March 25, 2022

Earth Hour at CHAI: Lighting up our response to climate change in ways big and small

Joy Phumaphi, Jack Kimani, and Attila Yaman share how they make small changes that recognize our impact on the environment.

Every year, at 8:30 pm on the last Saturday of March, people around the globe turn off their lights for one hour to raise awareness of the issues challenging our environment.

It’s a way to show how small changes can catalyze transformation on a global scale.

CHAI is pleased to share that we have begun to systematically respond to climate change through our strategy, programs, and day-to-day operations. This is because the effects of climate change both directly and indirectly affect the health of the people we serve. Extreme heat, natural disasters, social unrest, insufficient food supplies, and disease are just some of the many destructive consequences. This climate response is taking shape at the program, leadership, and day-to-day operational levels.

Programs | We are grateful that some of our donors are already supporting us to act on this issue by funding carbon offsetsand we are working with donors to include funds for offsets in all-new proposal budgets. CHAI is also planning ways for our health programs to address emissions in procurement and service delivery, and to leverage new technologies enhancing the sustainability of facilities.

Leadership | CHAI and our partners created Climate Accountability in Development. As part of our membership in this organization, CHAI has set the goals of carbon neutrality by 2025 and a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Daily operations | We are inviting our staff to approach their work with consideration for the climate. Because of the diversity of the work we do, those approaches can be drastically different. Many CHAI staff live in countries where electricity is expensive and inconsistently supplied, making climate-conscious decisions more complex than turning off the lights. Others work in countries or have jobs where travel (and resulting carbon emissions) make up a significant part of our footprint. For these reasons, we are all finding our own ways to make small changes that recognize our impact on the environment.

“A few ways I try to make climate-conscious decisions in my day involve reducing energy use and reuse of items. To reduce energy, I use LED lights which consume less energy to deliver the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs. In Kenya, where energy is a key driver of the cost of living, this reduces the use of electricity and saves energy. Whenever I can, I also try to use natural sunlight as much as possible. Also, rather than throw away in the trash, my family donates used consumer goods to our local church to first ensure others can reuse them, but also reduce waste.”

Jack Kimani, Senior Program Director – Universal Health Coverage, CHAI Kenya

“I’ve found that small changes to my day and room set-up can deliver significant energy savings. For one, I use a fan to circulate air and turn down the heater and the air conditioner. I noticed how large a difference fans made when experimenting in the Liberia offices of CHAI. The small wall-mounted A/Cs have weak fans, which results in people setting the temperature extremely low. However, the A/C can be comfortably set to 25C with a couple of strategically placed fans (set low to the ground and angled to the opposite corners of the room or ceiling fans, which minimize uncomfortable gusts, especially when flowing in reverse by pulling air up from the center and pushing it down the walls). Once air circulated, people were a lot more comfortable. I learned about this from MASS design’s work on hospitals in Rwanda. I even use a fan next to my radiator to circulate hot air in my office to avoid hot stuffy air on one side of the room. I also drink lots of hot water (and treat myself to tea) to stay hydrated and warm from the inside out so I can turn down the heater.”

Attila Yaman, Manager, Strategy & Investment, Health Workforce

I’m pleased that CHAI is starting to find ways we can make climate-conscious decisions at all levels of our work, right along the value chain from suppliers to end-users. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to take the eco-friendly technologies we see on the ground like solar-powered or biogas-powered stovesand leverage our partnerships to scale those tools for use in manufacturing. At the user level, solar-powered cookstoves are better for the health of those who live in the home. It prevents the breathing in of carcinogenic and respiratory disease irritants caused by coal or wood-burning alternatives. But they also replace the use of nonrenewable resources with renewable energy sources. If we can support our partnerships with suppliers and governments to adopt these types of technologies at scale, the benefits will be significant to global health and the environment.

Joy Phumaphi, CHAI interim co-CEO

You can hear more from Joy Phumaphi during her discussion on the nexus of climate and health at Devex’s Prescription for Progress event in February.

For more information about CHAI’s approach to climate, learn more at Our Programs or reach out to our Director of Donor Engagement, Seema Arora, who is leading this work.

Written by Brianna Goldberg, Manager, Market Communications
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