Donnel Barid is playing with color, hoping to turn Black and Brown communities into multiple forms of green.
After seeing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" in college and becoming a climate activist, Baird began his mission to tackle climate change and wealth disparities through his company BlocPower.
Founded in 2014, Baird created a technology platform that could help small apartment buildings and other urban structures become energy efficient.
"We're going to have to green 100 million buildings across America. Who gets those jobs? Who gets the wealth that gets created from that transition? And are we as people of color, are we going to be at the forefront of that or are we going to be like left behind? And so, I think, I think we should lead it," said Baird.
The company hopes to go public in 7 years, with their ultimate goal being to reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent.
Barid explains BlocPower as it "turns buildings into Teslas."
And if customers don't have their own capital, the company lends them capital to pay for the construction workers and the equipment and then they pays BlocPower back over 15-20 years.
Currently Father Rudolph Gonzalez, the pastor of St. Margret church in the south Bronx is financing their units through the company.
"It has brought down our electrical costs and we don't have a boiler to deal with or oil to have delivered or what have you. So, we're very, very happy with it," said Father Gonzalez.
The church would normally spend thousands of dollars a year on oil and was about to spend $90,000 (USD) to repair their boiler before deciding to transition to clean energy.
"Nowadays when we're thinking about clean air and energy this is a wonderful option," said Father Gonzalez.
Recently, the native New Yorker become the recipient of one of the largest early-stage funding rounds ever raised by a Black entrepreneur. BlocPower raised $63 million (USD) in debt and equity, with the help of Goldman Sachs Group Inc and other investors. The bulk of the money will go toward financing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems for BlocPower's clients.
"Being a woman or a person of color and being a founder of a business of any kind is not easy," he explained."
"People who donate money from their foundations for climate change activism, people who donate to environmental organizations, they donate a lower percentage of money to people of color than even the private sector venture capitalists. So, they're at three percent and the private sector in the philanthropic sector, it's like two percent or 1.7 seven percent."
In 2019 former President Bill Clinton toured the system BlocPower installed at Cornerstone Baptist church in Brooklyn, New York and praised Baird for the work his company is doing.
Baird counts this moment as one of the highlights for the company, which received early support from the Clinton Foundation.
"We get to solve the climate crisis and we get to make Black and Brown communities and low-income white communities healthier, greener and wealthier. So that's what block power is about. And that's what I'm about."