Living Sustainably: Two events will celebrate the works of Wendell Berry

By Mary Huisman and Peter Boogaart, Creation Care Group
The thoughts and works of Wendell Berry, among the greatest living American writers, will be the focus of two special events in Holland on Sept. 13 and 14.
A writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction essays, Berry examines both community and nature, reflecting on their relationship and on issues such as our impact on the environment, the impact of industrial agriculture, and preservation of rural communities.
The first event is a film and panel discussion about Berry’s work at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 13 at Hope Church, 77 W. 10th St. in Holland.
The second event is a retreat for participants to explore Berry’s lifetime of work as a writer, farmer and activist. It will be 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Outdoor Discover Center, 4214 56th St., Holland.
While the events are related, they also stand independent of one another. The public is invited to attend either event or both. There is no charge for the film. Cost of the Saturday retreat is $25, and space is limited; registration is available on Eventbrite.

The Friday evening event will be a showing of the film “Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.” A panel discussion will follow the film, with panelists Steve Bouma-Prediger, professor of religion at Hope College; Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary; and Andy Rosendaal, curator of Eighth Day Farms.
“Look and See” is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of Berry. Through his award- winning poetry, fiction, and non-fiction essays, Berry is a prophetic voice winsomely calling us to live in ways that honor our calling to be earthkeepers of our home planet.
“Look and See” is filmed in the rolling hills of Henry Country, Kentucky, where Berry has lived and farmed since 1964. It weaves Berry’s poetry with gorgeous cinematography and the testimonies of family and neighbors.
The Saturday retreat, “Look, See and Listen,” will explore Berry’s lifetime of writings – poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction – with a focus on rest and delight. Berry fans are invited to bring a favorite quote and/or poem. People new to the work of Wendell Berry are invited to bring their desire to learn more. 
In 1965, Berry astonished colleagues and critics when he left the publishing epicenter of New York to return home to Port Royal, Kentucky. He and his wife, Tanya, bought a small farmhouse and began a life of farming, writing and teaching.
This lifelong relationship with both the land and community would come to form the core of his prolific writings.
A half century later Henry County, like many rural communities across America, has become a place of quiet ideological struggle. In the span of a generation, the agrarian virtues of simplicity, land stewardship, sustainable farming, local economies and rootedness to place have been replaced by a capital-intensive model of industrial agriculture characterized by machine labor, chemical fertilizers, soil erosion and debt – all of which have frayed the fabric of rural communities.
The public is invited to bring their perspectives, thoughts and comments to both event. Registration for both events is available on Eventbrite or by emailing maryhuisman47@gmail.com.
 Mary Huisman is a member of the Creation Care Group of Grace Episcopal Church in Holland. Peter Boogaart leads the Macatawa Creation Care Group that meets at Hope Church in Holland. Both are also involved in the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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.

About this Series  
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Holland’s Energy-Saving Trees Program nets 300 plantings

By Morgan Kelley, Holland Board of Public Works
The Holland Board of Public Works partnered with the City of Holland this past April to provide the Energy-Saving Trees Program, a project that netted 300 new trees in the community.
Developed by the Arbor Day Foundation, the Energy-Saving Trees Program educates homeowners about the energy-saving benefits of strategic tree planting. Holland is the first place it was run in Michigan. The program has an online mapping tool that allows individuals to see their property and utility lines, select a species, and position it in an optimal spot.
Through the project, Board of Public Works electric customers planted 300 trees in strategic locations in yards across the Holland community to save energy and lower utility bills.
The program proved to be very successful with 90 percent of surveyed participants likely to recommend the program to a friend or colleague. Participants were pleased with the ease of selecting their tree species and placement in their yards using the online tool.
Participants’ reasons why they would recommend the program include: the excellent health of the trees provided, how easy the planting instructions were to follow, increased energy efficiency in the long- term, helping the environment, beautifying landscapes, and benefiting the Holland community overall.
In addition to recommending the program, over 95 percent of surveyed participants reported that thei tree is healthy and growing or else leafy and starting to grow.
Also, participants found the online tool informative for matters such as avoiding overhead utility lines, avoiding underground utility lines, planting in a location that reduces energy consumption, learning about the benefits that trees provide, including energy savings, stormwater filtration, air pollution absorption, and carbon sequestration.
The carbon sequestration benefit helps drive Holland’s Community Energy Plan metric of cutting per capita greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.
When asked about overall experience, 50 percent of participants expressed that they now have a more positive view about planting trees, and over 70 percent feel that they made their community a better place by planting a tree.
The City of Holland’s goal is to have 36 percent tree canopy. It currently is at 24 percent. Private property plantings have been, and will continue to be, vital in reaching this goal.
Participating in Energy-Saving Trees is a way that residents can help. The Holland Board of Public Works and the City of Holland plan to run the program in 2020, so be sure to check the Board of Public Works website in February to reserve your tree!
 Morgan Kelley is conservation programs specialist at Holland Board of Public Works and leads the residential energy waste reduction programs.

