Gill's Greener City
I gave myself a fun assignment last month in one of my other roles -- as managing editor of Natural Awakenings magazine. The monthly magazine is focused on healthy living and a healthy planet, and there's no better local spokesman for living green than Gill Holland.
So the assignment was to feature him in our monthly "Community Spotlight" segment, and the piece below is the result. If you don't know about Gill and all the projects he's involved in, this piece will expose you to a small percentage of them.
The magazine is being distributed around town, as I write, at more than 400 distribution outlets. In addition to this story, there's plenty of great content. Here's my piece about Gill:
Gill Holland doesn't just talk the talk of green living and a healthy planet, he lives the life of it, encourages others to do it and actually hands out awards for it.
Holland is involving in a far-ranging series of enterprises that he oversees from his perch on the top floor of the Green Building, the structure he and his wife Augusta renovated according to LEEDS standards and opened in 2008. The building has been the subject of dozens of newspaper articles and awards from around the globe.
His primary claim to fame is as a filmmaker. His company, The Group Entertainment, has produced a series of award-winning films, including a troika of documentaries on environmental issues – Mountaintop Removal, FLOW (For Love of Water) and Carbon Nation, focused on ways to reduce man’s carbon footprint.
But the list of Holland’s other activities could fill this article. He’s developing the neighborhood surrounding the Green Building east of downtown (known as NuLu). He heads a growing music label, publishes books, and encourages entrepreneurship by helping people with good ideas get going.
“My general problem is I’m just kind of a yes person and I like to help people,” he says. “My dad's a college professor and was always a go-to person for advice. His life is dedicated to trying to be of service if you can. I do think after having a kid, I'm focused on things that have socially redeeming value.”
Holland moved to Louisville in 2006 and quickly became one of the city’s leading cheerleaders. His daughter was born shortly afterward, and the twins (a boy and a girl) are now a year old.
"I have much evolved since having a child. Four years ago was a game changer,” he says. “You spend more time thinking about what kind of life they're having and what kind of legacy you’re leaving for them.”
This year, he was named Louisville Magazine’s Person of the Year, was chosen to star in a frequently-aired commercial for LG&E touting energy demand conservation and is even on the new Mayor’s Transition Team. He also started the Acorn Awards, which honor businesses and individuals in Louisville “who benefit our ‘glocal’ community by being good environmental stewards, practicing sustainable development, conserving resources and managing their efficient use, using best practices, reducing waste, or raising the awareness of green issues.”
Holland’s assistant, Stephanie Brothers, who helped write a couple of popular children’s books published through Gill and Augusta’s Holland-Brown Books, said the ideas for the books and awards just flow from Holland’s creative mind. Holland said the awards were a no-brainer.
“People like getting awards and it's fun recognizing people for doing good stuff. Louisville has made huge strides in sustainability, and I see it as a cheap way to incentivize people to do more work,” he says.
The publishing series includes two city-focused books (“Louisville Counts” and “L is for Louisville”) that Holland can share with his kids. The books feature the work of local artists and all the profits go toward ArtSparks, a local charity. He says the idea for the books “just came to me.”
Now the idea has spread, and similar books have been published in Baltimore and Nashville.
“Louisville is so cool and more people need to know about it,” he explains. “In Louisville, quality of life is better and you have more space in your brain to think about things. There is an element of – ‘I can focus in this town and have the time to do it.’ ”
You’d think that Holland, with his hands in so many pies, would be difficult to reach. But those qualities of the city seem to free him up to focus on many projects at once. On a mid-November day, he’d spent a few hours in the office, then gone to a parent-teacher conference for his daughter, a luncheon and finally given the closing speech as the Green Convene, a conference on green living.
He says a lot of his activities have similar components. “You could argue that it's all promotion of intellectual or real estate property. They're super similar. You raise the money, create the marketing campaign and try to not to lose money – it’s the same with films and landmarking old buildings.”
And while directing and supporting good deeds is rewarding, Holland makes it clear he’s enjoying every moment
“It's fun. If it wasn't fun I wouldn't do it.”