Meet a Southfacer (Again): Jenna Grygier

Back in 2014, when she was a project manager on the Residential team, Jenna Grygier was kind enough to tell us a little about her interests. Today, we revisited Jenna after her life-changing experience on a full through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. You can find her first ‘Meet a Southfacer’ on the journal here.

What was your former position at Southface and your duties?
I’m thankful to have worn many hats at Southface since 2013, when I started as an intern. My most recent position as Program Manager on the Residential Sustainability Services team involved managing all quality assurance and programmatic duties for RESNET, ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense programs through the Southface Energy Rated Homes Providership, which consisted of 50 internal and external energy professionals on average. I also created and delivered trainings as a RESNET and ENERGY STAR Trainer, and assisted with various technical and research efforts for the Commercial Sustainability Services team.

What motivated you to go on a 5 month long hike on the Appalachian Trail?
I had the goal to attempt a thru-hike of the trail for a handful of years, originally due to the connection I had to the outdoors. I was enticed by the simplistic/minimalist lifestyle of carrying the weight of everything I needed with no excess, and was inspired by the idea of using a physical pursuit as a gateway to explore mind, body and spirit connection. I desired to disconnect from artificial happiness, and be present in every moment, good or bad.  I wanted to feel “human,” and gain perspective through the trail’s relentless, unforgiving and raw nature.  This all sounds very utopian, but you have a lot of time to deliberate your purpose when you’re hiking for 12 hours a day…

What did you miss most while you were hiking?
In the beginning it was hard to adjust to not having a consistent place to call home, but the trail came to be just that for all of us over time. There were a lot of obvious comforts from civilization to miss, but our minds and bodies can adapt to almost anything, it’s all about your attitude.

What did you discover about yourself?
I discovered that I had a natural gift to maintain a positive attitude and find purpose in the moment when times were tough, which helped me to persevere. I also learned from others, that “letting go” of control and embracing entropy, can be very personally liberating. I am attempting to apply the “one step at a time” concept to my daily life now, off trail.

What brought you back to Southface?
Post-trail, I set out with the goal to live, work and play in an intentional manner; intentional living means making decisions which reflect your core values. I believe that Southface does this as an organization, and that this was the perfect opportunity for me to continue to pursue my passion in sustainability as an engineer.

Did you miss us?
I absolutely missed Southface. However, the staff was with me throughout the journey; they supported me whole-heartedly by sending me supplies and notes of encouragement.  This reminded me that I had such a good community of support back home, and how unique it was to have found this through my professional network.

What will you be doing now?
I am now proud to be a Project Engineer for the Commercial Sustainability Services team. I provide and manage commercial energy and water assessments and reporting, participant trainings, sustainable building consulting and utility account monitoring for programs such as Grants to Green and the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. I also conduct building science research under programs such as the U.S. DOE Building America program, perform energy modeling analysis and provide design/construction review support for EarthCraft programs.

Jenna proudly sitting atop the sign at mile 0, Katahdin peak in Maine.

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