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.

About this Series  
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Tree benefits branch far out

By Zoe Gum, Alec Berrodin and Katelyn DeWitt, Hope College Biology Students

Hope College biology students (left to right) Katelyn DeWitt, Zoe Gum and Alec Berrodin know the value of trees.

How much is that tree in your front yard worth? Sure, you might cash in once on its lumber value – or you could treat it as a long-term investment.
In the latter case, the value will grow tremendously as the tree ages and provides more ecosystem services, or benefits to its ecosystem. The mature tree will have a larger root system intercepting more water, more carbon-storing wood, and a larger canopy providing more shade and wind protection. Carbon sequestration, drought and flood mitigation, energy savings, and pollution removal are some of the other ways that trees provide important benefits to us.
In fact, trees on public property in Holland save the equivalent of $190,200 annually.
Our research project with the Hope College Biology Department began last year with the goal of understanding the benefits that the trees in Holland are providing. We have now done a census of most trees on Hope’s campus, Windmill Island, and public property for a total of 13,784 trees and 171 different species!
First, we measured the diameter at breast height (DBH) for each tree, which gives an estimate of tree size.

This chart shows the total annual benefits in dollars per year of public-area trees in Holland, including benefits from carbon sequestration, avoided runoff, pollution removal, and energy savings.

To determine ecosystem benefits, we used iTree software created by the USDA Forest Service. This program uses local weather and pollution data as well as tree DBH and species to determine the value of each tree’s benefits.
For example, a sugar maple with a DBH of 15 inches provides $32.11 in total benefits each year.
That maple reduces 33.5 cubic feet of stormwater runoff every year by intercepting precipitation with its canopy. It also absorbs and retains water through its vast root system. And this same maple also removes 14.07 ounces of pollutants every year when particulate matter sticks to leaf surfaces. Benefits like these continue to increase as each tree grows.
Both Hope College and the City of Holland have been intentional about this investment. Holland has been a Tree City USA for 39 years, and in 2019, Hope College was recognized as a Tree Campus USA for being sustainable, making an effort to plant new trees every year, and for replacing trees that are removed.
To involve the community in this effort, the data from this project have been used by a group of four students working with Professor Michael Jipping from the Hope College Computer Science Department to develop an app called TreeSap.
This app collects the user’s location and pinpoints the nearest tree in our database. That tree’s unique ecosystem services data are then provided to the user. In the future, users will be able to add trees, contributing to our growing database.
One of our goals is to raise awareness for the essentially “free” ecosystem services provided by trees that people often take for granted. Ultimately, encouraging people to connect with nature is going to be the best way to develop the ethic that will allow us to solve environmental problems together.

 Zoe Gum, Alec Berrodin, Katelyn DeWitt are biology students at Hope College. Zoe is a junior biology and philosophy double major from Traverse City. Alec is a senior biology major from Grand Rapids. And Katelyn is a junior biology major and geology minor from Holland.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Healthy home and healthy world go hand-in-hand

By Cait Seppo, Seppo Chiropractic

Eating good foods and carrying your produce in reusable bags are both ways to improve your health and the health of the planet.

Single-use plastic is an issue I’ve become extremely conscious about in my life. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t even start over a concern for our planet. It was, in fact, my passion for all things health and wellness that led me down this road.
It all started with a reusable water bottle because filtered tap water is significantly cleaner than bottled, and I didn’t have to worry about plastic leaching into my water. That led to a reusable coffee cup for similar reasons, followed by a reusable straw.
I then found myself switching to reusable beeswax wrap instead of plastic, farmer’s market purchases with my reusable produce bags instead of single-use plastic bags, bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic, and glass bottles filled with homemade house cleaners instead of conventional cleaners. Every step taken was another small step to better my health – and the health of the planet.
It’s well known now that BPA and phthalates are endocrine disruptors but are found in plastic products ranging toys to shampoos to food packaging. And it doesn’t stop there.

