Living Sustainably: Hope Student Finding Sustainability in an Iceland Eco-village

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Finding Sustainability in an Iceland Eco-village

By Alex Webb, Hope College student

During the fall semester of 2016, I traveled to Iceland through a study abroad program that revolved teaching “Sustainability Through Community,” a concept I was not aware of before this three-month excursion. This idea was one in which I found the most practical solutions to sustainable living in the modern-day world.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2387.

While I studied in Iceland, I lived in an eco-village with four other students, our professor and 100 Icelandic residents and workers. The other students and I spent most of our days learning about concrete ways to reduce our carbon footprints and transform our lives to become completely sustainable. We also worked in the greenhouses, kitchens and workshops with the residents to help make products for the village to sell.

It was not long before I realized that this study abroad experience was less about touring a remote and exotic country, but more about learning how the concept of sustainability does not survive without a cohesive and synergistic community. I learned how a group of people lives sustainably with their environment and each other.

Iceland is praised for being one of the greenest countries in the world. What does this mean?

Renewable energy resources, like hydroelectric power and geothermal reserves, provide 100 percent of their electricity and heating. This makes it more convenient for them to be a sustainable population.

Icelanders use this advantage to play an active role in sustainable development and commitment to the environment. Their environmental awareness is largely shaped by close community ties, a strong sense of tradition and a unique bond with nature.

Through learning about another culture’s environmentally conscious traditions, I was able to gain a new perspective on the applicability of sustainability in our day-to- day lives back home. By the end of the program, Viking Stouts and homemade candles were not the only gifts I was bringing back to the states. I also brought home three valuable lessons from my time in Iceland that I would like to share with you.

1) This concept of becoming more sustainable can be overwhelming. However, it starts with each person becoming more self-sustainable in his or her daily activities. For example, try walking with a friend instead of driving to your destination. Experiment with growing your own food. You may even be able to compost your food waste and use it as fertilizer! Try your hand at making your own shampoo or soap. You’d be surprised how much money you can save.

2) Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce your consumption of unnecessary clothing or food. Reuse what you can and don’t be afraid to get creative. Recycle what you can. This simple effort minimizes waste products in landfills.

3) Your life can make a big difference in the world. Whether your concerns are local or global, don’t be afraid to speak up for what you think is right. I realize that not everyone is going to become an environmental activist and go out to buy a Prius after they read this article. The most important point I want you to take away is to keep an open mind when listening to someone with a different perspective.

Regardless of your race, religion or socioeconomic status, respect your neighbor because when we work together, our words and ideas can change the world. Community is a cornerstone on which sustainability is built.

 Alex Webb is a senior studying sociology and environmental studies at Hope College. After graduation, she’s interested in pursuing a career in business and sustainability.

PHOTOS:

Alex in Iceland jpg: Hope student Alex Webb experienced sustainable community in the unique country of Iceland.

Ecovillage greenhouse tomatoes.jpg : Sustainability in the ecovillage includes growing tomatoes in a greenhouse.

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.

 

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: 10 Ways to Live a More Nature-Rich Life

Living Sustainably:  10 Ways to Live a More Nature-Rich Life

By Jane Naber and Hamilton STREAM school students

 

Being nature rich is more than going green; it’s about going outside regularly and finding value in doing any activity in nature.  It means letting a connection to nature enrich you, your family, and your community. Consider these ways to live a more nature-rich life, with references to learn more.

 

  1.  Take a walk outside.

Why?  Walking outside can help you lose weight, keep you healthy, and reduce stress (Better Policies for a Healthier America, September, 2016).

 

  1.  Encourage the creation of green spaces for learning and exploration.

Why?  Cathy James states, “Anything you can teach in an indoor classroom can be taught outdoors, often in ways that are more enjoyable to children” (James, Cathy, The Garden Classroom, 2015).  Recent studies show that children thrive when given the opportunity to learn outside (The Pathfinder School.org)    

 

  1.  Get your employees outside!

WHY? Lisa Evans of Entrepreneur in “Why You Should Take Your Work Outside” states, “Trapping ourselves indoors has created what health experts call a ‘nature deficit disorder’. Depression or anxiety result from too little time spent outside.”

