by Ellen Maremont Silver
A bedrock of The Climate Center’s strategy for its Climate-Safe California campaign is organizing a growing body of advocates– including businesses– who will exert pressure on lawmakers to implement the bold policies needed to address the climate crisis and usher in a climate-safe economy. Below is an interview with two of The Climate Center’s Businesses for Clean Energy members who are committed to a climate-safe future. With COVID-19 decimating many businesses in California and throughout the world, it is more important than ever to support businesses like Hobo Wines who are doing their part to build a healthy and vibrant economy.
Kenny Likitprakong & Lynn Wheeler, Founders and Owners, Hobo Wines
On a winter Sonoma County day, Kenny Likitprakong and Lynn Wheeler labeled bottles in a warehouse while we talked about Hobo Wines, their successful business, and their support of The Climate Center. The inspiration for the company started over 20 years ago, when they worked together at the UC Davis student organic farm. So environmental awareness has long played a role in their lives and business. For example, today Hobo Wines uses multiple conservation practices such as using cover crops in all of the vineyards that they farm. Cover crops are a strategy for carbon sequestration, an important part of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign. More recently, as a result of the pandemic, business is down, but it’s led them “to pivot and innovate,” said Lynn. “We’re increasing our time in the vineyard and taking care of the land.”
In 2018, when the couple joined 1% for the Planet, a worldwide funding organization that helps match businesses with environmental non-profits. “We had this idea of business being related to the community it’s in. We didn’t want to just take something out, we wanted to give back,” Kenny explained. They wanted to partner with an organization making a difference and learned about what is now called The Climate Center and its Business for Clean Energy Program. The match worked for them. It was a great example of thinking globally, and acting locally.
“The Center is affecting direct change, like working with Community Choice Energy agencies and advocating for electric vehicles,” Kenny said. “They are the ones helping write bills, putting programs in place, and working with local power suppliers. Their impact is measurable.”
Lynn and Kenny have two daughters, 10 and 13 years old. “We’re concerned about the future, for everybody’s kids and grandkids,” Kenny said. “Our younger daughter is doing her big school report on climate change. It’s an ever-present, ongoing conversation at our house,” Lynn said. “We empower and encourage them, focusing on the positive, on what we can do, like ride a bike instead of drive, or eat less meat.”
Lynn described their consistent attitude toward their children, the climate and their business: “If you care about things, you take care of them. You don’t ignore them or pretend things aren’t happening when they are.”
The couple’s primary philanthropic giving is to The Climate Center. “I think that climate needs to be viewed as an urgent issue,” Kenny said. “Really big, lasting change is going to have to be at the policy level. That’s why we donate so much money to The Climate Center. Yes, we’re doing what we can. But we need it at speed and scale, like Ann Hancock, (founder and Chief Strategist of The Climate Center) always says.”
Lynn added, “We can provide a model for other businesses. They can make environmental decisions in their businesses, too.” Embodying strong commitment to our climate and environment in both their professional and personal lives, Lynn and Kenny are good models for us all.