A pencil touches the circumference of a drawing of the earth

Drabble is a fun word for a short work of fiction that’s precisely 100 words long.

The word comes from a joke in Monty Python’s Big Red Book — the drabble was a game where players competed to be the first to write a novel, hence the necessarily short length.

After dipping our toes into the world of climate fiction, the Grist team decided to make it a mainstay of our solutions-focused newsletter, Looking Forward. Fiction can be a powerful tool to help us think outside the confines of today and imagine the future that we want. That’s why most issues of the newsletter start with a cli-fi drabble — to offer a glimpse of the endgame for the solutions and ideas we cover. We’re collecting some of our favorites below. 

[Subscribe to Looking Forward, Grist’s climate solutions newsletter]

Want to try writing your own drabble? Send it our way, and we’ll consider featuring it in a future newsletter! 


You’ve been dying to see the exhibit for weeks, and now you’ve actually got butterflies in your stomach as you wait in line to enter. The climate history museum, your favorite in town, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

The museum got a special permit to use extra energy for the immersive installation. It’s turned each of its five rooms into a decade — as you walk through, you’ll actually experience the climate as it shifted in your city over the past 50 years, all the way to today. 

With nervous excitement, you pop in your earphones and begin the guided tour. 

— Climate change on exhibit, March 27, 2024

As climate impacts threaten cultural treasures, museums are beginning to reckon with their own carbon footprints as they also struggle to safeguard their collections. This newsletter explores some of the ways museums are reexamining their practices in the era of climate change. Read more


You flip the switch on your electric kettle, and pull down a mug for tea.

While the water begins to bubble, you toss a slice of bread in the toaster and power on your stove to fry an egg. Breakfast will be ready in minutes.

Some mornings, you get flashbacks to the rental you had in your 20s — with only one outlet in the kitchen, your power strip wouldn’t let you run the toaster and the kettle at the same time. You cracked a window every time you used the gas stove.

When the toast pops, you find yourself smiling.

— A journey into home electrification, March 21, 2024

In this newsletter, we excerpted a feature story by Grist writer Tik Root, in which he chronicled his and his wife’s journey upgrading their home to run on more efficient and climate-friendly systems. Read more


“Your grandy’s so ancient, they wore clothes made from PLASTIC,” one child said to another. The crowd around them burst out laughing. 

“Polyester-wearing fools!” one yelled. 

“Oh yeah? Your zizi’s so old, they predate the eradication of HOMELESSNESS,” the contender said, smirking.

Shouts of “BUUURN” ran through the crowd. The opponent knew they had to come back strong. 

“Well your zaza’s so old, they had to use synthetic tampons …”

Everybody held their breath.

“… that they purchased from a BIG-BOX STORE.”

That did them in. The kids ran around in circles, howling. Doubling over. Some cracked up until they cried.

— Would you wear apple waste? March 13, 2024

This drabble, by Looking Forward reader Becca Godwin, offers a fun glimpse of a future where plastic-based clothing is looked on as an absurdity of the past. In this newsletter, we rounded up a handful of biomaterials companies that are beginning to usher in a wave of bio-based textiles that could reduce our dependence on synthetic fabrics. Read more


It’s a five-minute bike ride to the train station. On brisk mornings like this, I wear gloves and pack a warm coffee for the commute. My work buddy Lucy gets on two stops down, always with a pair of scones, wheeling her bike next to mine in the locker downstairs before joining me in the sunny coach section. Half an hour later, we unload the bikes and race each other along the greenway to our office. Twice a week, this; twice a week, we co-work from a cafe in the suburbs. The rest of the week is ours to enjoy.

— Slow down, February 21, 2024

This drabble, shared by Looking Forward reader Betsy Ruckman, envisions a future of reduced working hours and accessible public services, like transportation. These are two of the central ideas of degrowth, a philosophy that’s gaining traction. In this newsletter, we excerpted a Q&A with bestselling degrowth author Kohei Saito, by Grist’s Akielly Hu. Read more


You’ve been on Activistas for less than a week, and already you hate it. Did people really used to rely on dating apps like these to meet their partners? Everybody just seems so virtue-signally and intense.

“Listen, I know you’re still trying to avoid your ex,” your roommate Ray says. “But remember you met her at that climate book club you were so into. And before her, didn’t you date that guy you met at the zero-waste potluck? You just need to get back out and do stuff you love.” 

“You’re so right,” you reply, as you continue to swipe. 

— Climate love stories, February 14, 2024

From high school clubs to international conferences to affinity meetups, climate work can create opportunities to meet like-minded people and forge relationships. In this Valentine’s Day newsletter, we collected stories of couples, friends, and collaborators who met through some form of climate action. Read more


Contractors at the Salvaged Materials Market ignored the stack of misshapen supplies, but Carmelo saw the makings of his masterpiece in that pile. The sculptor spent an hour scrounging to gather all he needed, then pushed his cart of discarded treasures out the door.

Every footstep fed his mind as they led to a four-story makerspace graffitied in the mismatched styles of his community’s cultures. Carmelo floated to his curtained-off corner, spilled his haul, and began to pick and place parts on his piece-in-progress in a dance that brought his dream from the dark of mind into the studio light.

— “Deconstruction, not demolition,” by Syris Valentine, January 17, 2024

Globally, the act of erecting new buildings and tearing down old ones consumes roughly a third of all resources extracted from the environment every year and produces just under a third of all the world’s waste. This newsletter, by Syris Valentine, explores the rise of “deconstruction,” and how a handful of cities are striving to keep building materials out of the landfill and in use. Read more


Publishers declare 2024 the year of climate fiction.

You’re skeptical at first — how much more doom and gloom can you take? — but then you try one and bam! Just like that, you’re hooked.

By December, your Kindle library is an ode to the genre. You don’t know which was your favorite: the tightly paced thriller set in the buried halls of the Svalbard Seed Vault or the solarpunk fantasy about a girl who discovers she’s a descendant of an Afro-Cuban deity of the ocean, Yemaya, and the inheritor of the rising seas.

All you know is that you want more.

— contributed by reader Danielle Arostegui, January 10, 2024


The sight of the stars from mile 105 of the Benton MacKaye Trail takes my breath away, just as it has at every other campsite during our monthly backpacking hikes this year. Yet compared to that first excursion in January, everything else feels different.

The forest’s healing powers leveled up my relationships with loved ones — including myself.

The bodies of water kept my thirst for alcohol at bay for a second year.

The mountains strengthened my legs, lungs, and resolve.

The hiker community’s embrace warmed my heart.

The planet intensified my love for it.

The wildlife made my life wild.

— contributed by reader Becca Godwin, January 10, 2024


I’m returning home from my walk and it’s barely dawn. I couldn’t tolerate the scorching temperatures again this summer, so I adopted new habits. I’m not alone, something far bigger changed this year. In addition to climate tipping points, there’s another transformation underway, finally! Mainstream and social media, and personal conversations are decisively acknowledging the climate crisis. People, many people, are talking about it openly and with urgency. They’re shocked, angry, but at least they’re awake, no longer in bliss denial. Citizens worldwide are demanding their governments take corrective action, and some are. There’s hope. I pray the momentum lasts!

— contributed by reader Kathy Posey, January 10, 2024


Our Christmas menu this year came from within 15 miles of us.

It was a challenge. Fields around here still grow a lot of field corn and soybeans. Many will, for a while. But other farms, sheltered in evergreen windbreaks and deepening perennial roots, even in December, feed the soil and the soul, too.

A tangy juneberry-aronia chutney pairs perfectly with nibbles of herby goat cheese and Kernza crackers. We drink warming spiceberry tea and our own mulled apple cider. And, with all the requisite bliss, we roast our first American chestnuts over an open fire. It tastes like home.

— contributed by reader Betsy Ruckman, January 3, 2024


You’ve seen so many videos of people making THE stale bread soup that you almost went out and bought yourself a loaf, just so you could wait a couple days and then jump on the bandwagon. But that would be silly. No, you’ve got it bookmarked for the next time you actually need to use up a hunk of old bread.