 

  1. Know your resources

Why? The Outdoor Discovery Center provides many classes for learning outside such as “Up Close and Wild,” “Wondrous World of Water,” and “Live Birds of Prey.” outdoordiscovery.org

 

  1.  Take your family to the park

WHY?  New research suggests that families who regularly get outside together tend to function better. (Rick Nauert in “Outdoor Functions Can Improve Family Bonding,” 2016).

https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/06/21/outdoor-functions-can-improve-family-bonding/105089.html

 

  1. Be energy efficient –use renewable resources

WHY?  The use of fossil fuel is unsustainable.  At the current rate, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110. (Siddharth Singh, “How Long Will Fossil Fuels Last?” 2015)

http://www.business-standard.com/article/punditry/how-long-will-fossil-fuels-last-115092201397_1.html

 

  1.  Plant a tree

Why?  Trees improve the community by keeping it cool (it can be 31 degrees cooler in the shade) and absorbing pollutants. This can aid in lowering air conditioning costs. (ProjectEvergreen.org)

 

  1.  Explore the woods safely

Why?  There are some things out there that can hurt you or ruin your day…but if you are properly prepared you will be ready for any adverse weather, critters, or other challenges that you may encounter.”  (rogerfulton.com)

 

  1.  Plant a Garden

Why?  You will save about two pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere for each pound of produce you grow for your family.  (Green and Healthy Homes.org)

  1. Value Nature

Why?  “To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar, to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness.” – John Muir

 

 

STREAM School is a cross-curricular program at Hamilton Community Schools where students also learn everyday skills while connecting their learning to the outdoors.  Recently, 120 middle schoolers presented “Art and Animals” at the Outdoor Discovery Center where 20 ideas were shared through art to encourage Holland residents to be nature-rich.

PHOTOS:

CUTLINE for Nature rich1.jpg, Naturerich2.jpg:   Some 120 middle schoolers recently presented “Art and Animals” at the Outdoor Discovery Center where 20 ideas were shared through art to encourage Holland residents to be nature-rich.   

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.

 

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: How Are We Creating a Sustainable Community?

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  How Are We Creating a Sustainable Community?

By Brett Little and Michelle Gibbs

Great things are happening in Holland, and we want you to join in!

Many people are working hard to help Holland become a vibrant, world-class community, but for that to happen, it takes all of us working together and addressing all aspects of our community.  This includes the economic, social, and environmental impacts we all have.

On March 7 at City Hall we will explore how Holland is building a more resilient community. The evening will include refreshments, a program, awards and door prizes.

The event will present the programs and tools that are helping us see where we are and how we can best adapt to change with our Community Energy Plan.

Among the evening’s activities: The winners of the Holland Energy Prize Biggest Loser Challenge will talk about what they did to save energy.  In Holland, 118 households took part in the contest, and over half of them received Department of Energy Home Energy Scores.  (Learn more at www.homeenergyscore.gov)

Here are a few of the easy, do-it- yourself measures that winners implemented:

 Sealing air ducts,

 Insulating and air sealing basement ceiling/rim joists,

 Replacing old, inefficient bulbs with LED bulbs,

 Sealing holes in homes and caulking around windows,

 Using rigid foam boards or cellulose insulation in unfinished areas.

Learn more tips at the open house about how to make your home more efficient.

In addition, the open house will let you meet the pros who can help with low-financing options like Holland’s new Home Energy Retrofit and On-Billing Financing programs with the potential for thousands of dollars in rebates.  (Learn more at ww.hollandenergyfund.com/) 

Did you know that a majority of your wasted home energy is going through your floors, walls and ceilings? Most homes in Holland can see significant savings – as well as increased comfort and home health – by air sealing and insulation. People attending the Open House can sign up for a limited offer of a free Department of Energy Home Energy Score assessment of their house.

Finally, an RSVP is not required for the Open House, but those who do will be entered into additional drawings for more than $200 worth of door prizes. Go to www.Greenhomeinstitute.org/events to RSVP.

All of this work is helping the City of Holland reach the goals in the city’s 40 year Community Energy Plan, which aims to make our community a world-class leader in energy security, affordability, sustainability and efficiency.

 Brett Little is director of the Green Home Institute and organizer of the Holland Biggest Loser competition. Michelle Gibbs is director of the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute.

If You Go
What: Creating a Sustainable Community Open House
Who: Anyone interested in saving energy and learning about how to create a more sustainable community.
When: Tuesday, March 7. 6 p.m. reception with refreshments, and 6:30 p.m. program, awards, and door prizes.
Where: Holland City Hall, 270 S. River Ave.
Why: Join the effort to make Holland a vibrant, world-class community for all.

