Living Sustainably: Panel to discuss complexity of affordable housing

By Hannah Gingrich, Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore

The Holland area suffers from a significant lack of housing that full-time workers in this area can afford.

“Affordable housing is not a simple subject” might be the understatement of the year.  Regular consumers of local news have undoubtedly noticed this topic repeatedly featured in recent city discussions.

Housing issues affect everyone, though in different ways. Even the casually interested likely have heard friends or coworkers mention how difficult it is to find a place to live or how stressed out they are when faced with an upcoming move, wondering if they will be able to find a situation they can afford.

The next Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore program will address how housing issues affect us and our neighbors. Four local housing experts will talk about what affordable does and could look like in Ottawa County at “Quality of Life: The Affordable Community,” to be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave.
All kinds of people are significantly affected by the lack of available housing at their price point.
Housing Next’s May 2017 Impact Report, the most recent available, points out the large number in our community who fall in the ALICE category – ALICE, or Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.
That threshold is $56,400 for a family of four.

The lack of housing that can be afforded by area workers is a major issue in Holland.

Housing Next is a local initiative seeking to support all income levels needing affordable housing.
Housing Next’s impact report recounts stories of seniors, recent graduates, factory workers, single mothers, and disabled adults struggling to make ends meet.
In one example, Sue and Tom both make $10 an hour working at a factory. They like the area and want to stay, but their monthly income barely meets their expenses. Sometimes it comes down to a choice of what bill gets paid that month – rent or car insurance, day care or food.
In another example, Tamara has a full-time job. As a single mother making minimum wage, she was forced to look for more affordable housing when her work hours became erratic. However, she couldn’t find anything near work and had to rent an apartment half an hour away, despite being concerned about her car’s reliability. She must now spend much of her budget on transportation.
Housing and homelessness aren’t simply issues of poverty. Jobs paying low wages may not have been intended for individuals supporting families, but that situation has become the new reality. How do you manage to live a life of quality when your paycheck barely covers the roof your head?
But building affordable housing doesn’t come cheap.
It might seem like a simple matter of budgeting a building to keep it low-cost. But not only does an affordable housing development require the same real estate purchases, zoning approvals, and building expenses as market-rate rentals, it often comes with additional challenges. Neighbors may contest building sites, and the grants needed to make projects financially feasible lengthen the process, which
ultimately drives up cost.
These kinds of issues will be addressed by the panel of experts at the next Living Sustainably program on March 5. Included in the evening will be a drawing for a $20 Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity ReStore gift card

 Hannah Gingrich is a public services assistant at Herrick District Library, a Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore partner.

“Quality of Life: The Affordable Community”
Who: Ryan Kilpatrick of Housing Next; Laura Driscoll, director of housing services at Good Samaritan; Angela Maxwell from Community Action House, and Chad Frederick from the geography department faculty at Grand Valley State University
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave.
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 5
Admission: Free

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Quality of Life: The community, through governmental, religious, business and social organizations, makes decisions that contribute to its own well-being.

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: Good business is doing good for the community

By Hanna Schultz, People First Economy
It’s 2019, and with the new year comes inspiration, a renewed sense of purpose, and the added drive to become the best version of yourself you can be.
So, why would your approach to your business be any differently? This last year has seen economic growth and opportunity for many businesses, and it has also uncovered a desire for many businesses to embrace their values in a different, more meaningful way.
In West Michigan, many businesses align their practices with the values that the owners and employees hold dear in everyday life. This is among the reasons that locally owned businesses are statistically more philanthropic, environmentally responsible, and intentional toward community engagement. Many of these values have been more or less “unspoken” for many years, even generations, as the businesses themselves have grown or gone through seasons of change.
The Good For Michigan program wants to help businesses institutionalize and benchmark their impact, while providing real-time data that tracks all of the positive effects that the business has on the environment, their employees, and the community as a whole.