But now you’re craving soup. And you’ve got hella carrots from your neighbor’s lawn-turned-garden that you need to use up — you search for “carrot soup” and start thumbing through the endless scroll of vids.

Damn. That looks good.

— “Let’s make stale bread sexy,” December 6, 2023

In this newsletter, we considered the “TikTok feta effect” — and whether the platform’s ability to inspire shortage-inducing food crazes could be harnessed to help us shift toward more climate-friendly eating. Read more


The cool blades of grass between my toes were prickly, little sticky, teeming with ladybugs.

Growing up, my dad would mow the lawn every weekend in some Sisyphean jockeying for the top spot among neighborhood men.

When people proclaimed their love for that cut-grass smell, I recoiled.

“It’s a warning to other plants and insects, didn’t you read that article?!”

Perhaps they preferred the scent of control.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the lawnmower ban. At 63, the age my father passed, I bury my head in the hill and take a deep breath — the smell of sweet, untouched relief.

— A new lawn, a new day, November 29, 2023

This drabble, sent in by Looking Forward reader Caitlin Caplinger, inspired a newsletter exploring the problems with lawn care culture and the growth of alternatives. Read more


Other volunteers find the nursing home sad around the holidays. Not you — you’ve been baking, canning, and candying for weeks, bringing treats to every resident you visit. When you pull out the food, they pull out their food stories. And you pull up a chair. 

Today, you’re in Mrs. Reed’s room, listening to how she used to feed 30 people at Thanksgiving. 

“And that was during the shelf shortage years? How did you manage?” 

“Well, for starters, we never threw a dang thing away,” she says. 

You frown. “What do you mean ‘threw away’?”

She smiles a deep, faraway smile.

— Holiday cooking blueprint, November 22, 2023

In this newsletter, food writer and recipe creator Caroline Saunders shared some of her go-to recipes and tips for a low-waste, plant-forward holiday feast. Read more


A warm breeze brushes your arms as you sit lazily on the balcony. You wave to your elderly neighbor, Roy, across the way. He’s always yelling at you to “close the door; you’re wasting energy” — no matter your patient explanations that the building’s AC knows when the door is open and accounts for it. 

You helped him with the settings on the TempFlow in his apartment. He likes it mad cold inside — maybe that’s just what he’s used to. But you have to laugh at him puttering around in his sweater and bow tie on a hot day like this …

— The future of AC, November 1, 2023

Air conditioning provides a much needed adaptation to extreme heat. But it also contributes to more planetary warming. In this newsletter, we explored some of the more efficient models that researchers and tech companies are developing. Read more


Your communal home used to be affectionately known as the shack. But since the remodel, your kids have dubbed it “the changeling castle” — for the phase-change materials that help absorb heat in its walls. The window awnings make the facade look more like a face, now with thick green eyebrows.

Your neighbors up the road have “the shire,” a bermed house with green walls and roofs. In between the two, you all chipped in to build a shade cover over the playground, and muraled the pavement with the reflective paint where the kids love to play “floor is lava” …

— Explore a heat-proof city, October 11, 2023

In this newsletter, we excerpted part of a special multimedia project by Grist reporters Jake Bittle and Naveena Sadisavam exploring the landscape of heat solutions — and how they could reshape cities to be more resilient, healthy, and beautiful. Read more


“OK class,” you announce from the front of the bus. “You all did great at the museum. Now, when we get to the charging station, I want everybody to stick with their buddy. And follow very close behind your chaperone, OK?”

You hear a chorus of, “Yes, Mr. Flowers!”

“Great. At the park, we’ll have one hour for our picnic.”

The bus charging station is kind of in the middle of nowhere — but just a 10-minute walk to one of the biggest parks in the state. If everything goes well, you’re contemplating another long-distance field trip for the spring …

— Yellow buses go green, October 4, 2023

Transportation contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector — and the nation’s 480,000 school buses make up its single largest public transportation fleet. In this newsletter, we explored how cities like Baltimore are converting their yellow bus fleets to electric. Read more


You usually walk to work along the waterfront. But on a scorching summer day like this, the only way to go is Canopy Street. The serpentine path adds 10 minutes to your commute — more if you catch sight of a bird you want to identify — the only reason your chronically late self doesn’t go this way in the cooler months.

You stop to fill your bottle at a water station beneath a moss-covered tree. Misters gently spritz overhead. A bird lands on the white pavement beside you, and you check your watch before allowing yourself to glance at it …

— More heat solutions, July 26, 2023

With extreme heat worsening all over the world, cities, states, and countries are implementing solutions to both protect residents and and mitigate the underlying causes of global heating. We rounded up a few in this newsletter. Read more


“You’re really still vegan?” she asks again.

You’re surprised that Syd is surprised. You both went vegan in high school, a couple of school-striking rebels. But she gave it up after college — the veganism, not the activism.

“I mean, your whole life is your climate work. You don’t wanna just eat a steak in your off time?”’

You chuckle at that. “Honestly, no? I don’t even eat the lab-grown stuff. I just am a vegan — it feels right to me. But you do you, obviously.”

She grins. “Well, cool. Let’s go to Veggie Heaven tonight then — for old time’s sake?”

— What we’ve learned about personal climate action, July 12, 2023

This newsletter recaps our five-part series on personal climate action — running the gamut from intimately personal choices to levers for systemic change. Read the takeaways (and revisit the full series) here


Your dad protested this birthday party. As a longtime environmental activist, he hated to be “wasteful.”

When he was young, people thought a lot about personal footprints. Also, waste was, like, a thing. He still has trouble believing that travel, circularity, and municipal repurposing have gotten as efficient as you constantly remind him they have.

But now that everyone’s here, you see the joy in his crinkly, 95-year-old smile. The whole family’s together, laughing, toasting him with homemade beer, and enjoying his favorite vegan dishes. It’s the party he deserves — and the one you knew a part of him wanted.

— My big, fat, green wedding, June 7, 2023

Green lifestyle choices may not be the answer to the climate crisis. But living according to your values can be personally fulfilling — and the way we celebrate life’s milestones, from weddings to birthday parties to funerals, offers a chance to magnify those values and share them with others. This newsletter kicks off a month-long series in Looking Forward exploring the topic of personal climate action, beginning with an area of life that’s incredibly personal. Read more


I’m on all fours in the orchard soil, my head tilted in hopes of amplifying the sounds coming from my pongamia shoots. Their slight droop and seeming wistfulness tell me they’re not getting quite what they need. I adjust my florameter toward the stems — and there it is, that anxious popping, a sign of distress.

Admittedly, I don’t know what they’re saying. But if I can find out and help this orchard thrive, their beans will become oil, will become food and fuel that will serve as the basis of this community’s carbon-negative grid system. So I’ll keep on listening.

— Listening to the trees, contributed by reader Camilla Sterne
May 3, 2023


You’re surprised to find yourself a little misty-eyed at this Harbor Day parade. The 60-foot float carrying the retired trash wheel — once an iconic waterfront fixture — glides joyously down the street. You remember visiting the wheel on school trips decades ago. Now, your kids will visit it in a museum.

It hasn’t been doing much for years now. Your city’s zero-waste strategies are some of the most ambitious in the country, and it shows. Still, you’ll miss seeing the snail-like structure out there, swimmers splashing around it — a reminder of all the work it took to get this harbor clean.

— Meet Mr. Trash Wheel, April 26, 2023

This newsletter profiles a Baltimore celebrity — a 50-foot, solar- and hydro-powered, googly-eyed, garbage-guzzling device named Mr. Trash Wheel. What started as a practical solution to litter in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has become an online personality with a dedicated following, and the idea has spread within the city and beyond. Read more


Your wife comes downstairs just as you finish packing her lunch box — an extra indulgent one. She’s been pulling more shifts at the hospital while one of the other doctors is on leave. Meanwhile, since the public schools adopted the four-day week, you won’t be going in to teach today.

