Living Sustainably: Climate strike encourages self-reflection, action

By Emma Bright ’18, Community Member
As I sat in the bay window of my Eighth Street apartment Friday, Sept. 20, I heard the clamor of voices from afar. As they drew closer, I made out the chant “We want climate justice!” being passionately yelled by a small but feisty group of youth climate protesters.
I did not know it as they picketed by, but I soon learned that from Sept. 20 through 27, roughly 4,638 events were scheduled in 139 countries in an effort to join people together for a Global Climate Strike. In New York alone, more than 1.1 million students cut class and marched on Friday.
At first, I felt a little wave of pride, it takes a lot of gusto to march down Eighth street on a Friday afternoon. However, what caught my attention next is what kept my thoughts spinning the following days. An older man sipping a beer on the patio yelling in response, “Then don’t buy rubber shoes!” I immediately scanned the protesters for any brands flagged for lacking environmental ethics, for a hint of hypocrisy in the marchers.

I also wondered, “Is all that gusto a hipster facade? They probably used disposable water bottles.”
My own judgment spiraled on. Assuming that the man was referencing the all-too-close-to-home Wolverine dumping debacle near Grand Rapids, I further found myself analyzing my personal environmental choices of the week.
As I consider myself to be quite environmentally conscious, I felt a wave of guilt as I remembered the moldy Tupperware of soup I found in the back of my fridge. I dumped it all in the trash instead of composting the soup and washing the container. I remembered the sweater I bought at one of the big box stores, probably unethically made. Why didn’t I save up for organic cotton?
How many straws have I used this month?  Was it selfish to blast my AC when I would have been only slightly warmer with the window open? I own two pairs of Chacos, so am I somewhat to blame for Wolverine’s waste disposal? Similar thoughts spiraled, and my own sustainable consciousness grew more guilt. 
Then it dawned on me. These kids marching for “climate justice” were not marching to inform me that I am a terrible person for buying rubber shoes or using a plastic straw on occasion.
Not to say one shouldn’t be aware of their own carbon footprint, but they were marching for justice – for the attention of Congress, for policy change, for the recognition of the global effects of climate change.
The climate change strike of 2019 is not a force to make you feel terrible about the number of plastic bags you use at the grocery store. While everyone in the strike would admit it is preferable to use your own reusable bags, the movement is bigger than that: It is a force to call attention to the greater picture of global sustainability.
Policy change can happen, and it begins with showing our representatives that we, the community, believe that change is needed.
 Emma Bright graduated from Hope College in 2018 with a degree in English literature. She strives to live her life as sustainability as possible, even on a budget in Holland.

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: Plant-based foods offer better health, better environment

By Steven McMullen, Hope College
There are many different ways in which most of us could change our lifestyle in order to do less damage to the environment and the ecosystems that support us. For most people in the United States, however, there are few changes that we can make that will have more of a positive impact than to consume more plants and fewer animal products.
Each year more people choose to eat vegetarian and vegan diets, and they do so for many different reasons.
Some eat less meat for health reasons, since eating more plants and fewer animal products is a more healthy choice for most of us. Others do so to limit the poor treatment of animals in our modern food system. A large number of people have chosen to change their diets in order to reduce the environmental impact.
All of these have merit, but consider the following case for sustainable eating:

Climate Change: While it is well-known that cars and coal-burning power plants often cause substantial greenhouse gas emissions, animal agriculture also has a big impact. According to one report, farmed animals contribute about 14.5 percent of our emissions. Since diet is sometimes easier to control than other consumption, cutting out meat may be the easiest change you can make.
Fresh Water Use: We are blessed with abundant fresh water in Michigan, but most of our meat and dairy comes from out of state, sometimes from areas where fresh water is far scarcer. Turning cows into beef, in particular, uses a lot of fresh water. While some plants we eat use a lot of water, almost all plants use less water than animal foods.
Land Use: If you have ever traveled through the western U.S., you will probably have seen vast amounts of land used to raise cows. Far more land goes to raising animals than you might think, however.
Pigs, chickens, and cows end up eating more corn and soybeans than people do. After exports and ethanol are factored out, we use approximately twice as much land to grow food for animals as we do to grow food for people in the U.S. If we all ate less meat, that would free up considerable amounts of land for natural environments or other uses.

