Living Sustainably: How to “green” your yard’s warm weather routine

By Carolyn Ulstad, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council
The days are getting warmer, the sun is setting later, and the tulips are starting to emerge from their long, cold sleep. Springtime is right around the corner, and I really couldn’t be any more ready for it.
What I’m going to say next will sound utterly crazy to most of you, but I’ve really missed yard work. Yes, you read that correctly! I really enjoy mowing, pruning, and pulling weeds. My husband and I became first-time homeowners last year, so the thrill we get from taking care of our little patch of earth is still fresh!
We decided early on that we wanted to manage our property in an Earth-friendly manner that would benefit our air, water, and soil. The practices I’m going to share with you are very simple and can be applied to any home or business.
Mowing: Annually in the U.S., it’s estimated that 5 percent of our air pollution comes from mowing, with Americans using around 580 million gallons of gas to cut grass.  After moving, we purchased a human-powered reel-style mower. I feel good knowing that I’m not polluting the air or bothering the neighbors with the noise, and I get a decent workout! Electric mowers are good alternatives and have come a long way in terms of quality. If you do own a gas mower, keep the blades sharp and oil fresh. The more efficiently it runs, the less it will pollute.
Fertilizer: Over time, standard fertilizer can have negative effects on groundwater and soil biology.  After mowing, leave clippings on the grass; they will break down and become fertilizer for new growth. But keep the clippings off hard surfaces so they don’t end up in storm drains when it rains. This can lead to localized flooding and extra nutrients entering Lake Macatawa.  Compost is another great form of fertilizer. Sprinkle it on your grass and plants. Compost piles are a great way to divert valuable food waste from the landfill.
Herbicide: Using herbicides can potentially cause unintended harm to other plants or animals. There are a number of natural alternatives that can be explored, but hand pulling weeds is particularly satisfying!
Rain barrel: Rainwater is free, and plants prefer it to tap water. Barrels also decrease the amount of water rushing into storm drains, reducing problems downstream.
Native plants: Native plants typically require less water and maintenance because they are adapted to the local climate. Their deep roots help to store water underground, diverting and cleaning stormwater and recharging aquifers. They also provide critical habitat and food for native insects.
And finally, would you rather leave the work to the professionals? Then check out the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council’s lawn care company program at, under the Watershed/Urban Water Quality/Lawn Care pulldowns, to see which area companies have agreed to follow practices that protect Lake Macatawa’s water quality.
 Carolyn Ulstad is the program assistant at the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council where she works to help the community address transportation and water quality issues. Carolyn is a life-long resident of Holland and member of the Holland Sustainability Committee.

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: Skilled workers needed to sustain local manufacturing

By Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage
The Lakeshore region is driven by manufacturing. Nearly one quarter of the jobs in Ottawa County are manufacturing-based, which is almost three times higher than the national average. Many of these jobs require skills, certification and training beyond high school, but not necessarily a college degree. Yet, the average wage in manufacturing is significantly higher than the average income.
As we found by interviewing 100 local company executives last year, 75 percent of these businesses plan to expand in the next three years. But more than half said there are barriers to growing here, citing the need to secure talent, particularly skilled trade workers and engineers, as their number-one issue.
Our current talent pipeline is not sustainable for our employers’ future growth. It takes actions, perception changes, investment and everyone working together to create a sustainable economic future for our employers and citizens. The good news is significant forward motion is occurring in our region.
This year, 57 local companies will receive $2.4 million to train their workforce and help fill their talent gaps through the State of Michigan’s Skilled Trade Training fund. This funding, administered by West Michigan Works!, helps to provide transferable skills to new and existing employees in high demand careers like CNC machinists, welders, carpenters and electricians.

Lakeshore Advantage and West Michigan Works! are bringing the “Hot Jobs” report and wage information to life for teachers by sharing skills, competencies and education levels needed for the most in-demand careers, along with what they pay. Last year, we shared this information with more than 300 teachers in the lakeshore region.
These are great strides, but we have more work to do. Continued forward progress will take a strong partnership between our employers and school districts to ensure the incredible career exploration programs, like those offered at the Ottawa Intermediate Area School District Careerline Tech Center, are led by strong manufacturing mentors.
Progress will also require a shift in the minds of parents to recognize that earning an advanced certification in a program like welding is just as significant and lucrative an accomplishment as earning a college degree. As parents, educators, peer students and citizens, we must recognize manufacturing and skilled trade jobs as fruitful career choices with potential and opportunity to thrive in our community and professionally.
A sustainable economic future is one in which individuals are successful as their interests match their education levels, skills and careers; in which our companies grow as their talent needs are met, and in which our region experiences a vibrant economy with great jobs now and in the future. For everyone.

