Living Sustainably: Shopping locally sustains community

LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Shopping locally sustains community

By Dana Eardley, Local First

Local isn’t just a place on a map. It’s people. It’s your neighbors and their families, their businesses, farms, nonprofits, events, and recreational venues.

Local is a community and all of the opportunities we create together and the challenges we work to overcome. As an organization, Local First has a passion for encouraging people to live and work together in sustainable community.

Communities thrive when neighbors buy from locally owned businesses, and then those businesses invest in their neighbors as customers and employees. That’s part of a sustainable lifestyle that engages and enhances people’s physical environment.

Sustainability involves, in short, doing things that “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So, shopping locally becomes a sustainability action by strengthening the local economy, preserving it to better serve future generations. Shopping locally supports local investment and helps enrich families, homes, civic organizations and businesses.

A study showed that of $100 spent at locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through payroll to local people, taxes and other spending. When $100 is spent at a national chain, only $43 remains in the local community.

Another study showed that if every person in Grand Rapids were to shift $10 per week to shopping locally, another 1,600 jobs would be created each year.

So, consider shopping locally! It’s important because it:

 Engages – It creates and deepens relationships within a community, which becomes more vibrant through collaboration and mutual investment.

 Humanizes – Physical and economic development occur on a scale that nurtures people and encourages beauty in natural and man-made environments.

 Preserves – When more citizens are genuine stakeholders, protecting local economic and environmental value is of mutual interest.

 Strengthens – When citizens and local businesses work together, it catalyzes positive development and the community has structural integrity to withstand economic downturns.

 Invests – Sustainable local economies and ecosystems grow into markets.

 Encourages – Intimate connections between customers and businesses facilitate innovation, interaction, and discovery, making for a more vibrant and resilient local economy.

 Enriches – Reinstating success in customers, employees, and the local environment makes the entire community wealthier.


Dana Eardley is project coordinator for Local First, an organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting people living and working together in sustainable community, preserving and strengthening the social and economic bonds of the community.


2016 Street Party.jPG – Holland residents celebrated at the 2016 Local First Lakeshore Street Party. The annual event celebrates local business, community and a vibrant local economy. This year’s party will be August 19 at Washington Square.


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: Manage your house for more comfort, lower energy bills

Living Sustainably: Manage your house for more comfort, lower energy bills

By Peter Boogaart, City of Holland Residential Energy Adviser

In the commercial/industrial sector, every building has a supervisor, someone who is responsible for managing the way it functions. When something is wrong — no heat, broken window, lights out — you call the “super.”

In the residential sector, every house – and there are 7,500 single family homes in Holland – has a “super” too. It just happens to be you, the homeowner. OK, true – but most of us never took a Building Management course, and the house didn’t come with an owner’s manual.

So, what should we do to manage our homes most efficiently?

First, monitor your building. Supers get reports. Today those reports are digital and happen in real time. Homeowners get reports too. They’re called utility bills. Yes, you have to pay it, but the real value is in the data. How many therms of gas, kWh of electricity or gallons of water are you using? How does your run rate compare with an energy efficient home? With a wi-fi thermostat, much of this information can be digital too. Some homeowners are installing dashboards which give them real-time monitoring.

Second, whatever your technology, begin with an audit. You need to know your baseline. The Holland Board of Public Works can help. Access their online tool (find the Home Energy Use Calculator in the pulldown at and calculate your energy use number. Think of it as the miles-per- gallon for your house; low numbers are better.

Third, take an inventory. Go room to room and write down everything that uses electricity. How many light bulbs? Are they LED? Are your electronics and entertainment equipment on smart surge protectors? Are your major appliances Energy Star rated? Ask yourself, “Do I need it? Could it be unplugged?” You may not need to change anything, but you won’t know that without an intentional review.

Next check your mechanical equipment. Do you have a high-efficiency furnace and a schedule for changing the furnace filter? Efficient air conditioning? Check your hot water tank – is it set for 120°F, the most efficient temperature?