There are so many new plant-based grocery items and restaurant menu items in our area that shifting your diet away from animal products toward plants has never been easier.
Moreover, every time you purchase plant-based foods, you make it a little easier for others to do the same, since grocery stores, restaurants, and even pot-lucks at your church will start to offer more items that are better for our environment. Give it a try today.

 Steven McMullen is a Holland resident and an associate professor of economics at Hope College.

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.

for more information.

Living Sustainably: Volunteers tackle trash – in Holland and globally

By Evan Bright, Dec. 2019 Hope College graduate and intern with the Holland-Hope Sustainability Institute
Volunteers around the world – and in Holland – will flock to streets, rivers, beaches, and forests this Saturday, Sept. 21, in a communal effort to rid our beautiful planet of litter and mismanaged waste.
World Cleanup Day has become a global phenomenon, uniting 18 million volunteers in 157 countries last year. This effort to collect improperly disposed trash began in 2008 in the country of Estonia, where 50,000 people united to clean up the entire country in just five hours.
Estonia’s ambition sparked a movement that looks past race, gender, or social status to focus on the betterment of the planet we all share. World Cleanup Day is a surprisingly simple initiative, not some miracle solution but just a push to act. We all see the problem of mismanaged trash, and we all have the ability to reduce it within our own communities.
Learn more about World Cleanup Day at worldcleanupday.us/, with details about the national campaign found at nationalcleanupday.org/.
Locally, a cleanup will focus on our waterfront. In the Holland area, we are fortunate to be surrounded by vast amounts of fresh water that is home to diverse plants and animals. Our abundance of water is a defining characteristic of our community, and a big reason so many people visit. We should take pride in our environment, and this is why the Outdoor Discovery Center and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council organize semi-annual cleanup days for the Lake Macatawa waterfront. 
“Trash pollution is one of the most prevalent types of pollution in the world today,” notes Kelly Goward of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. “It can harm fish and other wildlife and interfere with human recreation.”
Taking part in the waterfront cleanup is a wonderful way for community members to get involved with their community and care for the watershed.
The waterways may appear clean from a distance. But Outdoor Discovery Center staffer Dan Callam pointed out, “(We) typically will gather somewhere between 100 and 200 pounds of trash at each event, although these numbers can vary depending on whether our finds are Styrofoam or car seats – and we’ve found both!” 
In the spirit of World Cleanup Day, the Holland community will have its next cleanup 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday Sept. 21 at two locations – Window on the Waterfront, 20 S. River Ave., or the south end of Kollen Park, at 250 Kollen Park Drive.
Advance registration is required to provide sufficient cleanup supplies. All are welcome, and extra hands are always appreciated. Register online at outdoordiscovery.org/ under “Get Involved.”
Whether or not you can participate in the riverfront cleanup, we can all easily get involved in World Cleanup Day. Go on a small walk in any direction, taking along a bag and gloves, and before too long you’ll find a piece of trash or two to put in its proper place. Take a few seconds to remove a piece of litter from the street and better our community and our planet. 
Our gestures do not have to be grand, but we simply must act.


 Evan Bright is an intern with the Holland-Hope Sustainability Institute, a proud Holland area native, and a Hope College math major graduating December 2019.

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: Think ‘glocal’ about our threatened water resource