 Jennifer Owens has been president since 2013 of Lakeshore Advantage, a non-profit economic development organization that connects businesses to the resources they need to grow in Ottawa County, northern Allegan County and West Michigan.

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.

February 2018 Sustainability News

February 2018

February 28, 2018 – A supermarket in Amsterdam has an aisle with more than 700 grocery items – and no plastic

February 28, 2018 – Hope College to host lecture on climate change psychology

February 27, 2018 – Some Christians are cutting carbon for Lent:  Instead of giving up luxuries, they’re reducing pollution.

February 27, 2018 – How Skipping Hotel Housekeeping Can Help the Environment and Your Wallet

February 26, 2018 – Hope College’s RecycleMania limits landfill waste

February 26, 2018 – Upcoming series will focus on urban planning

February 26, 2018 – Coal exec sued John Oliver for calling him a ‘geriatric Dr. Evil.’ A judge tossed the case.

February 26, 2018 – Letter: Success for businesses, but at what cost?

February 26, 2018 – Mountains of trash left behind by hurricanes inflame debate in US Virgin Islands

February 25, 2018 – Holland-area schools, businesses form manufacturing partnerships

February 25, 2018 – Are hidden leaks damaging your home, boosting water bills and harming the environment?

February 25, 2018 – North American energy trade boosts our economic and energy security

February 24, 2018 – Out on the Lakeshore sees growth within first year

February 24, 2018 – My Take: Predicting the tax law’s impact on charitable giving

February 23, 2018 – State of emergency declared in Ottawa County due to flooding

February 22, 2018 – Minister urges Christians to act on climate:  ‘Love of God and neighbor means that we have to honor creation and care for it,’ she says.

February 22, 2018 – Shelters open amid Midwest flooding as rivers keep rising

February 22, 2018 – Garcia, Lilly sponsor teacher prep bills


February 21, 2018 – ‘Little Miss Flint’ helped hundreds of underprivileged kids see ‘Black Panther’

February 21, 2018 – How Patagonia Grows Every Time It Amplifies Its Social Mission: CEO Rose Marcario, who leads the apparel player, a 2018 World’s Most Innovative Company, has catalyzed the shifting political tides to Patagonia’s benefit.

February 21, 2018 – Will and Jaden Smith create eco-friendly water company: Just

February 21, 2018 – Swap these 4 food fads with nutritious kitchen staples

February 20, 2018 – Hope lecture addresses racial achievement gaps in higher ed

February 20, 2018 – Trump’s EPA budget touches on GenX, other chemicals

February 19, 2018 – Living Sustainably:  CareerLine Tech’s EcoLeaders tackle plastic pollution

February 19, 2018 – Consumers Energy Announces Clean Energy Breakthrough Goal: 80 Percent Reduction in Carbon Emissions, Zero Coal by 2040

February 19, 2018 – ASHRAE Publishes Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings

February 19, 2018 – APNewsBreak: Consumers Energy to stop burning coal by 2040

February 18, 2018 – Trump again will try to cut energy assistance to the poor

February 17, 2018 – Farmers confront too much milk, low prices

February 17, 2018 – The WeWork Manifesto: First, Office Space. Next, the World.

February 17, 2018 – ‘E-waste’ recycling innovator faces prison for trying to extend life span of PCs

February 15, 2018 – What to Give Up for Lent? Smoking? Cursing? How About Plastic?

February 15, 2018 – Extreme poverty in America: read the UN special monitor’s report

February 15, 2018 – Michigan tax tribunal sees case on solar energy systems

February 15, 2018 – Greening Mardi Gras: Recycling effort targets parade trash

February 13, 3018 – As electric vehicles gain favor, utilities can accelerate EV adoption

February 13, 2018 – Local environmental groups react to Governor Snyder’s refusal to shut down Line 5

February 12, 2018 – Trump Administration Wants To Decide What Food SNAP Recipients Will Get

February 12, 2018 – Living Sustainably: Awards event honors Lakeshore sustainability stars

February 12, 2018 – Q&A: How is the growth of bitcoin affecting the environment?

February 11, 2018 – Local First awards Holland businesses, nonprofits

February 8, 2018 – Places Where Americans Live the Most Balanced Lifestyles (Grand Rapids Area is listed at #1)

February 8, 2018 – EPA’s Scott Pruitt asks whether global warming ‘necessarily is a bad thing’

February 8, 2018 – Our Kids Can Save The Planet — If We Teach Them How

February 8, 2018 – Holland residents discuss sustainable policing efforts

February 8, 2018 – Holland Energy Park allows for snow melt expansion and a lesson on sustainable energy

February 7, 2018 – Meijer Simply Give Program Set Record Year: At Least 84.8M Meals

February 7, 2018 – Why feedback loops are one of the most troubling parts of global warming

February 6, 2018 – Ottawa County Accepting Applications for Farmland Preservation

February 6, 2018 – How climate change is endangering the Winter Olympics

February 6, 2018 – $2.1M Economic Development Administration grant to aid local businesses

February 6, 2018 – App lets Californians collect cash for saving energy

February 5, 2018 – Living Sustainably: Sowmelt sustains a healthier Holland

February 5, 2018 – Holland Receives Distinguished Budget Presentation Award

February 5, 2018 – Florida Keys to raise roads before climate change puts them underwater. It won’t be cheap

February 5, 2018 – Climate change could be bad for your coffee

February 5, 2018 – Biodegradable Plastics: Yes or No?