Good For Michigan offers resources for businesses that want to learn and do more for their communities. These opportunities include educational workshops. Details for upcoming events can be found at
The crux of the program is the Quick Impact Assessment, which is a tool that any business can use to get a snapshot that measures and quantifies the positive impact it is making in its local community. The assessment (or the QIA, as it’s fondly called) is free for any business to take, and the information gathered is confidential.
The QIA is a 60-minute assessment that measures dozens of best practices for employee, community and environmental impact. Business owners can also see how they compare to other businesses nationally.
This assessment is ideal for business owners who are interested in learning about how they can use their business to make a positive social and environmental impact in their community.  Businesses of all sizes and industries are invited to participate.
A diverse range of West Michigan businesses are already participating in Good For Michigan, from engineering firms to a breweries to restaurants, housing development companies, design firms and more.
Visit for more information or to take the Quick Impact Assessment for your business.
You can help keep the business community in West Michigan a leader in responsible business practices!

 Hanna Schulze is development manager at People First Economy, the organization that runs the Good For Michigan program. Hanna has worked in economic development for over five years and finds the most value in her work when she can help small business owners grow their business intentionally using sustainable principles.

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.



Hemlock woolly adelgid, the invasive and destructive insect, which sucks the sap from North American hemlock trees and dooms many of them, has taken hold in the Hope College Nature Preserve and a team of faculty and students are studying the impacts.

The research team includes Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray and Dr. Greg Murray. The veteran husband-wife educators have teamed up with Dr. Vanessa Muilenburg, an entomologist, to assess the extent of the adelgid infestation and determine the importance of hemlock trees in West Michigan forests. They spent summer 2018 doing field work with three Hope students: Katelyn DeWitt ’21 and biology majors Analise Sala ’19 and Micaela Wells ’19.

The researchers spent many hours amid the hemlocks in Hope’s nature preserve about five miles southwest of the campus, near the Lake Michigan shoreline, and at three other sites in Allegan and Ottawa counties. Winnett-Murray says that because of Lake Michigan’s unique influence in creating moisture-rich and canyon-like dune troughs, West Michigan is one of the few places in the Great Lakes region where hemlocks thrive amid forests of beech and maple trees.

Read the full piece by following this link:


Jim McFarlin ’74, an award-winning writer, critic and blogger, is a 2019 recipient of Hope College’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Additional information can be found at:

FOR ALL OF GOD’S GOOD EARTH (Hope College Spera Magazine)


“A term like ‘earthkeeping’ is more biblical and simply refuses to accept the view that the natural world is a commodity to be used by humans who only manage its resources for our own ends,” he explains. “Being a keeper, in the biblical sense, means being someone who serves and protects. So the term ‘earthkeeping’ creates an image that much more clearly captures the idea that we are creatures called by God to take care of creation.”

Read the full piece by following this link:


Eva Dean Folkert ’83 writes extensively about Hope people, research, sports and news.

Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution – Thursday, February 21

Please join the Macatawa Creation Care Group on Thursday, February 21 in Graves Hall for a film screening of “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution.”

Doors open at 5:45, and the film starts at 6:00. The film will be followed by a panel of representatives from the City Of Holland, Holland Board of Public Works, and West Michigan Community Sustainability Partnership.

View the trailer here:

““I know it’s going to change because when I talk to young people, they are not even questioning that it’s happening, they just understand it.  I feel like it’s just happening.”  Lisa Jackson Vice President Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, Apple Inc.”

SYNOPSIS:  Filmmaker James Redford embarks on a colorful personal journey into the dawn of the clean energy era as it creates jobs, turns profits, and makes communities stronger and healthier across the US. Unlikely entrepreneurs in communities from Georgetown, TX to Buffalo, NY reveal pioneering clean energy solutions while James’ discovery of how clean energy works, and what it means at a personal level, becomes the audiences’ discovery too. Reaching well beyond a great story of technology and innovation, “Happening” explores issues of human resilience, social justice, embracing the future, and finding hope for our survival.

Living Sustainably: It’s all about global “weirding”

By Sarah Irvin, Naturalist at DeGraaf Nature Center

Climate change is altering wind patterns, affecting bird migrations and forcing birds, such as this pine siskin, to adapt their behaviors.

