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,
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
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” ( 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.

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

Living Sustainably: 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.

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.

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 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.

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

Living Sustainably: 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:

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.

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

Living Sustainably: 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

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.

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

Living Sustainably: Local efforts can address global climate change

By Diane Haworth, local sustainability professional

There is plenty of news related to climate change these days. The planet’s climate has constantly been changing over geological time, but now scientists are concerned that the natural fluctuation is being increased by an upsurge in greenhouse gases from human activities.
The greenhouse effect refers to the way the Earth’s atmosphere traps energy from the sun. Trapped energy that radiates back to the planet heats both the atmosphere and the earth’s surface, keeping the temperature at a level to sustain life.
Scientists believe we are adding to the natural greenhouse effect with gases such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and methane from agricultural sources and landfills. These gases trap more energy and increase the overall temperature of the planet. This effect is commonly referred to as climate change.

The impacts of climate change can be seen around the world with increasing water scarcity in dry areas, torrential downpours in wet regions and more severe heat waves and wildfires. The cost to the United States economy alone could be over $200 billion from heat-related deaths, sea level rise and infrastructure damage by the end of the century.

Greenhouse gas emissions from energy production can contribute to climate change. The city of Holland has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by building a new combined-cycle natural gas power plant to replace the former coal power plant. Burning natural gas significantly reduces emissions versus coal, although natural gas is still a fossil fuel and not a sustainable resource.

Home solar panels are an effective way for an individual homeowner to trim back their carbon fuel use and impact on climate change.

However, lower emission, sustainable options such as wind and solar do not provide continuous power. At the utility level, they require large scale energy storage that is still under development. The Holland Board of Public Works uses a mix of energy sources including wind, biogas and natural gas to keep our energy portfolio diverse and able to respond to changes in fuel availability and pricing. The Board of Public Works will continue to explore more sustainable options as they become viable.
Meanwhile, you can take direct personal action to reduce emissions in simple ways that will save you money. Plug air leaks in your house to reduce heat loss. Consider installing a smart thermostat and switching to more efficient LED light bulbs.

Installing LED bulbs are a simple way to reduce energy use, save money over the long run and trim a person’s impact on climate change problems.

Want to make bigger improvements to your energy use? The Holland On-Bill Loan Program administered by the Board of Public Works provides Holland residents a way to make energy improvements to homes both easy and affordable.
The program provides a home energy assessment that gives you an understanding of your home’s energy efficiency and provides a prescription for the necessary improvements. Find out more about the program at

 Diane Haworth is a retired sustainability professional.  After a career in product development, purchasing and marketing, she transitioned to develop and manage the global sustainability program for furniture manufacturer Haworth.  She later helped develop the sustainability program for certification body NSF in Ann Arbor.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

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

Living Sustainably: Early learning skills are crucial to youngsters, community

By Kate Flynn, Ready for School

Gaining confidence, as earned through the Start School Ready program, can be a valuable asset for a young person heading off to school.

What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” Lao Tzu
Watch a group of very young children engaged in studying insects. What are they learning?
Fundamental concepts about the natural and social world, and discovering those answers by observing habitats, journaling and researching alongside their peers. They’re practicing social skills while laying the groundwork for deeper learning, critical thinking skills, and problem solving.
To sustain growth of a vibrant economic future, seeds of community and a love of learning must be planted early. Ready for School’s Start School Ready is a perfect example.
Last summer I watched my own son, Will, thrive during Start School Ready, a program designed to ease soon-to-be kindergartners and their families into the transition to school. Success lies in creating an environment that supports early learning by building relationships: Relationship to routine, to academics, and to people (teachers, fellow students and staff).

Learning to work with others and develop relationships is part of summer learning experience, too.

In the Bumblebee room, his teachers combined the routines of a typical school day with outdoor exploration to build math, literacy and social-emotional skills, translating experiences into increased school readiness. Insects like roly poly pill bugs made learning real in the summer and relevant into kindergarten.
A week into kindergarten, Will declared his desire to “pass” on school. Even with the positive experience of Start School Ready, he was struggling. “Will, keep trying and trust me on this, it will get better.” With mom credibility on the line, it had to get better.
A month into the school year, I shared with him a memory: “When I was in kindergarten, there were two boys in my class who didn’t know how to tie their shoelaces. I practiced with them every morning.” He was listening. “Will, what if a classmate is counting on you to show up? What if you go to school to teach and learn?” His big, thoughtful brown eyes locked in on me. A heartbeat later, Will responded, “Like Alaina at Start School Ready! When she was sad I found her a roly poly bug, and it made her happy again.”

