Living Sustainably: Know your Landscape for Environmental Engagement

LIVING SUSTAINABLY:  Know your Landscape for Environmental Engagement

By Ken Freestone,

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,, 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, a website of resources and information for living more sustainably.


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.



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