Written by Ryan Mores, CoFounder & Operations Director of GreenLight Solutions Foundation
- GLSF now has a full portfolio of every Student-Led Project we’ve completed since 2013
- Each project contains a summary, team members, SDG impact, & a Green Paper
- Our sustainability projects tell stories of 250+ passionate students that have contributed their time, energy, & knowledge to over 40 local businesses
Do you remember the very first time you realized your passion? Think back and reflect on how you came to discover your passion. Perhaps there is a moment where you were initially excited about your work. Maybe there is a moment now seen as a starting point of sorts.
Hopefully many people can relate to this feeling of budding passion. A few of my moments were when I found myself measuring the carbon footprint of buildings, drafting sustainability content for a firm’s website, and figuring out ways to compost tiny paper cups while educating event attendees about water conservation.
These were some of the projects I worked on during my time in GreenLight Solutions at ASU, a student group partnering with local businesses on sustainability projects. I jumped into this brand new student organization in its first semester and unwittingly helped lay the foundation for what would become an award-winning 501(c)3 organization with dozens of sustainability projects under its belt.
These projects tell the story shared by 250+ students exploring their passions, and volunteering thousands of hours improving the business community through their sustainability projects. Hours spent building tiny home communities in downtown Phoenix, turning a music festival into a circular economy, creating composting programs for local farms, helping fans recycle at the College Football Playoff, educating elementary students on S.T.E.A.M., and so much more.
These hours helped pave the way for budding professionals – savvy consultants, global sustainability managers, solar energy salespeople, executive directors, organic farm managers…as well as incredible teachers, writers, artists, dreamers, and dear friends.
More impressive than the projects are the people – hundreds of passionate students from all different backgrounds coming together under the banner of “GreenLight Solutions,” all striving towards the same mission, all itching to make a positive impact in the world. The collective impact of these individuals is incredible and inspiring – to say the least! It’s been fascinating to watch the projects of GreenLight evolve over the years.
This is all so fresh in my mind because I recently (finally!) published the complete Project Portfolio showcasing every GreenLight project from 2013-2020. The process was a bit of a journey through time – a flashback of countless encounters, strategic meetings, site visits, community mixers, and meaningful moments in my own professional journey.
Each portfolio contains a short summary, team roster, the impact on the Sustainable Development Goals, and a Green Paper (GreenLight’s version of a white paper).
Each project tells a short story of a team with a mission, a business with a vision, and the journey it took to travel to that greener paradigm.
One such journey led to a flourishing community garden in South Phoenix. TigerMountain Foundation did more than grow produce – they grew people. Led by community champion Darren Chapman, TMF grew and sold produce at farmers markets, hosted volunteer events year-round, and supported countless at-risk individuals – from restless youth to scrappy seniors. TMF came to GreenLight for assistance with measuring their impact, developing marketing materials, and publishing an Impact Report demonstrating the organization’s positive impacts in the communities it serves.
This was an especially fun project to witness because myself and another GreenLight alum, Tommy Verderame, worked at TigerMountain at the time, so we had the opportunity to play the role of Project Partner as well as mentor the student Solutioneers through their project process. It was a unique experience being on the other side of that working relationship. TigerMountain Foundation continues their community-driven work to this day, impacting the lives of thousands of individuals in the South Phoenix community. (If you are in the Phoenix area – go get your hands dirty at one of their bi-weekly community garden volunteer days – they are a blast!)
Another journey led down an incredible path filled with big dreams for tiny homes. We started working with Build Us H.O.P.E. in fall 2016, when their vision for a sustainable tiny home community was just that – a vision. Over the span of a few years, GreenLight Solutions worked with visionary leader Elizabeth Singleton and BUH to bring their tiny home concept to life and helped house homeless veterans. Our first project began with researching sustainable sourcing strategies for the physical building materials of the homes – everything from the walls to the fixtures was assessed for environmental impact and selected appropriately. Once we had plans and blueprints set, we built! We helped organize volunteer events and brought in human-power to put four walls and a roof together a couple of times over, then voilà we had ourselves the very first tiny home community in the Phoenix metropolitan area exclusively for veterans – The Village on 13th (aka V13).
GreenLight continued to help with implementing and sustaining a community garden on site for the residents to learn how to grow their own food and enjoy reaping the fruits (and veggies) of their labor. The explosive popularity of tiny homes led Liz and her team to develop a spin-off manufacturing company, Tiny House Developers, to bring tiny homes to people at scale. In fact, two GreenLight alums, Ben Strouse and Sage Hanson, went on to work for Tiny House Developers after graduating from ASU! There are a handful of other full-circle success stories of GreenLight alums going on to work for Project Partners after completing their project.
One of the most unique journeys in GreenLight’s story was our global engagement with Nanzan University in Japan. In the summer of 2019, we had the pleasure of working with three bright undergrad students, Komachi, Sayaka, & Azusa, in our very first GreenLight Bootcamp. We partnered with Tom Mehlert and Eugene Roberts at AZStRUT (Arizona Students Recycling Used Technologies) to help them increase their capacity in recycling printer plastics as well as assist with their overall recycling in rural communities throughout the state. The Nanzan students conducted research and provided key recommendations to help AZStRUT attain their goals.
One of my favorite parts about this project wasn’t the scope or the impact, it was (again) the people. Working with the folks at AZStRUT was very pleasant, and spending time with Komachi, Sayaka, and Azusa was a fun, cross-cultural experience. We held a mixer one night and a handful of their Japanese classmates joined. I remember learning about their favorite foods from Japan (and America) as well as hearing one student’s story of learning to use a samurai sword! We went on a morning hike at Papago Park, took a tour of a metal recycling center in Phoenix, and attended an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. Most importantly, we learned together and bonded over our shared passion for sustainability – a passion that many students continue to discover with GreenLight Solutions.
I’m inspired by the solutions young changemakers are creating, and the level of passion that is outpouring for our people and our planet. I could go on recounting the numerous storylines that exist behind each project’s Green Paper, but I digress.
I’m incredibly grateful for the journeys that team GreenLight has been on over the years, and I look forward to the journeys yet to come. I invite you to check out our Project Portfolio and to let me know which project stands out to you. Message me in the comments or email [email protected].
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