Profiles of Local Sustainability Leaders

Local Sustainability Leaders WNC

Kelvin Bonilla

Kevin Bonilla has worked in the field of energy efficiency for over 12 years and has served as the project manager for Green Built Alliance’s program, the Energy Savers Network since June 2020. His certifications include BPI building analyst, BPI envelope professional, HERS, certified lead renovator, class III asbestos worker, CPR instructor and OSHA-30. In 2023, Bonilla is creating a pilot workforce development program to educate, train and prepare youth to secure jobs in the green economy. Students will explore many different green-collar jobs involving residential solar, HVAC, stormwater management and green construction. Bonilla says, “I work every day in my professional and personal life to bridge the environmental equity gap. To provide accessible services to those communities that are marginalized and forgotten. Sustainability to me means solutions that work for everyone.”

Heath Moody 

Heath Moody is in his 12th year as department chair and 18th year as an instructor in the construction/sustainability department at A-B Tech. Moody’s educational background is in anthropology and sustainable development. He holds a master’s of arts in industrial technology with a concentration in appropriate technology. Moody says he enjoys teaching tangible skills that empower students for gainful employment and/or self-sufficiency. He believes climate change and ecological collapse are very real issues that must be addressed. Moody says, “Green Building and Sustainability are important to me because they’re not only essential but an exciting opportunity for cutting edge industry innovation that creates jobs that are solution-oriented which is appealing for people that want to contribute to the socio-economic evolution of society.”

Geoffrey Barton

Geofrey Barton is an architect and the director of real estate development at Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO). He has been passionate about green building during his entire career. He feels we must urgently address climate change and that the building community (how and where we build) provides the greatest opportunity to take local action. His work at MHO pairs affordable housing and sustainability. They have 346 affordable apartments in active development, a 68-home single-family homeownership subdivision, and over 100 safety-related repairs to preserve affordable homeownership.  “We are working hard to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy across all of our work, and the new incentives under the federal Inflation Reduction Act programs should allow us to redouble our implementation of renewable energy,” Barton says. 

Mike Figura 

Mike Figura has been the owner/broker at Mosaic Realty in Asheville for 13 years. Mosaic Realty is a professional, full-time, real estate brokerage firm specializing in urban, historic, and green/sustainable homes. Figura holds degrees in environmental science and environmental thought and practice from the University of Virginia. Currently, Figura and his team are involved in the West Asheville Craggy Park project. Craggy Park is a sustainable urban community featuring streamside trails and organic gardens in a park-like setting. Craggy Park was an award recipient at the 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards in Asheville. Figura says, “Caring for our environment is about caring for people, both the ones who are alive now and future generations. Sustainable development and green building is an important part of living lightly on the earth.”

Mary Love 

Mary Love is a real estate broker and the founder of the award-winning Love The Green Real Estate Consulting Firm. Since 2004, Mary and her team have worked to be the company of choice for Western North Carolina’s eco-minded individuals. They strive to promote the concept of agrihood communities and not only excel at educating others but also walk the talk by instituting eco-friendly practices into their everyday work environment. These include carpooling, utilizing paperless systems, planting organic gardens, and more. Love has created an online course on the topic of creating a green niche with the goal of small businesses making sustainability a focus. Love says, “We live in buildings. The way our homes are made and the way we live in them can have a massive positive impact on our environment.” 

Sumaya El-Attar 

Sumaya El-Attar is the construction administrator for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. She has been in this position for 10 years and has worked in architecture and design for 23 years. For El-Attar, green and sustainable building means reducing one’s carbon footprint and keeping energy costs low over time, which contributes to all individuals being able to stay in their homes. She says, “Building sustainably is important because everyone in our community deserves a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.” A recent exciting project for El-Attar involves working with Tightlines Designs Inc. to refine the design for their award-winning Age in Place (AIP) homes for individuals ages 55+. They continue to refine the design based on homeowners’ recommendations and the team’s construction experiences. 

