Net-Zero Hero: Chivas Watson

Chivas Watson smiles and holds a fist up downtown. A MetroBus is in the background.

I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by ensuring that I, my organization, its members, and the communities we work in are transforming how we produce, consume, and move about our region here on Earth.

Meet Chivas Watson, Founder and Lead Administrator of WorkingGroup512 (WG512) and our newest Net-Zero Hero! Founded in 2020, WorkingGroup512 provides direct service to individuals and families across Austin and the Central Texas region, providing food deliveries, outfitting homes with second-hand furniture, offering resources to Austin’s unhoused neighbors, and more. In both 2021 and 2022, under Chivas’s leadership, WG512 was awarded an Office of Sustainability Food Justice Mini Grant to enhance its ongoing food access work.

We joined Chivas as he journeyed around Austin for his work with WorkingGroup512. Throughout our conversation, we spoke about what brought him into this work and how sustainable practices are integral to his own life and his organization.

What inspired you to take action?

While in undergrad at Baylor University, I made a conscious decision to learn what climate change and global warming meant for North America and other regions of the world. By getting involved with environmental groups, I became someone who cared about effectively recycling and conserving energy. I tried to be aware daily of what I could do to fight climate change and help protect the environment.

In the years following undergrad, however, I grew to experience displacement, homelessness, incarceration, and poverty. I changed from a patron in the community into a servant advocate who sought action to help transform the communities around Austin. I committed to reducing my own carbon footprint and understanding how I could help others reduce their carbon emissions.

Chivas talks with an unhoused neighbor downtown.

Chivas gives out free monthly bus passes to an unhoused neighbor downtown while discussing ways that WorkingGroup512 might be able to further support him in meeting his needs.

In recent years, I’ve worked with groups such as Dobbin-Kauv Garden Farm, Farmshare Austin, Houston Peace and Justice Center, Extinction Rebellion Houston, the Austin Group of the Sierra Club, Austin Parks & Recreation Department, and Central Texas Mycological Society. By partnering with these groups, I’ve helped advocate against human actions that provoke climate change and demand that governments take bold climate action to advance solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


How did you do it?

I started by embracing the natural resources on Earth that we are blessed to live, work, and exist among. Then, by learning and standing with brilliant minds who work to improve the health of our communities.

With this in mind, I was called to start WorkingGroup512 (WG512), a nonprofit organization supporting Austin and the larger Central Texas region.

WG512 takes action by:

  • Providing healthier and greener food options to our communities
  • Creating climate-aware healing spaces for moms
  • Helping community members with mobility issues gain bus passes and rideshare vouchers
  • Recycling donated and gently used furniture items to homes and camps (270 homes fully-furnished since March 2021)

On a personal level, I try to always consider my own travel, eat less meat and dairy, and invest in renewable energy through solar power. I’ve even insulated the windows at both my home and office. As Founder and Lead Administrator of WG512, I seek continued accountability from our elected officials to advance positive actions on climate change.

I have found success and gained achievement through shared and collective leadership — ever the student, yet often an educator. I couldn’t have done anything without the support and solidarity of courageous community members who chose to take action to help our community become a healthier, greener place for everyone.

Two photos. On the left, Chivas loading a red wagon with supplies. On the right, moving supplies into his car.

Chivas packs his car with diapers, wipes, and other supplies to share with expecting and new mothers for WG512’s Maternal Mental Health Initiative.


What’s been most rewarding about getting involved in this way?

The most rewarding part has been the opportunity to serve communities on the right side of Justice — resolving needs, saving lives, and improving our environment. Equally as rewarding has been the spiritual development. More and more, we see our clients and participants consciously decide to do more than simply receive from the community by taking further action to help reduce their carbon footprints and emissions. I’m forever grateful to be of service.


What’s been the toughest part?

The toughest part of it all is navigating the political and bureaucratic systems that don’t consider the health of communities and put profits over people. Poverty has such a long tail that strikes and provokes loss and harm, and it’s the same with miseducation. It’s tough to observe and leaves me wondering if the people in power care about ensuring that our constitutional guarantees and natural rights are being upheld and promoted.

Chivas in his car, driving on the I-35 feeder.

Traveling around Austin is a regular part of Chivas’s routine with WG512’s direct service model.


Your organization WorkingGroup512 was one of 25 recipients awarded a Food Justice Mini Grant in 2022. What does food justice mean to you?  

I believe the chief component of saving lives is through direct food assistance. There are 828 million people hungry in the world, and 1 in 8 adults is hungry every day in Texas. The fact that 1 in 5 children is hungry daily in Texas should cause us all to care about saving lives throughout the state and region.

To WorkingGroup512, food justice means ensuring that food is affordable, accessible, culturally-relevant, and actually used instead of wasted. Justice means having rescued and recovered close to 8 million pounds of food waste since 2020 by operating a produce distribution initiative to help communities eat more plants and achieve healthier lives. Justice means going beyond food distribution models that ignore mobility by completing over 30,000 direct food deliveries to the doors of community members since 2020. Food justice, during the recent 2023 freeze and inclement weather in Austin, meant that WG512 was able to deliver and distribute over 50,000 pounds of food to community members who suffered extended power outages and material loss.

We’ve been justified in doing so much more than food. Yet, by being welcomed to the dinner table or refrigerator of many who are suffering from hunger or food insecurity, we’ve been able to help renew and restore households through complementing service efforts around food access.

Chivas at Farmshare Austin collecting boxes of produce.

Two photos of grocery deliveries completed by WorkingGroup512.

Above: Chivas collects a food donation from Farmshare Austin. Below: Food packages prepared and delivered by WG512. Bottom photos courtesy of WorkingGroup512.


Is there a book, documentary, or other piece of media you would recommend for folks wanting to learn more about these topics?

Four books come to mind:

  1. “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors” by Carolyn Finney
  2. “Clean and White” by Carl A. Zimring
  3. “Night Chills” by Dean Koontz
  4. “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded” by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence INCITE!


What advice do you have for others?

It takes us all — a true community effort — to make our environment sustainable enough for us to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The moon is always at work, and the sun is constantly in motion — we must also adopt a cycle of movement that guides us to both a cleaner environment and also a healthier engagement between community members. I do believe that the power lives within the people.

Chivas smiles outside with sun shining on his face.

Explore ways that you can get involved in Austin’s food system. To learn more about Austin's net-zero goal and explore actions you can take to support a greener community, view the Austin Climate Equity Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook, and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to