From childhood, Chip Giller has had two passions: journalism and the environment. By college, he was thinking about how to communicate environmental issues in a new and different way. Out of this vision, Grist was born.
Foundation: What is Grist?
Chip: I founded Grist nearly 20 years ago to help awaken a new generation of people to care about environmental issues using what was a new medium at the time: the web. We wanted to write about these things in a conversational way, pairing humor with news. At this point, we reach a couple million people a month—largely people in their 20s and 30s—and try to help set the agenda on these issues and drive people from information to action. We call ourselves “A Beacon in the Smog.”
Foundation: What’s new at Grist?
Chip: We’ve started a whole new program called Fix. Fix is Grist’s solutions lab. It has three main pieces. First, we identify and lift up a diverse set of leaders who are less heralded than they ought to be, but are the solutionaries of a better world coming into being. You see many of these folks on our annual list of Grist 50 Fixers. Second, we pull these leaders together to connect, build relationships, and spur collaborations to accelerate solutions. Third, we are working to usher in a whole new narrative about what’s possible to get out of the planetary pickle in which humanity finds itself.
Foundation: How has the Lewis Family Foundation helped?
Chip: We’re working with the Lewis Family Foundation to develop a hub of this program in New England at the Foundation’s Alnoba facility in New Hampshire. A focus of Fix is cross-pollination—bringing people together from a range of backgrounds and telling stories that break down silos, build relationships, and connect the dots—and Alnoba is a perfect place to do that. I think it’s going to be an extraordinary partnership. We’re thrilled about it and very grateful.
Foundation: What led to the development of Fix?
Chip: The notion in forming Grist in 1999 was to approach issues with a new tone and a new way of thinking about the environment. Now, two decades later, there’s a lot more awareness, in our country and in the New England region, of the challenges before us—but with that awareness can come a sense of despair because the situation, particularly climate change, is grave.
So my work over the last couple of years, with what has become Fix, has been figuring out how to share what we as a society can do to address the problems. Unlike in 1999, what’s possible now with renewable energy, with sustainable food, with transportation systems that prioritize moving people over cars, with green architecture and living buildings, and more; and what we’ve continued to learn about the importance of community-based solutions that tackle environmental and social-justice challenges as one—it’s all really exhilarating and exciting! If there were more cultural awareness of what was possible, I think the situation would change, politics would change, and we’d get to a better world more quickly.
Foundation: What do you do when you’re not working?
Chip: I have the best family ever. We’re at the stage now where the kids still want to be with us, but we don’t have to carry their stuff for them (they’re 10 and 13), so we spend a lot of outdoors, backpacking. We live on an island off of Seattle, so we spend a lot of time on the water, too. We’re a musical family (thanks to my wife). And we love to cook and experiment with vegetarian adventures.
Foundation: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Chip: Bill McKibben [author, environmentalist, activist, and cofounder of 350.org] was one of my first babysitters.
Foundation: Any last words?
Chip: Fix is about convening people to bring about a better world, seeding collaborations, and telling the story of a planet that doesn’t burn and future that doesn’t suck, by looking at what’s possible to address the challenges before us. We’ve already had tremendous impact, and I’m excited for what’s down the road.
Tell us a little about yourself. Which do you prefer?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate, of course
Reading a book or seeing a movie?
Reading a book, preferably fiction, because I spend too much time on Twitter immersed in snarky news updates.
Going for a hike or sitting by a fire?
Going for a hike
Talking or listening?
I prefer to listen, for sure.
Dogs or cats?
Being interviewed or having a tooth pulled?
Really? Tough! I’d have to go with being interviewed