Vote for the Planet

I don’t have to tell you that the challenges we face in our  community - and our world - are big. Climate change is impacting our health, threatening our well-being, deepening historical injustices, and shaking our economy. The question is: what can we as individuals do to make a difference? This year, one of the biggest actions we can take for a more sustainable future is to go out to the polls and vote. 

Vote in the Primary

You might think the primary election in North Carolina is going to be dull, but if you’re thinking of sitting this one out, please think again. Look down the ballot past the presidential race and you’ll find a bevy of candidates with different ideas and vision for our community. In these smaller races, your vote has more power and may make the difference for one future leader.

Not to mention the fact that here in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, many races are effectively over after the primary. With seven out of eight city council seats in solidly Democratic wards, for instance, the winner of the primary will likely win in November.

Your city councilors and county commissioners may not be celebrities, but they do important things that affect your life every day— setting local tax rates and zoning regulations, hiring city and county managers who function like CEOs of our local governments, funding schools, police and fire departments, and much more. These elected leaders are the last mile in response to the hundreds of billions of federal dollars set aside for cities like ours to fight climate change and dramatically improve public health. Use your voice and vote for a candidate that shares your vision and values.
And, by supporting local candidates in the primary, you are building a stronger bench for future elections. Local political offices are often the first stop along the way for candidates with bigger ambitions. We need to help the good ones flourish and let the others know they should find a different path.

Make a Plan

Decide when and where you will vote - and put it on your calendar! The NC primary is March 5 and early voting starts on February 15. To get all the information you need on where to vote, sample ballots, and many other resources, you can check the Forsyth County Board of Elections page ( and the NC State Board of Elections site (

Get Informed

Many people know less about local candidates than national office seekers who are front page news. Luckily, local candidates are the most likely to respond if you have questions about their positions (and the most likely to appreciate your ideas and insights). If a candidate’s website or social media doesn't state their position on climate policy or other issues that matter to you, send them a message. You’re likely to get a response and it’s also a chance for you to start a conversation with the candidate.

Many people, including those with good intentions and political aims, don’t have all the details on the ways in which a robust and just green economic transition will be the bedrock to build upon for a whole range of important issues—like crime reduction, job growth, cleaner air and water, improved education, childhood asthma reduction, affordable housing and just development. Letting candidates know what’s important to you can have big impacts on the ideas and vision of a future leader.

There are also organizations that publish candidates’ responses to issues questionnaires in advance of the election to help you decide where to cast your vote.. The Sierra Club and Piedmont Environmental Alliance both put out guides to help voters make informed choices.

Invite a Friend

You have to go into the voting booth alone, but I always make a plan to vote with a buddy. If you know someone on the fence about voting in the primary, invite them to go with you. Turnout for primaries is almost always lower than for the general election, so bringing an extra environmental voter or two with you can make a difference. Even a few voices matter in local elections.

Finally, if you really want to help supercharge votes for the planet, check out (and consider volunteering with) the Environmental Voter Project. This organization builds the power of the environmental movement by turning out voters who want to live on a healthier Earth.

Let’s go cast our votes for a more just, resilient, and sustainable planet!