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Renowned climber Alex Honnold explains why he is giving away one third of his income: 'It all started sitting in the back of a van'

"In case you ever start giving a damn."

I've climbed many of the world's most daunting rock walls without a rope.

Over time, I've learned that tackling climate change is much like a big climb — it requires patience, commitment, courage, and a healthy dose of optimism.

While our planet is in rough shape, the optimist in me can't help but feel like there's plenty of good to come. It just takes all of us doing whatever we can to step up and help — both as individuals and as a global community.

My climate action journey started with a gift. My sister sent me a book, "The Better World Shopping Guide," with the note: "For Alex, in case you ever start giving a damn. Love, Stasia." 

From there, I started researching how I could make a difference — how anyone could make a difference.

I was already living in a van in order to climb full-time, so my lifestyle was quite simple. But through the book, I learned that some choices were better than others when it came to environmental impact. I started cutting meat out of my diet and eventually switched to a climate-friendly bank. But I felt like there was more that I could do.  

That's why, starting over a decade ago, I've been committing one-third of my annual income toward climate solutions — specifically, getting more communities access to solar energy — through my foundation, the Honnold Foundation (HF). What started as a handful of projects each year turned into over 60 projects in 27 countries, territories, and U.S. Tribal lands.

Over time, I've been inspired by each of our grantee partners' work. From workforce development for the Navajo Nation to a solar-powered flower shop on the south side of Chicago, from solar-powered canoes in the Ecuadorian Amazon to a community center in Memphis, each partner has a story.

That's why, today, I'm excited to announce a partnership with The Cool Down, which is a great place to come for practical, accessible ways to learn about climate and be part of the solution. HF will be contributing stories and content to TCD in order to make it easier for more people to take action, and to spread the word about our grantee partners that are using solar energy to transform their communities.

In the coming months, you'll be able to follow The Cool Down to hear more about how I live as sustainably as possible, learn about the awesome work of HF's grantee partners, and find out how you can take small steps in your daily life to make a difference.

But it's not all good news. Here in the U.S., changing policies are making it more and more cost-effective to install solar energy in our homes, but not for everyone. In Memphis, many residents spend as much as 25% of their monthly income on their utility bills. On the Navajo Nation, nearly 14,000 residents still live off-grid.

Climate solutions start locally, and the best solutions to local challenges tend to come from the people who know best — the people who actually live in those communities. That's why the Honnold Foundation funds practical, real-world solar innovations led by and for the communities we serve. So far, our Core Fund has served 183,144 beneficiaries in approximately 245 communities in over 25 countries. 

But it all started sitting in the back of a van. It can start simply for you, too.

Have a family or friend who you think is ready to start their climate action journey? Send them a note with a link to follow TCD.

"For _______, in case you ever start giving a damn."

Alex Honnold is a professional rock climber, best known for his ropeless ascents of some of the world's biggest rock walls, and as the founder of The Honnold Foundation.

Professional rock climber Alex Honnold
Photo credit: Peter Walle

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