Living Sustainably: Careerline Tech EcoLeaders Tackle Plastic Pollution

By Megan Wallinga, Kyle McDonald, Allison Elkins, Brianna Mollitor, and Caden Klanderman – Careerline Tech Students
This year, the Natural Resources class at Careerline Tech Center decided to try out something new: The National Wildlife Federation EcoLeaders program.  EcoLeaders’ mission is to encourage young people to embody values of economic, social, and environmental equality and sustainability. Through the program, students work on projects that promote a greener and more wildlife-friendly campus.

The Careerline Tech Natural Resources and Conservation class works in its learning lab, 22 acres of woods across the street from the center.  Photo by Allison Elkins.

In order to encourage members of their community to enjoy nature and wildlife, the EcoLeaders team at the Careerline Tech Center decided to sponsor a Book Nook at Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Nature Education Center at Hemlock Crossing.
To raise funds, they decided to figure out a way to raise money and help better their community.

Every year, according to EcoWatch, 22 million pounds of plastic are dumped into the Great Lakes.  Most of the plastic floats up onto shore, and it accounts for 80 percent of all of the litter that’s washed up on shore each year.

To help resolve the issue of plastic pollution, the EcoLeaders came up with the slogan “Plastic Pollutes.” They hosted a contest throughout Careerline Tech Center for students to create a design to be printed on a reusable bag, which students will sell to help fund the Book Nook. The winners were Kristin Donnelly with her “Whale You Please Recycle” design and Brielle Lacourse with her “Not Everything is Edible” design.  “Whales are a very big part of our ecosystem, and I wanted my design to have a big impact,” Donnelly said in her statement about the art. Lacourse explained the inspiration of her design: “I remember from ‘Happy Feet’ the penguin with the plastic around its neck, and we watched a video in class about sea turtles and jellyfish.”
There’s a saying that when you throw away a plastic bag, there is no “away.” We realize that as EcoLeaders and strive to help other people see that, too.

The winning bags will be for sale in our community in early April!

 The authors of this article are students in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District Careerline Tech’s Natural Resources class, taught by Avril Freeman. The Natural Resources and Conservation program prepares student for careers in environmental science, sustainability, and recreation. Through hands-on, project-based field work, students gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed regardless of whether they attend college or enter the workforce.

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.

Living Sustainably: Awards event honors Lakeshore sustainability stars

By Hanna Schulze and Michelle Gibbs Local First and Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute

A first-time event in Holland, the Local First Lakeshore Annual Meeting, included honors for five different businesses, projects and individuals for their support of local business and sustainability.

Five awards recognizing business and individual efforts supporting local initiatives and sustainability were presented Thursday, Feb. 8, when Local First hosted its inaugural Lakeshore Annual Meeting.  The event was held for the first time in Holland to recognize the growing number of businesses on the Lakeshore that are working toward positive change in West Michigan.

Local First has been hosting an annual meeting in Grand Rapids since 2010. It’s a platform to honor those that contribute to the local economy and act as stewards of the environment and the people in their community, and some Holland businesses have been honored there in the past.

This year, Local First was excited to partner with the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute and Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance to honor a larger group of Lakeshore businesses.  The event, presented by EPS Security, was held at the CityFlats Hotel.

Local First’s LocalMotion Awards were presented in three categories.  
Best for the Environment – for measuring energy use, water use, and general carbon footprint and for sourcing local to cut down on shipping, as well as participating in energy efficiency programs:
 Finalists – Lemonjello’s, Country Winds Creamery
 Winner – EcoBuns Baby & Co.

Best for Employees – for institutional policies that allow for better quality of life for employees, such as health benefits, retirement savings, paid volunteer time, maternity/paternity leave, and regular performance reviews:
 Finalists – Higher Health Chiropractic, Visser Farms
 Winner – Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland

Best for the Community – for giving back to the community by donating time or resources to non-profit partners, providing community education, and investing in infrastructure or amenities that create a more inclusive, welcoming place:
 Finalists – Globe Design and Vision, Betterway Imports
 Winner – The Bridge

The Project Clarity team was among those honored Thursday evening for sustainability efforts. Michelle Gibbs presents the award to, at left, Travis Williams, Lynn Kotecki, Rob Vink, David
Nyitray, Kelly Goward, Dan Callam, and Alison Brink.

