Living Sustainably: Booming bike use benefits Holland

By Meika Weiss, Pedal Holland

Increased bike ridership to core city events, like the Art Fair, eases traffic and parking congestion while increasing the overall health and sustainability of the community.

The number of people bicycling in Holland has increased an incredible 281 percent since the year 2000, far outpacing the national increase of 51 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
This is great news because of the positive effects bikes have in cities like ours, even for people who don’t ride: Better air quality means fewer asthma attacks and less cardiovascular disease, our streets last longer and cost less to maintain, our neighborhoods are quieter, and we see fewer crashes of all kinds.

Efforts like the City of Holland Bike Plan encourage and support bike riding, which improves the health and sustainability of the community.

Our best guesses for reasons why bicycling is increasing so quickly here also point us toward future improvements that can continue to boost ridership and community sustainability.
Those reasons include nearly 200 miles of shared use pathways and 70 miles of on-street routes, in addition to our well-established Green Commute Week program. A recent study by the National Association of City Transportation Officials showed that places with new, high-comfort bike facilities – generally meaning places for bikes that are separated or protected in some way from motor traffic – see an increase between 21 percent and 171 percent in the number of people riding.

The number of people biking in Holland has increased 281 percent since 2000, well above the national average, helping boost the health and sustainability of the community.

This hints at one way to address two important local challenges – increasing our housing supply and accommodating development in our thriving downtown. Because bicycles take up much less space than cars, shifting some car trips to bicycles will allow us to preserve the character of our downtown and center city neighborhoods while still allowing other traffic to flow smoothly.
Even though we see most great bike infrastructure in big cities, small cities like Holland have several advantages over large metropolitan areas in creating a bicycling culture.
One of the most powerful is Holland’s relatively small footprint. Nationally, 40 percent of all trips are two miles or less, a very reasonable ride for even the most casual bicyclist. Since our metropolitan region is only 10 to 12 miles across in any direction, many of our destinations are already in easy biking distance. Because bike facilities are relatively inexpensive compared to automobile infrastructure, Holland could become a national leader for less than the cost of a single public parking garage.
The greater Holland area is off to a great start in becoming a bike-friendly community. If you are inspired to get started riding, keep it simple: Get some lights on your bike, grab a helmet, and move predictably while riding – travel in a straight line in the same direction as car traffic and pay attention to street lights and stop signs.

Other bicyclists are a great resource for new riders, too. Join us for a casual Bike Holland ride on Aug. 13 or Sept. 10 at 6 p.m., starting at Velo City Cycles, 326. S. River Ave. in Holland.

 Meika Weiss is the founding board chairperson of Pedal Holland, a start-up non-profit advocacy group committed to making bicycling an easy choice for transportation and recreation.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Transportation: The movement of people, goods, and services within the area is an evolving system that links us to our regional, national and global networks.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Living Sustainably: People can expand or limit invasive bugs’ impact

This small fuzzy material and the tiny bug that creates it on hemlock trees is an invasive species that could have massive impact by decimating Michigan’s hemlock forests.

By Analise Sala ’19 and Micaela Wells ’19, Hope College
Travel has consequences. Thanks to an increasingly connected world, American forests house more than 360 non-native insect species, 30 percent of which have become serious pests.
By relocating and displacing organisms, we are effectively homogenizing our planet’s landscape in a period of great human influence on the environment that has been coined the “anthropocene.”
Many are aware of the emerald ash borer, an invasive Asian beetle. It was first discovered in 2002 in southeast Michigan, where by now it has killed over 99 percent of adult ash trees. The transport of firewood and nursery trees ensured quick spread from forest to forest throughout Michigan and the eastern U.S.
Dead trees all around Holland are symbols of this beetle’s destructive power.
This story is far from unique. Fewer than 15 years after the invasion of the emerald ash borer, a new insect threatens Michigan tree species. The invasive hemlock woolly adelgid has been discovered on Eastern hemlocks in West Michigan’s own dune forests.
And still another pest is knocking on our doors. The Asian longhorned beetle is devouring the heartwood of thousands of maples and other hardwood trees in neighboring Ohio and frequently hitches rides on human-transported firewood and shipping pallets.
These insects are not problematic in their home regions of highly interdependent systems. Home-range trees have evolved defenses against their longtime pests, and they can coexist with no danger of heavy infestation.