It’s Field Trip Friday for your two young sons. They’re going to volunteer at the aquarium. Once you kiss her goodbye, you’ll cook their breakfast and walk them to the bus stop. And then … bike to the grocery store? Read? Maybe you’ll finally install the new heat pump …

— Working less — for the planet, April 19, 2023

A four-day workweek is gaining popularity for its benefits in areas like job satisfaction, stress, and fatigue. But the research indicates that working less could provide benefits to the planet as well. In this newsletter we take a look at some of the immediate climate connections from things like commuting, as well as what a four-day week could mean for the future of work. Read more 


The mayor of your small town loves making a fuss over little victories. In this case, more than a fuss — a full-blown local holiday.

In spite of yourself, you feel excitement bubbling in your gut as you head to the beach site where you’ve been working for the past month. You’re placing the last stones today that will help shield the beach from erosion — and this marks the last inch of the town’s coastline to be protected.

You see the crowd, bigger than you’d expected, already gathered as you pull up to the site. Let the Coast Day festivities begin.

— Fighting erosion in Alaska, March 15, 2023

Fueled by rising seas and melting permafrost, erosion is eating away at Alaska’s coastline. Freelance writer Saima Sidik covered some of the scientific solutions that are emerging to try and shore up beaches in the cold north. This newsletter highlights some of those approaches, and the story behind Sidik’s story. Read more 


Your grandmother loves to take you walking downtown, pointing out her favorite architecture. She helped build this city, and still it’s always changing. In her childhood, she tells you, homes and buildings regularly fell victim to things like hurricanes, fires, floods, blizzards — which were worse back then. People had to rebuild, and they kept rebuilding the same way, while the storms got stronger, the seas higher. She tells you of this for the umpteenth time.

“And why was that, Gran?” You ask, knowing the answer.

She smiles. “Because they only wanted to keep nature out, instead of working with it.”

— Building better, March 8, 2023

The built environment contributes about 40 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. But our homes and buildings are also vulnerable to worsening climate impacts. In this newsletter, we profile to examples of building initiatives that are both climate resilient and low carbon. Read more


The fading golden-hour sun warmed the sand. The young boy squidged it between his toes as he walked along the shoreline. He paused to pick up an empty mussel shell, tossing it into the air. Suddenly he heard a thunderous splash. His eyes darted upward and met the horizon.

Look! I saw its tail!” he hollered to his grandfather, who sat on the sand behind him, eyes closed, breathing in the salty breeze. The old man inhaled deeply. He opened his eyes and smiled, silently thanking the creatures for the clean air.

“You know, they’re one reason we’re still here.”

— More whale song, more carbon sequestration: December 8, 2022

Whales are an iconic symbol of conservation. But they might also be an overlooked, natural climate solution. Their massive bodies store a ton of carbon, and when they die, they carry it down to the deep. In this newsletter, we look at how protecting and restoring whale populations could help us manage global warming. Read more


It’s become a running joke in your family that you’re going to return any gift your brother gets you. Bless him, he just doesn’t understand your aesthetic, or your approach to stuff.

Hence, your jaw-drop when you unwrap this gorgeous pair of distressed, patch-covered, wide-legged jeans. You recognize the brand but they look so … unique.

“They’re refurbished,” he explains. “I thought it’d be funny, you know. You always return my presents, and this one has already been returned,” he chuckles.

You’re almost speechless. “Actually, I … love them.”

Equally shocked, he starts to smile. “Did I just win Christmas??”

— The gifts that keep on giving: November 22, 2022

The holidays bring many traditions that some of us would rather avoid: fossil fuel-guzzling travel, piles of leftover food that often go to waste, and the obligation of gift-giving. Although it’s a sweet ritual that can bring a lot of joy, it can also fuel overconsumption, extraction, and more waste. Thankfully, several companies have begun to recognize that holiday shoppers (and consumers year-round) want more sustainable options. This newsletter explores the rise of resale programs. Read more


Chocolate is hard to come by these days. But somehow, your mother found some to make the most heavenly birthday cake you’ve ever smelled.

The kitchen table groans under the weight of your gifts — glass jars filled with homemade treats, foraged herbs, stacks of books. And the one thing you were almost too shy to ask for: a brand new electric bike.

You’ve known about your “surprise” party all week. You can hear friends and neighbors whispering in the backyard, ready to jump out the moment you step into the garden. You smile, close your eyes, and drink in gratitude.

— Looking Forward’s birthday: October 27, 2022


She was a child of the tides — born from the warm sand and raised within the currents, where microplastics and anthropogenic chemicals no longer lingered.

Beneath the surface, she felt the coolness of the sea on her fins, as she glided along the glistening waves.

With a tender push, she flowed through the deep, diving gracefully toward the reef.
A blissful array of vibrant species greeted her, as sunbeams familiarly kissed her shell and said, “Welcome home.”

This magical place, once barren, had been restored.

And the heart of the ocean continued to abundantly beat on, along with her own.

— Can we 3D print corals? August 18, 2022

It’s no secret that coral reefs, a keystone of ocean health, are under threat due to the shifting climate. This newsletter explores an effort by one lab in Hawaii to provide something akin to a bone graft for reefs: 3D-printed fractal-like objects that resemble corals, and may help to repopulate and restore damaged reefs. Read more


I cycle down to the neighborhood store — mama forgot a tomato.

I loop down streets so wide you used to see rows of cars on either side, well before the rEVolution. Things are slow to change here, but last spring, my neighbors and I convinced the city council to add us a stop on the BRT. At least it’s something.

Bright, beautiful home gardens — no longer forbidden by archaic HOA rules — blossom in the late summer sun. Our crop had a tough start to the season this year, too much rain.

I wonder whose tomato I’m going to purchase tonight?

— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
August 4, 2022


“This tastes … surprisingly good!” Akash remarked, chewing the salad I’d made from foraged roots, dressed with apple-peel vinegar and scraps of mango-turmeric we grew out back.

Appa and Usha came in with armfuls of kindling they found. “Most of it’s charred, but this stuff could be useful.”

We lit the fire, letting the sage-scented smoke rise up to the sky. Halfway across the world from where we were born, we are here now, permanent new natives, tied to this land.

As dawn broke, I heard the drip of our water-collection bags. I watched my sweet family, cobbled together, sleep.

— Contributed by reader Rani Jayakumar
August 4, 2022


“Cheer up! The AQI this morning is only 261, you’ll have at least 30 minutes,” she said with a sad smile and the heavy eyes that most grandmothers have.

Our new airsuits can only withstand 130 degrees Fahrenheit and an AQI of 265.

Sigh. I guess in 30 minutes, I can throw the ball around with Linux. Sometimes Grandma tells me about her dog Bear from the before times. I wish I knew how fur and grass felt.

Grandma tightens my airsuit’s oxygen mask.

“Come on Linux, let’s go while we can!” The robodog runs toward the fusion-powered sliding door.

— Contributed by reader Shai Basys
August 4, 2022


Mother says floods and wildfires caused a collapse of governments, financial systems, the internet, and power grids. …

So we garden and barter.

In the marketplace while waiting for someone to weigh my pumpkins, I see the boy I like, kneeling beside some bushes.

My heart flips as I wonder what he’s doing. Animals and insects are such honored members of our community, harming one would mean expulsion.

I approach. “Zander?”

He beams. “Astra! These mice have built a nest. I’m feeding them corn.”

“Oh!” I laugh.

“Want me to carry your basket home for you?” he asks.

I smile. “Okay.”

— Contributed by reader Susmita Ramani
August 4, 2022


“The carbon footprint is honestly not all that different,” your partner says, comparing the labels of two brands of canned RealMeat. You can’t stand the stuff, but she says it reminds her of the foods she ate as a kid.

“You know they don’t count the methane in that,” you say. It’s so dumb, but that’s how regulation moves sometimes. Companies are only required to display their CO2 emissions, nothing else.

“Good point,” she nods. “I’ll just steer clear of the beef ones then.” She glances at the label of a RealChicken, and tosses it in the cart.

“What’s next?”

— You know about CO2. Let’s talk CH4: July 21, 2022

Carbon dioxide has become somewhat synonymous with greenhouse gas emissions. But the second-most abundant greenhouse gas has recently gained attention for the harm it causes, and the opportunity we have to mitigate it — methane. In this newsletter we explore some of the surprising sources of methane, and the solutions that can reduce emissions. Read more


You try to limit your after-work screen time — but today, there’s been so much good news. You’ve been joyscrolling for over an hour, sharing all your best finds with your little digital community of climate and justice nerds.