Fourth, listen to the family. Complaints are data. Cold rooms? Big bills? Drafty? They’re telling you where the problems are!

If the problems are significant, you may need diagnostic help from a certified building analyst. The technician will check all your systems and run a pressurization test. Think of it like your checkup with your doctor. If you live in the city, Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit program can walk you through the process. There are incentives and funding available through the On-Bill Loan program. Go to to check out the options.

Buildings are as variable as people. Some are more efficient than others. Be a smart super for your house and keep it running efficiently.

 Peter Boogaart is the residential energy adviser for the City of Holland and assists homeowners with energy efficiency issues.


PETER TESTING.JPG – Peter Boogaart, Holland’s residential energy advisor, checks a furnace for leaking emissions.

EFFICIENT LIGHTS.JPG – Installing efficient light bulbs is one of the things a smart homeowner can do to cut back energy use.

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.


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: Students make their own discoveries with air monitors

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Students make their own discoveries with air monitors

By Susan Ipri Brown, Hope College

Students are naturally curious about the world around them. So why not let that curiosity drive their learning?

Simple and compact air quality monitors developed by resident Don Triezenberg are doing just that through a program managed by ExploreHope, Hope College’s educational outreach center. Partnership with the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute expands the community relationship of the project.

The simple air quality monitors are equipped with carbon dioxide and particulate matter sensors.

Students can use them to test the air in and around their homes and schools. Through that process, the monitors have introduced science lessons to more than 300 middle and high school students in West Michigan.

Students are challenged to first discover how the monitors work through experimentation. Then, with guidance from their teachers, they design and carry out their own experiments. This student-directed learning sparks the interest of the students and allows the teacher to engage the students in a directed discussion of the related science.

While the data from these monitors are not yet calibrated to a high enough level to publicize as community air quality assessments, the findings provide powerful examples to illustrate how environmental conditions can change based on a variety of conditions. Students are investigating questions related to changes in air quality in different sections of their homes, or how the air composition changes as all the students show up for school in the morning, or the effect of humidity on air quality. Teachers are observing that students in a range of classes benefit from use of the monitors, with implementation in chemistry, math, biology and environmental science classes as examples. Middle school students in Grand Haven even started to challenge their teacher to learn how the weather and other conditions affected their data.

This week the monitors are at West Ottawa High School’s AP calculus classroom. These students have just completed their AP tests, and their teacher wanted to keep them engaged in the final weeks of school. Not only will the students be exploring real-time data collection, designing experiments and data analysis, they also will see the topics covered in their classroom in real world applications.

The monitors won’t sit idle over the summer, either. They will be used in the Hope College Summer Science Camp program managed by ExploreHope. Middle school students will explore the impact of energy generation, and high school students will explore experimental design in a week-long camp. More information on these programs is found at

Teachers interested in hosting the monitors in their classroom next year should reach out to Additional community partners and supporters are welcome. Funding for new monitors is needed to reach the growing classroom demand.

What’s next? Only the students can tell us that.

 Susan Ipri Brown is director of ExploreHope and instructor of engineering at Hope College.


Boy scouts2.jpg The air quality monitors are used during a Boy Scout Environmental Science Merit Badge Day at Hope College.

students.jpg Students examine the workings of the air quality monitors they get to use for testing and experiments.

Monitor.jpg – These simple but effective devices monitor carbon dioxide and particles in the air, letting students devise and test their own experiments.

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.

