Rhudine Steele Shows How Community Action Leads to Real Traction

Clean Energy Generation member Rhudine Steele spoke with SACE about spreading the word about the impacts of climate change in her community in Clayton County, GA – and about how you don't have to be an expert to start taking climate action in your community today.

Reed Winckler | August 16, 2023 | Clean Energy Generation, Georgia

At the end of June, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy hosted our first Clean Energy Generation webinar. We talked about the myriad of actions, big and small, we can all take to help create a comfortable, healthy, and environmentally sustainable world, starting today. We all have a role to play in the Clean Energy Generation, no matter where we come from, how old we are, how much money we make, or what our abilities are. 

To create healthier communities where we can all thrive, we must recognize the urgency of the moment and take decisive action together now. It starts with baby steps – asking questions and joining together as neighbors, students, and friends to decide which specific climate-actions could benefit our communities.

SACE member and volunteer Rhudine Steele spoke during our webinar. A resident of Clayton County, Georgia, Rhudine is passionate about shining a light on communities like her own that are affected by climate pollution. Rhudine noticed that many of her fellow residents were unaware of the impacts of climate change on their community, so she sought to make a difference by simply spreading the word. 

Ever wonder how you can take action against the climate crisis, but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Sometimes just sharing what you learn can ignite a fire in someone who will take the information and run with it – starting a chain reaction of climate action. Read on to learn about how Rhudine ran with what she learned and is encouraging others to do the same. 

How did you first get involved in thinking about climate change and the environment?

When I first got involved, I was attending a farmers’ market at the Jimmy Carter Center here in Atlanta, Georgia, and I saw an organization that had a table up talking about climate and environmental change. I stopped by to get some information, and it got me to think about my own community, which is made up of Black, Indigenous, People of Color and has a lot of children. I also started thinking: I am living in a food desert, as we have a lack of [access to] fresh vegetables and food. I thought about how many residents in my community, whether children or adults, are unaware of what climate change is all about. 

I took this information, and I stepped out into the community, where I first started working with the Captain Planet Foundation. I thought that was a great organization to start with because they begin with the school system and work with children on environmental projects that they can take out into their community. Talking to the children, they can be really in tune with climate change and the impact it is having on their future. 

Our county, Clayton County, became one of the first counties in Georgia that was awarded electric school buses by [a grant from ] the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We have 25 school buses in Clayton County from the EPA so far. They put out grants often, where there is nothing to pay back, so the EPA is willing to help this region. A lot of people in our community don’t know anything about that, so getting out and telling the students and the teachers about that – they were very, very surprised. 

Once the buses are delivered by Bluebird in 2024, we want to think about powering them with solar. We first have to get the community on board with electric school buses, and it will take even more effort to turn them on to solar power. So, we go one step at a time to get ideas out to the community. And they are excited, especially the children, about how to learn and get involved. It just takes getting the information out – the first step is to get people conscious of what environmental changes they can make.

Rhudine alongside fellow Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) members at the CCL Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. Rhudine is part of multiple organizations like SACE and CCL that are working to better communities across the Southeast.

What made you interested in getting involved with SACE and our Clean Energy Generation work?

I started looking specifically at the Southeastern United States, where we are very impacted by environmental challenges. 

An example is in my community, we are five or six miles south of the airport. A lot of people are unaware that before planes land, they have to drop a certain amount of jet fuel to land safely. Clayton County is in that flight path, so a lot of it is being dumped over our community and into our water, like the Flint River. The Flint River runs through our county and is connected to other rivers in the state like the Chattahoochee River and the South River, which runs all the way to the Gulf Coast of Mexico. So everything is intertwined, all of us in the state are impacted by this pollution in some way. 

We have to start here, in the Southeast. We start at the community level, then we take it to the state level, then we take it to the federal level. But the very first step is to take what you learn out into the community and get people conscious of what the environmental changes are happening in your area. That way everyone can begin with doing a little bit at a time. 

Rhudine and fellow Citizens Climate Lobby members alongside Senator Raphael Warnock’s staff at the CCL Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer.

What advice do you have for people who are concerned about the climate and environment but not sure how to start taking action?

Get out into the community, especially with other organizations. For example, our plan was, since Clayton County was awarded electric school buses, to do an event for the whole community that involved the children, the politicians, the teachers, and the parents. Just passing out flyers is fine, but then you’re wasting paper. Have a community event and get everybody involved. When people see the event, it will stick in their minds because they’re seeing it, versus just reading it. 

It always starts from the bottom and moves up. You start with the children, you move it up to the adults, then you move it up to the politicians. One day, those children will become voting-age, and their votes will count toward environmental projects. Without our children, the politicians would not be politicians. 

This is one reason I am involved: not only for my future, but also for the children’s future. No planet, no future. So we start in our communities. 


Like Rhudine, we can all get started by taking baby steps, whether it’s talking to an organization at your local farmers’ market, stopping to notice environmental changes in your community, or simply sparking up conversation with someone at the grocery store. There’s no wrong way to get involved, and we all have what it takes to make a difference – especially when we join together as one Clean Energy Generation. 

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Reed Winckler
Reed joined the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2023 as Communications Coordinator and is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her focus is writing and creating content for SACE emails, newsletters,…
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