LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Business talent pipeline begins with Ready for School

Employees of Herman Miller and Mead Johnson Nutrition were among those who filled donated backpacks with school supplies for nearly 120 students heading to kindergarten.

By Shandra Martinez, Ready for School
Herman Miller employees were among the volunteers who fanned out to meet soon-to-be kindergarten students on a sunny August morning to personally present each child with a bright green backpack. Inside each was an outfit of pants, shirt, and shoes, plus school supplies, such as a pencil box, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, and a folder.
The backpacks offer a tangible expression of how the local non-profit organization Ready for School helps prepare students by giving them the tools they need for a strong start in school.
“These things help to build that excitement for day one for somebody who might be a little bit nervous about starting this educational journey,” said Alison Freas, a former teacher who now works as the educational lead for the Herman Miller Cares Foundation.

By helping build excitement for the first day of school, donated backpacks with clothing and school supplies are part of the Ready for School mission.

Kindergarten readiness is a community issue. Herman Miller knew from the beginning that Ready for School was a wise long-term investment in solutions to carry children, families and our community forward.
Science tells us that children’s first five years are when they develop the foundation for all future learning. A decade ago, the Zeeland furniture maker recognized the opportunity to level the playing field for children when their potential for brain building moments was at its strongest.

So Herman Miller was among the first of a dozen companies to begin supporting the community-led initiative that aimed to make sure more local children entered kindergarten prepared for success in school and life.
By expanding access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities, companies were closing the achievement gap and supporting the earliest stage of the talent pipeline.
“This was consistent with our belief that if we’re really going to create the workforce of the future, and we’re really going to take care of communities, it had to start with opportunities for the littlest of the little,” says Michael Ramirez, Herman Miller’s longtime executive vice president of people, places, and administration.
Ramirez feels a personal commitment to the organization’s mission. He remained on the Ready for School board of directors even after stepping down from Herman Miller’s leadership team in early 2018.
While volunteers were distributing backpacks, he and his wife Molly were busy setting up to grill and serve hotdogs for lunch.  “We all know the studies say if kids aren’t taken care of wholistically by third grade, the chance of them being successful going forward is pretty tough,” Ramirez said.
Image result for ready for schoolThis summer, Herman Miller Cares and Zeeland neighbor Mead Johnson Nutrition each rallied their employees to fill donated backpacks with school supplies for nearly 120 Start School Ready students heading to kindergarten.
A signature program of Ready for School, Start School Ready is a four-week “kindergarten bootcamp” that boosts children’s early literacy and social-emotional skills that equate to kindergarten readiness and sustained school success – aligning the pre-K and K-12 system.
 Shandra Martinez serves on Ready for School’s Communications Committee. Shandra has been covering West Michigan since 1993 as a business reporter and writer.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Energy seminar focuses on comfort, health, savings