By Michelle Gibbs, Office of Sustainability
Glocal water. What in the world is that? 
The term glocal refers to considering a particular topic from both a global and local perspective.
And, in our area, water certainly is a topic we should approach that way, thinking about how our choices are impacting our local water as well as global water.  
For many Michiganders, part of our identity and culture comes from our connection to water.  We live in a state that has the unique characteristic of touching most of the Great Lakes, which combined hold one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water.  Michiganders also tout that we have more than 3,000 miles
of shoreline, and we are never more than six miles away from a lake. So, it really isn’t a surprise that we hold this amazing natural resource close to our hearts.  Water is this beautiful resource that is constantly moving and changing forms as it travels through the water cycle.
Yet, while we are surrounded by water, we don’t realize that this precious resource is in danger.  
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Herrick District Library, the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore planning team will kick off another year of fun, free, educational, and interactive events.  This series aims to educate and empower residents in the greater Holland area to live more sustainably. 
September’s event will have door prizes and offer material understandable for all ages, so we highly encourage youth to attend and learn ways they can get involved.    
The topic that evening will be Glocal Water. The event will kick off with a presentation by Dr. David Van Wylen, the dean of natural and applied sciences at Hope College. Van Wylen will discuss the challenge of global water scarcity and some of the issues that arise as we deal with this challenge.
“Living next to Lake Michigan in a state with an abundance of inland rivers/lakes and sufficient precipitation, it is easy to be ignorant of the daily challenges faced by many in the world as they seek safe, accessible, and affordable water sources,” Van Wylen said.  
The next presenter will be Paul Sachs, director of the Department of Planning and Performance Improvement at Ottawa County, speaking about the county’s challenges with groundwater depletion in the deep bedrock Marshall Sandstone formation. 
His presentation will be interactive and will include a physical groundwater model showing how our unique geology is affecting local water recharge.  Sachs’ presentation is based on recent research conducted by Michigan State University. 
Our final speaker will be local author and Great Lakes advocate Mary McKSchmidt, who will lead us through the call to action about what we can all do.  McKSchmidt’s presentation will be interactive and kid-friendly as she helps us understand that it is not okay that the health of Lake Michigan is at risk, nor that the number and magnitude of the issues are increasing.
“There are things we can do, as individuals, to make a difference. But if we want to drive needed changes faster, more efficiently, we need to link arms and form teams,” McKSchmidt said.
She will share the example of the impact of 42 fourth graders from Quincy Elementary School, and we’ll explore how more organizations in Holland can get involved in tackling everyday issues that threaten access to and the quality of our water.
 Michelle Gibbs is the director for the Office of Sustainability at Hope College and is also the director for the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a collaboration of Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works.

What: Glocal Water, a Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore event
When: 6:30-8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Ave., Holland

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: Preserving farmland ensures future food

By Becky Huttenga, Ottawa County Economic Development
When you boil it right down, the term sustainability really just means ditching the mindset of “there will always be more.” More fossil fuels. More places to put our trash. More safe water. More clean air. More abundant food.
Let’s focus here on that last one: more food. Almost all of us have heard the United Nations prediction that the world population will hit close to 10 billion people by the year 2050, and not surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges that will accompany that burgeoning population is feeding them all.
Even with all of the amazing innovation and technological advancements in agriculture, growing our food will always be reliant upon having adequate land available for farming. As you drive around Ottawa County, it might not seem like we need to worry about protecting our farmland, with all of the different
crops and barns you see, including blueberries, corn, soybeans, hay, celery, cattle, hogs, poultry.
But make no mistake, many factors threaten our farmland, including development pressure, lack of new farmers to take over operations, and financial instability of farming, just to name a few.
Ottawa County leaders are very aware of these threats and are actively working to protect county farmland.
One protection method the county uses is the creation of permanent agricultural easements through its Farmland Preservation Program. This program allows the county to procure the development rights to farmland from landowners, which means the land must remain agricultural and can never be developed.
The program uses a combination of grant funding, landowner contributions, and private donations to purchase the development rights. No county tax dollars are used to purchase the rights.
Using agricultural easements to protect farmland has a number of benefits.
For a young farmer trying to break into the industry, buying farmland is often the largest capital acquisition they will make. Buying farmland that has an agricultural easement on it can be more affordable for that young farmer.
For the farmer who protected his land with an agricultural easement, the money that he or she receives from the county in exchange for the development rights to the land can be used to invest in the farming operation, to save for retirement, or to balance out their estate among their successors.
For everyone else, the benefit is the land we depend upon for food production is permanently protected.
While creation of agricultural easements is the farmland protection tool that the county has been using the longest, it is not the only tool. County leaders are working on a comprehensive plan to help address the most critical threats to our farmland, and that plan will be released later this year.
Two upcoming events are related to the issue of farmland preservation.
If farmland protection is important to you, please consider attending the Farms are the Tapas fundraising event on Sept. 26, 2019. The evening feature farm-to-table foods, master chef cooking competitions, fresh local ingredients, a silent auction and live music. Find out more at www.miottawa.org/tapas.
To learn more about farmland loss and what we can do about it, consider attending our Redefining Farmland Preservation event on Nov. 8, 2019. Learn more at www.miottawa.org/farmland.
 Becky Huttenga is the economic development coordinator for Ottawa County. She works to redevelop underutilized and contaminated properties, protect prime farmland, and invigorate the farm economy in throughout the county.

Event Details:
Two events will address the issue of preserving farmland in Ottawa County

What: Farms are the Tapas
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 26
More info: www.miottawa.org/tapas

What: Redefining Farmland Preservation
When: 8:30 a.m., Nov. 8
More info: Search Redefining Farmland Preservation at Evitebrite

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: 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.