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A Revered (and Mischievous) Mentor

The body of renowned Boulder architect was discovered on March 10 in a ravine after an apparent automobile accident.

A Sustainable Journey Ignited by Passionate, Engaging Greatness

Sitting in my home office, with a radiant view of the Boulder Flatirons, my emotions fluctuate between profound feelings of appreciation and deep sadness for the loss of one of my mentors. Over the years I have been blessed with teachers who have inspired and guided me, challenged and informed me, moved me to tears of laughter and sadness, and freely offered “ah ha!” moments.

One bright, vibrant sage among us, Greg Franta, was exactly that, not only to me but to countless sustainability advocates in the built environment – my words are inadequate to express how sorely he will be missed. Yet I feel a need to try.

Decades ago when I was a newcomer to the green scene, I had a dream of creating a network of like-minded souls. I felt like I had found a home within the budding community of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and at the front door stood Greg — welcoming me, encouraging me to get involved, and asking why it had taken me so long. And then I saw that delightful, mischievous smile!

Greg was always there to offer his expertise and great humor. He made me laugh, and in between my tears of grief, I see his smiling face. I fondly remember Greg stepping up to the plate, yet again offering his support, as we formed the USGBC Colorado chapter. He emceed one of our first major events, and naturally he drew a large crowd; the room was bursting at the seams as everyone crowded in to celebrate the launch of the chapter.

Scores of people attended the event because of Greg. Like me, they wanted to be in a room with this engaging spirit of a man. We all laughed as he shared stories from the trenches of his sustainability journey with a perfect balance of sincerity, humor, and sage advice.

Here was a world-renowned sustainable architect graciously hosting our event. I was relieved and ecstatic to know that with Greg in our court, we would win the game.

You see, Greg was “our” eco-superstar, deeply respected and loved, practicing sustainable architecture before many of us even knew what that meant. His incredible synergy and warmth, delightful modesty with respectful mischief made everyone want to be around him. He was always on the cutting edge of the green-building movement and was one of the creators of USGBC’s LEED green-building standards. I am in awe of the legacy this amazing man has left to the world.

Greg, a natural teacher, taught sustainability simply by being himself; it was embedded into his DNA. I was so fortunate to attend one of his early LEED workshops. The room was full of architects and engineers, and, as usual, I was the lone interior designer. It was a great opportunity for Greg to call me out, yet again challenging and inspiring me to take risks. Thank you, Greg!

Mentors are essential to your sustainability journey, whether you have been on it for decades or are relatively new to the voyage. Thoughtfully seek out your mentors, look for experienced teachers to gain exemplary expertise and advice. This will nurture your advancement and supplement your knowledge base. Invite experts into your world to guide you in areas where you are less experienced and help you build your network. If you surround yourself with people who know more than you, you truly will learn every day.

When I close my eyes, I can see the happiness and hear the laughter that encircled those of us lucky enough to have shared a meeting, a meal, a brainstorming session, a chat, a hug with Greg as he described yet another escapade from his life’s journey — a journey cut much too short. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues. The emptiness in my heart I’m certain is shared beyond our borders.

Greg leaves us with enormous shoes to fill. In this void, there is a gem of an opportunity to serve and honor his legacy. All of us who were touched by him can carry his message and spirit by being our personal best and joyously working to make a difference in the world, one step at a time. Greg Franta’s legacy as an extraordinary architect and a funny, engaging, loving man will always live within each of us.

My heart aches, yet I can’t help but smile when I think of Greg’s carefree soul energetically leading us forward into the next generation of green building, joyously sustaining and celebrating life all along the way!

Rocky Mountain Institute has established the Greg Franta Leadership Fund to honor and continue Greg’s work and legacy. Please consider making a contribution on behalf of Greg and his family.


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