Jon Soden’s interest in a healthy environment and the efficient use of resources took off when he was a kid and a recycling revolutionary. In the 70s, recycling was a new thing; it wasn’t until 1980, that the first curbside recycling program was launched in Woodbury, New Jersey. The Soden family, who lived in Lakewood, New Jersey, joined this young movement right away, saving cans and newspapers and taking them to be recycled. Jon gladly did his part. “Why would I throw out a can when I could recycle it?” he says.
It’s been a conviction that he’s carried with him ever since, not only because it made logical sense and he cared for the environment but because later, as a businessman, he saw that it made economic sense, too.
Soden studied political science at Moravian (his mother, alumna Hilda Wolff Soden ’65, was thrilled). He graduated in 1991 and in ’93 opened a health club, Body Dynamics, which he ran until selling it in 2001. Soden then joined Legg Mason as a financial advisor and there met his current business partners who launched their own firm, Magellan Financial, in 2009.
Soden tells about a day in the mid-90s when a somewhat disheveled salesman came to the club. “He didn’t have that slick look that a lot of salespeople have,” says Soden, “so I figured he might have something good for me.”
What he had were high-intensity light bulbs. He replaced four fluorescent bulbs in one of the lighting fixtures with two high-intensity bulbs. “They produced brighter light at less than half the energy of the fluorescent bulbs and would last three times longer,” says Soden. “I wrote a check for $1,000 and over the weekend replaced all of the bulbs in the building. It saved me $400 a month on my electric bill, so I recouped the cost in 2 ½ months and from there it was money in my pocket.”
Soden would save $5,000 a year. That very real money in his pocket confirmed and heightened Soden’s interest and action for energy efficiency, which he already knew was crucial to the health of the environment. He turned his attention to his beloved alma mater to see what he could do to help make the campus greener.
In 2007, Soden joined the newly formed Moravian College Sustainability Committee, and he began having conversations with Frank Kuserk, then professor of biology and director of the environmental studies program. “Frank and I talked for years about how to create a fund to support sustainable efforts on campus,” says Soden.
Finally in 2015, a committee met that included Soden and his parents; Kuserk, Chad Royer, then assistant director for operations in facilities management; and Mark Reed, then vice president for finance and administration. They hammered out the details for the Greenhound Fund—a revolving fund that would be used to pay for energy-saving—and thus cost-saving—campus projects. The cost savings would be returned to the Greenhound Fund. It was a sustainable fund for sustainability. Soden and Moravian College laid down the financial foundation, and the fund has been reducing energy use across campus ever since.
Soden is happy with the progress that’s been made but encourages the Moravian College community to contribute so bigger projects can be funded. You can make a gift to the Greenhound Fund Earth Day Campaign, which is ongoing until end of day Friday, April 23.
One of Soden’s goals is to upgrade the energy efficiency of the older buildings on campus“It’s wonderful to see the Silver LEED-certification of the center for health sciences,” he says, “but we should also preserve all of our old buildings by modernizing them inside.”
As Soden looks beyond Moravian’s campus to the world and the future of the global environment, he is optimistic. “Through technology, we shifted from an agrarian to an industrial society, and we’ve been spewing CO2 into the air ever since,” he points out. “We changed the environment through technology, and we can reverse the damage through technology. It’s already starting to happen as we see businesses like UPS shifting toward electric vehicles. Last year, Dominion Energy sold its natural gas assets and is investing heavily in renewable energy. “The boat has sailed,” he says with a smile.
And Moravian College is on board.