By Andrea Goodell, Herrick District Library
Image result for lower the thermostatMaking your home more comfortable, healthy and cost-effective doesn’t have to break the bank.  Everyone knows the No. 1 tip: Lower your thermostat a couple of degrees in winter and raise it a couple of degrees in summer. (You won’t notice the difference, but you’ll notice the savings.)
There are dozens of no- or low-cost ways to save energy and money. Here are a few:
 Foam gaskets for electrical outlets can lower your energy bill quickly, Holland Residential Energy Advisor Ken Freestone said. Seal leaks around doors and windows, too.
 Fans are an economical way of cooling off or circulating air, but they don’t make the room itself cooler, so they should be turned off when no one is there to enjoy them. Ceiling fans should blow down in the summer to cool and up in the winter to circulate air.
 Holland Board of Public Works customers can receive free LED bulbs at one of its giveaways. The next one is Oct. 12; check the BPW’s Facebook page for details. The BPWalso offers rebates for LEDs, energy efficient appliances and other energy-saving purchases (hollandbpw.com/my-home/energy-efficiency-programs-and-rebates).
 Spending a little more for a programmable or smart thermostat will help control energy use.
 Change furnace filters every month and get a tune-up at least once a year. Preventative maintenance is much cheaper than repairs. It also keeps your furnace running efficiently, lowering monthly heating bills. SEMCO offers a $50 rebate for boiler or furnace tune-ups.
 Check out a free energy evaluation kit from Herrick District Library or Van Wylen Library. Each kit contains simple technology and instructions to measure your home’s humidity and energy usage and an infrared thermometer to find energy leaks.
However, these efforts are about more than just saving energy, Freestone said. “It is about making homes healthier, safer and more comfortable – and about saving energy, too.”
Learn more about doing all that at Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore’s next event, “Comfort, Health, and Savings: Smart Energy at Home.” It begins 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Holland Energy Park with an expo, with the program at 6:30.
Space is limited so registration at http://bit.ly/LSATLenergyevent is required.
Also at the event, Freestone will outline a grant program and financing options from the city and BPW for help with bigger energy retrofit projects, as well as low-interest financing available to anyone in Michigan.
Self-guided tours of the Energy Education Center will be available, too.
Homeowner Roy Cole, who has gone through the city’s Home Energy Retrofit program, will also speak.
“The Home Energy Retrofit program helped us cut our electricity usage by more than half,” Cole said. “The solar panels and insulation will pay for themselves in around five years. … As for the house, no more drafts, icicles on the roof, excessive humidity or dryness, or noise from the street.”
 Andrea Goodell is community relations associate at Herrick District Library.  Herrick is one of the founding members of the series.

If You Go
What: “Comfort, Health, and Savings: Smart Energy at Home.”
When: 6 p.m. Oct. 9
Where: The Holland Energy Park, 1 Energy Park Way, Holland.
Register: Required at http://bit.ly/LSATLenergyevent

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Harvest Festival Saturday Celebrates Hope and Inclusion

By Sara Hogan, Benjamin’s Hope

Harvest Festival at Benjamin’s Hope has become a much-anticipated annual event that inspires hope for hundreds of families in West Michigan impacted by disability. The entire community is welcome for this annual family-friendly evening of fun.
Families will enjoy pony cart rides, hayrides, roasting marshmallows around a campfire, games, and more at the Harvest Festival, 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Benjamin’s Hope. Also on tap will be live music with Left Hand Link and hands-on fun with the animals in the barn.
Benjamin’s Hope is a unique inclusive community at 15468 Riley St. on Holland’s north side. It also is an excellent example of how sustainability is enhanced by vital and effective communities.
For Benjamin’s Hope founder, Krista Mason, Harvest Festival is the fullest expression of the vision for an inclusive community where all every people are valued and celebrated.
Krista and her husband, Dave, understand how hard it can be for parents to imagine what the adult life might look like for a child with autism. Their youngest son, Ben, now 22, is profoundly affected by autism. Today autism affects one in 59 children, according to government statistics.
Benjamin's Hope“Ben had a very intensive early intervention,” said Krista Mason, now executive director of Benjamin’s Hope. “As we moved through years of specialized programming, Ben made progress. Yet, he did not develop the ability to speak or function independently.”
Dave and Krista began to think about his future less in terms of independence and more in terms of interdependence. And the vision was born for Benjamin’s Hope, a “live, work, play, worship” community for people with autism.
The non-profit now serves 30 adults in six farm-style semi-independent homes with big front porches and individual apartments. The Church of Ben’s Hope is flourishing, and attended by over 150 people from across the county and beyond every Sunday at 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.
The debt-free organization serves as a thriving example of public-private partnership, all of which is celebrated with the community each year at Harvest Festival. Come visit and learn more!
 Sara Hogan is director of ministry support at Benjamin’s Hope. To learn more about Benjamin’s Hope and how you can connect, visit www.benjaminshope.net and follow Benjamin’s Hope on Facebook.

