Sage Advice: Volunteer closes in on a century of sustainability

Leo Kuehl (pronounced “Keel”) has devoted his entire life to service and sustainability, and at 97 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down. “I don’t believe in wasting assets of any kind,” says Kuehl. “To me, ‘green’ is not just about recycling. ‘Green’ goes anywhere — any place that energy or time is used or consumed — including things like human energy, time, water, electricity, materials and so on.”

Since 2011, when he moved into Rydal Park, a 20-acre continuing care retirement community in Jenkintown, Kuehl has been figuring out ways to save the facility water, energy and money. He became an active member of Rydal’s Green Team, working with group chairperson Marian Poole, and in his first year he conducted an analysis that prompted a conversion to compact fluorescent lights that saved the 500-resident retirement home $4,000 per year. Kuehl is currently working with the management to investigate new technology controls that will ensure additional energy savings. 

Born on a farm in Minnesota, Kuehl grew up with a strong appreciation for hard work and giving back. Now in his 66th year as a volunteer for the Glenside Fire Company in Montgomery County, he continues to lend his professional expertise to help streamline the fire company’s budget and operations. 

“My life is devoted primarily to my two daughters and my two grandchildren, but in my spare time I try to help other people whenever I can and with whatever resources I have,” he says. “To me, helping others is just another way of greening. If you dedicate your lives to helping others and using resources economically, then you’re making the world better for generations to come.”

Among Kuehl’s latest initiatives is an effort to convince Rydal Park to adopt goats to aid in landscaping. Management has been less enthusiastic about that idea… for now. But if there’s one thing they’ve learned, Leo Kuehl does not give up easily.

Story by Peggy Paul, photo by Albert Yee.