Carrying reusable utensils is a choice that can help cut down the use of plastics, leading to a more sustainable and healthy life.

Much of the plastic accumulating in our water supplies is from single-use plastics, and they never breakdown. The microbeads of plastic are being consumed by the wildlife we’re eating, meaning we’re exposing our bodies in more ways than we realize.
The good news is that making changes that are good for our health is also good for our environment. This journey has led me to become aware of so many environmental issues facing our planet and how wasteful we truly are in the name of convenience.
Taking small steps every day has helped me create changes that are sustainable for both myself and the environment. It doesn’t hurt that all of these changes have saved me money as well. Companies offer discounts for bringing your own bags or cups and purchasing reusable items ensures I don’t have to make
those recurring purchases again.

Using reusable packaging for lunches and snacks reduces the dangerous use of plastics in our society and can save money, as well.

Being conscious to choose reusable over single-use can take time. Choosing to do dishes instead of using plastic or to bring your own bags can seem like an inconvenience at first. But the long-term benefits far outweigh any cost.
Everyone’s journey is their own, but making these changes will benefit your health, our planet, and your checking account. It truly is a win in every category.

 Dr. Cait Seppo is a health and wellness expert, former D1 athlete and chiropractor at Seppo Chiropractic. She has a passion for all things health and wellness, helping people reach their full potential, and anything involving puppies.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: How ‘Green’ is Your Coffee?

By Tom Bultman, Hope College

Sustainability efforts are focused on recovering and reusing the substantial volume of water that is required to ferment coffee in the wet processing phase.

Many of us enjoy a “cup of Joe” in the morning. For some of us, it’s a prerequisite for productive work. All total, over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day, mostly in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Many of us enjoy this daily ritual without much thought as to where the beans came from or how they were produced and processed. Given the economic, social, and environmental footprint of this widely traded commodity – it is the second-most valuable export of developing countries – we would do well to take a minute to consider aspects of the supply side of coffee before indulging.
The global average water footprint of eight ounces of coffee is 34 gallons! Most of this is used during washing the beans, which are actually seeds that are removed from cherry fruits produced by the coffee tree.

Coffee farming can also reduce biodiversity; most of the world’s crop is produced on monoculture farms. Further, coffee is also impacted by unsustainable practices that foster global climate change. Yet, issues of unsustainability go far beyond the environmental sector.
Coffee is traded on the global market, including contracts for future purchase. It is thus open to speculators. This and fluctuations in supply and demand result in a highly volatile commodity price. This puts producers and their families at risk. Most coffee is grown by small producers; 12.5 million small land owners worldwide rely on coffee for a living.
The difficulties of producing coffee to support a family are considerable. A labor-intensive endeavor supplies only one annual paycheck. A major challenge is making ends meet during the “thin months” before the next payment from the coffee harvest. The reality is that many coffee producers earn less from coffee than their annual spending needs. Poverty leads to hunger and malnutrition, and malnourished children suffer educational and health deficits that entrench farm families in generational poverty.
Many in the coffee industry are aware of these issues, and some have offered recommendations on how to overcome them. One group, the Specialty Coffee Association, recently published a white paper on the topic, with various ideas.
One avenue of intervention they proposed is to provide farmers with support and assistance to maximize food production potential and attain a balanced diet. This generally takes the form of helping small-scale farmers diversify their farming to grow crops their family can consume. This can include planting fruit trees that provide harvest during the lean months when crops traditionally grown by coffee farmers, like beans and corn, are not in harvest season.
It can also include providing technical improvements in food storage, like silos for grains, to protect a post-harvest crop.

Beekeeping is being introduced in Latin America to offer coffee farmers additional means of support to rise out of hunger and poverty.