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.

 

Photos:

BULB IN HAND.JPG LED bulbs are one way that winners of Holland’s Biggest Losers cut energy use.

HOME ENERGY ASSESSMENT.JPG Free Home Energy Score assessments will be available to people who attend the Sustainable Community Open House on March 7.

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: Pop Quiz: Do You Know Your Home Place? – AND FULL ANSWERS

LIVING SUSTAINABLY

Pop Quiz: Do You Know Your Home Place?

By Steve Bouma-Prediger

How well do you know your place – your geophysical place, your neighborhood, your home?

If we don’t know our home place well, then we won’t know how to responsibly care for it. Or, lacking the love born of knowledge, we might not even want to care for it.

Here is a short quiz I give my students to illustrate how well we know our place.

The first time that I took a quiz like this years ago, I was embarrassed by how poorly I did. But I vowed that I would learn more about whatever place I lived in, to know how to properly care for it. May we all come to better know and love this beautiful piece of our home planet – Holland, Michigan – so that we might join together joyfully and gratefully in our care for it.

So try the quiz for ideas of things to know about your place.

Answers are below – but no peeking now!

Questions

1. How many days until the moon is full?

2. What are three agricultural plants grown in Ottawa and Allegan counties? What are three edible wild plants in this part of our home planet?

3. How long is the growing season here in the Holland area?

4. What are five trees that grow near your house? Where is the closest Michigan state tree?

5. What are five birds that make their home near your home?

6. What primary geological event or process has shaped Michigan?

7. What spring flower is consistently the first to bloom where you live?

8. If the stars were out last night, what was one constellation you could have seen?

9. What are five non-human creatures who share your place?

10. How has the land here been used by humans in the last 200 years?

Bonus Questions

a. Where does the water you drink from your tap come from?

b. Where does your garbage go?

Answers

1. The moon was full on Saturday, Feb. 11, and will be full again on Sunday, March 12.. The lunar cycle is 28 days, with our moon going from full to waning gibbous to waning crescent to new (invisible) to waxing crescent to waxing gibbous to full again. A blue moon, as in the phrase, “Once in a blue moon,” is a second full moon in the same month.

2. The most common agricultural plants in our area are corn and soybeans, though we locals also are very proud of our blueberries and apples. The list of edible wild plants is quite long and will vary by individual preference, but some of the more common ones are wild onion, cranberries, blueberries, hazelnuts, fiddlehead ferns, and morel mushrooms.

3. The growing season (from last frost to first frost) is about 185 days long, though it varies some each year. Some years you can harvest asparagus in May and kale in November. The growing season is longer in Holland than in other regions of the state because of the warming effect of Lake Michigan. The growing season is now 20 days longer than in 1970.

4. There are many trees that make the Holland area their home, but some of the most common are maple, beech, oak, pine, hemlock, and spruce. The northern ash trees, alas, are falling to the emerald ash borer and trees that need a colder climate, e.g. some species of birch, are migrating north. The Michigan state tree is the white pine (pinus strobus), a lovely tree with long (3- to 5-inch) needles in bundles usually of five.

5. As with the previous question about trees, there are many right answers to this question. The robin is the Michigan state bird, though a class of 4 th graders at a Michigan school some years ago proposed to the governor that it be changed to the chickadee, since the chickadee stays in state year around while the robins leave us in the winter when we need them most. Birds commonly spotted in and around water include Canada geese, mallards, herring gulls (the common seagull), great blue herons, redwing blackbirds. Backyard birds include finches, robins, bluejays, swallows, bluebirds, sparrows, downy woodpeckers. Various hawks live (and hunt) in city parks, such as red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks.

6. The most recent geological event was the receding of the glaciers, which carved out much of Michigan’s landscape. The Great Lakes are a result of the movement and melting of glaciers over millions of years, the most recent ice age ending about 12,000 years ago. The famous mitten shape of our state is a result of glaciers, so the next time you use your hand to show someone where you live, remember you have the glaciers to thank.

7. Many in Holland may be tempted to say that the first spring flower to bloom is the tulip, but that would be incorrect. While the tulip is Holland’s most famous flower, prior to the tulip comes the blooming of the daffodil, and even before that, often pushing up the snow, is the aconite, the bloodroot, the crocus, and the trillium.