However, when the pests are transported away from their home regions, natural competitors and predators are left behind, allowing unchecked invasive populations to spread rapidly.
The danger, then, comes with us. Every tree, pallet, or pair of unwashed hiking boots moved from one place to another has the potential to introduce a new major player into an existing ecosystem. These major players can out-compete and displace multiple native species, reducing an area’s biodiversity.
We can best appreciate the local diversity of the places we visit by doing whatever we can to keep those places just that – local. Landscaping with local nursery stock, washing clothing after visiting the woods, and heeding those oft-overlooked Department of Natural Resources warnings against transporting
fish, firewood or soil are all great ways to slow the spread of invasives that threaten the unique ecosystems of our region.
We can also report the presence of invasive species to cooperatives like the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network which work to monitor and control invasive species spread. (Visit for more information.)
Undoubtedly, some pests will still spread, and scientists will need to explore new ways to combat those threats, but we can each help prevent the frequency at which they must do so. Explore and cherish our unique West Michigan ecosystems, but be mindful of what you take with you.
 Analise Sala and Micaela Wells are summer student researchers working at Hope College under Drs. Vanessa Muilenburg, K. Greg Murray, and Kathy Winnett-Murray on the project “Direct and Indirect Impacts of a Developing Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Invasion in West Michigan Dune Forests.”

Living Sustainably: Think local for vacations with sustainable impact

By Hannah Schulze, Local First of West Michigan
One sure-fire way to guarantee yourself an A+ when it comes to planning your family vacation is to emphasize unique, exciting experiences that will result in priceless memories for years to come.
And a way to add to those experiences is the human connection that can be gained by interacting with the local business community in other places or here at home, whether you are exploring far-flung dream locales or building a deeper connection to your hometown. That local connection also will ultimately contribute to the environmental and social well-being of the place you’re in.

Here are a couple guidelines to keep in mind:

Check out the local grub: Food culture is one of the best ways to connect to a new place or to discover a new facet to your own city. Everyone eats!
Look for restaurants that purchase produce from local farms, as a deeper connection to growers often means that the business is intentional about its impact on the environment. Farm-to-table doesn’t have to mean a higher price-tag, either. Check out the food truck scene at the Grand Haven, Holland, or Muskegon farmers markets for a diverse cultural tour of fresh, locally-made snacks that won’t break your vacation budget.

Dive in to community spaces: Food is a universal connector, but you can also find that connection to a place through art, music, and history. Local art galleries, museums, and libraries are often inexpensive or free to enjoy and can give you a window into the values and culture of the place you’re in.
The Armory Building in Grand Haven is a collaborative space shared by a brewery (Grand Armory Brewing Company), a coffee shop (Aldea Coffee), a casual BBQ restaurant (Righteous BBQ), and an educational art exhibition space that serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
Stop in to the Herrick District Library in Holland or Loutit Public Library in Grand Haven to browse the shelves or log in to learn about how previous generations enjoyed your new favorite vacation spot.
You might find something surprising!

Overall, local businesses and organizations give more per capita to charity, have smaller environmental footprints, and create living-wage jobs at a higher rate than their non-local counterparts.
So, when you seek to support local wherever you are or go, you are making the choice to invest in businesses that have a positive impact on that community. Feel proud of how you vacation – choose Local First!

 Hanna Schulze is program and fund development manager for Local First of West Michigan. Local First’s mission is development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with our ecosystem, and encourages joyful community. For more information visit

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Economic Development: Businesses and the local consumers are driving engines that generate capital for growth and development. We want to be a location of choice for new business and industry.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Living Sustainably: Trees add value in Holland (Hope College Biology Student Research Project)

By Katelyn DeWitt, Hope College Biology Student

Katelyn DeWitt takes the measure of Holland’s tree resources as part of the City of Holland Urban Tree Canopy Inventory.

Have you hugged a tree lately?
This summer I have been walking around Holland doing just that. In a joint project between the City of Holland and Hope College, I have been working to census all of the trees on public property in Holland by recording every tree’s trunk diameter and species. I am also assessing them for the ecological benefits that they provide to the community.
Using the information I collect, and with a software tool called iTree, I have been estimating the amount of carbon sequestered, the air pollutants removed, and the water runoff intercepted by any individual tree.

For example, a dawn redwood in Centennial Park with a diameter of 38 inches is estimated to sequester 39.6 pounds of carbon, prevent 55.5 cubic feet of water runoff, and remove 25.2 ounces of pollutants every year!

This dawn redwood in Centennial Park gives back the equivalent of $8.43 every year.

These benefits are estimated to be worth $8.43 every year to the community, just for this one dawn redwood. Moreover, that tree is just one out of 4,000 – and counting – inventoried trees in Holland. The ecological value of the 3,663 inventoried trees is $16,166 every year.
When I was walking through neighborhoods measuring trees, people were often concerned and asked me if the city is going to cut down their tree, but that was not the case. Instead, unless the tree is diseased or poses a threat, the goal is to let them grow larger, because the larger the trees grow, the more ecological benefits they produce. Holland’s urban forest is vital to creating a sustainable and comfortable environment.

The annual ecological benefits of 3,663 inventoried trees in Holland to date are shown in this chart.

Understanding that trees enhance both environmental and human health, and making an effort to preserve them, will improve Holland’s environmental impact and attractiveness.
By preserving larger trees and planting new ones, Holland residents can make an investment.

Over a tree’s lifetime, its environmental benefits far exceed the value of wood that makes up the tree. For example, 30 years from now, that dawn redwood will be able to sequester about 68 pounds of carbon annually.
So, while I continue to get to know the trees in Holland, each by name, I encourage you to get to know them too.
Plant a tree in your yard. Some great trees to consider, based on their ability to provide environmental benefits, are honey locust, river birch, northern hackberry, silver maple and swamp white oak.
If you want to know how many benefits a tree in your yard provides, go to Finally, appreciate the beauty, clean air, the lower electric bills, soil stabilization, flood reduction, and other benefits that our trees provide.
So, go hug a tree, for they help create a beautiful, sustainable, and healthy community.

City of Holland tree poster_10July18

 Hope College student Katelyn DeWitt this summer was research assistant for the City of Holland Urban Tree Canopy Inventory Project overseen by Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray and Dr. Greg Murray of the Hope College Biology Department.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

WMEAC Blog: To Improve Energy Efficiency, Holland Turns To Equitable Financing

“Ken Freestone is the City of Holland’s Residential Energy Advisor. He helps Holland homeowners make retrofits to their homes that maximize energy efficiency, from sealing air leaks to replacing windows to installing solar panels.

First, Freestone will help an interested homeowner identify their wants, like lower utility costs or better heating. Then, he works with an auditor and contractor to help the homeowner choose a retrofit plan that meets those wants best.

Freestone also helps the homeowner choose a financial plan offered by or through Holland’s municipal utility, the Board of Public Works (BPW). Its prime financial tool is the on-bill loan.

Instead of paying upfront, homeowners can take out a low-interest loan for any retrofit and tack it onto their electric bill. No credit scores or debt-to-income ratios are needed, only 12 months of on-time electric bill payments and three years being bankruptcy-free.

Many homeowners don’t even notice the loan. Freestone says their bills are often lower than their pre-loan rate thanks to energy upgrades.

Energy upgrade assistance is made possible by a line of credit from BPW to Holland Energy Fund, a nonprofit that enables the City of Holland to achieve the goals of its Community Energy Plan. The 40-year initiative gives the city goals to cut city CO2 emissions in half and improve home energy efficiency by 50 percent.

About a decade ago, Freestone wasn’t an energy adviser but a concerned Holland resident. A BPW coal plant was right within city limits, providing most of the city’s energy needs. Freestone, other residents and groups like WMEAC wanted it gone. “There was a lot of pressure for doing something different, and as a lot of community organizations said, doing it better,” said Freestone. With air quality permit lawsuits and increasing public pressure, Holland City Council hired Garforth & Associates to conduct an energy analysis on the community.

The subsequent report became the foundation for the 2011 Community Energy Plan. The Council then approved the coal plant’s closure, the construction of a natural gas plant and the purchase of sustainable energy from three regional sites.”

Read the full article at

June 27, 2018   Beau Brockett Jr.

Creative Dining Services to use cage-free eggs

“Creative Dining Services has announced it will soon only use eggs from cage-free farms.

The Zeeland company, which operates food service programs at Hope College, Grand Rapids Community College and other local colleges, switched to cage-free eggs for its shelled egg products July 1 and plans to convert entirely to cage-free (liquid egg products included) by December.

As part of the transition process, 40 chefs from Creative Dining Services toured Vande Bunte Eggs’ cage-free hen houses to see where the birds are housed in natural settings — giving the birds the ability to exhibit natural behaviors — and ask questions about the egg farm.

‘Our chefs are passionate about using the best local ingredients and want to see how and where they are produced,” said Janine Oberstadt, director of corporate sustainability at Creative Dining Services. “This not only supports the Michigan egg industry and the upcoming changeover to cage-free, but also makes our chefs feel great about what they’re serving our guests every single day.'”

Read the full article in the Holland Sentinel at:

Living Sustainably: Holland group boosts plant-based food options

By Rebecca Bochenek, Veg Lakeshore
Are you looking to improve your health or help save the planet? The plant-based movement is thriving and building steam in Holland and West Michigan.
A few years ago, when you went out to eat, your plant-based food options may have been limited to a baked potato, salad, or soup. Now, more restaurants are adding menu items such as jackfruit tacos, black bean burgers, hippie hash, vegan baked goods, non-dairy milk options, fresh juices and much more.
And what about all these massive storms, heat waves, fires, and so on that are consuming the United States? Climate change is real, and humans can change that course. You have the power to help by what you are putting on your plate!

Eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent in greenhouse gases of 1,160 miles driving, according to a fact sheet from the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems.
Meat products have much larger carbon footprints per calorie than grains or vegetables because of the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy. For example, 47.6 percent of the greenhouse gases from food consumption come from meat, compared to 4.9 percent from vegetables, 3.6 percent from fruit and 3 percent from grains. A four-ounce serving of meat generates about 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide compared to a small fraction of a pound per serving of rice, legumes, carrots or potatoes.
A local group has organized to help both your and the planet’s health. Veg Lakeshore started in September, 2013 when Mary Jackson moved to Holland and realized a need to promote healthy plant-based practices. She, Rebecca Bochenek, and Debra Williamson formed a meetup group which held potlucks, tabled at local events and visited local chefs to encourage vegan/vegetarian options on menus.
In the past five years, the group has built a network of members throughout West Michigan who are searching for a more sustainable, ethical and healthy way to live. The mission is to connect people and network with businesses to build a more compassionate, healthy community.
Events include Meatless Mondays at Nuestra Casa, a community house of Westcore Neighbors. At each potluck, a speaker presents a 30-minute talk on topics ranging from climate change and composting to gardening or recycling. And owners of businesses come in to discuss their veg friendly products.
We encourage all ages and appetites to attend. Each month has a theme such as Dutch Delights, Local/Seasonal, or Plantsgiving. Everyone is encouraged to bring a recipe for those with food intolerances or who practice a certain way of eating.
This month’s event is a Dunton Park picnic tomorrow, at 5:45 p.m. Monday, July 16. Bring a vegan or vegetarian dish with recipe. Check out the Events link at the Veg Lakeshore Facebook page for more information.
Also, a monthly Grapevine newsletter includes information about our Meatless Monday potluck, farmers market directory and a Vegan/Vegetarian Resource that includes menu items for many restaurants in the area. Email to be added to our Grapevine mailing.
 Rebecca Bochenek is Veg Lakeshore co-founder/organizer, a plant-based chef, and animal advocate.

More Online:
For a detailed list of vegan and vegetarian-friendly offerings at area dining establishments, click on “Our Story” on the Lakeshore Veg Facebook page.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.