Thursday the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute also inaugurated a new award recognizing a top community project. It recognized the outstanding work of Project Clarity to create a more sustainable community through education and engagement activities.   The goal of Project Clarity is to “restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed. The multi-phased approach provides solutions focused on land restoration, Best Management Practices (BMPs), community education, and long term sustainability.”

And finally, for nearly a decade, Local First annually has honored one individual with the Guy Bazzani Local Legacy Award, named after the organizations’ founder emeritus. The award recognizes contributions to the local community, dedication to economic and environmental sustainability, and embodiment of the mission to live local.  This year, with a new Lakeshore area Legacy Award, the group recognized Holland resident Paul Lilly.

Lilly has been an integral part of the sustainability movement in Holland since he opened his business, Lakeshore Cleaning and Facilities Service, in 2002. Since 2008, Paul has served on the board of the Holland Community Sustainability Committee, which develops and promotes Holland’s energy strategy. Among his many volunteer leadership positions, Paul has served on the Pastoral Council at Our Lady of the Lake Parish, and has given countless hours of service to sustainability initiatives across the region.

Event photos can be found here.

 Hanna Schulze is the program and fund development manager at Local First.  Michelle Gibbs is the director of the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Economic Development: The business and local consumer are the driving engines to generate capital for growth and development. We want to be a location of choice for new businesses 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: No Snow, Snow Kidding!

By Michelle Gibbs, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute

Central Avenue and sidewalks along Centennial Park are free of snow thanks to the snowmelt system. Photo courtesy City of Holland

Did you know, in the City of Holland we have the largest municipal snowmelt system in the United States?
After the recent expansion, the system provides more than 600,000 square feet of heated sidewalks and streets. Personally, I love walking around downtown and not worrying about slipping on the ice or having my shoes ruined by the snow and salt, but did you know there are many other benefits to this unique system?
Here is the story of that system – how it came to be, how it works, and its benefits to our community economically, socially, and environmentally.
History:  We have enjoyed the benefits of the snowmelt system since 1988 thanks in large part to Edgar D. Prince, Prince Corp. founder, who brought the idea of the snowmelt system to city officials after a visit to Europe. Over the years, the system has expanded to meet growing needs of the community.

Some 190 miles of tubing carry warm water beneath Holland streets and sidewalks. Photo courtesy City of Holland

How it works: Excess heat from generating electricity at the Holland Energy Park is captured in the cooling tower, and warm water is pumped through a large underground pipe to downtown Holland. The water is then circulated through 190 miles of smaller tubing. This closed loop system means the same water is circulated over and over again at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In the past, the system pulled its water from Lake Mactawa, but switching to a closed loop system reduces sediment and wear on system valves.
Economics: In the late 1980s and the 1990s, the snowmelt system played a part in the revitalization of Holland’s downtown. Business owners rallied with the city and Holland Board of Public Works to create a vision for an attractive, snowfree downtown, and the system became a part of that vision to help our community grow. Our downtown now offers a variety of stores, boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and even a winter farmers market.
Socially:  The snowmelt system helps bring people together, as even on the coldest of days you still find people downtown. A number of community groups even meet downtown so they can walk or run without the fear of slipping. The recent system expansion helped connect downtown to the farmers market area near the Civic Center, Herrick District Library, police department, and various parking areas.

A view from above shows the pattern of snowfree streets and sidewalks in Holland. Photo courtesy City of Holland

Environmentally:   Typical power generation systems discharge their waste hot water to the environment; however, the closed loop system greatly reduces the discharge to local bodies of water. Another environmental benefit is the reduced use of salt to melt ice and snow. “Salt is a pollutant that is harmful to fish and wildlife, so we are always happy to see a reduction in its use,” notes the  Macatawa Watershed Project.
Holland Energy Park has the potential to support a snowmelt system five times the current size and to provide additional community resources such as district heating for downtown buildings. The Civic Center is set to be the first building in Holland heated with support from water from the snowmelt system, making it very energy efficient.
Snowmelt has become a part of our identity and is one of the ways Holland continues to “make big ideas come alive.”

