(Above center: Kwasi Ansu '05)
Like many, my career since graduating from Landon in 2005 has been filled with twists and turns, but I have always been guided by a passion for the environment and improving livelihoods of the marginalized. After Landon I attended Wesleyan University, where I was fortunate enough to continue my lacrosse and football career. I was never one of the best players in high school, but happy to be surrounded by tremendous talent and well coached, so I felt lucky to continue to play in college. In my freshman year I was well-equipped to balance two sports with academics at the collegiate level, and I will always be deeply grateful to all the teachers, coaches, and staff that helped prepare me for life in college and beyond.
After graduating from Wesleyan I worked for several conservation-focused nonprofits, moonlighted as a music writer for NPR and All Things Go, and coached lacrosse for the Next Level, where I had the privilege to interact with many young Landon Bears. I went on to volunteer in South Africa, where I taught algebra and ran programs for the South African Lacrosse Project. After returning to D.C. and working in development for several years I have had the opportunity to work in Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Tanzania, Madagascar, South Africa, and Indonesia, each grappling with similar and yet incredibly unique challenges towards crafting a sustainable future.
Continuing that passion for helping to forge a more sustainable future, I went back to school at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2016 where I was fortunate enough to meet my friends Franz and Matt. Together we created Raise Green and New Haven Community Solar. In the face of large societal challenges like climate change and social inequity it can make people feel powerless to influence change. Raise Green is in seed stage and is seeking regulatory approval so it can support campaigns similar to Kickstarter or GoFundMe, but with a twist. The Raise Green model uses the principles of renewable energy project finance and creates an opportunity for individuals who make less than $200,000 a year to purchase an equity stake in renewable energy projects. The pitch is to match planet-minded investors with green projects, like community solar that benefits low income residents.
New Haven Community Solar (NHCS) is the first step we are taking towards financing green projects using this model. This project will be financing a solar array atop of the 2018 Jim Vlock Building Project home. Students from the Yale School of Architecture have built and donated a home to Columbus House – a nonprofit that supports the homeless of the New Haven area. It is important to remember that this is an investment and not a donation. Individuals that choose to invest in NHCS will become financial stakeholders in a collective effort to provide cheaper, cleaner power to low income tenants in Connecticut, where residential utility prices are nearly double the national average. This is a financial burden on people across the state, but especially on low-income families and those who have experienced homelessness. NCHS will reduce the financial burden on Columbus House to further advance their mission of serving people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. While local residents benefit directly, investors will be chipping away at the fight against climate change and air pollution, in addition to supporting a great New Haven nonprofit.
We landed on this model for several reasons, but primarily because climate change is quickly becoming the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. Over one trillion dollars in investment is needed per year to meet the Paris Agreement, and there is a massive financing gap. Governments and the private sector simply cannot do it alone, and we want to create financial incentives that help enlist everyone in the fight against climate change and close this gap.
I am so thankful for the gifts that Landon gave me, and there are so many Bears out in the world doing extraordinary things that it is very humbling to be featured in this spotlight. I have recently moved to San Francisco and would love to connect with any alumni in the area.
Thank you, and Go Bears!