Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

Two years ago, Dawn Henry bought a Tesla.

It was not to save the planet. “I just thought it looked cool,” she admits.

The Westporter was a successful marketing executive. She’d spent 12 years working with Diageo. Now she was a sought-after consultant.

Environmental concerns were off her radar. “I vaguely knew about climate change,” she says. “But I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Dawn Henry

She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way, she chatted with people who were interested in renewable energy.

There were, for example, 2 solar installers from Germany. They talked for 45 minutes. Dawn learned a lot.

Back home, she watched documentaries and read about climate change. She realized that the effects will not be “300 years from now. It’s happening today.”

The 2016 election galvanized her. “What Scott Pruitt is doing to the EPA, the fossil fuel money that’s going into politics — our government is moving backwards,” she says.

She joined national organizations. She went to conferences, and got trained as an advocate.

She lobbied Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes. “They’re great on the environment,” she says. “But I realized there’s not a lot that’s going to happen nationally. It’s more on the local level.”

Dawn Henry and her son Charles at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

She took the Climate Reality Project course in Seattle. The brainchild of Al Gore, it was “amazing,” she says. Back home, she made presentations at the United Methodist Church, the Fairfield Senior Center and Fairfield University. Soon, she’ll speak at the Westport Senior Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

Dawn joined the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Electric Car Club.

“It’s hands-on. You can see results,” she says of the community organizations. “Energy, waste, water, conservation — they’re all important.”

So how does Dawn assess our town’s awareness of and commitment to environmental concerns?

“We’ve got good history and momentum,” she says. “There’s Net Zero” — the goal is to be fully sustainable by 2050. “The plastic bag ban. And we’re expanding our EV charging stations.”

Dawn Henry presenting at Indivisible’s ICT4 “Evening of Action” at the Unitarian Church last month.

Through her involvement in environmental issues, Dawn says, she has met “so many great people, in Town Hall and around town, I’d never have known.”

But, she notes, she and her fellow activists have “way more ideas and ambitions than we have hands to do them.” She invites anyone interested in helping to contact her (dawn@henrystrategy.com).

If you want, she’ll show you her Tesla.

It is pretty cool.

19 responses to “Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

  1. “She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way”

    The hypocrisy here is off the charts. Zero carbon footprint on that trip. Very net zero.

  2. A.David Wunsch

    There is no hypocrisy here. A Tesla has the carbon footprint of an ordinary car that is getting around 90 mpg. If she uses only this car she will soon offset the CO2 attributed to her flight across the country. .
    A. David Wunsch, Staples 1956

  3. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    If someone will “lend”me the money to buy a Tesla I’ll join the chorus, too. And I would need to drive it only from California to Portland, Oregon. Whoo-woo. Another question: where does the electricity at an EV charging station come from? It comes from coal-fired electricity generating plants. Still, none of us should fault Dawn Henry for her energy and commitment to the Cause: The mid-term elections are only a few months away, let’s vote out the Scoundrels!

    • In fairness the electricity probably is more likely to come from natural gas which of course is also a fossil fuel. Ultimately hydrocarbons are going to power your vehicle no matter what way you cut it. Then of course there is that pesky little issue of the precious metals, needed for the batteries, that are mined in West Africa at a tremendous cost to the environment over there – then again out of sight out of mind – nimby.

    • A. David Wunsch

      Even a coal fired electric plant is much more efficient than a gasoline powered car. Why do you think your car requires a radiator.? So if you charge your EV from the power line you still have a smaller carbon footprint than if you were driving a gasoline powered car.

  4. Nancy Wilson (Canada)

    There is no such thing as “clean” coal. Move on.

  5. Steve Stein

    Hi Henry and Bob-

    Ultimately as a society we will all be moving as quickly as possible to renewable, hydro, solar and wind generated electricity. Our cars will be fully electric or at a minimum plugin hybrids. Most industries in this country see this and moving in that direction. It makes economic sense. It is simply the good old American way of investing for the future. It costs a litlle more now but the returns will more than pay for themselves.

    Climate change is as close to us as all the houses being raised in the Mill Pond area and watching TV to see the high tide flooding in all our low lying coastal cities- including MIami and New Orleans.

    I would bet you both worry about this stuff- we can either do nothing or we can pitch in.

    Dawn found her things to do. What do you guys propose to do?

    Over the last 10 years we replaced our car and SUV with hybrids. Not perfect- but better.

    • William Strittmatter

      Hydrogen fuel cells probably a better technical solution that battery centric EVs. If it can be figured out, much more environmentally benign well beyond CO2 and no need to exploit child labor in the Congo for the cobalt required for battery production.


    • Bob Stalling

      HI Steve,
      Maybe you could address the findings in the article I posted regarding the Tesla battery, rather than make assumptions about what I worry about and what I propose to do about future predicted catastrophic-only climate scenarios.
      Just saying.

      • Steve Stein

        Hi Bob-
        After reading your article the question still remains- “What should we be doing as individuals and as a society to head off the predicted climate catastrophe that we are seeing developing in our lifetimes?”

        Your article suggests one answer- We’ll just have to keep our Tesla longer than 8 years to make it pay off on the CO2 front.

        I would also suggest we should be less of a disposable society and more of a reusable society- it might help.

        Just sayin’

        • Bob Stalling

          Hi Steve.
          And how long does a Tesla battery last?
          By the way, my degree is in Forestry and I am a licensed Arborist in 2 States. Over the past 35 years I have saved thousand of trees through cultural practices, insect and disease management, fertilization, pruning, cabling and bracing. I have also taken down thousands of hazardous trees along roadways and houses, perhaps saving lives, though there is no way to measure. Additionally, we have a 4 acre nursery and have planted thousands of trees and shrubs over the years…all this while living in my 1500 square foot house and driving a 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma pick up truck. Though I admit, I should unplug my toaster on occasion…
          I’m sure you are aware that recent satellite imagery has shown a greening of the earth from additional CO2…since plant thrive on it.
          I would like to ask you or anyone else, if they know what role carbon fertilization plays in the predicted catastrophic-only climate scenarios determined by predicting the averaged climate sensitivity derived from imperfect climate models and then used to create policies that are predicted to fix the predictions.


      • A. David Wunsch

        Regarding the carbon footprint of the Tesla , take a look at this piece
        which undermines the thesis in the article posted by Bob Stalling.

        • Bob Stalling

          Nice try David…but perhaps you should read what I wrote. Let me remind you:
          “Of course, it depends on what part of the world you live in and how much you drive, but even if it’s half that, it’s still significant”

          You are also assuming that the assumptions in your article prove the assumptions in the Swedish article to be wrong.

          On another note… the Tesla battery pack loses it’s charge over the years (the warrantee being for 8 years), at a replacement cost of $12,000.

    • Steve, all I am saying is just because you drive an EV don’t be too smug. It’s not like EVs are the great panacea for global warming, There is plenty of stuff on the internet arguing for the pros and cons of EVs so this argument could go on for days.

      If you are really concerned about global warming there are umpteen other things you could do as suggested by Eric below along with stop eating any foods grown with fertilizers, take public transportation, heat your house to 68f in the winter and cool it to 72 in the summer not the other way around, stop buying stuff you don’t need, the list goes on an on…….

  6. It’s a step in the right direction and don’t you want more Millenials to wake up to global warming like she did and what they can do to help the planet for the future????Good story!

    • A. David Wunsch

      I agree. We live in a very scary time when the “leader of the free world” can proclaim that man made climate change is a hoax, and not be laughed off the world stage.
      ADW Staples 1956

  7. William Strittmatter

    Part of the problem is that there is a good chance we are already too late and can’t do much short of severe near term reductions in living standards in the US while simultaneously crushing the hopes of improving living standards of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

    The reason: apparently the climate models behind the Paris Accords make heroic assumptions about implementation of non-existent negative emission technologies in addition to all of the countries meeting their CO2 targets.


    So, if the climate models are correct, while it doesn’t hurt, much of what we are doing in the US are merely feel good actions (or virtue signaling for the more cynical) and potentially divert attention on where we should be spending money – inventing the required negative emission technology or infrastructure improvements to deal with the inevitable temperature increase and sea level rise.

    Doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try I suppose. Certainly the annual Westport EV rally should go. Even if nominally powered by solar, using those KWh for joyriding diverts that energy from being able to reduce fossil fuel generated electricity elsewhere on the grid. Beyond a few electric cars though, if Westporter’s want to really make a difference and/or set an example, one might consider smaller houses (is 7,000 square ft, or even 3,500, really necessary?), turning off the AC, shutting down the pool, planting more trees in place of large lawns, bicycles or walking instead of even electric vehicles, sweaters instead of heat. Probably a bunch of other things.

    I’m lucky I’m older. I do worry about the kids.

  8. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    We seem to be pretty good at accepting or denying the impact of what we’ve been doing or not doing on a sum total basis. I wish somebody would quantify the impact on the climate if EACH OF US made basic lifestyle changes at the individual level. Take Navy showers (does anybody who has never spent time in the military understand what that means?”), Insist on reduced unnecessary packaging. Demand reusable containers such as milk cartons, soda pop, beer cans, booze bottles, etc.. Outlaw disposable syringes (good for the eco – system, keeps ’em out of the eco-stream and reduces access to opiods). As with guns, fingers should never be pointed at other people.