WZZM 13 News Segment on Holland’s Snowmelt

To learn more about this unique resource, please click the links below to see photos, videos, and maps of the system:

 Michelle Gibbs is the director of the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute.  The vision for the Institute is a healthy and economically vibrant community that promotes environmental stewardship and mutual respect for people and  the planet.  Our mission is to foster collaborative efforts to infuse sustainability into the minds and practices of the greater Holland community.

Snowmelt by the Numbers:
 4.9 miles of heated streets and sidewalks
 114,000 square feet of streets are warmed
 534,000 square feet of sidewalks and parking lots are warmed
 5,500 gallons of water per minute pumps through the system
 Melts about 1 inch of snow per hour at 20 degrees with light winds

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Transportation: The movement of people, goods, and services within the area 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.

January 2018 Sustainability News

January 2018 News

January 31, 2018 – Affordable Tech Marvels Dominate Greenest Vehicles List

January 31, 2018 – AT&T and Verizon Pressured to Match T-Mobile’s 100% Renewable Energy Pledge

January 31, 2018 – Why bike share makes sense as a library resource

January 31, 2018 – White House to ask for 72 percent cut in renewable energy programs: report

January 30, 2018 – Gov. Rick Snyder announces proposal to help renew Michigan’s environment

January 29, 2018 – Living Sustainably:  Community policing is sustainability session topic

January 29, 2018 – How healthy is Ottawa County? Find out and join the conversation 

January 29, 2018 – Turning to beet juice and beer to address road salt danger

January 28, 2018 – Michigan Roll Call: See how your legislators are voting in Lansing

January 28, 2018 – Ottawa, Allegan unemployment near lowest in state

January 28, 2018 – A New Year’s Resolution for Everyone: Battery Recycling

January 28, 2018 – Road commissions caution drivers of potholes

January 27, 2018 – A fantastic Super Bowl party that’s … plant-based?

January 27, 2018 – Holland council wants many involved in James DeYoung site planning

January 26, 2018 – City of Holland Human Relations Commission Announces 2017 SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARDS and “I HAVE A DREAM” Essay Winners

January 26, 2018 – Budweiser’s Super Bowl Beer Ad Isn’t about Beer

January 26, 2018 – Pennsylvania rep talks Trump, farm bill, immigration

January 26, 2018 – Hulu Migrates Data Centers To 100% Renewable Energy Facility

January 25, 2018 – Administrator talks issues, initiatives in State of Ottawa County address


January 22, 2018 – Students thrive in Robinson Elementary STEM program

January 21, 2018 – Living Sustainably:  Energy prize competition results in change for Holland

January 21, 2018 – LG Chem continues growth, hiring despite tight talent pool

January 20, 2018 – Lakeshore Advantage gives BPW Energy Park pioneers Visionary Award

January 20, 2018 – Why Am I Marching Tomorrow?

January 19, 2018 – Big Give announces nonprofit recipients

January 19, 2018 – H&M faced backlash over its ‘monkey’ sweatshirt ad, but it isn’t the company’s only controversy

January 18, 2018 – Wind energy sets sail on the Great Lakes


January 16, 2018 – Ben & Jerry’s Debuts Two New Vegan Ice Cream Flavors

January 15, 2018 – Biodiversity Could Be As Important As Climate For Healthy Ecosystems

January 12, 2018 – Inclusion and Equity: LEDA

January 11, 2018 – A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

January 11, 2018 – GR nonprofit to give $100K in ‘100 Ideas’ campaign

January 9, 2018 – In Michigan, solar growth meets uncertainty with end of net metering

January 9, 2018 – Jubilee, Homecor plan another housing project in Holland

January 8, 2018 – Living Sustainably: Group launches spring sustainability series

January 8, 2018 – Top 10 Movers And Shakers In Sustainability – 2017

January 8, 2018 – Wetland Meadows Help Cities Stare Down Climate Risk

January 7, 2018 – The Sentinel revisits the top stories of 2017

January 7, 2018 – Commentary: Kids don’t need a cellphone; they need a digital diet

January 7, 2018 – Many High-Profile Actresses Are Bringing Activists to the Golden Globes