A successful example of this recommendation is Pueblo a Pueblo, an organization that implemented an Organic School Garden Project. Children and parents clear rocks and trees, construct vegetable beds, and erect composting bins. Children plant and maintain the garden. The project not only provides nutritious food, it is also integrated into the curriculum with lessons on biology, chemistry, environmental science, public health, and social studies.
Started at one Guatemalan school in 2011, it has grown to six schools growing more than 38 varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit trees. To get involved visit, http://www.puebloapueblo.org/.
A second recommendation of the Specialty Coffee Association white paper is to support livelihood diversification by providing multiple sources of income and food. This often takes the form of training growers in beekeeping and animal husbandry. Honey provides income while livestock enhance diets with needed protein and also provide manure to enrich compost.
An example is the organization Food 4 Farmers. It provides useful information to prospective beekeepers. The bees have the added benefit of improving coffee cherry ripening as well as size and uniformity of the crop. And, beekeeping does not require much land. To get involved visit http://food4farmers.org/our-projects/beekeeping-in-latin-america/.
Another recommendation from the Specialty Coffee Association is to increase industry awareness and action. This can take many forms, but the goal should be to educate and motivate those in the industry to promote sustainability. As consumers, we are part of this equation. An example of such an effort is the
film, “After the Harvest” (http://aftertheharvestorg.blogspot.com/). Viewing it might just change the way you think about coffee.
So, given the situation, what can you do?
Well, you could of course, donate to the organizations listed above and others like them. You could also try to become, if you are not already, an educated consumer. Do you know where the coffee you’re drinking comes from? How it was produced? Some coffee carries with it certifications, like Far Trade, Organic, Bird-Friendly, Rainforest Alliance.
While these are good initiatives, they still do not necessarily allow small-scale farmers to pay for their annual expenses. Many coffee shops and roasters post where their coffee comes from and details about the farms and the farmers that produced the beans. This sort of connection with the source not only gives you information about the quality of the coffee, but can also help inform you of the shop or roaster’s mission concerning sustainability.
Often shops with direct relationships with producers pay far above the commodity price for beans and thus help small-scale farmers make a sustainable living growing coffee. Many shops make sustainability a clear priority and proudly display this.
The next time you visit a shop, ask the barista about the beans and the farm that produced them. If she/he cannot give you an answer, that could tell you something.
 Dr. Tom Bultman is a professor of biology at Hope College and teaches invertebrate zoology, biology of insects and general biology I.  Bultman also directs the Hope College greenhouse and is an associate editor for the peer reviewed Elsevier journal, Fungal Ecology.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Innovation and growth talk grows louder

By Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage

Coffee shop chats about business startups, as seen here between Matt Gira, left, and Garrick Pohl, help create a vibrant, sustainable business climate. Photo by Jennifer Owens.

When I left my economic development role in Ann Arbor, one of the things I missed the most professionally was overhearing entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to potential investors at coffee shops, oftentimes, college kids talking about a new technology they had started at U-M’s lab. Sometimes I would interrupt if I could add value. Other times, I would just smile and enjoy the energy.
To me this energy is the measure of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. You can see it, hear and feel it. Sometimes you couldn’t resist interrupting just to be part of it.

Recently, I was at Ferris Coffee. As I looked around and listened in, I heard Matt Gira sharing his business model for FounderCo with Garrick Pohl. Garrick is a serial entrepreneur working on a new technology startup, Innerprise. After Matt pitched, Garrick pitched Matt on integrating his technology into his company.

I am not sure if a match was made between the two, but I had to interrupt this conversation and tell them how encouraged I was to hear their discussion. I felt it, and I saw it. The energy is here. Our ecosystem is beginning to thrive.

Amanda Chocko, director of SURGE, chats with two members who support Holland’s startup ecosystem, Daniel Morrison, of Collective Idea, and Pete Hoffswell, of Holland BPW Fiber.

SURGE, powered by Lakeshore Advantage, is a one-stop resource for West Michigan entrepreneurs with startup companies in early and idea-stage growth. Offering startups navigation, connection and support helps grow the primary businesses of tomorrow, fosters a culture of innovation and makes ours a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that attracts top technical talent. People want to live where new ideas thrive.

Allegan and Ottawa counties are two of the fastest growing counties in Michigan, with Ottawa County leading the state at a clip of 10 percent population growth since 2010. People are choosing to live in West Michigan, and 69 percent of primary employers we interviewed last year have plans to grow here in the next three years. For four years in a row, WalletHub has named Holland the Best Small City to Start a Business.