If You Go:
Benjamin’s Hope Harvest Festival
Free to any families in the community
5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
15468 Riley St., Holland
More at: facebook.com/events/688379761502096/

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

JIM AND MARTIE BULTMAN STUDENT CENTER EARNS LEED GOLD CERTIFICATION

JIM AND MARTIE BULTMAN STUDENT CENTER EARNS LEED GOLD CERTIFICATION; WOOD FROM STORM-FELLED TREES LINKS PAST AND PRESENT

September 17, 2018 — by Greg Olgers

Organizations seeking LEED certification for their construction projects have many ways to earn it, including by using regional materials. In developing the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center, which recently received LEED Gold certification, Hope College integrated a meaningful resource from mere yards away: wood saved from venerable campus elms that were felled by a storm.

The trees were lost in a thunderstorm that caused damage throughout the Holland area in June 2011.  Hope saved the trunks and turned them into boards to be used some day in a way that commemorated the trees’ long tenure at the college.

The student center, which is in the central campus, provided the opportunity, with construction beginning in 2015 for a fall 2017 opening.  Boards from an elm estimated to have been 164 years old (older than Hope, chartered in 1866) panel the east wall of the building’s chapel.  A wall in a large, multi-use room and the wall and bench work surrounding the main lounge’s fireplace also feature wood from campus.

“The trees were present for generations as students attended Hope,” said Dr. Richard Frost, who is vice president for student development and dean of students at the college.  “The boards made from them provide a connection between the past, present and future.  Just as importantly, the wood has become a significant element in the student center being designated as a LEED Gold building.”

Image result for leed goldThe center is the second newly constructed building in a row at the college to earn LEED certification, with plans underway for a hat trick.  The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts that opened in August 2015 holds LEED Silver certification, and Hope will also be seeking certification for the new Campus Ministries building that is under construction and scheduled to be completed next fall.

“Sustainability is an ongoing commitment for us, and constructing buildings with concern for the environment is an important part of that commitment,” said Kara Slater, who is director of operations at the college and is a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP).  “In the same way, the college is dedicated to exercising good stewardship in its day-to-day operations, whether it’s the water-efficient irrigation that we use across campus, installing LED lighting or through the cleaning materials that we use.”

Read the full press release here:

https://hope.edu/news/2018/campus-life/jim-and-martie-bultman-student-center-earns-leed-gold-certification-wood-from-storm-felled-trees-links-past-and-present.html 

Living Sustainably: Noise and neighborliness kicks off sustainability series

By Andrea Goodell, Herrick District Library
A sustainable community takes more than just environmental health or economic health or social health. It takes everyone working together for all of those things.This month, Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore will kick off its fall series of events addressing ways in which Holland is becoming a more sustainable community and telling how residents can be a part of the movement.
The first meeting will talk about noise, one of the leading neighborhood complaints in Holland.
“Hearing our Neighbors: Community and Neighborhood” will be a community discussion about city noise, neighborly communication strategies, and ordinance enforcement. It will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave.
How much noise is harmful?  What about pets, what are they hearing? The panel of experts will include Holland City Councilman Raul Garcia, Holland Assistant Director of Community and Neighborhood Services Tricia Dreier, Hope College professor Kathy Winnett-Murray, and Holland Department of Public Safety Sgt.Larry Matzen.
Garcia, who has also served as a program director for the city neighborhood group WestCore Neighbors, will provide resources for positive communication between neighbors.
“No one tries to be bad neighbor,” Garcia said.

