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.

Living Sustainably: Group launches spring sustainability series

By Michelle Gibbs, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute
Do you want to learn more about what is happening in the community?  The spring 2018 Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series has announced another great line-up, full of educational events sharing how Holland is becoming a more sustainable community.

Holland Michigan Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore
The series will continue to share information about work as it relates to the city’s Sustainability Framework. All of the events, with the exception of May, will take place on a Tuesday at Herrick District Library from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Here’s this spring’s lineup:

 “Economic Development: Sustainable Government,” Tuesday, Jan. 9:  This program will explore sources of local government funds and review the city and county budget process and near-term and long-term needs within the community.
 “Quality of Life: Community Policing for Peaceful Living,” Tuesday, Feb. 6:  A safe and friendly community is essential to our sense of well-being and quality of life. How does the Holland Police Department’s community policing approach help local residents of all walks of life find life satisfaction? Our discussion will address fair and equitable interactions and the needs of our community.
 “Community Knowledge: Planting and Saving Seeds,” Tuesday, March 6:  Ben Cohen, sustainable homesteader and proprietor of Small House Farm, is an heirloom seed activist and educator. He is passionate about growing food and will discuss why planting, saving, and sharing seeds is essential to the cultivation of sustainable neighborhoods, healthy communities and the preservation of history. This event coincides with the launch of Herrick District Library’s seed saving library.
 “Environmental Awareness/Action: Fly Fishing,” Tuesday, April 24:  For over 100 years, fly fishermen have been leaders in the watershed conservation movement. Local author Jon Osborn and illustrator Joe Van Faasen, of the book “Classic Michigan Flies: 16 Legendary Patterns,” will speak about Michigan’s fly fishing heritage.
 “Transportation: Green Commute Expo,” Friday, May 18 (Special Friday event, 6 to 7:30 p.m.)   As part of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council’s Green Commute Week (May 13-19), the expo will include a presentation about green commute options in the Holland/Zeeland area and the role transportation plays in the 40-Year Community Energy Plan, followed by fun, hands-on activities for the whole family.
This series of free educational events began in the fall of 2014. Our mission is to educate and empower citizens to live more sustainably.

The series is sponsored by: City of Holland and its Sustainability Committee’s efforts;; Herrick District Library and its adult programming; Hope College through the Sustainability Institute; the League of Women Voters; the Meijer Campus of Grand Valley State University’s sustainability program; and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.  For more information visit the Events section at or follow us on Facebook at Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore.

 Michelle Gibbs, is the director of the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute (HHCSI).  The vision for the HHCSI 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.

Holland’s Sustainability Framework includes seven topics related to how sustainability awareness can improve our community’s future.
 Smart energy
 Economic development
 Transportation
 Community & neighborhood
 Quality of life
 Community knowledge
 Environmental action & awareness

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge of the community is an incredible resource, that knowledge and energy 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: Understanding funding for a stronger community

By Paul Lilly, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute
Holland Michigan Living Sustainably Along the LakeshoreUnderstanding basic government funding and how it can support a sustainable community is the focus of the next installment of Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshores’ continuing educational series.
When citizens receive their property tax statements, they may simply look to see what change there might be in the property values and the resulting tax assessment.
But every few years comes proposals for new or renewed millage levies to support government functions that show up on those bills. Whether operation of the library, support of the regional airport, or funding for public schools, property owners share in the cost. And while each of those operations have
opportunities to provide input with governance boards, most taxpayers do not get involved.

Understanding how tax dollars are divided helps understand how public funding can contribute to sustainable community practices.

The City of Holland has worked to make the yearly budget process transparent, but few citizens become involved and understand the budget. How city residents’ tax funds are divided is represented in the adjacent graphic.
Typically with tax revenues, new initiatives can be funded only by reductions in other programs, so understanding the budget process is vital.
At times, other funds can come into play, such as grants for program startup or contributions from local philanthropic organizations. Or consider the Ottawa County Community Mental Health millage, the only one of its kind in the state.
Another different source of funding is the support for new businesses provided through Lakeshore Advantage, a private organization. Access to funding and other options can make the difference in attracting the type of business we need to grow.
What other issues that would strengthen our community may require additional funding?
 A group is exploring options for a community college in Ottawa County. While we have access to Lakeshore Community College and Muskegon Community College, there are costs and credibility issues with not having our own community college.
 Public transportation is critical for overall growth. The Macatawa Area Transit system has operated for more than 10 years but has limited geographic coverage and scheduling. How could an expanded program be supported?
 Water quality is being addressed by the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council’s watershed activities and Project Clarity, run by the Outdoor Discovery Center. Also, the City of Holland and other government entities are working on storm water management compliance and infrastructure improvements, a local cost burden now with the reduction of federal and state funds.
 Better internet access will be a significant factor in growth. The Holland Board of Public Works is providing fiber access in downtown Holland, but expansion to residents will require considerable planning and funding.
 Efforts to address affordable housing are also underway. We need to expand the availability of such housing, but how will it be supported?
The program at 6:30, Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Herrick Library will explore these types of questions and seek a better understanding of what fully funding programs like these means and how costs can be managed.