As we continue to look forward to ensure long-term economic success, we need to be a welcoming community accepting of new ideas, new residents and a place where innovation and the workforce of today and tomorrow can thrive.

The Lakeshore Advantage team has fun supporting a vibrant business community in the Holland area, here with Matt Gira, local entrepreneur and founder of FounderCo, and David Wang, founder of the startup Honey Batcher.

How do we create our desired picture for our community’s future, and how do we improve? We watch. We listen. We analyze the data. We pay attention and invest time, energy and resources to fill the gaps. We encourage. We lead.

In our community, I am very encouraged to see diversity and inclusion efforts at public and private sector organizations growing so that people feel welcome. Leaders are making strides to increase housing inventory at all workforce income levels. Business and community leaders support our primary employers of tomorrow through their invaluable involvement as mentors, investors, encouragers and in countless other ways.

Through this entrepreneurial support, we continue the legacy of embracing innovation and new ideas and make ours a place where entrepreneurs are successful at creating a profitable business around the next big idea. These actions address sustainability at the roots – ensuring current and future generations want to live and work in our vibrant economy.

When you listen, what do you hear? Encourage the good, and take action to fill the gaps you see to make ours a sustainable community with a bright future.

 Jennifer Owens is president of Lakeshore Advantage, a regional non-profit economic development organization whose passion is to ensure good jobs in a vibrant economy for current and future generations.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Green Commute Day – UPDATE Tuesday, July 23

No photo description available.

****UPDATE: Green Commute Day is moving to Tuesday, July 23rd due to the extreme heat expected on Friday****

The fun doesn’t have to end in May! In addition to Green Commute Week, the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC) is announcing various Green Commute Days throughout the year. Unlike Green Commute Week, no registration is required and each person must participate as an individual.

To participate, all you have to do is:  Leave your car at home and choose green transportation for any or all of your trips for the day whether it be to work, the beach, or anywhere else!  Log your miles on the day of the event by 5pm.

Each person who logs their miles will be entered to win a prize. Plus, logging your miles allows MACC to calculate total mileage and air quality benefits!

Log your miles here on July 19 by 5pm.

 

Living Sustainably: Energy efficiency upgrades create comfort, savings and healthier homes

By Ken Freestone, City of Holland
Although we had a late start to summer, is your home already too hot – especially that second or third floor? Now think back just several months ago. Remember how cold some of your rooms were during the Polar Vortex?
A Home Energy Upgrade could solve many of those issues, whether cold or hot.
The Home Energy Retrofit program through the City of Holland has several ways to assist homeowners, including landlords (for up to four-plexes), to make homes more comfortable all year long, help you save on energy costs, and also make homes healthier and safer. In addition, homes that have been retrofitted and upgraded and then certified usually see a 5 percent increase in value at time of sale compared to non-certified homes.

Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit program helps city residents save 10 percent on home energy improvements.

The Home Energy Retrofit program is sponsored through the City of Holland, the Holland Board of Public Works, and the Holland Energy Fund. It is available to all homeowners in the City of Holland.
The Home Energy Retrofit program provides a 10 percent grant towards home energy upgrades plus low-interest, on-bill financing through the Holland BPW or through Michigan Saves, a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to low-interest energy efficiency loans.

A blower door like this is part of the equipment used in a complete home energy audit to help measure the energy efficiency of a home.

For homeowners living outside the city limits, there are some other incentives through the Holland BPW and Semco Energy.
So how do you get started? The first step is to get a complete energy audit on your home by a certified building performance professional in our program. These audits are conducted using scientific tools to measure data and then compile a detailed report on the condition of your home. If you have had some kind of “walk-through,” clipboard audit in the past you have gotten only a small snapshot of the true condition of your home.
A complete home performance audit provides a clear picture of the energy related conditions of your home and also provides a road-map for the highest and lowest priorities for upgrade. Audits are free for city residents.
The audit will also help you understand the highest and best return on your upgrade investment, including how to understand some of the advertising out there.

Appropriate insulation installed through Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit program can make upstairs spaces cooler in the summer and warmer in winter.

For example, before you jump up and say, “I need windows,” let us help you understand that windows are lowest on the list of energy saving priorities. There are good reasons to replace windows, such as if they are broken, rotted, or inoperable, but they are the most expensive in the energy upgrade process and have an approximate 20- to 70-year payback for energy savings.
The really good news is that some of the most effective measures in an energy retrofit are also some of the least expensive.