Winnett-Murray will speak to domestic animal reactions to noise.
Matzen and Dreier will discuss Holland ordinances related to noise, such as fireworks, and ways they can and cannot be enforced. Though the city officials will not be able to take complaints at the event, they will share ways to file formal complaints and the importance of following up with officials.
“Hearing our Neighbors” will include resources to become be a more aware neighbor. Participants are encouraged to bring their questions and suggestions about noise from the resident’s perspective.
Community organizations that sponsor the Living Sustainably series are: Herrick District Library, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, GreenMichigan.org, League of Women Voters of the Holland Area, Meijer Campus of Grand Valley State University, city of Holland and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
—Next month, Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore will take on smart energy at home. Meeting at the Holland Energy Park, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 9, the event will include a self-guided tour of the Holland Board of Public Works’ new Energy Education Center.  Home energy retrofit advisors will talk about improvements that can make a home more comfortable, healthy, efficient and sustainable, as well as financing options available to make those improvements. Holland residents who have completed home energy retrofits will share their stories.  Tickets are required for the October event (https://bit.ly/2v8Z8i1) as room is limited.
—In November, “Stump our Recycling Chumps” asks for community members’ toughest recycling questions and will discuss Holland’s recycling initiatives and the sorting practices of the city’s new trash and recycling hauler, Republic Services. It will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 13, at Holland City Hall, 270 S. River Ave. and will be live streamed over the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Facebook page t facebook.com/LivingSustainablyAlongtheLakeshore/.
 Andrea Goodell is community relations associate at Herrick District Library.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainabily: Food Waste Film – Just Eat It

By Ken Freestone and Lisa Uganski, GreenMichigan.org and Ottawa Food

Filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin created the entertaining film “Just Eat It” documenting how they lived on a diet comprised of waste food. Photo courtesy Pure Souls Media

The issue of food waste is about more than disposal of food scraps from our tables at home or uneaten food at restaurants. It is about hungry families and individuals, about wasting environmental resources during growing and processing, about over-purchasing, and about creating methane in landfills.
There are at least three levels of the food waste story – local, regional and national.
Locally, think about what you can do at home to limit your waste. “Imagine walking out of a grocery store with four bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and just not bothering to pick it up. That’s essentially what we’re doing,” says Dana Gunders, a National Resources Defense Council food scientist.
On average a U.S. consumer wastes one pound of food per day, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This includes moldy or unappealing foods in our refrigerator, expired foods – although often still edible – or stale items.
Regionally, the impact of food waste is huge.
Ottawa County disposes of an estimated 23,434 tons of food waste through its municipal waste stream each year, not counting waste from agriculture and food processing operations, according to a West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum analysis. Waste food is the single largest source of material disposed of in the four landfills serving the county and amounts to approximately 17 percent of solid waste from residences and 14 percent from businesses.
Nationally, that level of waste is multiplied.
In the United States, according to the USDA Office of the Chief Economist/U.S. Food Waste Challenge, food waste is estimated to amount to 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on food insecurity for people who have difficulty accessing food, as well as for resource conservation and climate change.
Impacts include:
 Wholesome food that could help feed families in need is sent to landfills.
 The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society.
 Food waste quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.
Although few of us can have immediate impact at the global agricultural or manufacturing levels, we can make behavioral changes at home and in our local communities.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit www.OttawaFood.org to learn how 40-plus agencies and individuals are collaboratively working to ensure access to healthy, local and affordable food. Get involved if you can!
  • Start a composting system at home, in your neighborhood, at your church or school or work with community gardens to process food scraps.
  • Redistribute edible foods to individuals, families and organizations. These could be foods gleaned from farmer’s markets, event leftovers, or grocery outlets.
    For a look inside the issue, attend the free showing of the documentary “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Knickerbocker Theater in downtown Holland.
  •  Ken Freestone is Holland’s residential energy advisor and also co-founder of GreenMichigan.org, a nonprofit focused on sustainability. Lisa Uganski is a registered dietitian at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health and coordinator of Ottawa Food, a collaboration working to ensure access to healthy, local, and affordable food choices.

If You Go
What: “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story,” an entertaining documentary on the issue of food waste
Cost: Free
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 27
Where: The Knickerbocker Theater in downtown Holland

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Celebrate Local Food on the Lakeshore This Fall

By Kate Bolt, LivingLark.com
Growing up between fields of wheat and corn in East Saugatuck, farming and living close to the food we eat has always been an important part of my life.  My parents always came home with local produce from our neighboring farms, and every year at the tractor pull down the street there was an energetic auction for fresh produce.