 Paul Lilly has been involved with local sustainability efforts for more than 15 years.   He worked with the Macatawa Watershed Project as part of the Citizens Advisory Committee and was a founding member of the Holland Sustainability Committee.  As was part of the team that developed the Community Energy Plan and the startup of the Hope Holland Sustainability Institute.   As a local small business owner, Paul has worked with the West Michigan Chamber and the Lakeshore Local First team.  Paul has provided leadership on several of the LSATL programs over the last three years.

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.

December 2017 Sustainability News

December 2017 News

December 31, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Understanding funding for a stronger community

December 31, 2017 – Add Shoe Year’s hikes to your resolutions

December 30, 2017 – Obama’s ‘pollution-free society’ is needed to combat climate change

December 30, 2017 – Projects to look out for from Ottawa County Parks and Rec. in 2018

December 29, 2017 – Hope College profs study preschooler sleep habits

December 28, 2017 – 5 things to know about Holland Township’s zoning ordinance rewrite

December 28, 2017 – Higher energy costs accompany bitter cold snap in US

December 28, 2017 – 11 videos that captured the spirit of sustainability in 2017

December 27, 2017 – Director to focus on economics of affordable housing in county

December 27, 2017 – The Slow But Steady Progression Toward Environmental Sustainability

December 27, 2017 – Ask Amy: Celebrate the giving season by donating

December 27, 2017 – Ottawa County approves plans for Parkside Marina redevelopment

December 27, 2017 – The most consequential environmental stories of 2017

December 26, 2017 – Ways to eat more fruit, veg in winter

December 25, 2017 – Hope College students start project to combat hate

December 24, 2017 – What will become of the James DeYoung plant?

December 21, 2017 – LEDs Cut 500 Million Tons of CO2 From the Sky in 2017

December 21, 2017 – China Launches a Cap-and-Trade Program to Cut Carbon Emissions

December 20, 2017 – What the tax bill may mean for energy efficiency

December 20, 2017 – Michigan Supreme Court: Return $554M to school employees

December 19, 2017 – Can You Balance Gift-giving and Sustainability?

December 19, 2017 – EPA Formally Ask Stakeholders How to Change the Clean Power Plan

December 18, 2017 – More Companies Set 100% Renewable Energy Goals in 2017

December 18, 2017 – Living Sustainably:  Solar panels system is first for city retrofit project

December 18, 2017 – GTM Research Reports US Solar Installation Slowdown

December 18, 2017 – The Year In Corporate Sustainability: The Best Of Times And The Worst Of Times

December 18, 2017 – Advice for breaking down sustainability silos in 2018

December 18, 2017 – 3 Ways to Make a Commitment to Sustainability Your Customers Want to See

December 17, 2017 – Here are some of the largest 2018 projects for Holland

December 17, 2017 – Letter: Volunteer at the Community Kitchen

December 17, 2017 – Bucs Care Food Pantry launched at Grand Haven High

December 16, 2017 – Trump Administration Reportedly Instructs CDC On Its Own Version Of 7 Dirty Words

December 15, 2017 – My Year of No Shopping

December 15, 2017 – Superbacteria could soon be eating China’s factory waste

December 15, 2017 – Environmental Management in 2017 – Can You Guess the Top 5 Trends?

December 15, 2017 – Movie review: ‘Downsizing’ makes for a great tall tale about getting small

December 14, 2017 – Mayors tout the importance of energy efficiency in meeting climate goals

December 14, 2017 – Rethinking sustainability: A greener Grand Rapids starts from the ground up

December 14, 2017 – Sustainability: The World’s Change Agent

December 14, 2017 – Central Massachusetts businesses getting creative when it comes to high energy costs

December 13, 2017 – Grand Rapids selected among 12 U.S. cities for Zero Cities Project that targets energy use

December 12, 2017 – Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Announces $18.5 Million for Offshore Wind Research

December 12, 2017 – 4 Questions for Your Local Organic Farmer

December 12, 2017 – Want to Buy Organic? 3 Steps to Avoid the Fakes

December 12, 2017 – 5 Companies Who Succeed By Prioritizing Sustainability Over Profits

December 11, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Herrick District Library is Holland’s ‘third space’

December 11, 2017 – Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area awards $109,750 in grants