May 2017 Sustainability News

May 31, 2017 – Trump resisting pressure from Europe, pope on climate deal

May 30, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Acid’s impact – A “Teach for Our Energy Future” lesson


May 30, 2017 – Sustainable business at a crossroads, again

May 29, 2017 – DNR’s fish trend viewer updated with fresh content


May 26, 2017 – West Michigan water enthusiasts should feel confident diving in

May 26, 2017 – Holland Harbor to be dredged in June

May 25, 2017 – ‘Sustainable Apparel’ Apparently Continues to Gain Momentum; Supply Chain Cited

May 24, 2017 – 5 tips that support your lawn and the environment

May 23, 2017 – Trump budget slashes money of clean air and water programs

May 23, 2017 – Class of 2017 prepares to graduate from Holland-area schools

May 23, 2017 – Zeeland High woodworking class builds stairs for Early Childhood Center

May 23, 2017 – How to Invest Without Sacrificing Your Values

May 22, 2017 – Former Grand Rapids mayor shares sustainability thoughts with city council (Petoskey)

May 22, 2017 – Experts say it’s never too early to teach compassion and empathy to children

May 22, 2017 – Rainwater Harvesting Increasingly Helps Companies Reduce Stormwater Fees & Energy Use

May 21, 2017 – Living Sustainably: 6 ways to raise a sustainable family in Holland

May 20, 2017 – 3 key indicators of Ottawa County’s health

May 20, 2017 – Holland Christian students volunteer to unearth Laketown Beach stairs during ‘big dig’

May 19, 2017 – After successful festival, Tulip Time organizers begin work for next year

May 18, 2017 – The Michigan League of Conservation Voter’s Governor’s Report Card offers resource to assess how Governor Snyder performed over the last two years.

May 18, 2017 – Hope College research project receives award

May 17, 2017 – Grand Valley receives gold status from national sustainability group

May 17, 2017 – Anglers asked to report tagged fish to DNR

May 17, 2017 – Help children avoid asthma attacks by improving home indoor air quality

May 17, 2017 – Notre Dame students plan to protest against Mike Pence at commencement — and the university is okay with it

May 16, 2017 – WALK THIS WAY TO CHALLENGE BORDERS.  The project has much to teach you about those whose lives have experienced disruption and disorder due to immigration, climate change, the refugee crisis and mass incarceration. And the disciplines of art and English and science and psychology and communication all converged to do so, crossing interdisciplinary boundaries in order to challenge you about the ways you view borders — domestic or international — and the people who are affected by them.

May 16, 2017 – Michigan biking fatalities rise 81 percent since 2014

May 15, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Green Commute Week offers challenge, health, perks

May 14, 2017 – DEQ celebrates wetlands for May

May 14, 2017 – My Take: Challenge to participate in Green Commute Week

May 12, 2017 – Modern Motherhood Has Economists Worried:  A better balance between work and family could boost the world economy

May 12, 2017 – RISE: China, US agree on some trade; no rush on climate change policies

May 12, 2017 – Outdoor Discovery Center: Early Bird Hike sets off at dawn May 13

May 11, 2017 – 6 tips to make healthy eating realistic and sustainable

May 10, 2017 – Rethinking “Sustainability”

May 9, 2017 – Majority of Michigan deer hunters don’t support regulation changes


May 8, 2017 – Boston to Pursue Zero Waste, Hopes to Trim $37M Annual Hauling Cost

May 1, 2017 – FOIA Requests Filed on Trump’s ‘Bizarre’ Plan to Cut Energy Star

May 1, 2017 – The Progress Toward Sustainability

Living Sustainably: Acid’s impact – A “Teach for Our Energy Future” lesson

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Acid’s impact – A “Teach for Our Energy Future” lesson

By Jessica Vander Ark, West Michigan Environmental Action Council

We sure use a lot of energy. About 97.4 quadrillion Btu a year just in the U.S. – roughly the equivalent of 16 billion barrels of oil. And all that energy use has direct impact on our planet’s oceans, making them warmer and more acidic.

But do we really understand how our lifestyle choices creates that impact?

Most of our energy comes from ancient dead things that became crude oil, coal and natural gas.

Burning those fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn traps heat in the atmosphere – the “greenhouse effect.” At the same time, the more we burn carbon-based fuels, the more carbon dioxide the oceans absorb, making them more acidic. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century, the ocean surface has experienced a 30 percent increase in acidity.