January 6, 2018 – What ‘healthy’ looks like in 2018: Vegetables and proteins

January 6, 2018 – Online map aims to make poverty data more accessible

January 5, 2018 – Nikola Tesla’s extraordinary impact still felt decades later

January 5, 2018 – Legal action regarding Weaver House deck collapse pending

January 5, 2018 – Superfund work touted by Trump EPA was completed years ago

January 5, 2018 – Outdoors Winter Market opens Saturday

January 5, 2018 – Supply chain company relocates US headquarters

January 4, 2018 – Lending green: New credit union offers loans solely for eco-friendly projects

January 4, 2018 – Trump moves to vastly expand offshore drilling

January 3, 2018 – Northeastern States Sue EPA To Protect Them From Ozone Pollution

January 3, 2018 – Ann Arbor’s new clean-energy goal: go 100% renewable by 2035

January 2, 2018 – West Michigan companies shine in Newsweek’s ‘Green Rankings’

January 2, 2018 – Growth Rate of Bioplastics Could Erode Demand for Oil

January 2, 2018 – Q&A: How is the growth of bitcoin affecting the environment?

January 2, 2018 – Commentary: We don’t need oil from the Arctic Wildlife Refuge

January 2, 2018 – Fashion in 2018 | 08. Sustainability Credibility

January 2, 2018 – Our View: Sentinel establishes ethics, transparency guidelines

January 2, 2018 – Seven Cost-Saving Sustainability Ideas for 2018

January 1, 2018 – Living Sustainably: Understanding funding for a stronger community


Living Sustainably: Community Policing is Sustainability Session Topic

By Penny Shuff, League of Women Voters of the Holland Area
A safe but also friendly community is an essential part of creating sustainable quality of life. But can we maintain both a safe and secure environment while also being a warm and welcoming community?
The Holland Police Department’s approach to community policing will be the focus of the next installment of the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore continuing education series, with a discussion titled “Community Policing for Peaceful Living.”

Serving ice cream at public events is one of the ways the community policing program seeks to build relationships to boost quality of life in Holland.

The concept of community policing has been around for decades, and the Holland Department of Public Safety has been engaged in this approach for 20 years. Sgt. Larry Matzen leads the Holland police program and says the idea is to create better relationships in the community with people from all walks of life. “Intimately knowing our families and the people we serve is key to building trust,” Matzen said. He explained that community officers are dedicated to the complex task of gaining trust by getting to know the needs of the citizens they serve.

The program on Feb. 6 will be a chance to find out more from Matzen about techniques used by the Holland police to cultivate good relationships with every citizen and especially with residents of our diverse populations. Did you know Holland community police officers will make time to replace a broken tail light? Can you guess how many people were served ice cream last summer by community officers as they were getting better acquainted with their neighbors? These are just some examples Matzen will discuss.
Matzen said Holland is a small town dealing with many of the same issues facing larger cities and every police department needs the public’s help in preventing and solving crimes.
 Hear how community policing is working to establish trust between local law enforcement and all citizens so eyewitnesses feel comfortable coming forward. This relationship is key to solving crimes and keeping all residents safe.
Matzen will explain how community police officers are specially trained based upon long-term research in law enforcement studies, and he will discuss the unique support these officers have from the Holland police chief. He also will talk about whether or not body cameras are working and how police generally feel about wearing cameras. Information on what every driver should know if they are ever pulled over by police will also be available.
In large and small ways, the goal of community policing is to break down barriers and create an environment where trust is a two-way street between Holland law enforcement and the citizens they serve.
Join us for a unique discussion with Sgt. Matzen at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Herrick District Library.

 Penny Shuff is public relations director for the League of Women Voters of the Holland Area, a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.

What: Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Series
Topic: “Community Policing for Peaceful Living”
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave., Holland

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: Energy prize competition results in change for Holland

By Anne Saliers, Holland Board of Public Works

The people of Holland reduced energy consumption by 3.2 percent, to place No. 16 out of 50 cities in the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. The reduction is relative to our 2013-2014 baseline and represents roughly $500,000 reinvested in the community rather than spent on utility bills. It is equivalent to removing more than 350 homes from the grid annually.

Fargo, North Dakota, finished first in the national competition with a reduction of 6.8 percent during the two-year competition spanning 2015 and 2016.

The Georgetown University Energy Prize challenged small to medium-sized cities to rethink their energy use and to implement creative strategies to increase efficiency. Holland’s leaders saw the national competition as a way to bring awareness to the Holland Community Energy Plan, and it was among the first communities to step up.