Start School Ready helps young people learn the essential skills for doing well at school, including getting familiar with routines, with learning and with other people.

Suddenly there it was, a breakthrough that has carried us both through a critical year of kindergarten. Will is now rolling into first grade even more confident and loving learning and school every day.
School readiness is about routine, academic, and relationship readiness. The return on investment is shared moments of discovery and the pleasure of teaching and learning something relevant and interesting.
My son lives in a community that elevates early childhood learning, and it has made all the difference. We have to co-create environments for our children to thrive. How? By ensuring opportunities for relevance in learning all year round.
And by increasing access to early learning opportunities and experiences like Start School Ready, our youngest citizens reach kindergarten better prepared for success in kindergarten, year-round and in life.
Do you know a soon-to-be kindergartener? Learn more and apply to attend this summer at!

 As chief development officer at Ready for School, Kate Flynn is lead storyteller of ways our community is elevating early learning and investing in the potential of all children.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.

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

Living Sustainably: Two programs help share the blessing of fresh produce

By Lisa Uganski, Ottawa Food

Using the specially labeled buckets, patrons at participating area U-pick farms can provide fresh produce for people who normally wouldn’t have access to it.

Summer is almost here, which means it’s time to enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables grown here in West Michigan. There is nothing quite like the taste of a just-picked blueberry or tomato. However, many members of this community don’t have access to the juicy strawberries, sweet corn and the abundance of other fresh local produce that so many look forward to each year.  Fortunately, you can help provide these healthy items to those in need by participating in one of the following programs, and you’ll be supporting local growers at the same time. It’s a win-win!

Purchasing a bucket of U-pick produce for the Ottawa Food program will benefit people who don’t normally have access to fresh produce.

Pick for Pantries: Ottawa Food will partner with some local growers again this summer to implement Pick for Pantries. This program allows U-Pick patrons at participating local produce farms to donate a portion of their pick to local food pantries (and other food resource agencies) on select dates during the growing season.

You can head out to Visser Farm’s U-Pick Strawberry Patch (7200 112th Ave., Holland) on June 11, 13, 18, 20, 22, 25 and 27 (weather permitting) to pick your own fresh strawberries and help support local food pantries in the process.

Just grab a green bucket with the Ottawa Food logo and fill it up with as much as you would like to donate. Buckets will be set aside and picked up by one of several participating food resource agencies, and the berries will be distributed to community members in need.

In July, Pick for Pantries will take place at Bowerman Blueberries, Crossroads Blueberries and Rasch Orchards (cherries).

In the fall, Pick for Pantries will take place at Rasch Orchards and Grange Fruit Farm, where apples can be picked and donated. Specific dates for these opportunities will be posted later in the summer and fall at, based on weather and farm availability.  Please visit Ottawa Food’s Facebook page throughout the growing season for more information.  Help spread the word by sharing this information with family and friends as well.

Fresh produce bought at the Holland Farmers Market can be provided to people in need through Ottawa Foods Produce Donation Program.

Produce Donation Program: You can also get involved by participating in Ottawa Food’s Produce Donation Program at the Holland Farmers Market.
Every Wednesday from June 19 to Sept. 18, a donation table will be staffed at the market from 9 a.m. to 1:30 pm. Stop by and pick up a donation bag at the Ottawa Food table. When you’re finished shopping, bring your produce donation back, and it will be distributed to those in need within 48 hours.
We are blessed to live in an area that harvests such a wide variety of fresh, healthy food. Please consider helping to make our community a stronger, healthier one by sharing this local food with others!

 Lisa Uganski, RD, MPH, is the coordinator of Ottawa Food, a collaboration of local agencies and individuals working to ensure that all Ottawa County residents have access to healthy, local, and affordable food choices. If you would like to get involved with Ottawa Food, please visit for more information.

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.