When sustainability was just emerging as a buzz word, Mesa Community College honor student, Phi Theta Kappa member and Graduation Class Honors Speaker Kevin Keleher knew he wanted to change the way businesses operated. He felt they should not be so focused on profit, but more on sustainability (although he didn’t even know the term at the time).
In 2011 Keleher was asked to participate in the green building efforts for the new Saguaro Building at MCC’s Red Mountain Campus.
“We designed 10 permanent signs in the building to teach people about the sustainable design aspects of the building, Keleher said. “We also created a short documentary of the benefits of LEED certification and green building. That was my first introduction to sustainability.”
Keleher graduated from MCC in 2011 after earning an Associate in Business with Highest Distinction, transferred to Arizona State University and went on to earn three degrees, focusing on sustainability, economics and supply chain management.
While at ASU, he was part of a grassroots movement that has now grown into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, GreenLight Solutions Foundation.
“We were students who needed more project management experience,” said Keleher, now co-founder and executive director of the company. “GreenLight brings hope and help for catalyzing sustainable business evolution.”
The company has several current projects, including Build us H.O.P.E., a project building sustainable tiny homes for homeless and disabled veterans in downtown Phoenix. GreenLight Solutioneers provide cutting-edge design and materials concepts, labor, promotion and a fundraising event.
Other projects include creating a better recycling management system for Agritopia, a mixed-use planned community in Gilbert, and assistance for the Convergence festival at Arcosanti, where they helped generate zero waste.
Keleher is working on opening GreenLight chapters soon at MCC and other universities.
“Sustainability is so important, but people don’t understand what it is and how to apply it,” Keleher said. “Everyone wants to save the planet, but that’s not the only component. It’s really about the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Prosperity.”
Keleher said he found his time at MCC very inspiring.
“Duane Oakes is a life-long advisor and I admired Dean Jo Wilson,” he said. “I loved that I was getting high quality faculty with about a 30-student class maximum, allowing for really great faculty interaction. No doubt, it was a better degree and education for less money than I could have received elsewhere.”
“The purpose of a business is to bring value to people,” Keleher said. “The problem is, if you operate under the mindset of trying to make as much profit as possible, that is risky business. It ends up motivating the business to externalize all costs possible that it might incur to operate sustainably. Hence the abuse of community, the environment and people. So how do we do business in a better way? It turned out that sustainability was a great way to describe the problem and find solutions.”
In the future, Keleher sees great things for our civilization and GreenLight evolving and thriving.
“It will take some hard work and it will be worth it.”