You’re getting ready to log off when you see an email from a friend, wondering if you’ll proofread a cli-fi story he’s written. Ooh, you’re tempted.

You glance out the window. It’s still too rainy to go for a walk or rally the neighbors for stoop drinks.

So you flip on your electric tea kettle and settle in for another good read.

— Here’s looking at you: May 19, 2022

In this newsletter, we share the results from our Looking Forward audience survey, as well as a little bit of reintroduction of Looking Forward’s mission and what we strive to bring to our audience. Read more


In my dream, I heard loud cheers outside my window. I tossed my blanket aside and ran to the balcony, blinking in the morning light. A crowd of people, many of whom I knew, marched toward the town square, dancing and singing.

“We did it!” They cheered.

“Did what?” I yelled back. They looked so free, I wanted to join them.

“We walked into our banks and withdrew all our money.”

“All of you? All of your money? Where is it now?”

“It’s in the meadows, turning into butterflies. At the farm, sprouting greens. In the forest, becoming trees …”

— Put your money where your planet is: April 21, 2022

Using money to support climate action isn’t just about donating, or buying more ethical products. It also comes down to where our money “sleeps” — what the bank or investment firm does with it while we’re not using it. In this Earth Day newsletter, we share about money moves that can help support a greener and more compassionate economy. Read more


“I know it’s sort of an anachronism,” she says, gesturing sheepishly toward the wood-burning stove.

“It suits an old farmhouse like this,” you reply with a shrug. “And long as you’ve got wood, you’ll never be without heat.”

“Well, we never are,” she says. “Ever since they put up the new wind farm off the coast, we haven’t had a blackout. In fact, we hardly ever use this thing. But it does get drafty when it’s not going.”

You nod. “There are some things we can do to improve that.” You flip open your Energy Audit notebook and start writing.

— A more resilient grid is possible: February 10, 2022

A year after the deadly winter freeze in Texas, power outages remain a problem everywhere in the United States, thanks to worsening weather extremes that tax our aging grid. In this newsletter, we ask a few experts about the progress they’ve seen in the past year, and what still needs to be done to make our energy systems more resilient. Read more


It’s a friendly neighborhood contest. It provides dozens of fresh, nutritious loaves to the food pantry. Yeah, yeah. This year, you want to win.

It’s taken you weeks of practice to make half-decent bread out of HeatWheat2042 — the star variety from the mill this year. But you’ve tested and retested your latest recipe and … It. Is. Perfect.

“Are you done draining our kitchen battery now, you maniac?” your girlfriend asks. You only grin. Wiping sweat from your brow, you offer her a lightly buttered, warm slice of heaven.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, savoring her bite. “You’re going to win.”

— More carbs, less carbon: January 27, 2022

Climate change poses a threat to our food system — including important staple crops like wheat. But experimenting with different types of cooking and baking today might help us prepare for (or even prevent) that uncertain future. In this newsletter, we talk with Caroline Saunders, host of The Sustainable Baker podcast, about embracing experimentation and variability in the kitchen. Read more


“300 fruit trees. All alive and healthy,” she typed just before her mother interrupted to ask about the schedule at school tomorrow.

“We filed an absence request. We need to work on the final presentation for our Generation’s Mission,” she replied, and finished typing: “date of check: May 14th, 2053.”

She knew her mother always wanted to hear more, because back in her day you had homework to do, you did not engage on a mission to shorten the supply chain.

“Our entire neighborhood is now self-sufficient, fruit-wise. Fifth year in a row. We did it. Our generation did it.”

— Contributed by reader Anca Stănescu
January 13, 2022


We cross the street, over the permeable-paver bikeway, and duck into Lucas’s kitchen. At least the haze held off today.

“Wow, everything smells amazing!” I exclaim.

Turning back from the solar-powered stove, Lucas smiles and shouts, “Thanks!” as I swoon over maple-glazed brussels sprouts. Somehow, it’s never the same menu — just whatever was fresh from the day before.

Alli throws open the rented kitchen’s window, revealing a cluster of folks already outside with their ceramic containers. I tie my apron around my waist and wave excitedly out the window. Sunday mornings just aren’t the same without community.

“Let’s get serving!”

— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
January 13, 2022


They make another venture out of the underground nest onto a forest floor teeming with the colorful flora and fauna of the tropics. These ants on a foraging mission don’t number very many, their tiny, dark bodies inconspicuous.

Years ago, the forest was an abandoned field. Its soil couldn’t support the hardiest of crops. Ants ventured, as they do, into the field. They built nests, foraged, defecated, and laid their dead to rest, all in the soil. They started something.

The foragers carry on, with only their mission in mind. They don’t know it, but they are agents of rebirth.

— Contributed by reader Anika Hazra
January 13, 2022


You stand and brush some dirt off your jeans. Your left palm’s a little scraped, but your bike looks unscathed.

“Really sorry, man,” the kid says. “I shoulda signaled.”

“It’s all good,” you tell him. “If you’d been a car, then maybe I’d be in trouble.”

He laughs, and you realize he may not be old enough to remember when cars and bikes shared these roads. How polluted this neighborhood used to be, before activists forced the city to care. You look off beyond the tree-filled median as the kid gets ready to remount.

“Ride safe,” you tell him, smiling.

— A more inclusive bike culture: December 9, 2021

When cities plan to expand safe bike infrastructure, they tend to cater to affluent white bikers. A lack of bike lanes in low-income communities of color is one reason why the fatality rate is 30 percent higher for Black cyclists and 23 percent higher for Hispanics, compared with white riders. This newsletter profiles the work of Courtney Williams — aka The Brown Bike Girl — a mobility justice advocate who pushes for systemic change while also educating individual riders about what they can do to stay safe. Read more


You sigh at the empty bottles forgotten on your kitchen counter. Your partner was supposed to stop by the refillery after work. You’re about to send a grumpy text when …

Ugh, is all they type.

DON’T buy more bottles, you write. You’ve got bottles galore, all you need is shampoo.

Let’s just go together tomorrow? We need to go food shopping too, we can hit both places. You’re annoyed, but at least now you get to go to the refillery — a favorite weekend stop. You start listing the other things that could use refilling: lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen …

Refill, replace, upcycle: November 23, 2021

Plastic is an environmental scourge — emissions from the plastic industry are on track to surpass coal by the end of this decade. But the solutions to it are way more exciting than paper straws and canvas grocery bags. In this newsletter, we spotlight three paths to a less plasticky future. Read more


Affordable homes border swaths of public green space.

An environmental justice organization, well funded and powered by community voices, advocates for residents’ needs and brings its expertise to local and national policymaking.

Health care, locally grown produce, and sustainable goods abound — easily accessible by bike or electric bus.

Those goods are the result of a global supply chain that has taken a holistic approach to sustainability, changing the lives of millions of workers.

What’s behind this picture? “Holistic, comprehensive development,” “a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in all environmental policymaking,” an end to “the exploitative nature of market capitalism.”

— based on visions of the future from Robert Bullard, Charles Lee, Peggy Shepard, and Baldemar Velasquez
To achieve a just future, you’ve got to know its roots:
November 11, 2021

Sometimes in order to look forward, you need to look back. In this newsletter, we interviewed four leaders who were part of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991 about the history of the environmental justice movement — and how it marches on today, and into the future. Read more


Thank you, you whisper in your head as you sit comfortably on the floor of Ada’s attic, with your wife and kids and six neighbors. 

Thank you for letting her borrow mint from the garden. Thank you for fixing that squeaky gate. 

You don’t think about your own home flooding for the third time this year. You’re up here, dry and safe. 

Thank you for those long sidewalk chats, even though you found her strange at first. 

Ada offers you dried mangoes from her emergency supply bag — you shake your head, but squeeze her hand and smile. 

Thank you. 