Holland’s comprehensive 40-year plan is making our community a national leader in energy security, affordability, sustainability, and efficiency, enhancing its attractiveness to investors, businesses, and residents. Adopted in 2012, the CEP calls for cutting energy use and the city’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2050.

The new Holland Energy Park power plant and a flexible balance of clean, reliable energy supply choices are key components in the plan. So is energy efficiency — the idea that, if you don’t need it, don’t use it.

So, what did competing for the Energy Prize accomplish?

    • 7,400 doors were knocked on by volunteers distributing LED light bulbs and chances to win a Nest smart thermostat.
    • 120 Nest thermostats were given away and installed in Holland homes.
    • Students created energy saving videos and conducted their own Energy Wars competition between area high schools.
    • 1,600 streetlights were converted to LED.
    • 11 municipal buildings and parks received deep energy efficiency retrofits, including new windows for City Hall and motion-sensitive LED lighting along Heinz Walkway.
    • A Prize Patrol delivered great prizes, like a new furnace or refrigerator, to lucky winners of quarterly competitions.
    • Holland received a national award for its Holland Unplugged campaign to unplug and get outside, starting the annual Movies in the Park series.

Our congratulations go to Fargo and the other competing cities that achieved energy reduction success. Holland’s community leaders will review policies and programs that other cities have implemented to see what could help move us closer to our own Community Energy Plan’s energy reduction targets.

Our mantras during the competition were ”$5 Million and Change” and “A Better House, a Better Holland.” We accomplished a great deal, including change and a better Holland.Georgetown University Energy Prize Competition

Thank you residents, and commercial and industrial customers, too, whose energy saving efforts were not included in the competition but are still critical in achieving the CEP goals.

Let’s continue our energy-saving efforts and keep up the good work.

— Anne Saliers is community energy services manager at Holland Board of Public Works and facilitates implementation of the Holland Community Energy Plan.

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.

Living Sustainably: New ODC attraction helps power the place

By Dan Callam, Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway
Outdoor Discovery CenterNew, strange looking creatures began appearing behind the Visitors Center at the Outdoor Discovery Center this past fall. You might be forgiven for thinking them reptilian, with their dark, scaly exteriors sunning themselves on the edge of the pond where turtles can be found resting on logs.

This new 19.72kW solar energy system is generating electrical power for the Outdoor Discovery Center’s Visitors Center, helping meet the nature center’s sustainability goals.

But instead of some type of living beast, the large newcomers are the panels and equipment for a new solar array. The 19.72kW system was constructed and installed through a partnership with Helios Solar of Kalamazoo. The panels are mounted facing the south, gathering the greatest amount of sunlight each day without having to adjust their orientation. They can easily be viewed from the Visitors Center.
Solar panels work by gathering photons, the tiny bits of energy released by the sun. These tiny bits of energy hit the solar panel, knocking free electrons from the atoms on the panel’s surface. The panels are installed as part of a circuit, creating the flow of electrons that connects to the electrical grid and ultimately keeps the lights on.
The new solar panel array is designed to help with the ODC’s sustainability goals, helping to generate the energy that powers the Visitors Center. It sits next to the wind turbine, which has been on the
ODC Nature Preserve since 2004, helping power Founders Hall and the Discovery Pavilion. Additionally, the parking lots have been lit with solar-powered LEDs that automatically turn on at dusk.

Crews install the metal frame that will hold solar panels to help power the Visitors Center at the Outdoor Discovery Center.

While solar power is certainly not a novel concept, it is increasingly used to offset traditional sources of electricity generation. Solar panel technology has improved over the years, becoming increasingly efficient. Even though the sun is not always shining, particularly at this time of the year, it still results in some power being generated, saving the need for drawing electricity from the grid.
The ODC solar array has saved nearly 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions since its installation last fall, the equivalent of having planted more than 330 trees. On an annual basis, the array is expected to generate the electricity required to power three average-sized homes. All told, the system represents thousands of dollars saved annually.
With this kind of savings, the ODC is looking to add panels to help power the preschool and birds of prey facility in the coming months. As more solar projects go in for sites big and small, we hope West Michigan will soon be to the point where solar panels no longer are a strange sight.

*Photos courtesy of the Outdoor Discovery Center.

 Dan Callam is Greenway Manager for the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway.

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.