Locally grown and sold food is a great way to enjoy fall and help sustain our community.

Bidding high for ears of sweet corn was something I thought everyone did in every part of the country, just like we did. When I moved to town (Holland!) after college, I watched as the Holland Farmers Market grew from 15 vendors to its current 96 vendors, and I knew that my new home valued fresh, locally grown food as much as I did.

If you’re looking for ways to support your local farmers and food businesses, you’re in luck. The lakeshore is bustling with opportunities to celebrate local food this fall. Check out two of my favorites:

Holland Farmer’s Market

1. The Holland Farmers Market. It’s open every Wednesday and Saturday until Dec. 22.  It opens at 8 a.m. and you can shop until 4 p.m. at 150 W. 8th St. in Holland. Vendors carry everything from freshly picked produce and plants for your home and garden to baked goods, sweet treats, meats, eggs, cheese and much, much more.  And take this tip from an insider: shop early in the day for the best product assortment.  Vendors also accept Bridge Cards and participate in a number of other food assistance programs.

Lakeshore Fork Fest2.   Local First Lakeshore Fork Fest.  Slow down the fast September pace with this celebration of local food and drink, live art and music. Sip drinks from Coppercraft Distillery, Farmhaus Cider, Great Legs Winery, and New Holland Brewery.  Watch a live art demo by Meridith Ridl, a chef demo by Justen Bowden of Just Enjoy, groove to live music and go home with a bag full of swag.
Our list of food vendors includes Coppercraft Distillery, Fustini’s of Holland, Just Enjoy, Lemonjello’s Coffee, Pereddies Restaurant & Deli, New Holland Brewing Company, Saunders Family Bakery, and Taquizas (tacos by Botanas Pa’ty). I’m making a signature non-alcoholic mocktail with a Livinglark.com recipe from the season’s final rhubarb and the freshest mint. There will be something there for everyone to imbibe and enjoy!
Lakeshore Fork Fest is 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Warehouse 6, 136 E. 6th St. in Holland.   Tickets are $40 presale at localfirst.com and will be $45 at the door. Tickets include one adult beverage plus free non-alcoholic drinks and all the food you can eat.  Get your tickets and celebrate everything local with us at www.localfirst.com/events. Your ticket purchase supports the work of Local First of West Michigan, a non-profit that helps support locally-owned businesses.
 Kate Bolt is the owner of Lark (www.livinglark.com) and a blogger who writes about her love of food, beverage, and how they bring together community. She also is the Local First Lakeshore Fork Fest Event Coordinator.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Holland Stands Out in Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards

By Anne Saliers, Holland Board of Public Works

More finalists have been selected from Holland for the 2018 Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards than from any other city in the state.

Holland resident Roy Cole is a finalist in the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards Best Residential Project category.

Of the 21 businesses, organizations, and individuals across the state that have been honored this year, three are from Holland, a fourth is honored because of its work in Holland, and a fifth Holland resident has been chosen for an honorable mention. The city with the second most selections was Detroit – with just two finalists.
The Energy Excellence Awards recognize the people and organizations in Michigan that have taken firm, meaningful actions to improve energy efficiency.
Focusing on energy is nothing new to Holland citizens and businesses. The city’s long-range Community Energy Plan, initiated by the Holland Community Sustainability Committee, lays out a strategy the city has been implementing with excellent results for six years.

The Holland Board of Public Works is a finalist in the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards Best Project category for the Holland Energy Park.