Among other things, sea life is affected. A simple experiment can show acidification’s impact on life such as coral, clams and oysters – creatures with calcium carbonate skeletons.

First, set up (with adult supervision) three small jars with the following mixtures:

  • An acidic solution: 100ml tap water and 50ml vinegar
  • A basic/alkaline solution: 100ml tap water and 50ml household ammonia
  • A neutral solution: 150ml tap water

Then place a whole, uncooked egg in each jar. Cover it and watch for about three days to see how changes in the pH level can impact sea life – how the shells and skeletons of calcifying organisms can be affected by acidic water. That impact on them also will change the ocean and human food webs.

So, what can you do to help? Start by understanding your own carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide your actions put into the atmosphere. Google online calculators to measure yours. Understand that energy you use – how you commute, where you get your food, products you buy, how much water you use, and how you use technology – all impact your carbon footprint.

Smaller footprints are better for the entire planet.

Each individual’s energy use affects the ocean. But with everyday choices, we can make a difference. Choices like buying local, reducing packaging and plastics, installing a solar panel, recycling, carpooling and just unplugging things – all these make a difference.

Lessons like this one, the impact of acidification, are part of a program called Teach for Our Energy Future. To download free energy lessons and experiments, go to

Teach for our Energy Future was developed with a grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area to the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and was supported by the Holland Board of Public Works, Hope College’s Center for Exploratory Learning and the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute.

 Jessica Vander Ark is director of environmental education at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and co-developer of the Teach for Our Energy Future Project.


4994 kids.jpg Students at a Teach for Our Energy Future camp at Hope College study the impact acidification on an egg shell.

4887 egg.jpg An egg shell becomes soft and translucent during the experiment with acidification, demonstrating the impact acidic ocean water can have on the shells of sea organisms.

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.


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: Six Ways to Raise a Sustainable Family in Holland

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Six Ways to Raise a Sustainable Family in Holland

By Marissa Berghorst, Mother and Businesswoman

Raising a sustainable family is easier than you might think. While there are many different ways to move towards becoming a more sustainable family, some of them may seem overwhelming. Here are six small, achievable steps you can take to ensure you are raising a sustainable family.

1. Spend more time reading, playing games, and exploring nature. Take time to explore family friendly attractions. Great local options include the Outdoor Discovery Center, DeGraaf Nature Center, Nelis’ Dutch Village, and the Critter Barn. Screen-free time will decrease your dependence on entertainment that requires energy. Also, remember to unplug devices when they are not in use.

2. Use cloth diapers. On top of saving an average of $2,000 per child, you will also be saving 6,000 to 7,000 disposable diapers from the landfills, per child. Modern cloth diapers have no pins, no rubber pants, are super cute, and incredibly easy to use.

3. Switch up your laundry. Wash in cold and line dry your clothes when possible. Bonus tip: To avoid crunchy clothes after line drying, switch to a detergent without optical brighteners. When tumble drying, trade in fabric sheets for wool dryer balls. Not only will wool dryer balls decrease dry time (a major plus for any family!) they will also soften your clothes without the extra chemicals.

4. Skip the brown bag. Skip the plastic ones too. When packing lunches, opt for a reusable lunch box. Take it a step further by also using reusable snack bags.

Holland Farmer’s Market

5. Shop the farmers market. The Holland Farmers Market offers freshly picked fruits and vegetables, and also breads, cheese, eggs, flowers, honey, meats and more. Get the whole family involved by taking part in the free kids’ activities from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.. on Wednesdays from June 14 through Aug. 30.

6. Leave the car parked more often. With daily, monthly, and student passes available, MAX Transit buses are a great way to get around. If public transportation is a new experience for you, the MAX offers a free bus buddy program. A bus buddy will ride with you, help you plan trips and offer general tips. To request a bus buddy, contact the MAX at (616) 355-1010. Also take advantage of the more than 150 miles of paved bike trails Holland has to offer.