December 11, 2017 – 4 Tips to Improve Electric Vehicle Battery Range this Winter

December 10, 2017 – The Organic Label is the Gold Standard [Infographic]

December 10, 2017 – Guest Editorial: Enbridge agreement a small step in the right direction

December 9, 2017 – Survey: Dune supporters include stormwatchers, ecologists, campers, economists

December 8, 2017 – Holland documentary ‘Wilderness to World Class’ premieres next week

December 7, 2017 – 2018 Fuel Economy Guide Helps Consumers Save Money

December 7, 2017 – This Was the Year Sustainable Fashion Got Sexy—Read the Highlights from Vogue Here


December 7, 2017 – Outdoor Discovery Center embraces entrepreneurial culture, empowering staff members

December 7, 2017 – Ready for School: 63 percent of Holland-area kids ready for kindergarten

December 7, 2017 – LG Chem Michigan now landfill free facility

December 6, 2017 – Simple ways to give back all year long

December 5, 2017 – Erin Brockovich tied to class action lawsuit over toxic Michigan dumping

December 5, 2017 – Ready for School to hold annual breakfast

December 5, 2017 – Sea turtle released back into gulf where it was rescued by Florida officer

December 4, 2017 – Sustainable Reporting: Lessons From the Fortune 500

December 4, 2017 – Trump signs proclamation to scale back 2 national monuments

December 4, 2017 – What is the home energy rating system (HERS)? [Infographic]

December 3, 2017 – Holland council backs out of collectively asking for DACA 

December 3, 2017 – Hope College gets more ‘Code Blue’ towers

December 3, 2017 – Michigan Roll Call: See how Holland-area legislators are voting in Lansing

December 3, 2017 – Wrap up of police calls in Ottawa, Allegan counties

December 2, 2017 – Michigan Has Its Very Own Dutch Christmas Market And You’ll Want To Visit

December 1, 2017 – Veteran says clean energy is good for the military

December 1, 2017 – Who Will Pay For Nature? How To Catalyze Private Investment In Sustainability

Holland Board of Public Works 2017 Annual Report

“In this 2017 Year in Review, we’ve explored the idea that Holland is a community like no other, and part of what makes us unique is the quality and innovation delivered through our utility services.” – Dave Koster, HBPW General Manager. Read this full letter in this year’s annual report.

November 2017 Sustainability News

November 2017 Sustainability News

November 30, 2017 – Betsy DeVos approves Michigan’s federal school accountability plan

November 30, 2017 – Plan for Parkside Marina redevelopment presented in full, faces opposition

November 30, 2017 – Holland e-commerce business busy this Cyber Monday

November 29, 2017 – Jeff Goodell’s ‘engaging, often terrifying’ book

November 29, 2017 – 4 great gifts for your green-living friend

November 29, 2017 – Sustainable Apparel Coalition Increases Analytics for Supply Chain Assessment

November 29, 2017 – Businesses Ask EPA to Curb Clean Power Plan at Hearing

November 29, 2017 – This auto mechanic is ready for an electric vehicle revolution

November 28, 2017 – The New Year’s resolution you can keep: A more eco-friendly home

November 28, 2017 – Lake Michigan water levels expected to continue to rise this spring

November 28, 2017 – 4 Ways Socially Responsible Banks Are Good for You and Your Wallet

November 28, 2017 – Letter: Holland is stuck in the past

November 28, 2017 – Holland-area nonprofits host events, campaigns for #GivingTuesday

November 27, 2017 – A huge investment firm is urging companies to disclose climate risks

November 27, 2017 – Living Sustainably: ‘Energy literacy’ is key for Holland’s future

November 27, 2017 – Kent, Ottawa districts get money to grow farm-to-school programs

November 27, 2017 – Big boost for solar expected from state ruling

November 27, 2017 – Hurricanes harm birds, too: What you can do to help your backyard birds

November 23, 2017 – Home Help: Signs your heating system needs a tune-up

November 23, 2017 – Guest Editorial: Democrats must confront mistreatment of women

November 22, 2017 – Good night, night: Light pollution increases around globe

November 22, 2017 – Council narrowly approves long-term Flint water deal

November 22, 2017 – Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet

November 22, 2017 – Esther J. Cepeda: This Thanksgiving, give others a helping of gratitude

November 22, 2017 – The state of sustainability today: Nearly all consumers are involved in some way

November 21, 2017 – The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard *Michigan tied for #11.