Icicles like this are a good sign your home has energy issues that could be addressed before next winter.

So, how to get started? The City of Holland is hosting a free Home Energy Retrofit Open House from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Civic Center Place. Attendees can talk with HER auditors, homeowners who have retrofitted and upgraded their homes, contractors, city staff and local nonprofits that provide resources for income qualified households.
People may also contact Ken Freestone at the City of Holland for more details on getting an energy audit and to find out other resources available through the program.

 Ken Freestone is the residential energy advisor for the City of Holland. Ken can be reached at k.freestone@cityofholland.com or (616)355-1364.

If You Go
What: Home Energy Retrofit Open House
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Monday, July 15
Where: Civic Center Place
Why: A free event to explore resources for saving home energy costs

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Contamination disrupts recycling efforts

Holland city and Republic Services personnel sorted sample loads of trash to determine how much material was and wasn’t being properly recycled.

By Aaron Thelenwood, City of Holland
There is a lot of negative press lately regarding the current state of recycling, as wider geopolitical pressures have strained the overall recycling system, creating impacts felt at the local level.
As a result, more recyclable materials are finding their way into landfills rather than being sent abroad. Also, certain materials are being left out of the recycling equation entirely (previously foam products had been excluded, now glass, and some communities are also moving away from certain plastics). And, some communities across the U.S. and Michigan are suspending their recycling programs.

Compounding all of this is confusion related to the types of materials which are accepted curbside, a list which at times seems to change daily. Today, we’d like to walk you through a few key points to ease some concerns and frustrations, and to provide a clearer understanding of the current state of recycling.
1. What’s going on? China was a major disruptor, which cannot be overstated. The majority of the world’s materials were going to that one market, and China shutting its doors fundamentally changed the recycling ecosystem.
2. What happened? In a word: Contamination. For the better part of a decade, China had been voicing concerns over the poor quality of materials it was receiving due to contamination, leading to ecological issues the country had to struggle with.
3. What is contamination? Contamination is anything which doesn’t belong in the recycling stream – from greasy pizza boxes and half full mayo jars to plastic films, textiles, or carpeting.
Those changed policies in China have produced great challenges for the U.S., and for us in Holland, but also new opportunities. These silver linings include:
1. The Michigan Office of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (formerly the DEQ) is investing more in recycling infrastructure now than it has over the last 30 years. It has established annual funding to the tune of $5.7 million for development of regional recycling markets, recycling infrastructure investment, and community education.
2. Even as recycling programs are more strained, public support for recycling continues to increase. Residents are demanding ongoing access, creating market demand for recycling services. Also, commercial recycling continues to steadily improve as companies become more conscious of the need to decrease their landfill material streams. Locally, we have great examples in Herman Miller, Haworth, and Steelcase who are effectively “zero waste” to landfills.
3. Although China created a substantial market disruption, it has also refocused everyone’s attention on recycling correctly and on system inefficiencies.
With that said, there will continue to be ups and downs, but by following a few key steps, we can all do our part to drive down contamination rates and increase the success of our recycling efforts locally.
(See sidebar on how and what to recycle.)
The City of Holland will continue to monitor the current state of the city’s material stream to identify opportunities for improvement. The city’s 2018 waste Characterization Audit data is available at:  https://www.cityofholland.com/solidwasteandrecycling/waste-characterization-audit-2018


Further, the city’s Materials Management Taskforce is working to compare the city’s Yellow Bag recycling program to other standard recycling models. The goal of this taskforce’s work is to establish the City of Holland as a recycling leader both regionally and beyond.

  Want to know more about Recycling at Hope College?  Click here.

 Aaron Thelenwood is solid waste and recycling education coordinator for Holland.