8. The night sky looks different in the winter than in the summer, and only the most committed folks stargaze in February. But some familiar constellations are still there: the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper (which has Polaris the North Star on the end of its handle), Draco the Dragon, Cassiopeia the Queen, Cephus the King. And especially clear in the winter, if you look south about halfway above the horizon, is Orion the Hunter, which contains two of the brightest stars in the sky—Rigel and Betelgeuse. In the summer many people recognize directly above them the Summer Triangle of stars Altair, Deneb, and Vega, which are part of the constellations Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra, respectively.

9. Many right answers are possible with this question. You could share your home with mice, spiders, bats, dogs, cats, fish, horses, chinchillas, crickets—the list of non-human creatures is nearly endless. Adolescent children, however, do not count.

10. The land in the greater Holland area has been used by humans in many ways for many purposes. Perhaps the most obvious uses are for agriculture and housing, but the land – and water – have also been used for fishing and transportation, education and recreation, hunting and foraging. The list goes on. How will we use it in the next 200 years? Will we use it wisely and respectfully, with the needs of our children and grandchildren in mind? With the needs of our non-human neighbors in mind?

Bonus Answers

a. If you live in the City of Holland or in one of the townships that gets their water from the Board of Public Works, then your water comes from Lake Michigan, pumped from the Big Lake into the filtration and treatment plant just acress the street from Tunnel Park. If your water does not come from the BPW, then most likely it comes from a well. We tend to take water for granted here in Michigan, but in many parts of the world water scarcity and water impurity are big problems.

b. If you live in the City of Holland, your garbage and recycled material is collected once a week by Chef Container and goes to their sorting plant on Graafschap Road south of town. Garbage goes into a landfill while the recyclable material is sorted and sold. Waste Management handles the trash and recycling material for many others in the Holland area. Their sorting plant and landfill is east of town on 16 th /Adams Street.

Photo

Cutline: American Robin jpg – Your neighbors in your home place might include the robin, Michigan’s state bird.

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: Know your Landscape for Environmental Engagement

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Know your Landscape for Environmental Engagement

By Ken Freestone, GreenMichigan.org

Did you know that there are more than 33 different environmental projects currently underway in the greater West Michigan region? And did you know there are more than 65 groups working on solid waste, green infrastructure, water, energy, dunes/land, food waste, environmental economics and more?

Just this local landscape of projects and organizations can seem overwhelming to someone who is looking to get involved in sustainability, so I won’t even go into how many environmental initiatives are underway and how many organizations are working around the globe.

The key to knowing how to get involved to help improve and protect our environment is knowing your local “environmental landscape” of practitioners and initiatives. Your environmental landscape includes the people, organizations and issues – as well as the nature – around you.

So, what does your environmental landscape look like? Do you know who are the environmental protectors and practitioners in your area?

Knowing your environmental landscape is critical for active and effective engagement in a world with millions of species and unlimited ways we might impact them every day. With so many species and so many groups and organizations, it is no wonder that it can be confusing and hard for many people to understand environmental conditions, what to do about them and how to get engaged.

We all need to be aware of global issues and initiatives, but we individually and collectively need to put our best efforts into acting locally and working together.

A critical piece of acting locally and cooperatively is sharing resources and knowledge with as many people as possible. Sharing and collaborating are critical aspects of getting the environmental work done faster and more effectively.

Throughout my career in environmental stewardship, I have collected resources that I share graciously and voraciously. Although I have collected many resources, and I personally spread them widely, I am still only one person and have my limitations on distribution. This is where we need more people to engage.

Here are a few simple steps for engagement:

 Attend events and collect contact information.

 Think about other organizations and people that could benefit from that information.

 Contact a major organization in your area and ask what they do and if they know of other organizations doing similar work. In the West Michigan Lakeshore region, you could contact Outdoor Discovery Center, DeGraaf Nature Center, Ottawa County Parks, West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, GreenMichigan.org, and many others.

 Create a list of organizations and contact information, then share the list with friends and colleagues. Ask about others you could add. It is easier to start from a baseline rather than have everyone starting from zero.

 When you have a new idea, quickly share it on social media to find out if anyone else is thinking the same thing and to gain supporters. The faster you talk about your idea, the faster you can get to goals and results.

 Partner and collaborate as much as possible. Funders appreciate funding one larger initiative rather than multiple smaller activities. It shows that you are being good stewards of resources.

Everyone has limited time, money and other resources, so we must be efficient and effective with our work. Know your environmental landscape of resources and initiatives. And remember to share them graciously and voraciously.