November 21, 2017 – Holland Rescue Mission to host annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet

November 21, 2017 – Palisades Power Plant to host public meeting

November 21, 2017 – Holland-area businesses gear up for Black Friday shopping

November 20, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Heat hints and free LED lights make holidays greener


November 20, 2017 – Largest Cocoa Producing Countries Agree to Work with Hershey, Nestle, Mars & More

November 20, 2017 – Landfill or Sustainable Business Park? Michigan County Considers the Question

November 20, 2017 – Top 5 features millennials look for in a home

November 19, 2017 – Newly-formed: Holland-area conservation group holds first meeting

November 19, 2017 – The perfect gift for animal lovers: Becoming a wildlife hero

November 19, 2017 – Guest Editorial: The rest of the world is moving on with global trade

November 18, 2017 – Political analysts discuss Trump at Hope College

November 17, 2017 – Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions

November 17, 2017 – 4 Ways Companies Can Reach Millennials With A Message Of Sustainability

November 16, 2017 – Kent County meets with community to discuss sustainability, recycling plans

November 16, 2017 – Scientists warn: Soon it will be too late to save Earth

November 16, 2017 – Fuel economy is going up. Vehicle prices are holding steady.

November 16, 2017 – Farm runoff and the worsening algae plague waterways

November 16, 2017 – Holland Township not likely to allow bees, chickens in residential zones

November 16, 2017 – Homeowner at last reaches a $3,400 settlement for a $100,000 water bill

November 15, 2017 – These are the melting glaciers that might someday drown your city, according to NASA

November 15, 2017 – Holland-area chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby to host first meeting

November 15, 2017 – These five plants can improve a room’s decor — and your health

November 14, 2017 – Weather and climate aren’t the same thing

November 14, 2017 – Investigation into tannery waste disposal expands

November 14, 2017 – Winterize your home now for comfort all throughout winter

November 14, 2017 – Science confirms Hurricane Harvey was indeed ‘biblical’

November 14, 2017 – Holland planning reconstruction of Hope Avenue

November 14, 2017 – Letter: Parkside Marina represents us all

November 14, 2017 – Letter: Ottawa County-run marina is inconceivable

November 14, 2017 – 7 Tips for a More Sustainable Thanksgiving

November 13, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Make your holidays a little greener

November 13, 2017 – Trump focuses on trade, fighting terrorism with Duterte

November 13, 2017 – Is the wine in your glass friendly to the environment? There soon will be new ways to know.

November 13, 2017 – Reduce and Reuse at Home [Infographic]

November 12, 2017 – GVSU named top sustainability school

November 11, 2017 – Zeeland Clean Water Plant expansion opens

November 10, 2017 – Gallup study confirms that 2017 really is worse than 2016

November 9, 2017 – Dinosaurs would have survived if asteroid hit Earth elsewhere, scientists claim

November 8, 2017 – 4 Do-It-Yourself Projects Saving You Money on Energy Bills

November 8, 2017 – Michigan composting firm wins top prize at Silicon Valley tech forum

November 8, 2017 – Study: North Carolina’s coastal policies among worst in nation on climate change

November 8, 2017 – Free showing of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ at DeGraaf

November 8, 2017 – Ottawa ISD launches police, schools, fire collaboration

November 6, 2017 – Living Sustainably: Three’s not enough: The eight R’s of recycling

November 5, 2017 – Ottawa County Parks receives grant to fight invasive species

November 3, 2017 – Broad U.S. report says global warming is massive — and caused by humans

November 2, 2017 – Most CO2 Emissions Are Coming From World’s Biggest Companies. What to do?

November 2, 2017 – How churches could turn the obesity epidemic around

November 1, 2017 – Report Reveals Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Through Public-Private Partnership

November 1, 2017 – Court Hands Victory to Trucking Industry Tied to Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards

HHCSI is partnering with Local First in the first annual “2018 Lakeshore Awards.”

The Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute is partnering with Local First in the first annual “2018 Lakeshore Awards.”


The Local First LocalMotion Awards began in 2011 as a way to promote best business practices and recognize the achievements of local businesses and individuals. It continues to be a way to showcase entrepreneurs who are using their business as a force for good. This means doing outstanding work in sustainability, helping make our community more vibrant and resilient, and strengthening our local economy.

In 2018, we will honor Lakeshore business owners at the First Lakeshore Annual Meeting in February (stay tuned for more details on the event).


Any local business in West Michigan that fits the LocalFirst membership criteria is eligible (but they do not have to be a member of Local First). Recipients are selected based on the results of their Quick Impact Assessment (QIA). All nominees will be asked to fill out the QIA, which measures business practices from the triple bottom line such as environmental impact, charitable gifts, and employee satisfaction.

Good for Environment: businesses are nominated for having outstanding practices or policies that show stewardship of the environment
Good for Community: businesses are nominated for giving back to the community
Good for Employees: businesses are nominated for going above and beyond to support their employees

To see a listing of previous winners, and visit: