My favorite quote is: "I didn't fall in love. I rose in it." – Toni Morrison The life hack I swear by is: Take care of your mental health
Ensuring everyone has access to affordable renewable energy
ADDRESSING A GLOBAL CRISIS. Parinda Darden is motivated by one of the world's most urgent causes: climate change. It's the reason she founded Wildgrid, a solar marketplace that helps homeowners, renters, and business owners easily switch to renewable energy by matching them with local solar providers. "What drives me is wanting a meaningful life, which includes a job that will make a difference to the planet's future. Wildgrid is a way for me to meet this moment in history."
Wildgrid connects renters to a network of community solar farms and plugs them into the subscriber's utility company. It's free to sign up, and users can save between 5% to 15% on their monthly electricity bill. For homeowners, they match customers with solar providers based on Wildgrid's rigorous vetting process, including quality of materials, labor, and reputation within the industry. "I think it's important for people to realize that going green or becoming more sustainable doesn't always mean you have to give up something."
The idea for Wildgrid started in 2020, shortly after Parinda and her wife Rachel bought their first home in Queens, New York. Having always been environmentally conscious, Parinda seized the opportunity to try to have solar panels installed on their roof. "I thought it would be a super easy process, like finding a general contractor. I was completely wrong. After putting my information into a comparison website, I was bombarded with phone calls, voicemails, and spam texts by companies for weeks. It was a terrible experience."
Frustrated, she phoned her former housemate, Krystal, who worked in the solar industry and agreed the sales process is antiquated and, at times, aggressive. "We decided, hey, let's figure this out and build a platform to help people looking to move away from fossil fuels easily switch to renewable sources." Soon after, Parinda and Krystal co-founded Wildgrid.
FREEDOM TO EXPLORE NEW OPPORTUNITIES. The company brings together two of Parinda's greatest passions: science and technology. Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, she moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts and studied biochemistry and molecular biology at college. During her senior year, she discovered coding through her friends and became a self-taught coder, attending boot camps and free coding lessons. From there, she launched herself into the tech startup scene in New York.
Parinda believes her confidence to launch a business comes from her mom, who moved from Thailand to the US in 2001 and worked until she had saved enough money to move Parinda and her younger sister over. “Knowing that my mom worked so hard - she came to America with $200 in her bank account - pushed me to do well for myself so I'd never have to ask her for anything else. Luckily, my mom has never pressured me to follow a specific path. Even when I quit a stable, full-time job to start Wildgrid, she supported and trusted me – even if she doesn't understand it yet."
Despite the immense challenges of the climate crisis, Parinda believes it's vital for her to remain optimistic about the planet's future health. Since launching Wildgrid, she has focused on looking after her mental health to ensure she has a maximum positive impact on the business. "I'm against the whole climate doom and gloom thing because ultimately it turns people off from sustainability."
Instead, Parinda envisages a solarpunk future, with Wildgrid playing a significant role in building a sustainable future interconnected with nature and community. "To solve the climate crisis, we can't leave vulnerable communities behind, many of whom are the most affected by climate change. Being a queer woman of color has definitely shaped the mission for Wildgrid; we're always thinking of ways to help uplift communities that are the most impacted by climate change."