– Ken Freestone is co-founder of GreenMichigan.org, a website of resources and information for living more sustainably.

Photos:

CLEANUP1.jpg: A volunteer pulls a shopping cart out of the Macatawa River in last fall’s cleanup, one example of environmental engagement spearheaded by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. (Contributed photo – MACC)

CLEANUP2.JPG: Volunteers pose with some of the trash pulled from the Macatawa River in last fall’s cleanup, one example environmental engagement spearheaded by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. (Contributed photo – MACC)

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: Working on Lake Mac’s Reputation

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Working on Lake Mac’s Reputation

By Dan Callam, Macatawa Greenway Manager

Just how healthy – or unhealthy – is Lake Macatawa?  Does it deserve its murky reputation?

Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute has produced its annual monitoring dashboard for Lake Macatawa. The report summarizes sampling on Lake Macatawa during 2016.  The Institute’s monitoring supports Project Clarity, the local effort led by the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway to clean and restore the Macatawa watershed.

Results from 2016 sampling show some improvement in water clarity and a slight increase in phosphorus in Lake Macatawa. Long-term impact is hard to gauge until decades of data is in, but recent years’ results show some improvement in clarity the past four years and a slight downward trend in phosphorous. Some natural variability occurs depending on weather and other conditions. But both indicators are still at undesirable levels for a healthy lake.

Lake Macatawa is considered to be a hypereutrophic lake, meaning that it has extremely high levels of nutrients and sediment. Sediment and the nutrient phosphorus can result in murky waters, poor habitat and detrimental algae blooms. Development in the greater Holland area has increased storm water volume, which leads to increased erosion. Ultimately, this results in increased amounts of pollutants reaching Lake Macatawa.

Supported by more than $10 million in funding, Project Clarity has been working to treat sources of sediment and nutrients, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants reaching Lake Macatawa.

The work includes constructing and restoring large wetland complexes to detain floodwater and remove pollutants. This replaces some of the wetlands lost to settlement and development. To date, 58 water quality projects have been completed with local farmers, governments and businesses. These projects will increase water storage on those sites and keep phosphorus out of waterways. Projects have been completed and improved practices are either implemented or pledged for nearly 11,000 acres.

With a great deal of variability from year to year in lake systems, continued monitoring is needed to see long-term changes and track the overall progress of Project Clarity.

“It allows us to differentiate trends that are associated with the restoration activities from those that are part of any ecosystem’s natural variation,” said Al Steinman, director of the Annis Water Resources Institute.

“Some years are dry and some are wet; some years are cold and some are warm. That kind of background variation can mask trends associated with real progress, so we need long-term monitoring to get a robust sense of whether the trends we are seeing are due to natural variation or to restoration activities.”

This past year demonstrated periods of amazing clarity on Lake Macatawa, as well as late-season algae blooms and murky waters following rain or snowmelt.  While the early data is encouraging, the community needs to adopt additional practices that hold storm water and keep nutrients out of waterways.

Farm field and infrastructure projects completed to date are great examples, but until those are commonplace, the Macatawa Watershed will continue to struggle with water quality issues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Annis Institute also collects other data on Lake Macatawa and several of its tributaries, on conditions around restoration projects, and on fish populations in the lake.  To learn more, the entire Lake Macatawa Dashboard report, as well as the full Project Clarity Monitoring Report, can be found on the Project Clarity website: macatawaclarity.org/monitoring.

Images:

((2016 Clarity chart cutline)):   Most recent test results show a trend of improving clarity in Lake Macatawa.

((2016 Phospherous chart cutline)):   Test results show a slight increase in phosphorous in 2016 but hopeful signs of decreasing levels long-term.

((Baseflow.jpg – Annis Water Resources Institute graduate student Emily Kindervater measures water quality in the Macatawa River for Project Clarity. (Courtesy photo – GVSU-AWRI staff)

-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.

 

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.

We Can See More Stars in Holland

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  We Can See More Stars in Holland

By Paul Lilly and Michelle Gibbs
Living Sustainably Committee

“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky….”

Our fascination with the night sky starts at a young age, and many of us can think back to a time when we were in a remote area – perhaps on a snipe hunt or camping trip – and, gazing upward, we were able to witness the splendor of the Milky Way and were amazed by how many stars we could see.  Perhaps we even tried to count them, imagined ourselves flying amongst them, or were lucky enough to see a shooting star!

