A Green Business Network Member Spotlight
Meet Jennifer Gunby, a state and local advocacy manager with the U.S. Green Building Council. We recently talked with Jennifer to learn more about her role in bringing green building policies to communities across the country, what she loves about her job, and the green practice at home she’s constantly working to improve.
Jennifer Gunby has always identified herself as an environmentalist.
“I don’t know exactly why. I think maybe it’s just a trait I was born with. I’m passionate about all things outdoors. I love parks, trails, and natural systems. I especially love seeing where and how others produce their food.”
This love for the environment has spilled over into Gunby’s professional career. As the state and local advocacy manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, Gunby works with a team leading USGBC’s work with state and local governments to drive the adoption of green building policies in communities across the country. (The U.S. Green Building Council is a national nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., committed to transforming the way buildings are designed, build and operated, and making communities healthier and more resilient to the effects of climate change.) At the center of her work is making sure that taxpayer dollars are spent on buildings that require less money to operate and are healthier for people.
Gunby acknowledges that driving policy change is not an easy task and takes time, especially when it requires working with local governments and elected officials.
“Transforming communities and buildings through meaningful policy change takes a really long time. It doesn’t happen overnight. And when you’re working within short election cycles, where officials tend to be more focused on results they can accomplish within their terms, it can make it difficult to get the work done. There’s a real competition for resources.”
Despite the challenge, she says she loves her job, mostly because it gives her the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and motivations but who all share the goal of bettering communities.
“We tend to put ourselves in silos, but the environmental cause is such a broad idea and varies so much geographically. I get to meet and work with so many people that would never even consider calling themselves an environmentalist. To them, it’s just “clean water” or “healthy schools” or whatever is important to them. People just want better communities, more resilient communities, and so working with people from all perspectives toward that goal is really uplifting.”
Working alongside individuals within each community is critical to their success, Gunby says.
“We at USGBC have a lot of embedded knowledge – but we look to local individuals who know their communities best to make sure we’re providing the resources and solutions that will work best for that community. It’s a true team effort.”
Gunby says their work includes encouraging governments to create policy that requires new city building construction be LEED-certified – something that’s common in certain parts of the country but not as much in the Midwest. Gunby notes that the City of Kansas City, Missouri, does have such a policy. She also works with local governments on building performance policies and with those considered on the leading edge to meet even higher standards, addressing existing buildings where significant dollars are spent on maintenance and operations.
Getting policies in place is only half of the work, though, says Gunby.
“The other half is following up to make sure that the policy is being adhered to and sharing accolades so local governments get the recognition they deserve. It goes back to that competition for resources that I mentioned earlier. We want to make sure we take the time to thank the staff and elected officials who are spending their limited time to help the policies and causes move forward.”
Gunby, who spent the first decade of her professional life as an engineer, has been with USGBC for three and a half years. Before that, she worked for the Institute for Market Transformation, also based in Washington, D.C., and specifically led the City Energy Project for the City of Kansas City, Missouri. Even as her career has changed and evolved, Gunby says her participation in the Green Business Network has remained relevant to her work.
“The people within the network are so broad and diverse, and it’s been a consistency even as I’ve changed professional roles. There are so many ways one can work in the “green” profession and GBN really shows that. It shows us the diversity in professions and the approaches that exist out there.”
In addition to participating with GBN, Gunby volunteers her time with Climate Action KC and has been involved in the various sustainability committees for the cities in which she has lived. She also tries to make a point of volunteering for local environmental organizations in the metro area.
In her green practices at home, Jennifer says she struggles the most with food waste.
“It’s something I’m always reading up on and searching out strategies for minimizing the amount of food we waste. We try to meal plan and have the best intentions to use everything.”
Gunby says they while they do have a good system in place at home to keep waste out of the landfill with a recycling bin placed next to the trash bin and a compost container on the counter, that doesn’t stop her from constantly analyzing what goes into each of the bins and how they could eliminate it all together.
“It’s something I’m constantly working to improve.”
Interested in seeing who else is in the Green Business Network? Click here.