Celebrating volunteers at USGBC Ohio, USGBC Tennessee and USGBC Greater Virginia | U.S. Green Building Council
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USGBC's Heather Goetsch interviews exceptional community volunteers Lisa Laney, Nell Boyle and Krissy Buck.

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, USGBC interviewed several volunteers making a big impact at USGBC. Find current volunteer opportunities.

Lisa Laney, Sustainability Administrator, Ohio Facilities Construction Commission

Where did you grow up, and where are you located now?

I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and currently reside in the same city. I bought a house right down the street from my mom after I was married. I spent a lot of time visiting my grandparents in Kentucky, where I developed my love of nature and the environment. I would explore the creeks and mountains while playing outside all day.

What drew you to volunteering with USGBC over other organizations?

I’ve been involved since 2007, when Ohio started requiring K–12 schools to be certified under the LEED rating system, meeting at least the Silver level. I jumped feet-first into the green schools program in 2009. When I took this position with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, my background was in construction, design and program development. I learned about the health and green side of building through exposure to the LEED for Schools rating system and the Center for Green Schools. Everything about the LEED rating system lends itself to more energy-efficient, healthy schools for children.

Children are our youngest resource, and they spend a lot of time in school. The more we can improve their indoor spaces, the better for their learning and the school’s operating budget. All the people involved with USGBC and the Center for Green Schools are what drew me to be more engaged. They’re all equally passionate about the mission, and it’s the right thing to do for our future generations.

What roles have you filled as a USGBC volunteer?

I’ve had various roles with the local community in Ohio. I've been the Green Schools Committee chair since 2010, served as a board member (chair and vice chair), and was the chair of the National Green Schools Committee. I currently sit on the Regional Leadership Team for USGBC Ohio.

I’ve also helped the Center for Green Schools with various projects, helped lead the Central Ohio Green Apple Day of Service initiative for several years and volunteered at several of the Mid-Year Meetings neighborhood projects. Finally, I’m an advocate on social media for USGBC and our green schools movement. We celebrate and share all our school certifications on Twitter.

What is your most proud accomplishment as a USGBC volunteer?

The growth of the local Green Apple Day of Service projects in Central Ohio. I was instrumental in working with the community and schools to jump-start the service day in Columbus a few years ago.  We have so many wonderful volunteers who come back every year and now we’re doing a number of projects. They ask what’s happening and what we need to make it happen. It’s a great sense of accomplishment when you can go by and see the kids sitting in a new outdoor learning area or playing in a garden you helped create.

What are you most excited about in the green building industry?

First and foremost, the green building industry is taking on an awareness where people are getting involved and people are doing their part to build better buildings. We still have a long way to go, but I’ve seen so much progress since 2009, and it’s encouraging to see people are learning and motivated to do better.

Second, something I hope to see continue to improve is energy storage. I feel a lot of green schools would like to have on-site renewable energy and strive to be net zero, but right now it’s a challenge due to energy storage. I think that once cost-effective battery storage solutions are more widely available, more schools and businesses will move to be net zero for their energy usage.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

A friend of mine once told me, “Keep celebrating the small stuff because sooner or later it becomes part of a much bigger story.” I remember this because it truly is a celebration of the small stuff that builds into the bigger actions or change, and motivates people into the next action. For example, we celebrate every school we certify in Ohio, and it’s grown into celebrating 50 schools, to 100 schools, and now we have 286 schools certified. People like to know they’ve done a good job. When we celebrate, it tells everybody we appreciate what they did and it’s meaningful, and can motivate them to achieve more.

Krissy Buck, Associate, Looney Ricks Kiss

Where did you grow up, and where are you located now?

Originally, I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, and lived there until I went to the University of Kansas to study architecture. After college, I lived in Kansas City for about three or four years, and then I moved to Memphis, which is where I am now. I’ve been here for about five and a half years.

How long have you been involved with USGBC?

I first learned about USGBC and got involved when I was in college. During my senior year in architecture studio, we designed and built the first LEED platinum building in Kansas. It was my studio class with 22 other classmates, and we divided up the LEED credits, with each person responsible for a different grouping of credits. One of mine was actually Construction Waste Management, and it was a big influence on how I approach this part of projects that I work on currently.

After graduation, I stayed in the green building realm by focusing on historic preservation and sustainable design projects. When I lived in Kansas City, I was part of the USGBC Central Plains community and kept my involvement by volunteering as part of the Memphis Regional Branch (past chapter) as part of the USGBC Tennessee community.