Community is a climate solution: October 28, 2021

The climate crisis can feel so big, but one of the best ways to be proactive in your own life is quite small — simply meeting your neighbors is a climate solution. In this newsletter, we talked to Christine Nieves about her work activating a Puerto Rican community to feed each other in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and about how community itself is a powerful tool in building climate resilience. Read more

Stay tuned for more drabbles, and subscribe to the Looking Forward newsletter to receive them, plus the current-day solutions they stem from, in your inbox every Wednesday.

You’ve been dying to see the exhibit for weeks, and now you’ve actually got butterflies in your stomach as you wait in line to enter. The climate history museum, your favorite in town, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

The museum got a special permit to use extra energy for the immersive installation. It’s turned each of its five rooms into a decade — as you walk through, you’ll actually experience the climate as it shifted in your city over the past 50 years, all the way to today. 

With nervous excitement, you pop in your earphones and begin the guided tour. 

— Climate change on exhibit, March 27, 2024

As climate impacts threaten cultural treasures, museums are beginning to reckon with their own carbon footprints as they also struggle to safeguard their collections. This newsletter explores some of the ways museums are reexamining their practices in the era of climate change. Read more


You flip the switch on your electric kettle, and pull down a mug for tea.

While the water begins to bubble, you toss a slice of bread in the toaster and power on your stove to fry an egg. Breakfast will be ready in minutes.

Some mornings, you get flashbacks to the rental you had in your 20s — with only one outlet in the kitchen, your power strip wouldn’t let you run the toaster and the kettle at the same time. You cracked a window every time you used the gas stove.

When the toast pops, you find yourself smiling.

— A journey into home electrification, March 21, 2024

In this newsletter, we excerpted a feature story by Grist writer Tik Root, in which he chronicled his and his wife’s journey upgrading their home to run on more efficient and climate-friendly systems. Read more


“Your grandy’s so ancient, they wore clothes made from PLASTIC,” one child said to another. The crowd around them burst out laughing. 

“Polyester-wearing fools!” one yelled. 

“Oh yeah? Your zizi’s so old, they predate the eradication of HOMELESSNESS,” the contender said, smirking.

Shouts of “BUUURN” ran through the crowd. The opponent knew they had to come back strong. 

“Well your zaza’s so old, they had to use synthetic tampons …”

Everybody held their breath.

“… that they purchased from a BIG-BOX STORE.”

That did them in. The kids ran around in circles, howling. Doubling over. Some cracked up until they cried.

— Would you wear apple waste? March 13, 2024

This drabble, by Looking Forward reader Becca Godwin, offers a fun glimpse of a future where plastic-based clothing is looked on as an absurdity of the past. In this newsletter, we rounded up a handful of biomaterials companies that are beginning to usher in a wave of bio-based textiles that could reduce our dependence on synthetic fabrics. Read more


It’s a five-minute bike ride to the train station. On brisk mornings like this, I wear gloves and pack a warm coffee for the commute. My work buddy Lucy gets on two stops down, always with a pair of scones, wheeling her bike next to mine in the locker downstairs before joining me in the sunny coach section. Half an hour later, we unload the bikes and race each other along the greenway to our office. Twice a week, this; twice a week, we co-work from a cafe in the suburbs. The rest of the week is ours to enjoy.

— Slow down, February 21, 2024

This drabble, shared by Looking Forward reader Betsy Ruckman, envisions a future of reduced working hours and accessible public services, like transportation. These are two of the central ideas of degrowth, a philosophy that’s gaining traction. In this newsletter, we excerpted a Q&A with bestselling degrowth author Kohei Saito, by Grist’s Akielly Hu. Read more


You’ve been on Activistas for less than a week, and already you hate it. Did people really used to rely on dating apps like these to meet their partners? Everybody just seems so virtue-signally and intense.

“Listen, I know you’re still trying to avoid your ex,” your roommate Ray says. “But remember you met her at that climate book club you were so into. And before her, didn’t you date that guy you met at the zero-waste potluck? You just need to get back out and do stuff you love.” 

“You’re so right,” you reply, as you continue to swipe. 

— Climate love stories, February 14, 2024

From high school clubs to international conferences to affinity meetups, climate work can create opportunities to meet like-minded people and forge relationships. In this Valentine’s Day newsletter, we collected stories of couples, friends, and collaborators who met through some form of climate action. Read more


Contractors at the Salvaged Materials Market ignored the stack of misshapen supplies, but Carmelo saw the makings of his masterpiece in that pile. The sculptor spent an hour scrounging to gather all he needed, then pushed his cart of discarded treasures out the door.

Every footstep fed his mind as they led to a four-story makerspace graffitied in the mismatched styles of his community’s cultures. Carmelo floated to his curtained-off corner, spilled his haul, and began to pick and place parts on his piece-in-progress in a dance that brought his dream from the dark of mind into the studio light.

— “Deconstruction, not demolition,” by Syris Valentine, January 17, 2024

Globally, the act of erecting new buildings and tearing down old ones consumes roughly a third of all resources extracted from the environment every year and produces just under a third of all the world’s waste. This newsletter, by Syris Valentine, explores the rise of “deconstruction,” and how a handful of cities are striving to keep building materials out of the landfill and in use. Read more


Publishers declare 2024 the year of climate fiction.

You’re skeptical at first — how much more doom and gloom can you take? — but then you try one and bam! Just like that, you’re hooked.

By December, your Kindle library is an ode to the genre. You don’t know which was your favorite: the tightly paced thriller set in the buried halls of the Svalbard Seed Vault or the solarpunk fantasy about a girl who discovers she’s a descendant of an Afro-Cuban deity of the ocean, Yemaya, and the inheritor of the rising seas.

All you know is that you want more.

— contributed by reader Danielle Arostegui, January 10, 2024


The sight of the stars from mile 105 of the Benton MacKaye Trail takes my breath away, just as it has at every other campsite during our monthly backpacking hikes this year. Yet compared to that first excursion in January, everything else feels different.

The forest’s healing powers leveled up my relationships with loved ones — including myself.

The bodies of water kept my thirst for alcohol at bay for a second year.

The mountains strengthened my legs, lungs, and resolve.

The hiker community’s embrace warmed my heart.

The planet intensified my love for it.

The wildlife made my life wild.

— contributed by reader Becca Godwin, January 10, 2024


I’m returning home from my walk and it’s barely dawn. I couldn’t tolerate the scorching temperatures again this summer, so I adopted new habits. I’m not alone, something far bigger changed this year. In addition to climate tipping points, there’s another transformation underway, finally! Mainstream and social media, and personal conversations are decisively acknowledging the climate crisis. People, many people, are talking about it openly and with urgency. They’re shocked, angry, but at least they’re awake, no longer in bliss denial. Citizens worldwide are demanding their governments take corrective action, and some are. There’s hope. I pray the momentum lasts!

— contributed by reader Kathy Posey, January 10, 2024


Our Christmas menu this year came from within 15 miles of us.

It was a challenge. Fields around here still grow a lot of field corn and soybeans. Many will, for a while. But other farms, sheltered in evergreen windbreaks and deepening perennial roots, even in December, feed the soil and the soul, too.

A tangy juneberry-aronia chutney pairs perfectly with nibbles of herby goat cheese and Kernza crackers. We drink warming spiceberry tea and our own mulled apple cider. And, with all the requisite bliss, we roast our first American chestnuts over an open fire. It tastes like home.

— contributed by reader Betsy Ruckman, January 3, 2024


You’ve seen so many videos of people making THE stale bread soup that you almost went out and bought yourself a loaf, just so you could wait a couple days and then jump on the bandwagon. But that would be silly. No, you’ve got it bookmarked for the next time you actually need to use up a hunk of old bread.

But now you’re craving soup. And you’ve got hella carrots from your neighbor’s lawn-turned-garden that you need to use up — you search for “carrot soup” and start thumbing through the endless scroll of vids.

Damn. That looks good.

— “Let’s make stale bread sexy,” December 6, 2023

In this newsletter, we considered the “TikTok feta effect” — and whether the platform’s ability to inspire shortage-inducing food crazes could be harnessed to help us shift toward more climate-friendly eating. Read more


The cool blades of grass between my toes were prickly, little sticky, teeming with ladybugs.

