberg Green: The indifference of middle-aged, White car salesmen gave Kristal Hansley her start in green energy. She had just finished a stint on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2017, when she started working at a Chevy dealership outside of Baltimore. She was the only Black woman on the showroom floor. Her coworkers, mostly White men, were more interested in selling Corvettes and Silverados than the electric vehicles on show. So Hansley carved out a niche selling Bolts and Volts, making a dozen sales of the electric models every month. 

“It was a key moment,” Hansley says. “I got a front row seat of who gets to benefit from green rebates and other incentives. Mainly wealthier people.”

BTW, that “stint” on Capitol Hill was actually leading the Community Affairs policy at Congresswoman Eleanor Norton’s office. While there, she witnessed the state of Maryland pass new laws to increase the use of solar energy across the state.

She put two and two together. Said Hansley in an email interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, “I saw how effectively solar could reduce the cost of electricity for households, and decided to get involved in the emerging world of community solar,”

DEEPER DIVE: Bloomberg Green, Black Enterprise, Grist, AfroTech


Kimiko Hirata, 50, is the international director and founding member of the Kiko Network, a Japanese NGO dedicated to halting climate change. She was inspired to become a climate activist in the 1990s, after reading Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance and learning about the dangers of climate change, and quit her job at a publishing house to join the environmental movement. In 1997, she participated in the Kyoto Climate Summit, at which she supported Japanese civil society through advocacy and media engagement. After working on the Kyoto Agreement, Hirata decided to devote her life to addressing the problem of climate change. She is now also a visiting associate professor of the Chiba University of Commerce, which has Japan’s first 100% renewable university initiative.

 After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Japan was forced to move away from nuclear power and, in its place, embraced coal as a major energy source.  Yet Over the past several years, Hirata’s grassroots campaign has led to the cancellation of 13 coal power plants (7GW or 7,030MW) in Japan. These plants would have released more than 1.6 billion tons of CO2 over their lifetimes. The carbon impact of Hirata’s activism is the equivalent of taking 7.5 million passenger cars off the road every year for 40 years.

DEEPER DIVE: Goldman Environmental Prize