Much Material is Not Recycled
The city survey found large amounts of potentially recyclable materials are not being recycled. This is percentage being recycled of the total material in the waste stream.
Paper 60 percent
Cardboard 45 percent
Mixed Glass 40 percent
Metal (ferrous) 28 percent
Mixed plastics 26 percent
Metal (non-ferrous) 8 percent

SIDEBAR:  Here’s How and What to Recycle Properly
The “how”
1. Clean, clean, clean! Make sure all containers are empty, clean, and dry! Empty means nothing inside; clean means no visual contaminants (but no need to run the dishwasher), and dry means dry.
2. Back to Basics. Only recycle what is specifically listed. In the past, recycling programs added more and more to the list of acceptable materials, which created confusion from one program to the next. It also led to the phenomenon known as “Aspirational Recycling” – the practice of trying to recycle something that seems recyclable, but is one of the major causes of contamination in recycling systems.
3. When in doubt throw it out. This may seem counterproductive and hard advice to swallow. But keep in mind that one wrong item in the recycling stream has a bigger detrimental impact than one recyclable material sent to the landfill. If you don’t know if something recyclable, err on the side of caution and toss it.
The “What”
1. Paper: Newsprint, office paper, junk mail, magazines.
2. Cardboard: Amazon boxes, the clean half of your pizza box, cereal boxes.
3. Plastic Containers (#1-7): “Containers” is key. No films, no “recyclable” plastic shipping envelopes (even if it has a number), no zip lock bags, and no plastic grocery bags. (Many of these items can be recycled through separate, specific third-party recyclers, but you might need to do some research.
4. Metal: ferrous (steel) and non-ferrous (aluminum).
5. (Maybe) Glass: The future of glass curbside is uncertain. Currently it is not accepted curbside and, over the past five-plus years, most recyclers were stockpiling the material, hoping the markets would return. So far, they have not, but innovative uses for glass are being explored – so hopefully more to come on that!
Remember: Don’t contaminate the stream. When in doubt, throw it out.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES  
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.

Living Sustainably: Michigan offers excellent outdoor adventures

By Zach Terpstra, Hope College Outdoor Adventure Club
With summer now in full swing, the desire to escape civilization and explore all that Michigan has to offer has never been greater.
But where-oh-where to go?
Never fear – the following are fan favorites of seasoned Michigander adventurers! Tried and tested by Hope College’s Outdoor Adventure Club, these three areas provide stunning, amazing experiences for both outdoor novices and experts alike.
Manistee River Trail Loop – This recreation area in the upper Lower Peninsula offers jaw-dropping, unparalleled views. It offers 22 miles of trail following the banks of the Manistee River, so make sure to bring a fair amount of food for two days of hiking.  A best practice is to tackle this trail with others to enjoy the views together.

The Manistee River Trail offers a multi-day hike opportunity easily accessible in Lower Michigan.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – This jewel of the north, along the south shore of Lake Superior, is one of the greatest places Michigan has to offer. The picturesque views are exceeded only by what lies ahead, just around the corner on the trail!  This area is massive, and while advertisements attempt to sway you to take a boat tour, the most long-lasting experience comes from hiking along this
lakeshore, allowing you to be fully immersed in this beautiful park.

The scenery of the Pictured Rocks offers great rewards of scenery from shore, not just from boats.

Porcupine Mountains State Park – The only “mountains” in Michigan, in the western Upper Peninsula, create scenic views which can captivate almost any passerby, no matter how addicted to your smartphone you may be.  Cabins are nestled in the heart of this area, so make sure to take a few extra days off to give yourself ample time to explore all of this park, as it hides many waterfalls near its trails.

The highest points in Michigan, in the western Upper Peninsula, offer amazing views and waterfalls for those willing to hike a bit.

As you go on your summer adventures and enjoy these natural areas, remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles. Doing so preserves the beauty of the parks and protects the ecosystems.

Image result for practice leave no trace principlesThe seven principles of Leave No Trace are: Planning ahead, camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. You can learn more about the essentials of Leave No Trace at www.lnt.org.

Finally, whether you are camping, backpacking, or just taking day hikes, here are some tips to get you started:

 Always stay on marked trails and campsites to prevent erosion and protect vegetation.
 Plan ahead what food you will bring and how you will dispose of waste. For instance, pack a few gallon-sized Ziploc bags to put trash in.
 Only make fires in designated areas and fire rings.
 Remember to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”

Enjoy exploring Michigan’s outdoors!

 Zach Terpstra has been on the leadership team for the Hope College Outdoor Adventure Club for three years.  While he enjoys the crazy adventures he personally goes on, the opportunity to share these experiences and inspire others to be outside is what drives him.

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.

ABOUT THIS SERIES
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 www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.