Growing up, my dad would mow the lawn every weekend in some Sisyphean jockeying for the top spot among neighborhood men.

When people proclaimed their love for that cut-grass smell, I recoiled.

“It’s a warning to other plants and insects, didn’t you read that article?!”

Perhaps they preferred the scent of control.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the lawnmower ban. At 63, the age my father passed, I bury my head in the hill and take a deep breath — the smell of sweet, untouched relief.

— A new lawn, a new day, November 29, 2023

This drabble, sent in by Looking Forward reader Caitlin Caplinger, inspired a newsletter exploring the problems with lawn care culture and the growth of alternatives. Read more


Other volunteers find the nursing home sad around the holidays. Not you — you’ve been baking, canning, and candying for weeks, bringing treats to every resident you visit. When you pull out the food, they pull out their food stories. And you pull up a chair. 

Today, you’re in Mrs. Reed’s room, listening to how she used to feed 30 people at Thanksgiving. 

“And that was during the shelf shortage years? How did you manage?” 

“Well, for starters, we never threw a dang thing away,” she says. 

You frown. “What do you mean ‘threw away’?”

She smiles a deep, faraway smile.

— Holiday cooking blueprint, November 22, 2023

In this newsletter, food writer and recipe creator Caroline Saunders shared some of her go-to recipes and tips for a low-waste, plant-forward holiday feast. Read more


A warm breeze brushes your arms as you sit lazily on the balcony. You wave to your elderly neighbor, Roy, across the way. He’s always yelling at you to “close the door; you’re wasting energy” — no matter your patient explanations that the building’s AC knows when the door is open and accounts for it. 

You helped him with the settings on the TempFlow in his apartment. He likes it mad cold inside — maybe that’s just what he’s used to. But you have to laugh at him puttering around in his sweater and bow tie on a hot day like this …

— The future of AC, November 1, 2023

Air conditioning provides a much needed adaptation to extreme heat. But it also contributes to more planetary warming. In this newsletter, we explored some of the more efficient models that researchers and tech companies are developing. Read more


Your communal home used to be affectionately known as the shack. But since the remodel, your kids have dubbed it “the changeling castle” — for the phase-change materials that help absorb heat in its walls. The window awnings make the facade look more like a face, now with thick green eyebrows.

Your neighbors up the road have “the shire,” a bermed house with green walls and roofs. In between the two, you all chipped in to build a shade cover over the playground, and muraled the pavement with the reflective paint where the kids love to play “floor is lava” …

— Explore a heat-proof city, October 11, 2023

In this newsletter, we excerpted part of a special multimedia project by Grist reporters Jake Bittle and Naveena Sadisavam exploring the landscape of heat solutions — and how they could reshape cities to be more resilient, healthy, and beautiful. Read more


“OK class,” you announce from the front of the bus. “You all did great at the museum. Now, when we get to the charging station, I want everybody to stick with their buddy. And follow very close behind your chaperone, OK?”

You hear a chorus of, “Yes, Mr. Flowers!”

“Great. At the park, we’ll have one hour for our picnic.”

The bus charging station is kind of in the middle of nowhere — but just a 10-minute walk to one of the biggest parks in the state. If everything goes well, you’re contemplating another long-distance field trip for the spring …

— Yellow buses go green, October 4, 2023

Transportation contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector — and the nation’s 480,000 school buses make up its single largest public transportation fleet. In this newsletter, we explored how cities like Baltimore are converting their yellow bus fleets to electric. Read more


You usually walk to work along the waterfront. But on a scorching summer day like this, the only way to go is Canopy Street. The serpentine path adds 10 minutes to your commute — more if you catch sight of a bird you want to identify — the only reason your chronically late self doesn’t go this way in the cooler months.

You stop to fill your bottle at a water station beneath a moss-covered tree. Misters gently spritz overhead. A bird lands on the white pavement beside you, and you check your watch before allowing yourself to glance at it …

— More heat solutions, July 26, 2023

With extreme heat worsening all over the world, cities, states, and countries are implementing solutions to both protect residents and and mitigate the underlying causes of global heating. We rounded up a few in this newsletter. Read more


“You’re really still vegan?” she asks again.

You’re surprised that Syd is surprised. You both went vegan in high school, a couple of school-striking rebels. But she gave it up after college — the veganism, not the activism.

“I mean, your whole life is your climate work. You don’t wanna just eat a steak in your off time?”’

You chuckle at that. “Honestly, no? I don’t even eat the lab-grown stuff. I just am a vegan — it feels right to me. But you do you, obviously.”

She grins. “Well, cool. Let’s go to Veggie Heaven tonight then — for old time’s sake?”

— What we’ve learned about personal climate action, July 12, 2023

This newsletter recaps our five-part series on personal climate action — running the gamut from intimately personal choices to levers for systemic change. Read the takeaways (and revisit the full series) here


Your dad protested this birthday party. As a longtime environmental activist, he hated to be “wasteful.”

When he was young, people thought a lot about personal footprints. Also, waste was, like, a thing. He still has trouble believing that travel, circularity, and municipal repurposing have gotten as efficient as you constantly remind him they have.

But now that everyone’s here, you see the joy in his crinkly, 95-year-old smile. The whole family’s together, laughing, toasting him with homemade beer, and enjoying his favorite vegan dishes. It’s the party he deserves — and the one you knew a part of him wanted.

— My big, fat, green wedding, June 7, 2023

Green lifestyle choices may not be the answer to the climate crisis. But living according to your values can be personally fulfilling — and the way we celebrate life’s milestones, from weddings to birthday parties to funerals, offers a chance to magnify those values and share them with others. This newsletter kicks off a month-long series in Looking Forward exploring the topic of personal climate action, beginning with an area of life that’s incredibly personal. Read more


I’m on all fours in the orchard soil, my head tilted in hopes of amplifying the sounds coming from my pongamia shoots. Their slight droop and seeming wistfulness tell me they’re not getting quite what they need. I adjust my florameter toward the stems — and there it is, that anxious popping, a sign of distress.

Admittedly, I don’t know what they’re saying. But if I can find out and help this orchard thrive, their beans will become oil, will become food and fuel that will serve as the basis of this community’s carbon-negative grid system. So I’ll keep on listening.

— Listening to the trees, contributed by reader Camilla Sterne
May 3, 2023


You’re surprised to find yourself a little misty-eyed at this Harbor Day parade. The 60-foot float carrying the retired trash wheel — once an iconic waterfront fixture — glides joyously down the street. You remember visiting the wheel on school trips decades ago. Now, your kids will visit it in a museum.

It hasn’t been doing much for years now. Your city’s zero-waste strategies are some of the most ambitious in the country, and it shows. Still, you’ll miss seeing the snail-like structure out there, swimmers splashing around it — a reminder of all the work it took to get this harbor clean.

— Meet Mr. Trash Wheel, April 26, 2023

This newsletter profiles a Baltimore celebrity — a 50-foot, solar- and hydro-powered, googly-eyed, garbage-guzzling device named Mr. Trash Wheel. What started as a practical solution to litter in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has become an online personality with a dedicated following, and the idea has spread within the city and beyond. Read more


Your wife comes downstairs just as you finish packing her lunch box — an extra indulgent one. She’s been pulling more shifts at the hospital while one of the other doctors is on leave. Meanwhile, since the public schools adopted the four-day week, you won’t be going in to teach today.

It’s Field Trip Friday for your two young sons. They’re going to volunteer at the aquarium. Once you kiss her goodbye, you’ll cook their breakfast and walk them to the bus stop. And then … bike to the grocery store? Read? Maybe you’ll finally install the new heat pump …

— Working less — for the planet, April 19, 2023

A four-day workweek is gaining popularity for its benefits in areas like job satisfaction, stress, and fatigue. But the research indicates that working less could provide benefits to the planet as well. In this newsletter we take a look at some of the immediate climate connections from things like commuting, as well as what a four-day week could mean for the future of work. Read more 


The mayor of your small town loves making a fuss over little victories. In this case, more than a fuss — a full-blown local holiday.