Unfortunately, many people today have not been able to have this moving and memorable experience.  With urbanization and expansion of street lights, parking lot lights, and security lighting, it is getting harder to see the stars. With less free time and more emphasis on screen-based technologies, we forget about taking time out to seek a place free of light pollution to view the night sky.

Our environment is often flooded with omni-directional lighting that can be seen from blocks or miles away – even from space. This light effectively blocks views of the night sky for entire communities. Lighting that is dark-sky friendly is designed to reverse this trend by using more focused, site-specific illumination, which in turn allows clearer views of the moon and constellations.

“Excessive lighting is unnecessarily costly and wasteful, when more targeted illumination is more efficient,” said Anne Saliers, community energy services manager at the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW).

To encourage business customers to consider dark sky-approved lighting, the HBPW offers a 10 percent bonus on its rebates for exterior lighting.  According to Pete Strasser of the International Dark-Sky Association, the HBPW is the first entity to offer rebates for dark-sky friendly fixtures.

To learn more about dark sky efforts and reconnect with the stars, join us for the program “Where is Our Starry Night?” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Herrick District Library. Admission is free, and a door prize raffle will feature a 2017 Family Membership to the Outdoor Discovery Center.

The program is part of the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series that seeks to educate and empower Holland area residents to live more sustainably.  The series is sponsored by the City of Holland, GreenMichigan.org, Herrick District Library, Hope College, League of Women Voters, Meijer Campus of Grand Valley State University, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

In September, the Living Sustainably group received the “2016 Top Project Award” from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Neighborhood Environmental Partners Program. The advocacy group was recognized for its 2015 educational series and for collaborating with 50 local partners on behalf of sustainability education.  The announcement was made at the First Annual Michigan Sustainability Conference, held in Grand Rapids.  Follow us on Facebook.

  • Paul Lilly and Michelle Gibbs are members of the Holland-based Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Committee.

Three Things to Know about Dark Skies

  1. Light pollution is costly in both economic and environmental terms.
  2. We can enjoy the nighttime sky without compromising our sense of safety.
  3. Holland can reduce its energy costs and carbon footprint in line with its vision for a more energy-efficient future.

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Cutline: This NASA image shows the glow seen in space from lighted areas on Earth.

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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.

 

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If You Go

What: “Where is our Starry Night?”
Who: Free to everyone, sponsored by Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River, Holland

 

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Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

Involving All of Us in So Many Ways

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:

Involving All of Us in So Many Ways

By Michelle Gibbs
Director, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute

Welcome to the new Living Sustainably series!

This weekly column is sponsored by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute as a way to keep our community informed and engaged in all of the great work in sustainability that is happening around the greater Holland area.  

You may be asking yourself, what really is “sustainability?”  The term sustainability has been defined in many ways, but the most commonly referenced definition comes from the Brundtland Commission’s Report Our Common Future which states “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  This weekly column is aimed at showing how issues of sustainability are actually at play in so many areas of our lives.  

Each week, guest authors will share information about events or work they are involved in as it relates to seven categories. These categories make up our “Sustainability Framework,” which demonstrates the many ways in which sustainability awareness can improve our community’s future. They are:  

  • Smart Energy 
  • Economic Development
  • Transportation
  • Community & Neighborhood
  • Quality of Life
  • Community Knowledge
  • Environmental Action & Awareness


Our City of Holland Sustainability Committee has created this seven-pillar Sustainability Framework with “lenses” to help us evaluate and make more sustainable choices. We are using this framework as a way to share information about our journey to become a more sustainable community. Each week’s column will look at an issue through one of these lenses.

The city’s vision statement says Holland is “a vibrant, world-class community in a beautiful lakefront environment where people work together, celebrate community, and realize dreams.” We believe for that to be true, we must look at all aspects of our community – including the economic, social, and environmental impacts we all have.  In doing that, we are working hard to ensure that Holland is a great place to live, work, and play for generations to come.

The Sustainability Institute is entering our third year of partnership between Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works. The purpose of the Institute is to support efforts to encourage, engage, educate, and drive sustainable culture in water and air quality, energy efficiency, land use, and environmental innovation.

Our vision 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.  

We invite anyone and everyone in the community to join in. Check out the new community sustainability dashboard at www.hollandsustainabilityreport.org to see dozens of metrics in all seven framework areas. You can also follow us on Facebook by liking the group “Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore.”

 

We hope you will enjoy this new series and that it encourages you to join us on this journey to become a more sustainable community.  

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. See more at hope.edu/sustainability-institute