Kennedy Herbst

kennedy herbstKennedy Herbst is a sustainability major at San Diego State University and a community developer for Sullivan Solar Power. She is passionate about renewable energy, philanthropy, yoga, and the many realms of sustainability. In this spotlight, we discuss Kennedy’s sustainability origin story, job with Sullivan Solar Power, philanthropy work, inspiring thoughts on sustainability, and advice for younger students.

You are a sustainability major and a community developer for a solar company. Could you tell us about how you got started with your sustainability journey?

“I lived in Riverside which is a Mediterranean chaparral. There’s a lot of biodiversity in Riverside. I lived in a suburban area and there was not really anything behind my backyard, so we had jackrabbits, frog species, roadrunners, coyotes, bobcats, just pretty much everything. One day when I was younger, they were degrading the land behind my house for warehouses and development along those lines. It made me contemplate the human interactions and the effects that they have on the environment. That’s where my love for sustainability started, even though I didn’t know it was sustainability. I was just thinking about what was going to happen to all the animals that live behind my house because of the development that was happening. That’s the funny thing about deserts and when you go more inland, you don’t think that it’s diverse with vegetation and animals unless you live there and you see it. I was seeing it firsthand and it really made me think.”

“I didn’t immediately go into school for sustainability. I started as a yoga instructor and I was aware of self-sustainability and taking care of the mind and the body. There are different ways that I got into it without even knowing that I was doing sustainability. After my yoga certification, I decided that I could go back to school and apply the things that I love to do to my major and that’s where I found sustainability. I wanted to give back to the Earth on a social, economic, and environmental level. I moved back down to San Diego and Sullivan Solar Power was hiring. I first started as an admin assistant but then eventually I was promoted to this position as a community developer. It’s just awesome to see that there are so many different ways you can tackle sustainability. It doesn’t just have to be in one realm. So far, I’ve been extremely happy with it because of the people that I’ve met and everything that I’ve learned so far has been awesome for my own sustainable development as well.”

What does your job entail?

“We are a turnkey system company. It’s Sullivan Solar Power. We were founded in 2004 when the owner Daniel Sullivan wanted to move people away from the idea of fossil fuels and lead the solar energy revolution. We install turnkey systems which really simplifies the installation process. We use panasonic panels, modules, and LG Chem batteries. We install in San Diego, Orange Country, and sometimes in the Inland Empire as well. For my job as a community developer I work with advertising, getting the word out there for people to buy solar, educating people on solar, and writing blogs on environmental issues especially renewable energy. I do a lot of philanthropy like Meals on Wheels which I just did last week. I am trying to get some gift baskets going for the Center for Children in San Diego. For the Center for Children, we installed their system and we give a lot to them as well. I’m trying to see if we can do a San Diego River Park Foundation clean the river with our company. On April 21st, the day before Earth Day, we are doing a Green Business Expo at the Carlsbad flower fields which highlights green businesses in San Diego. I also work with the Self-Generation Incentive Program which is a battery rebate program with the state that gives incentives for those who install batteries on their home to get a rebate from the state. That’s what my job entails along with a bunch of other smaller things like social media, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau.”

What is your favorite part about your job?

“The philanthropy! I’ve been doing philanthropy pretty much my whole life. I was in Ticktockers so that’s where I did the brunt of my philanthropy work. I continued that on especially with Meals on Wheels, which is one of my favorite philanthropies. It’s so easy and talking to people who sometimes only get to talk to one person a day can really do a lot for the community. I’ve always loved doing philanthropy and I’m so happy that I can tie it into my job. Philanthropy is so rewarding and if everyone did just once a week or once a month something that would help the community it would not only be empowering for them but also it would be empowering for the community.”

“Also, the amount of CO2 emissions that are saved from ever reaching the atmosphere is pretty insane. We have done over ten thousand installations since 2004 so it’s pretty crazy to me what renewable energy can do. The number of pounds of carbon emissions that don’t reach the atmosphere from these installations is really awesome. I also love that Sullivan Solar Power installed on SDSU’s Aquaplex, Associated Students Aztec Student Union, and SDSU Children’s Center. We work with a bunch of commercial buildings too to help them steer away from fossil fuel energy.”

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your work?

“There are so many different things that go into sustainability and to make a sustainable community we need all the help we can get. It takes all walks of life to create a sustainable community. Going solar is one way residential community members can make an impact on the Earth and steer away from greenhouse gases in a positive way.”

Do you have any other goals in sustainability that you wanted to accomplish?

“Of course, the work never stops, right? Even if it’s for my own self sustainability like yoga or just keeping my head and my body healthy. Going for walks every day and getting out in nature is super important for everyone in their goals in sustainability whether they know it or not. I also hope one day to set up more philanthropy events that will continue to impact the Earth positively. This could include conservation, human rights, animal rights, and social issues such as environmental racism. I would also one day want to be out in the field and maybe one day get my master’s degree to further my own education. I think that you should always be the student in life even if you have all these degrees you should always be learning from others and the community.”

What advice do you have for younger students and for people starting out in the sustainability world?

“Even if you start out small, you’re still making an impact. Writing to local government officials on social justice issues, voting with everyone’s interest in mind, and volunteer work is important and makes a difference in local communities. It can contribute to sustainability in ways that you wouldn’t think. Sustainability students can get discouraged with all the bad that is going on but I think it’s really important to also acknowledge the fact that there are plenty of people out there right now who are doing good for the environment and the people who live on the Earth.”