In spite of yourself, you feel excitement bubbling in your gut as you head to the beach site where you’ve been working for the past month. You’re placing the last stones today that will help shield the beach from erosion — and this marks the last inch of the town’s coastline to be protected.

You see the crowd, bigger than you’d expected, already gathered as you pull up to the site. Let the Coast Day festivities begin.

— Fighting erosion in Alaska, March 15, 2023

Fueled by rising seas and melting permafrost, erosion is eating away at Alaska’s coastline. Freelance writer Saima Sidik covered some of the scientific solutions that are emerging to try and shore up beaches in the cold north. This newsletter highlights some of those approaches, and the story behind Sidik’s story. Read more 


Your grandmother loves to take you walking downtown, pointing out her favorite architecture. She helped build this city, and still it’s always changing. In her childhood, she tells you, homes and buildings regularly fell victim to things like hurricanes, fires, floods, blizzards — which were worse back then. People had to rebuild, and they kept rebuilding the same way, while the storms got stronger, the seas higher. She tells you of this for the umpteenth time.

“And why was that, Gran?” You ask, knowing the answer.

She smiles. “Because they only wanted to keep nature out, instead of working with it.”

— Building better, March 8, 2023

The built environment contributes about 40 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. But our homes and buildings are also vulnerable to worsening climate impacts. In this newsletter, we profile to examples of building initiatives that are both climate resilient and low carbon. Read more


The fading golden-hour sun warmed the sand. The young boy squidged it between his toes as he walked along the shoreline. He paused to pick up an empty mussel shell, tossing it into the air. Suddenly he heard a thunderous splash. His eyes darted upward and met the horizon.

Look! I saw its tail!” he hollered to his grandfather, who sat on the sand behind him, eyes closed, breathing in the salty breeze. The old man inhaled deeply. He opened his eyes and smiled, silently thanking the creatures for the clean air.

“You know, they’re one reason we’re still here.”

— More whale song, more carbon sequestration: December 8, 2022

Whales are an iconic symbol of conservation. But they might also be an overlooked, natural climate solution. Their massive bodies store a ton of carbon, and when they die, they carry it down to the deep. In this newsletter, we look at how protecting and restoring whale populations could help us manage global warming. Read more


It’s become a running joke in your family that you’re going to return any gift your brother gets you. Bless him, he just doesn’t understand your aesthetic, or your approach to stuff.

Hence, your jaw-drop when you unwrap this gorgeous pair of distressed, patch-covered, wide-legged jeans. You recognize the brand but they look so … unique.

“They’re refurbished,” he explains. “I thought it’d be funny, you know. You always return my presents, and this one has already been returned,” he chuckles.

You’re almost speechless. “Actually, I … love them.”

Equally shocked, he starts to smile. “Did I just win Christmas??”

— The gifts that keep on giving: November 22, 2022

The holidays bring many traditions that some of us would rather avoid: fossil fuel-guzzling travel, piles of leftover food that often go to waste, and the obligation of gift-giving. Although it’s a sweet ritual that can bring a lot of joy, it can also fuel overconsumption, extraction, and more waste. Thankfully, several companies have begun to recognize that holiday shoppers (and consumers year-round) want more sustainable options. This newsletter explores the rise of resale programs. Read more


Chocolate is hard to come by these days. But somehow, your mother found some to make the most heavenly birthday cake you’ve ever smelled.

The kitchen table groans under the weight of your gifts — glass jars filled with homemade treats, foraged herbs, stacks of books. And the one thing you were almost too shy to ask for: a brand new electric bike.

You’ve known about your “surprise” party all week. You can hear friends and neighbors whispering in the backyard, ready to jump out the moment you step into the garden. You smile, close your eyes, and drink in gratitude.

— Looking Forward’s birthday: October 27, 2022


She was a child of the tides — born from the warm sand and raised within the currents, where microplastics and anthropogenic chemicals no longer lingered.

Beneath the surface, she felt the coolness of the sea on her fins, as she glided along the glistening waves.

With a tender push, she flowed through the deep, diving gracefully toward the reef.
A blissful array of vibrant species greeted her, as sunbeams familiarly kissed her shell and said, “Welcome home.”

This magical place, once barren, had been restored.

And the heart of the ocean continued to abundantly beat on, along with her own.

— Can we 3D print corals? August 18, 2022

It’s no secret that coral reefs, a keystone of ocean health, are under threat due to the shifting climate. This newsletter explores an effort by one lab in Hawaii to provide something akin to a bone graft for reefs: 3D-printed fractal-like objects that resemble corals, and may help to repopulate and restore damaged reefs. Read more


I cycle down to the neighborhood store — mama forgot a tomato.

I loop down streets so wide you used to see rows of cars on either side, well before the rEVolution. Things are slow to change here, but last spring, my neighbors and I convinced the city council to add us a stop on the BRT. At least it’s something.

Bright, beautiful home gardens — no longer forbidden by archaic HOA rules — blossom in the late summer sun. Our crop had a tough start to the season this year, too much rain.

I wonder whose tomato I’m going to purchase tonight?

— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
August 4, 2022


“This tastes … surprisingly good!” Akash remarked, chewing the salad I’d made from foraged roots, dressed with apple-peel vinegar and scraps of mango-turmeric we grew out back.

Appa and Usha came in with armfuls of kindling they found. “Most of it’s charred, but this stuff could be useful.”

We lit the fire, letting the sage-scented smoke rise up to the sky. Halfway across the world from where we were born, we are here now, permanent new natives, tied to this land.

As dawn broke, I heard the drip of our water-collection bags. I watched my sweet family, cobbled together, sleep.

— Contributed by reader Rani Jayakumar
August 4, 2022


“Cheer up! The AQI this morning is only 261, you’ll have at least 30 minutes,” she said with a sad smile and the heavy eyes that most grandmothers have.

Our new airsuits can only withstand 130 degrees Fahrenheit and an AQI of 265.

Sigh. I guess in 30 minutes, I can throw the ball around with Linux. Sometimes Grandma tells me about her dog Bear from the before times. I wish I knew how fur and grass felt.

Grandma tightens my airsuit’s oxygen mask.

“Come on Linux, let’s go while we can!” The robodog runs toward the fusion-powered sliding door.

— Contributed by reader Shai Basys
August 4, 2022


Mother says floods and wildfires caused a collapse of governments, financial systems, the internet, and power grids. …

So we garden and barter.

In the marketplace while waiting for someone to weigh my pumpkins, I see the boy I like, kneeling beside some bushes.

My heart flips as I wonder what he’s doing. Animals and insects are such honored members of our community, harming one would mean expulsion.

I approach. “Zander?”

He beams. “Astra! These mice have built a nest. I’m feeding them corn.”

“Oh!” I laugh.

“Want me to carry your basket home for you?” he asks.

I smile. “Okay.”

— Contributed by reader Susmita Ramani
August 4, 2022


“The carbon footprint is honestly not all that different,” your partner says, comparing the labels of two brands of canned RealMeat. You can’t stand the stuff, but she says it reminds her of the foods she ate as a kid.

“You know they don’t count the methane in that,” you say. It’s so dumb, but that’s how regulation moves sometimes. Companies are only required to display their CO2 emissions, nothing else.

“Good point,” she nods. “I’ll just steer clear of the beef ones then.” She glances at the label of a RealChicken, and tosses it in the cart.

“What’s next?”

— You know about CO2. Let’s talk CH4: July 21, 2022

Carbon dioxide has become somewhat synonymous with greenhouse gas emissions. But the second-most abundant greenhouse gas has recently gained attention for the harm it causes, and the opportunity we have to mitigate it — methane. In this newsletter we explore some of the surprising sources of methane, and the solutions that can reduce emissions. Read more


You try to limit your after-work screen time — but today, there’s been so much good news. You’ve been joyscrolling for over an hour, sharing all your best finds with your little digital community of climate and justice nerds.

You’re getting ready to log off when you see an email from a friend, wondering if you’ll proofread a cli-fi story he’s written. Ooh, you’re tempted.

You glance out the window. It’s still too rainy to go for a walk or rally the neighbors for stoop drinks.