Climate is defined as the weather in a particular area over a large time period, which unveils patterns when recorded, allowing us to create models that mimic and make predictions.
Unfortunately, climate trends will become increasingly more challenging to predict as temperatures and precipitation events shift; the phenomenon that we have named “global warming” might more accurately be called “global weirding.”
While it is true that the planet is warming on average, it is the ever-increasing rate of change and values outside of acceptable climate variability that are concerning.

Changes in temperature patterns are altering when flowers bloom, affecting human allergies and insect behaviors.

The U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program conducted an evaluation and concluded the following about what types of changes to expect in the Midwest over the next century:
 Plants: In the early growing season, agricultural yields will be reduced by rising temperatures, excessive soil moisture, and erosion from increased rain. In the late growing season, invasive species and pests currently stressing our plants will worsen from an increased frequency of drought. Water stress on all plants will eventually lead to a lowered species diversity and productivity in our forests.

Climate changes are altering ice cover on Lake Michigan, which can affect evaporation, water temperatures and health of the water ecosystem.

 Water: Our Great Lakes are not receiving the annual ice cover that we are used to seeing, allowing evaporation to occur year-round (with summer evaporation rates increasing).
Changes in water level and temperature can stress native species, creating opportunities for invasive species and toxic algal blooms.
An Environmental Protection Agency study projects that decline in water quality, along with increased storm impacts, will negatively affect Michigan coastal communities.

 Animals: Migrating birds will fight stronger headwinds on a longer journey south, but return with the push of the wind, allowing them to conserve energy and arrive at their breeding grounds healthier. Biologists’ already are seeing birds adapting their flight paths and have hope that the gradual nature of the change will allow them to continue to adjust.
But they also note that imbalanced adaptations in lifecycles or bloom times could decrease food availability across all animals.
At the same time, ecosystem services such as flood control, water purification, and crop pollination provided by plants and animals will decrease as species diversity declines and habitats degrade.

 People: With warming temperatures, pollen seasons will likely extend, impacting people with seasonal allergies. And within our human infrastructure, we can expect property damage and disrupted transportation from increased heavy rain events, subsequent flooding, and erosion, according to the assessment. Most people will notice these changes slowly, but those already vulnerable will only become more so.
With the vast interconnected nature of our environment, no change can happen in isolation. Change is a natural, unavoidable part of our planet. We just have to do what we can to limit our impact, and thwart the speed and scale of changes occurring now.

 Sarah Irvin holds degrees in geology and terrestrial ecology and is a naturalist at DeGraaf Nature Center. The views expressed here are hers alone and not representative of DeGraaf Nature Center.

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.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science – February 11

Related imageThe United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed Monday, February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. According to a UN study from 14 countries, the probability for female students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in science is 18 percent, while the male equivalent is 37 percent. This day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.


Read about some of our fantastic champions from Hope College!

International Day of Women and Girls in Science


Living Sustainably: Film examines troubling issue of poverty

By Cameron Geddes, Hope College Markets & Morality
Image result for hope college markets and moralityThe great specter of the modern age is shapeless, manifesting in a menagerie of forms: Fathers unable to keep a roof over the heads of their sons. Mothers having only empty pantries to offer their daughters. Neighbors squabbling over property that rises just above worthless.
Poverty is the English word for the ageless struggle that has left great minds troubled. Institutions such as Hope College have deployed organizations seeking to understand and explain the nature of it.

