People & Planet: Conversation Series

Join us for a series of conversations exploring the many intersections of our changing global climate and the human and natural systems that also shape our world. Past topics include the planetary health framework, resilient food systems, drinking water contamination – and the connection between biodiversity loss and emerging infectious disease.

These streaming conversations are free and open to all. You can submit questions in advance during registration, and we’ll also hold time for live Q&A. Please note: While these events are free, advance registration is required to access the Zoom platform. Look for links below to sign-up through Eventbrite.

We hope you can join us! Questions? Ideas? Drop us a line at

2022 Conversations

Tuesday, June 21,
12:00 p.m. CST

Both in response to climate change and challenges to fuel supply chains, the energy system is undergoing a radical transformation from fossil fuel to clean energy technologies. That makes now a critical time to ask: How can we, starting in our own communities, leverage the opportunities created by this transition to effectively build a just and equitable clean energy future?

A key component of this work is ensuring equitable access to emerging careers in renewable energy. Much focus already has been paid to the value of building programs supporting green energy education and job training in the Twin Cities. However, realizing strategies that authentically connect with communities about these programs remains a growth opportunity.

Join Jamez Staples, President & CEO, Renewable Energy Partners; Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light; Joel Haskard, Co-Director, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP); and moderator Akisha Everett, Project and Engagement Coordinator, IonE Energy Transitions, who will discuss how training our communities for clean energy job opportunities has multiple long term benefits and how different communication strategies can improve awareness of them.

The conversation will tackle questions such as:

  • How can we build an equitable clean energy workforce in Minnesota?
  • How does a clean energy workforce support a resilient energy system?
  • How can organizations successfully connect with underrepresented communities about these opportunities?

Friday, September 30,
2:30 p.m. CST

Jessica Hellmann opened the conversation talking about the transition of society’s mindset to understand climate change. Climate change- a phenomenon many of us were once unsure of, and some doubted, has become accepted as fact, and worthy of immediate action. From this shift of mindset, IonE asks the question: What is the role of national and multinational corporations and academia in collective sustainability, social responsibility, and community-building efforts?

The simple answer, both are needed to create innovative solutions that reduce waste, carbon footprints, and benefit our community. 

Starbucks hopes to be a leader in this change, innovation, and collaboration. With an ambitious goal to cut their emissions in half, how does Starbucks hope to achieve this goal? What would it look like to create a more sustainable company reflected in the cup, the coffee, the creamer, and the customer experience?

Join Michael Kobori, Chief Sustainability Officer at Starbucks Coffee Company, along with Susanna Gibbons, IonE Fellow and Managing Director for the Carlson Funds Enterprise, and Beth Mercer-Taylor, IonE’s Co-Program Director of Sustainability Education, as they answer moderated questions from UMN students Madonna Morris Meilad Ebied, Bailey Webster, and other participants. The panel consists of questions around the topics of: 

  • Innovative solutions to increase sustainability
  • How to create a career in sustainability
  • And much more