Living Sustainably: Social diversity enhances area’s sustainability

By Alice Jasper, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance
As we endeavor to build a sustainable Lakeshore community, we must consider all the elements of sustainability, including social diversity.
When people hear the word “sustainable,” they most typically think of environmental conservation and advocacy. However, when business author John Elkington coined the term “triple bottom line” in 1994 – also referred to as “people, planet, profit” – he maintained that a successful sustainability
framework is contingent on measuring economic, environmental and social impact.

Area students explore themes of diversity and inclusion at a recent Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance workshop.

Environmental and economic outcomes have been easier to measure, and so the social bottom line –the people element – has not been examined to the same degree as those other two legs of the triple bottom line.
As the rate of demographic change continues to climb, it is important that we make intentional strides to genuinely embrace diversity and foster an inclusive community to strengthen our sustainability.
According to the United States Office of Personnel Management, 54 percent of Americans will be people of color by the year 2050. The Lakeshore region is no exception and is presently home to residents of a variety of races, ethnicities, faiths and cultures.
History has demonstrated that differences foster innovation, creativity, broader perspectives and growth. To foster these possibilities on the Lakeshore, we must embrace diversity and inclusion. To do that, we must challenge ourselves to understand the barriers that perpetuate inequities and exclusion.

Several upcoming events offer Lakeshore residents an opportunity to expand their cultural competency:
 The Interfaith Allies group will host “Know Your Muslim Neighbor” at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Hope College’s Graves Hall. A cross-section of Muslim panelists will speak about their experiences as Lakeshore community members. This is the first session of a series offering the opportunity for residents to meet neighbors of different faith perspectives.
 The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance will host its next Allies Working for Racial Justice and Environmental Progress meeting at Herrick District Library at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6. This grassroots effort promotes equitable West Michigan communities through collaborative efforts in racial equity, gender equity, LGBTQ equity, immigration policy, environmental protection, interfaith relations, and equitable healthcare.
 The Holland Human Relations Commission is accepting nominations for its 2017 Social Justice Awards recognizing individuals and organizations in categories of housing, education, employment and government/community relations. Mail nominations to the city Human Relations Department at City Hall or to by Nov. 15.

By promoting social equity, we promote inclusion and a wealth of opportunities for our communities to thrive, attract and retain talent, generate creative strategies for growth, and develop solutions for complex institutional problems.
For more information on these or other events, go to or follow LEDA on Facebook or Twitter.
 As associate program director at Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Alice Jasper integrates equity related research and her passion for community engagement with consulting strategies designed to dismantle systemic racial barriers.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme:
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

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.