February 4, 2018 – Sticky piles of toxic PFAS foam plaguing Michigan lake

February 4, 2018 – Top trends to inspire your outdoor living

February 4, 2018 – Take a trip with DeGraaf Nature Center

February 4, 2018 – New research tackles Great Lakes regional problems

February 4, 2018 – Esther J. Cepeda: Your children need your unplugged attention

February 4, 2018 – Area businesses, governments adding solar panels

February 2, 2018 – Paper, bamboo, Twizzlers: Restaurants consider alternatives to the plastic straw

February 1, 2018 – Michigan Survey Finds Strong Bipartisan Support For Solar 

February 1, 2018 – Here’s How Trump’s Tariffs Will Hurt Solar Growth

February 1, 2018 – On the Road with Rick Holmes: Holding off extinction

February 1, 2018 – Local First to hold LocalMotion Awards

February 1, 2018 – Solar Helps Boost Renewables to Another Record Year

February 1, 2018 – Local Partners Developing Real-Time Watershed Monitoring System for Project Clarity

February 1, 2018 – Ottawa County Parks paves way for 35-mile pathway from lakeshore to Grand Rapids

Living Sustainably: Hope College’s RecycleMania limits landfill waste

By Karen Frink, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute Intern

In a new twist on a basketball game, Hope College recently participated in RecycleMania, a competition between college and university recycling programs to see which can produce the least amount of waste. The GameDay Challenge looks to keep out of the landfill as much waste as possible produced during a single sporting event.
The winner was environmental sustainability.
Abigail Jeavons, co-president of the Hope Advocates for Sustainability student group, began planning to introduce RecycleMania to Hope after noticing it was a common practice at many colleges that are highly ranked for environmental activism. She believed that the GameDay Challenge would be the best step to help educate the campus about where waste goes.
RecycleMania encourages colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity to improve their programs over time. It aims to generate attention and support for campus recycling programs and to motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation through a fair and friendly competition.
Hope College participated in RecycleMania during the last men’s home basketball game, on Feb. 17 against Albion College. Scattered throughout the concourse of DeVos Fieldhouse were waste-sorting stations manned by volunteers to help direct recyclables, compostable material, and landfill waste into the proper receptacles.
Thanks to the participation of the 3,324 fans and the sorting efforts of the volunteers, the total waste collected for the basketball game was a 2-cubic- yard dumpster of compostable material, five bags of recycling – and just one bag of waste to be sent to the landfill!
Over the past few years, the Hope College Dining Services has made a conscious effort to switch to biodegradable food containers for take-out foods. This includes but is not limited to items such as plates, napkins, cups and lids, eating utensils, and even straws.
“I noticed genuine interest from some (fans), as opposed to simply going through the motions because they had no other option. I specifically remember someone thanked us sincerely and told us that he usually brought his waste home to compost himself,” said Tyler Gargala, a senior Hope Advocate for Sustainability team member.
The success of the event stems from the collaborative efforts of Hope Advocates for Sustainability, Hope College Green Team, Hope College’s Physical Plant Department, Hope College Dining Services, as well as the college athletic department.
“I would love to see Hope as a campus become more involved in RecycleMania, not just the sustainability groups, but see the students across campus get excited about it,” Jeavons said. “We have the infrastructure there. It’s just a matter of connecting people and getting people to volunteer their time. I would love to see us move forward.”

To learn more about sustainability at Hope College visit
 Karen Frink is a junior at Hope College and intern at the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute.

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: Careerline Tech EcoLeaders Tackle Plastic Pollution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Living Sustainably: Awards event honors Lakeshore sustainability stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Event photos can be found here.

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

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Economic Development: The business and local consumer are the driving engines to generate capital for growth and development. We want to be a location of choice for new businesses and industry.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Living Sustainably: No Snow, Snow Kidding!

By Michelle Gibbs, Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute

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

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

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

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

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

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

WZZM 13 News Segment on Holland’s Snowmelt

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

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

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

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Transportation: The movement of people, goods, and services within the area links us to our regional, national and global networks.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.