And on Feb. 4, Hope College student group Markets & Morality will be featuring a masterpiece film asking the question of how to eliminate poverty. The film is aptly titled “The Pursuit.”
Arthur Brooks was once a professional man of music. He chose to chase after a question that societies so often answer incorrectly, as his film puts it: “How can we lift up the world, starting with those at the margins of society?” This set him on the path to joining the prestigious non-partisan think tank the American Enterprise Institute. Since 1943 the organization has solicited politicians and academics alike “dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world.”
Brooks holds several degrees, including a Ph.D and a M. Phil. in policy analysis, which he received from the Pardee RAND Graduate school. His work as a professor, consultant, doctoral fellow, and New York Times opinion writer have all tied into his position as president at American Enterprise Institute, where he is set to be succeeded by Robert Doar in July.
“The Pursuit” follows Brooks as he travels the world, looking to examine and demonstrate just how those most in need of economic assistance can be helped. This takes him from Mumbai to Kentucky, from Barcelona to New York City, and even to a Himalayan Buddhist monastery.
“Markets & Morality as a whole has been working very hard to bring light to the issues of poverty around the world and how we as a society can effectively bring relief,” said Camryn Zeller, a sophomore member of the group.
“(Brook’s film) highlights this same goal and intention for the majority of poverty alleviation efforts, and (it) challenges his viewers and himself to find what actually works. He identifies poverty as more than a lack of material possessions, but the lack of opportunity to have and pursue dreams.”
The showing is set for Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m., with free admission at the Knickerbocker Theatre.
Hope economics Professor Stephen Smith will give an introduction to the fil m, with a reflection at the end by Hope Chaplain of discipleship the Rev. Jennifer Ryden.

“The Pursuit” – a film and discussion about eliminating poverty
When: 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4
Where: The Knickerbocker Theater, 86 East 8th St., Holland,
Cost: Free

 Cameron Geddes is a Hope College sophomore majoring in economics and international studies as well as a second-year member of Markets & Morality and a staff writer for student-newspaper The Anchor.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

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: Session will tell about saving our lakes from runoff

By Kyle Hart and Matt Belanger, West Michigan Environmental Action Council
The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of all available freshwater on the surface of the Earth, and stormwater pollution is the number one threat to the quality of that water.
In February, the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series will start off the year with a presentation from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) regarding stormwater issues created in urban communities.

The summer blooms in the rain garden at Hope Church in Holland show protecting the Big Lake can be beautiful as well as sustainable. Photos courtesy Macatawa Area Coordinating Council

Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or snow falls on surfaces such as buildings, sidewalks, and roads and does not soak into the ground. It “runs off” these surfaces into storm drains and waterways. It can quickly carry sediment, litter, and chemicals into bodies of water, and its impact is directly felt by lakeshore communities such as Holland.
Runoff can be managed using green solutions that treat stormwater at the source and prevent it from degrading our water quality. Those solutions might include using a rain barrel, building a rain garden, or increasing the amount of native plants and trees on your property.
Are you interested in helping protect our water? The program “Rainy Days – Causes, Problems and Solutions” will explain how to live a greener lifestyle to reduce flooding, limit property damage, save money using these sustainable stormwater strategies, and impact climate change. The program will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave. in Holland.

A rain garden, such as this one at West Ottawa’s Great Lakes Elementary, gives rain and snow runoff a place to sink into the ground, keeping it from washing pollutants into waterways and lakes. Photos courtesy Macatawa Area Coordinating Council

As cities expand, the threat of stormwater runoff becomes greater each day, requiring community action to protect our freshwater resources.
Come join WMEAC and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council at the next Living Sustainably program for an engaging workshop highlighting best practices that prevent stormwater from running off, collecting harmful pollution, and flooding our community.
This discussion will help build a sustainable future for Holland and connect you with local organizations that can provide additional resources and information.
Community members are encouraged to bring questions and concerns, or to share their experiences with managing stormwater on their property.
People attending the workshop also will have a chance to win a free 55-gallon rain barrel that can be used to store rainwater, reduce flooding, and help save money on the water bill.
Visit the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Facebook page for
more information. We look forward to having you join us to support our mission of empowering you to live more sustainably!

Also visit:

for more resources and information about managing stormwater on your property and about how to use sustainable solutions to protect the quality of our waters.

Rainy Days – Causes, Problems and Solutions
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 13
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave., Holland
Cost: Free

 Kyle Hart is education coordinator of Teach for the Watershed at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. Matt Belanger is the Crane Foundation endowed water fellow at WMEAC.

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.