So you flip on your electric tea kettle and settle in for another good read.

— Here’s looking at you: May 19, 2022

In this newsletter, we share the results from our Looking Forward audience survey, as well as a little bit of reintroduction of Looking Forward’s mission and what we strive to bring to our audience. Read more


In my dream, I heard loud cheers outside my window. I tossed my blanket aside and ran to the balcony, blinking in the morning light. A crowd of people, many of whom I knew, marched toward the town square, dancing and singing.

“We did it!” They cheered.

“Did what?” I yelled back. They looked so free, I wanted to join them.

“We walked into our banks and withdrew all our money.”

“All of you? All of your money? Where is it now?”

“It’s in the meadows, turning into butterflies. At the farm, sprouting greens. In the forest, becoming trees …”

— Put your money where your planet is: April 21, 2022

Using money to support climate action isn’t just about donating, or buying more ethical products. It also comes down to where our money “sleeps” — what the bank or investment firm does with it while we’re not using it. In this Earth Day newsletter, we share about money moves that can help support a greener and more compassionate economy. Read more


“I know it’s sort of an anachronism,” she says, gesturing sheepishly toward the wood-burning stove.

“It suits an old farmhouse like this,” you reply with a shrug. “And long as you’ve got wood, you’ll never be without heat.”

“Well, we never are,” she says. “Ever since they put up the new wind farm off the coast, we haven’t had a blackout. In fact, we hardly ever use this thing. But it does get drafty when it’s not going.”

You nod. “There are some things we can do to improve that.” You flip open your Energy Audit notebook and start writing.

— A more resilient grid is possible: February 10, 2022

A year after the deadly winter freeze in Texas, power outages remain a problem everywhere in the United States, thanks to worsening weather extremes that tax our aging grid. In this newsletter, we ask a few experts about the progress they’ve seen in the past year, and what still needs to be done to make our energy systems more resilient. Read more


It’s a friendly neighborhood contest. It provides dozens of fresh, nutritious loaves to the food pantry. Yeah, yeah. This year, you want to win.

It’s taken you weeks of practice to make half-decent bread out of HeatWheat2042 — the star variety from the mill this year. But you’ve tested and retested your latest recipe and … It. Is. Perfect.

“Are you done draining our kitchen battery now, you maniac?” your girlfriend asks. You only grin. Wiping sweat from your brow, you offer her a lightly buttered, warm slice of heaven.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, savoring her bite. “You’re going to win.”

— More carbs, less carbon: January 27, 2022

Climate change poses a threat to our food system — including important staple crops like wheat. But experimenting with different types of cooking and baking today might help us prepare for (or even prevent) that uncertain future. In this newsletter, we talk with Caroline Saunders, host of The Sustainable Baker podcast, about embracing experimentation and variability in the kitchen. Read more


“300 fruit trees. All alive and healthy,” she typed just before her mother interrupted to ask about the schedule at school tomorrow.

“We filed an absence request. We need to work on the final presentation for our Generation’s Mission,” she replied, and finished typing: “date of check: May 14th, 2053.”

She knew her mother always wanted to hear more, because back in her day you had homework to do, you did not engage on a mission to shorten the supply chain.

“Our entire neighborhood is now self-sufficient, fruit-wise. Fifth year in a row. We did it. Our generation did it.”

— Contributed by reader Anca Stănescu
January 13, 2022


We cross the street, over the permeable-paver bikeway, and duck into Lucas’s kitchen. At least the haze held off today.

“Wow, everything smells amazing!” I exclaim.

Turning back from the solar-powered stove, Lucas smiles and shouts, “Thanks!” as I swoon over maple-glazed brussels sprouts. Somehow, it’s never the same menu — just whatever was fresh from the day before.

Alli throws open the rented kitchen’s window, revealing a cluster of folks already outside with their ceramic containers. I tie my apron around my waist and wave excitedly out the window. Sunday mornings just aren’t the same without community.

“Let’s get serving!”

— Contributed by reader Bethany N. Bella
January 13, 2022


They make another venture out of the underground nest onto a forest floor teeming with the colorful flora and fauna of the tropics. These ants on a foraging mission don’t number very many, their tiny, dark bodies inconspicuous.

Years ago, the forest was an abandoned field. Its soil couldn’t support the hardiest of crops. Ants ventured, as they do, into the field. They built nests, foraged, defecated, and laid their dead to rest, all in the soil. They started something.

The foragers carry on, with only their mission in mind. They don’t know it, but they are agents of rebirth.

— Contributed by reader Anika Hazra
January 13, 2022


You stand and brush some dirt off your jeans. Your left palm’s a little scraped, but your bike looks unscathed.

“Really sorry, man,” the kid says. “I shoulda signaled.”

“It’s all good,” you tell him. “If you’d been a car, then maybe I’d be in trouble.”

He laughs, and you realize he may not be old enough to remember when cars and bikes shared these roads. How polluted this neighborhood used to be, before activists forced the city to care. You look off beyond the tree-filled median as the kid gets ready to remount.

“Ride safe,” you tell him, smiling.

— A more inclusive bike culture: December 9, 2021

When cities plan to expand safe bike infrastructure, they tend to cater to affluent white bikers. A lack of bike lanes in low-income communities of color is one reason why the fatality rate is 30 percent higher for Black cyclists and 23 percent higher for Hispanics, compared with white riders. This newsletter profiles the work of Courtney Williams — aka The Brown Bike Girl — a mobility justice advocate who pushes for systemic change while also educating individual riders about what they can do to stay safe. Read more


You sigh at the empty bottles forgotten on your kitchen counter. Your partner was supposed to stop by the refillery after work. You’re about to send a grumpy text when …

Ugh, is all they type.

DON’T buy more bottles, you write. You’ve got bottles galore, all you need is shampoo.

Let’s just go together tomorrow? We need to go food shopping too, we can hit both places. You’re annoyed, but at least now you get to go to the refillery — a favorite weekend stop. You start listing the other things that could use refilling: lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen …

Refill, replace, upcycle: November 23, 2021

Plastic is an environmental scourge — emissions from the plastic industry are on track to surpass coal by the end of this decade. But the solutions to it are way more exciting than paper straws and canvas grocery bags. In this newsletter, we spotlight three paths to a less plasticky future. Read more


Affordable homes border swaths of public green space.

An environmental justice organization, well funded and powered by community voices, advocates for residents’ needs and brings its expertise to local and national policymaking.

Health care, locally grown produce, and sustainable goods abound — easily accessible by bike or electric bus.

Those goods are the result of a global supply chain that has taken a holistic approach to sustainability, changing the lives of millions of workers.

What’s behind this picture? “Holistic, comprehensive development,” “a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in all environmental policymaking,” an end to “the exploitative nature of market capitalism.”

— based on visions of the future from Robert Bullard, Charles Lee, Peggy Shepard, and Baldemar Velasquez
To achieve a just future, you’ve got to know its roots:
November 11, 2021

Sometimes in order to look forward, you need to look back. In this newsletter, we interviewed four leaders who were part of the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991 about the history of the environmental justice movement — and how it marches on today, and into the future. Read more


Thank you, you whisper in your head as you sit comfortably on the floor of Ada’s attic, with your wife and kids and six neighbors. 

Thank you for letting her borrow mint from the garden. Thank you for fixing that squeaky gate. 

You don’t think about your own home flooding for the third time this year. You’re up here, dry and safe. 

Thank you for those long sidewalk chats, even though you found her strange at first. 

Ada offers you dried mangoes from her emergency supply bag — you shake your head, but squeeze her hand and smile. 

Thank you. 

Community is a climate solution: October 28, 2021

The climate crisis can feel so big, but one of the best ways to be proactive in your own life is quite small — simply meeting your neighbors is a climate solution. In this newsletter, we talked to Christine Nieves about her work activating a Puerto Rican community to feed each other in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and about how community itself is a powerful tool in building climate resilience. Read more

Stay tuned for more drabbles, and subscribe to the Looking Forward newsletter to receive them, plus the current-day solutions they stem from, in your inbox every Wednesday.