The plan, devised to ensure Holland’s economic vitality, aims to reduce carbon emissions from 24 metric tons per capita to 10 metric tons by 2050. The plan has already reduced the carbon footprint by an estimated seven metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita since the 2010 baseline. Key accomplishments include the new Holland Energy Park, snowmelt expansion, utility energy efficiency education and incentives, the creation of Holland Energy Fund as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, and the development of the Home Energy Retrofit and On-Bill Loan Programs.
Next up is the renovated Civic Center, which will be heated by, would you believe, the snowmelt system! It’s a form of “district heating” using waste heat from power generation to heat the building. The snowmelt system serves as the transmission line that gets the heat to the building.
Other people are taking note of our progress and progressiveness, including the governor. He will announce the eight category award winners at an invitation-only event in Grand Rapids on Sept. 5.

Here are Holland’s finalists:
Best Projects – Residential: Roy Cole (Robert Katrinic received honorable mention).
Best Project – Public: Holland Board of Public Works for Holland Energy Park.
Contractor of the Year: WMGB Home Improvement for all the home energy efficiency retrofits in Holland.
Best Program: Holland Board of Public Works for its Residential Energy Performance Labeling Pilot Program.

The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards honor Michigan individuals and organizations that have made reducing energy waste and implementing energy-efficient practices part of their everyday lives.
Congratulations to these finalists and to the Holland community!

 Anne Saliers is community energy services manager at Holland Board of Public Works. She leads the conservation and energy waste reduction programs for the utility, including the On-Bill Loan Program, and the implementation of Holland’s long-range Community Energy Plan.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Elephants in the room – Plastic waste is a big issue

By Madison Ostrander ’18 and Eighth Day Farm Intern
Try to picture just over 1 billion elephants roaming around. Maybe at first the elephants would be a fun novelty, but I’d be willing to bet after a short while we’d have had enough, with things getting dangerous and crowded.
This bizarre scenario relates to the dilemma our country is facing with plastic waste: The weight of plastic waste we’ve produced equates to the weight of just over 1 billion elephants.

Simple steps like using reusable cloth bags for shopping can help address elephant-sized problems of plastic pollution.

However, since the breakdown of plastic can take up to 400 years, an elephant relocation plan might be an easier problem to solve.
For instance, although a small amount of plastic is recycled, repurposed, or burned, most plastic ends up in landfills. Even 25 percent of plastics deposited in a single-stream recycling systems is redirected to the dump.
Elsewhere, the sharp increase of plastic production has dangerously littered our oceans, hurting those inhabiting it.
So, let’s address the elephant(s) in the room. As consumers, each of us is responsible for driving the increase in plastic production. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start making a positive impact now. While waste management innovations are being studied on a larger scale, we can each make a difference by choosing to avoid the use and purchase of plastic when possible, especially by avoiding single-use plastic convenience items.
Making the following switches can be an adjustment. But if we start looking at plastic packaging as elephants we don’t want in our backyards, foregoing a few conveniences we’ve grown used to might be easier. Try the following easy switches to reduce your negative impact:
1. Say goodbye to plastic grocery bags. Reuse saved plastic grocery bags or take reusable totes to the grocery store. Apply this to retail shopping too. Some stores will even honor your environmental efforts with a small discount.
2. Carry an insulated beverage container. You can save more than $100 per year by striking water bottles off your grocery list. And your insulated container works great for to-go coffee, too; you can enjoy both a clear conscious and hotter coffee for longer with this eco-friendly alternative.
3. Kindly return wrapped straws at restaurants to your server.
4. Limit the plastic-packaged food you purchase, including produce. The farmers market is a great place to start with unpackaged produce.
5. Find alternatives to plastic-packaged cosmetic products. Look for bar soap, shampoo bars, or products sold in non-plastic containers.
Challenge your friends and family to see who can make the most switches by the end of summer, and keep the conversation going by sharing your own ideas to tackle this elephant-sized problem.
 Madison Ostrander is an intern at Eighth Day Farm, a local urban farm focused on creation care and natural growing practices, and a recent business and writing graduate from Hope College.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

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.

https://www.cityofholland.com/bikeholland

http://www.the-macc.org/transportation/overview/

http://www.the-macc.org/transportation/overview/

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.