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: 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

Living Sustainably: Solar system is a first for city retrofit project

By Peter Boogaart, City of Holland

Roy and Mary Cole’s 26 th Street home is the first to install solar panels through the city’s Home Energy Retrofit program.

Roy and Mary Cole have a long-standing interest in energy efficiency. “We’ve always done what we could to help the environment,” Roy said. So, when they moved into their new home on 26th Street, they set about making it the best it could be.
The most obvious change is to the landscaping. Roy and Mary developed an eye-catching remake of all the gardens and beds. Not so observable, however, is the work that Roy did inside. He went to work on the attics and basement, sealing up air leaks and insulating empty spaces. “I want this house to be as energy efficient as possible,” he said.
After doing all he could by himself, Roy brought in the GreenHome Institute for an evaluation. GreenHome evaluated all the building systems and processed the data using the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score system. The system scores a house’s energy efficiency on a scale from one to 10.
The Cole’s home rated an eight.

Solar panels are a later step in the energy efficiency process, after addressing more basic fixes such as insulation, air sealing, lighting and appliances.

Brett Little, GreenHome’s director, then referred the Coles to the City of Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit Program. Brett knew that a score of eight was the qualifying level for solar panels in the Holland program. “It made sense to me,” Roy said. “I’ve always wanted solar panels and this was the chance.”
The Holland program covers 10 percent of qualified energy efficiency improvement costs.
The Holland program brought in additional professional help. Ver Wys Home Improvement, one of the authorized contractors, inspected the home and made recommendations to further improve the air sealing and insulation. Hunter Energy Resources came on board to install the solar panels.
The Coles are a first in Holland.

Roy Cole is able to observe his system’s power generation through an app.

Homeowners working through the city and our residential energy advisor office have completed 78 projects so far, but the Cole’s project is the first using solar panels. An effective energy efficiency strategy moves through a series of steps. It is important in those steps to review all the home systems – air sealing, insulations, HVAC, hot water, appliances, lighting, and windows and doors.
Solar panels are considered only after doing everything possible through those previous steps to lower a home’s energy baseload. Solar panels are the icing on the cake.
In its Community Energy Plan, the City of Holland has a goal to become a world-class energy efficient city. Some 20 percent of energy used in the city goes into homes, and there is much room for improvement.
All residential property owners in the city, including landlords, are eligible to benefit from the expertise and rebates provided through the city’s Home Energy Retrofit program. Learn more at or call Holland Community & Neighborhood Services Department at (616) 355-1330.
 Peter Boogaart is the residential energy advisor for the City of Holland and assists homeowners with energy efficiency issues.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

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

Living Sustainably: Herrick District Library is Holland’s ‘third space’

By Andrea Goodall, Herrick District Library

If you walk into Herrick District Library any day of the week, you are likely to see rich and poor, young and old, people every hue of the rainbow.

In between home (the first space) and work (the second space) is the hangout (the third space). It’s a space where people come together to have a good time, share amongst themselves and learn from others.

Herrick District Library strives to be a third space for the Holland area.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg pioneered the idea of third spaces in 1989. Informal spaces where people gather over a cup of coffee or a common idea help create a sense of community, stabilize neighborhoods and advance community knowledge. They support a sustainable community.

At Herrick District Library (HDL), people can gather around a lunch from the café, use free Wi-Fi to access the world, study in quiet, isolated spaces, or meet to engage in dialogue in groups of five to 200.

Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore and HDL soon will explore topics as diverse as community policing, seed saving (in anticipation of HDL’s upcoming seed library project), environmental awareness through fly fishing and a Green Commute Expo ahead of the 2018 Green Commute Week. Look for more on those events soon.

What all these events share in common is the purpose of advancing community knowledge and improving quality of life in the Holland area.

The January series “Curious About …” will teach people about a number of technologies that can make the lives of those living with disabilities (and everyone) better. That includes hands-free technology and assistive devices, 3D printing, and free audio and braille books.

Also in January, the preschool fair will give parents of little ones an idea of resources the area has to offer.

The library always has story times for children from birth to 5 years old, instilling a love of language and learning at an early age and giving caregivers skills to teach literacy at home. A new, special needs adult story time is a half hour of fun books, songs and fellowship led by Camp Sunshine staff.

And consider that future leaders aren’t simply born; they are nurtured and grown. Herrick District Library’s Teen Advisory Board, Lakeshore Youth Leadership and Social Justice Club, whose members designed a program that brought together people from across generations to knit scarves for those in need, all work to that end.

And a new Kids Advisory Board will bring youth in third through fifth grades into the fold when it begins meeting in January.

HDL has just too many third space programs to list here, but find more about all these and other events at

— Andrea Goodell is the community relations associate at Herrick District Library.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme

Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.


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

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.

Living Sustainably: Equity and inclusion build sustainable communities

By Esther Fifelski, City of Holland
Racial equity, diversity and inclusion are vital to vibrant communities and build a culture of respect at all levels of the community.

But as members of a sustainable community, are we focused on transactional activities for the sake of activity? For example, are we having a community meeting as a result of an issue related to race, equity and inclusion, with no action plan to address the systemic problem?

Or, are we advocating for transformative change? Transformative change reaps organic change that is sustainable over time. It looks at systems and processes that created the problem. Transformative work changes the environment to fix the patterns that keep communities from experiencing vibrancy for all people.

Here are preliminary initiatives for organizations, businesses or other groups to help build a framework to work toward transformative change:

1. Communicate the vision of equity and inclusion in your vision and mission statement to members of your organization. If you do not address this in your vision or mission statement, you send a clear message to underserved communities that those issues are not important.

2. Articulate that vision’s importance in your training, literature and public relations program.

3. Hold your leadership accountable through the performance evaluation process. Whether you work for a private organization or government, elevate equity and inclusion in every area of your work. If you are a leader, model behavior that you wish to achieve.

4. Welcome dialogue. Having difficult conversations provides a place to start solving the problem. When we work together, we achieve better outcomes for all.

5. As you remove barriers and implement strategies, measure the outcomes and communicate outwardly. Learn from the mistakes and move on!

6. Name and celebrate success. Most people want to engage in successful initiatives.

7. Be patient. Meaningful results, for the most part, happen over time.  Transformative work is sacred work and builds the spirit of the community. This is not about entitlement; this is about working toward mutual benefit. Often times, we want someone else to do the work. Ultimately, we have responsibility to work for better outcomes. Transformative work requires all to engage.

Finally, use the spirit of civil discourse and mutual respect to have difficult conversations. Negotiation and mediation within communities is essential for positive outcomes. The reality of life is that sometimes you lose when you win. Sustainable outcomes may require negotiation.  Sustainable communities value equity and inclusion and leave a framework for the next generation!

 Esther Fifelski is human relations coordinator for the City of Holland.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme:
Quality of Life: The community, through governmental, religious, business and social organizations, makes decisions that contribute to its own well-being.

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