What roles have you filled as a USGBC volunteer?

I enjoy taking part locally, and I might someday take on a bigger role, like the local Market Leadership Advisory Board, but I enjoy working on the USGBC Tennessee Paper Power program. I’ve been a volunteer as part of the Memphis branch since I moved here about five years ago.

What is your most proud accomplishment as a USGBC volunteer?

Paper Power. This is our fifth year running the program and we’re still evolving it, but we’ve established it as a pretty solid program in the Memphis area. Paper Power is a competition for students of high school age. It could be a team of students from the same school, different schools or a ballet class or youth group, but the learning level is high school.

Teams design and build basically whatever they want made of recycled paper products. There’s an entire list of rules, including what kinds of paper and connectors they can use to build the structures. The students learn about recycling and material selection, and they also learn management and leadership skills. Last year, we expanded the program to include professional teams, and it added a layer of mentorship and learning between the students and professionals. I’m very proud of the success of the program and look forward to continuing its growth.

What are you most excited about in the green building industry?

I recently signed up to take the WELL AP exam, and it’s at the forefront of my mind since I’m studying. I like the idea that the WELL Building Standard takes human health in the built environment to the next level. I’m taking my exam in two months, and I’m excited to include this information in my practice.

If you could change one thing, what would it be and why?

I’m currently trying to slow down and be more mindful of the present. The other day, I saw my third rainbow in about a month, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a rainbow outside these three instances. It’s made me aware of the need to disconnect from technology and the feeling of being busy all the time, and to take time to stop and appreciate the world around me. I think maybe I could see more rainbows if I take more time to appreciate current moments and nature.

Nell Boyle, Sustainability/Outreach Coordinator, City of Roanoke

Where did you grow up, and where are you located now?

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after I met my husband we moved quite a bit in our early years of marriage. I lived in New Jersey for a bit, then Atlanta, Chicago, and back to Atlanta. During this time, I raised two small children and was mostly a stay-at-home mother. After a change in my husband’s employment, we settled in Roanoke, Virginia, and we’ve lived here ever since. It’s a beautiful, mountainous area—the natural environment in Roanoke is just stunning. We loved Roanoke and decided to stay, and it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me as my career truly blossomed as part of the environmental movement. I’m now the sustainability coordinator for the City of Roanoke.

How long have you been involved with USGBC?

My road to volunteering with USGBC started when my son was a senior in high school. He read the book “Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. He told me I needed to read the book, and it actually changed my life by giving me new perspective on environmental issues. My son made a call to action to challenge me to go beyond basics like recycling. Shortly thereafter, I volunteered to help run an international cradle to cradle design competition in Roanoke, with over 700 entries.

Gregg Lewis and a small group of individuals decided to create a nonprofit based on the cradle to cradle work, and he invited me to be part of this formation. We actually built one of the winning designs from the competition. When I started working for Gregg, I met Sharlyn Thacker, who was starting up a new USGBC community, and I joined the planning group to start the local nonprofit. Shortly after she stepped down, I stepped into the chair position in 2007. I’ve been an avid volunteer ever since.

What roles have you filled as a USGBC volunteer?

I’ve been the chair of the local chapter, and served on the board when we merged into a statewide chapter. I’ve been involved on the board or in some way locally since 2004. After I stepped down from being the chair, I joined the Southeast Regional Committee (SERC) as a representative for the USGBC Greater Virginia community. It was SERC that got me involved on different levels. I then became the chair of SERC and served on the Chapter Steering Committee (CSC). When I termed off of the CSC, I mentioned I was looking for the next step to Kimberly Lewis and Jason Dunlop, and they found me the opportunity to be part of the Special Programs Working Group for Greenbuild. That’s what I’ve done for the past couple years.

What is your most proud accomplishment as a USGBC volunteer?

The leadership development skills I got while working on the SERC and CSC was so powerful. To be head of SERC was humbling to me because of the leadership and talent of my fellow volunteers who were part of the group. I learned so much from them and am proud of the great work we all accomplished in support of our region.

What keeps you awake at night?

The amount of toxins and poor air quality in our schools, and the impact of indoor building material selection. I have great concern over the exposure to toxins to children, and we know how to solve this issue.

If you could change one thing, what would it be and why?

I would provide indoor air quality testing and mitigation to every school. I would get the toxic materials out of schools, preschools and day care facilities. I think that’s something we could really do as a community, and provide potential for our children to have a better start to life and a healthier life. Our health is so delicate and valuable.

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