 Marissa Berghorst is a mom of kids ages 5 and 7 and co-owner of ECOBUNS BABY + CO. in Holland, which specializes in eco-friendly baby and parenting products and is a 2017 recipient of the Local Motion Award from Local First of West Michigan.


FARMERS MARKET 2.JPG: Shopping the Holland Farmers Market is fun, healthy and a good choice for a sustainable family. Courtesy photo

BERGHORST AND KIDS JPG: Marissa Berghorst spends time with her children outdoors as part of her plan to raise a “sustainable family.” Courtesy photo.

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: Green Commute Week offers Challenge, Health, Perks

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Green Commute Week offers Challenge, Health, Perks

By Carolyn Ulstad, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council

It’s finally spring! This time of year always warms my heart. The flowers and trees begin to blossom, the days gradually get longer and I notice myself and our neighbors venturing out more often from our homes. It’s incredibly refreshing to finally be able to soak up some warm rays.

Every spring I challenge myself to be more active, spend more time outside and ride my bike to work. And a great place to start my healthier and more sustainable commute is during the annual Holland/Zeeland Green Commute Week, now in its tenth year. The week-long commute challenge takes place May 14-20. It promotes walking, biking, carpooling, riding the bus and any other alternative transportation.

During the week, teams from businesses track their Green Commute miles online to compete for bragging rights and a trophy. Getting the entire workplace involved is a wonderful way promote healthy living and a healthy planet, but also the friendly competition can be a great team-building exercise.

Individual commuters not affiliated with a business can also submit their miles on the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council’s website to contribute to the overall total. At the end of the week, the Green Commute miles are totaled to calculate air quality and financial benefits to the community.

An added perk for Green Commute Week participants are Recharging Stations. These are local businesses giving discounts on things like coffee and food purchases, bike tune-ups, and free rides on MAX Transit’s fixed route service. (Find an interactive map showing the stations on the Green Commute web page.) Also this year, the Herrick District Library on River Avenue will have a photo-booth set up for anyone who green commutes.

To be eligible for discounts, participants must wear a Green Commute pin, available at the MACC office on Douglas Avenue, from any local bike shop or through an employer that is pre-registered.

To sign up your place of work or get more information about the commute challenge, call the MACC at (616)395-2688 or email

 Carolyn Ulstad is program assistant at the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council.

Green Commute Week Calendar:

  • Sunday: Commute kickoff; consider biking downtown, or walk or carpool to church.
  • Monday: Bike Rodeo at Lakewood Elementary, 5 to 7 p.m. Bike Holland, 7 to 8 p.m. Casual ride, all skill levels. Meet at Centennial Park. Wear helmet.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: School Challenge Day
  • Friday: Submit final commute miles by noon at commute/green-commute-week-registration/

For information about Green Commute Week:

  • commute
  • on Twitter @MIGreenCommute

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.


CUTLINE BIKECOMMUTE2.JPG – In advance of Green Commute Week, a group of area residents check out Holland’s new bike routes at April’s Bike Holland ride. Courtesy photo City of Holland


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.

April 2017 Sustainability News

April 30, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Task force shows businesses how energy efficiency wins

April 29, 2017 – Can a tiny house play a role in helping the homeless?