Keri Evjy 

Founder and CEO of Healing Roots Design, LLC and Regenerative Life Design, LLC as well as author of Regenerative Life Design Playbook, Keri Evjy has been an environmental educator and advocate for many years. Evjy says, “Humans are designers in action, capable of restoring our Earth and life connection as Stewards, achieving a more collaborative, integrated and interdependent life through the process. When we lean into Nature’s Intelligence in the design of our lives, our relationships, and our indoor and outdoor spaces, we witness ourselves as whole, intersectional and critical thinkers in service to resiliency in our world, and it ripples outward. As we tap into Nature and apply simple regenerative patterns to our lives and landscapes, we are meeting ourselves anew, and we can embrace ecological time of our lives, meeting small and large changes with acceptance, opportunity and humility.”

Bridget Herring

For the past year, Bridget Herring has served as the sustainability director for the City of Asheville. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Currently, Herring is excited about the construction of two onsite solar systems on City of Asheville facilities at the Grand Recreation Center and Broadway Public Safety Station. These systems should be energized this summer. Herring says, “The built environment is intimately intertwined in all of our lives yet the construction and maintenance of it is barely on the radar of most folks. I have the privilege to consider the link between safety, health, and climate change in my day job and green building is one of the best strategies to improve all of these for our community.”

Clary Franko

Clary Franko has been at Sugar Hollow Solar for three years and has served as the chief operating officer for the last year and a half. Sugar Hollow Solar was recently welcomed into Amicus Solar Cooperative, which is great for their customers, staff and the greater community. Sugar Hollow Solar is working on their B corp certification which they feel is another way to solidify their commitment to being a force for good. Franko grew up in a solar-powered, off-grid home in rural Southern Appalachia. She says, “Over time I realized how incredible it was that I valued & understood the energy we used. It’s been most of my life’s work to be an educator on the problems with resource extraction and I’m thrilled to be in a career where we offer tangible solutions to reducing our own carbon footprints.”

Don Nicholson

Don Nicholson is founder and chief technology officer at Nicholson and Sun, LLC. He is also a research professor in the physics and astronomy department at University of North Carolina Asheville. He holds a Ph.D in theoretical physics as well as a North Carolina contractor’s license. Nicholson is excited to be working with the dedicated people at Nicholson and Sun to complete a net zero neighborhood in Asheville. He is also part of a team working to eliminate the carbon footprint of the Sherrill Center at UNCA and the South Campus at Warren Wilson College. These projects will advance the art and science of net zero building and will share information about climate change. Nicholson says, “ Net Zero residential building is one way that I can contribute to the effort to leave a livable earth for future generations.”

Jody Guokas

For 18 years, Jody Goukas has been a home builder and developer. He’s founder of JAG Construction, a premier contracting firm that focuses on sustainable residential building. Guokas holds a bachelor of arts degree in environmental science from Warren Wilson College. Guokas is excited to be working on the Craggy Park development, which features 45 Green Built certified homes in the heart of West Asheville. Craggy Park was an award recipient at the 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards in Asheville. Guokas says, “I feel it’s our responsibility to live in a way that will allow future generations to thrive on this planet. I also find beauty and magic in natural places that have been minimally touched by humans. I believe there is value in preserving these places and environments just for the sake of it.”

Chrissy Burton

Chrissy Burton has been a licensed architect for 12 years and has been at her current firm, Fisher Architects, for over four years. Burton describes our environment as “an amazing machine” and says we’re discovering new wonders every day. She wants her work to harmonize with the natural world in an effort to preserve these wonders for future generations. Burton is currently working on an addition and renovation to her home. She says, “I love renovation, preservation, and adaptive reuse. Continuing the life of an existing structure is the most sustainable form of practice in my opinion. When I am working on a renovation, studying and adapting the original design, I feel connected to the long history of the human built world.”

Kat McReynolds

Kat McReynolds has been a general contractor for three years. Her educational background was originally in business administration before she obtained her general contractor’s license. McReynolds is the owner of Green Room Builders, which specializes in new construction of compact, green built projects, including small multi-family rental homes. She and her team select materials and finishes for durability, sustainability, low maintenance and a minimalist aesthetic. McReynolds’s first duplex build as a general contractor was also her first certification experience with the Green Built Homes program. She says, “Sustainable building is about meeting our housing needs while putting the least amount of stress on Mother Nature — the best artist, therapist and ancestor we’ve all got!”