April 29, 2017 – Controversial Saugatuck Dunes development gets nod from planning commission

April 28, 2017 – 100% Clean Energy Bill Launched by US Senators Merkley, Sanders, Markey, and Advocates

April 28, 2017 – Robots, tasers join battle against invasive species

April 28, 2017 – DNR seeking volunteers at state parks

April 25, 2017 – Nearly 400 military bases must be tested for drinking-water contamination

April 25, 2017 – Holland West recognized for energy reduction in ‘Battle of the Buildings’

April 24, 2017 – Three Holland organizations win Battle of the Buildings Contest

April 24, 2017 – Roots run deep for American growers

April 23, 2017 – 7 things we’ve learned about Earth since the last Earth Day

April 23, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Join the Macatawa Cleanup for a healthier waterway

April 21, 2017 – DeGraaf Nature Center hosts Earth Day events

April 21, 2017 – Local SpartanNash stores to sell redesigned reusable bags

April 21, 2017 – The Swedish six-hour workday could help you live longer

April 20, 2017 – Hope College was a finalist in the “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY RACE TO ZERO STUDENT DESIGN COMPETITION

April 20, 2017 – (Michign) Bipartisan legislators speak out against possible EPA closure

April 20, 2017 – Michigan DNR stresses caution during Wildfire Prevention Week

April 20, 2017 – George F. Will: The battle against sex trafficking of minors

April 19, 2017 – Earth Day crafts at Herrick

April 19, 2017 – Target Vows to Use Its Power & Scale to See that All Packaging Is Recyclable

April 19, 2017 – Hertz to Provide Carbon Reporting, Offsets to Corporate Clients

April 19, 2017 – 5 gadgets for a smarter home

April 19, 2017 – Walmart Launches Sustainability Platform to Reduce 1GT CO2 Emissions Across Value Chain

April 19, 2017 – Letter: Change your diet to fight climate change

April 17, 2017 – Living Sustainably: A week’s worth of things to do for Earth Day

April 17, 2017 – Kroger Sustainability ‘Lives Here’

April 11, 2017 – Chicago’s Mayor: 900 Public Buildings to Go 100% Renewable

April 10, 2017 – Living Sustainably: You can help fight the invasives invasion

April 10, 2017 – STUDENTS TO PRESENT CREATIVE AND RESEARCH PROJECTS ON APRIL 21  Original research by students on topics ranging from the historical roots of the Black Lives Matter movement, to monitoring of the Lake Macatawa watershed, to changes in political trust in the United States will be highlighted during the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Performance at Hope College on Friday, April 21, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

April 9, 2017 – Planting pride: Beautifying America one garden at a time

April 8, 2017 – Biking Holland: What’s next for city’s bike network


April 5, 2017 – Get safer drinking water

April 4, 2017 – MICHIGAN SPACE GRANT CONSORTIUM SUPPORTS SEVERAL PROJECTS Several Hope College projects have received grants from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC).

April 4, 2017 – Subscription boxes OK for the Earth?

April 3, 2017 – Transforming Organizations with Sustainability Management

April 2, 2017 – Holland Recognized as a 2016 Tree City USA

Living Sustainably: Task Force Shows Businesses How Energy Efficiency Wins

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Task Force Shows Businesses How Energy Efficiency Wins

By Brian Pageau (Hope College Alumni ’03), Commercial Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency

In my six-plus years of helping organizations pursue energy efficiency in buildings, I have met with more than 1,000 business owners and decision makers. I can confidently say 99 percent of the people I met love the concept of energy efficiency.

Some people love energy efficiency for reasons like financial stewardship and energy independence. Others like the environmental stewardship. Energy efficiency is driven by innovation in technology, and innovation drives our economy and job growth.

Energy efficiency is good for the environment, good for national economic competitiveness, good for the wallet and creates jobs. That’s a lot of wins.

And yet, less than 15 percent of those same 1,000 businesses and people strategically and proactively pursue energy efficiency. Even though they desire to be more energy efficient, they do not take action to be more energy efficient.

This is true among churches, schools and non-profits as well as retail, commercial, manufacturing and industrial businesses. With few exceptions, they all have a gap between desire and action.

Why? Three main reasons:

1. Lack of knowledge. Simply put, if someone doesn’t know a particular type of technology exists, it will not be implemented.

2. Lack of an attractive business case. In the world of business, every project is competing for the same dollar. If an energy efficiency project is “cool” but doesn’t pay back within the company return-on- investment threshold, it will not be prioritized.

3. Lack of capital. An organization might be aware of great energy efficient technology, and the business case might meet necessary criteria. But if the cost is $100,000 that’s not in the budget, most times the project will get shelved.

The Commercial/Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency is part of Holland’s 40-year Community Energy Plan. This past year, the task force conducted a pilot program with 13 small businesses and churches to determine what inspired action towards energy efficiency.

It addressed those three roadblocks between desire and action:

1. We built a program that delivered easily digestible energy information. This information was contextualized to the specific building and type of business.

2. We helped participants understand the business case for energy efficient technology and what it would mean to their bottom line each month.

3. We minimized the capital needed to implement the project by making people aware of Holland Board of Public Works and SEMCO utility incentives and financing options.

The results? Five of the 13 organizations implemented energy efficiency projects that created over $120,000 worth of contracting work in our community.

These projects collectively represented an average of 3.5-year return on investment in energy savings and realized a 30.1 percent savings in gas and electric consumption.

When factoring in the utility incentives, these projects are now saving the organizations about $25,000 per year.

With the right links between desire and action, these organizations learned how energy efficiency can be a win in multiple ways!

 Brian Pageau is spokesperson for the Commercial Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency, president of the Midwest Energy Group and a board member of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.


MINIT MART CASE LIGHTS.JPG  Simple steps such as using LED lights in the cooler cases are part of a plan to save energy at the Washington Square Minit Mart.   Courtesy photo by Barry Rutherford, Holland Board of Public Works.

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:Join the Macatawa Cleanup for a Healthier Waterway

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Join the Macatawa Cleanup for a Healthier Waterway

By Carolyn Ulstad, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council

Trash, litter, debris – whatever you want to call it – has sadly become more and more common in our waterways. It’s sad because it’s not only unpleasant for us to look at, but it can also have a negative impact on wildlife.

Trash comes in many shapes, sizes and materials, but in recent years most of it is plastic. When plastics enter the water, they break down by wave erosion and the sun’s powerful UV rays. This can lead to chemicals leaching into the water, creating a less than pristine living environment.

To make matters worse, plastics also love to attract toxins! Their porous surfaces are like magnets for the stuff. More research is needed to know exactly how it could impact the food web. Regardless, it’s likely not healthy for birds and fish that often confuse small plastic fragments for food.

By now, I’m hoping that you are at least a little troubled by the thought of plastic floating in our water and lining our rivers and lakes. Mostly I’m hoping that you are asking yourself what you can do about it.

First, try to limit using plastic as much as possible. When it is used, dispose of it responsibly. This also goes for trash you may find that is not your own. If you see it, pick it up. Make sure to recycle at your home and check with your local hauler to know what items are accepted. You can also get involved in area cleanup events.

Cleanup efforts have been ongoing for many years in the Holland area, with one set for this Saturday. The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC) and the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (ODCMG) have been jointly holding spring and fall cleanups for 10 years.

Participating is a lot of fun, and bizarre things are always found. Last year a shopping cart was pulled out of the water at one site and a mailbox with its wooden post still attached was recovered at another location. Even a station wagon seat was found once.

To unearth the next big discovery, join the next Macatawa River Cleanup this Saturday, April 29, from 1 to 4 p.m. in Kollen Park.

Volunteers can pick up trash on foot or in kayaks that are provided by ODCMG. All ages are welcome, but organizers do request that anyone under 16 years old be accompanied by an adult. An RSVP is required; contact ODCMG at (616)393-9453 or find the online registration form by going to the event calendar at

We hope to see you there!

 Carolyn Ulstad is program assistant at the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council.

If You Go:

What: Macatawa River Cleanup

When: 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 29

Who: Community volunteers

How: Sign up at (616) 393-9453 or at the event calendar at


Kayak cleaners.jpg The annual Macatawa River Cleanup, by kayak and by foot, will be held this Saturday.

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.