Living Sustainably: Drop the Phone, Grab the World

Now more than ever, we can’t seem to exist without technology.

Though humanity was already walking that precarious path, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us even closer to our devices — perhaps a little closer than we were ready.

Viewing our phones, tablets, and TVs as lifelines to the world brought into perspective how much life we could live through them.

Exploring our outdoor spaces is a great way to mark the National Day of Unplugging.

However, remember that technological advancement is double-edged. These machines that pump us with serotonin also dissociate us from a tangible existence, and that is why the National Day of Unplugging is something we should all honor.

The Day of Unplugging, begun in 2009, promotes a 24-hour break from technology.

A decade ago, there was little data correlating mental health to phone dependence, but the core founders of the day believed we needed a communal awareness of potential smart-device effects.

On the National Day of Unplugging, coming up March 5-6, communities are encouraged to bring tech and life into a sustainable balance.

This is also a time to slow the dizzying pace of life, something phones have also helped throw out of whack. The Day of Unplugging is an international movement with supporters in cities and towns all across the world, even here in Holland.

As this day approaches, West Michigan residents are encouraged to explore screen-free possibilities for adventure, education, and socialization.

There is certainly no shortage of natural spaces to discover with family and friends, such as Windmill Island, Window on the Waterfront, Riley Trails, Van Raalte Farm, Pigeon Creek, and others.

If the spring weather sticks around, a hike outside would be the perfect opportunity to view wildlife such as cardinals, eastern bluebirds, and cottontail rabbits.

The Outdoor Discovery Center and DeGraaf Nature Center, especially, are invaluable resources for kids to better understand the nature-rich ecosystem that surrounds them.

If you’re the volunteering type, a day at Eighth Day Farms will not only gift you a practical knowledge of agriculture, but also an ethical understanding of stewardship.

The Day of Unplugging would be a fantastic day to ditch the car and choose a bike or skateboard, or even your own two feet to mingle with your neighborhood.

Sturdily knit communities bring about the most sustainable change, so don’t feel nervous engaging with those around you about the best ways to recycle, conserve, and increase awareness of the state of our planet.

Use this time, not just as a respite from the TV, but also as a meditation of what your life should truly be. Reconnect with those you love and appreciate those you take for granted.

With a phone blocking our view, it’s easy to forget what makes life important.

But the sounds and sights of nature often bring these back to mind, so on this National Day of Unplugging, remember what is important and what should remain here for years to come.

— Zachary Dankert is an intern at the ODC Network, working with the program team. Zach is majoring in English and biology at Hope College.

About this series

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives.

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.

Kiss the Ground

Be sure to register for our next film screening and panel discussion on Tuesday, February 23 as we reflect on the film “Kiss the Ground.” 

“Kiss the Ground is a full-length documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that sheds light on a “new, old approach” to farming called “regenerative agriculture” that has the potential to balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world.”

This film screening has been sponsored FREE of charge for our community through filmmaker grant funds.

Please make sure you register by Tuesday morning.

Plastic Bags/Films Recycling on Campus

Our Hope Advocates for Sustainability interns have begun a 6-month campaign to help reduce the amount of plastic film from going to the landfill. Due to COVID there has been an increased usage of single use items and our interns hope this program will help with this problem. We encourage all staff, faculty, and students to bring in any of the approved plastic film materials to one of our collection bins on campus. This program will run through July 2021. If we collect 500+ pounds of material (about 40,500 plastic bags) TREX will donate a high-performance composite bench to our campus.

The collection bins have been placed in the following locations:

Schaap Science Center (side entrance to SC 1000 near the vending machines)

Bultman Student Center (outside room 002)

Jack Miller (second floor near the back stairway)

Questions? Email

Sustainability Film Series

Please join the Hope College Green Team, League of Women Voters-Holland Area, Macatawa Creation Care, and Citizens Climate Lobby-Holland Area for a FREE virtual film series. You can view each of the films anytime on your own: “Honeyland” Tuesday, February 9 and “Kiss the Ground” Tuesday, February 23 and then from 7pm-8pm we will host a reflective panel discussion and Q&A session.The panelists will reflect on the film and share information about their connections to the film topic.

Register for one or both of the films and panel discussion by using this link:

One day prior to each event we will email links for a ONE-TIME VIEWING of the film (which will be open all day) as well as a link to the 7pm-8pm virtual zoom panel discussion. Please do not share or post your link online.

Living Sustainably: Big Read, Little Read events help our community connect

Yard signs across town show the political differences we have with neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. With so much going on in our country that divides us, it’s important to find ways for us to remain connected with each other.
Hope College’s NEA Big Read and Little Read Lakeshore programs offer just that. During the month of November, I invite our Lakeshore community to come together around a story. This experience of reading the same book allows us to find common ground, to explore topics and themes together, to be reminded of the humanity we share.
For the past six years, readers – from elementary school children to senior citizens – have participated in the Big Read and Little Read programs. Together, we have learned more about others, ourselves and the world around us through literature. Previous Big Read and Little Read programs have taken our community throughout the United States to Macomb, Alabama, and an internment camp in Utah, and across oceans to Haiti, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic. And our outreach continues to grow by the day.

Together we’ve studied historical fiction, memoir and dystopian fiction. We’ve explored topics as varied as immigration, war, technology, identity and global politics. During our month of programming, with over 50 events each year, we’ve learned from experts, watched films, created art, sampled international cuisine, participated in book discussions, danced to music and viewed exhibitions in art and historical museums.
This year, our programs explore the themes of historical storytelling, sustainability and conservation in Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea” and in Marsha Diane Arnold’s “Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña.” These books were intentionally chosen as companion texts because of their similar genre and topics, but also because of their differing interactions with the natural world. We hope these books spark conversations amongst all of our Lakeshore readers!
Because of COVID-19, this year’s month of programming will look and feel very different. Initially, we were so disappointed by this. We couldn’t imagine not sitting side by side in the Jack H. Miller concert hall listening to famous authors talk about their books, or not gathering together around a table to discuss our favorite parts of a book. We couldn’t imagine not having our closing event, the Student Exhibition of Learning at the Holland Armory, that showcases thousands of students’ artwork created in response to our Big Read and Little Read books.
However, pivoting to a mostly virtual program has opened up so many new possibilities! Because of being virtual, we’ve been able to include event speakers from Nantucket, Hawaii, and even Australia.
We’ve developed a much more robust website and marketing plan so that we’re able to significantly expand our scope and reach to Lakeshore readers and beyond.
Nearly 50 events are scheduled, ranging from instructive talks by authors and historians to “Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña” take-and-make activities for kids to a marine biologist’s discussion about whales to a dance company’s explorations of the Galapagos.
We invite you to join the over 10,000 Lakeshore readers who participate each year. Visit for more information about all the Big and Little Read programs and to register for this year’s events.
– Dr. Deborah Van Duinen is an associate professor of English Education at Hope College and the director of Hope College’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore programs.

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.

In this year’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore, dozens of programs explore the themes of historical storytelling, sustainability and conservation in Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea.”
This year’s NEA Little Read Lakeshore offers a variety of events and activities for young people to explore the themes of sustainability and conservation in Marsha Diane Arnold’s “Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña.”

Virtual Film Screening and Community Conversation: The Story of Plastic – October 27

Please join the Citizens Climate Lobby – Holland Area Chapter for a FREE virtual screening of The Story of Plastic. You can view the film anytime on your own between October 16-27. The Story of Plastic is also available to watch on the subscription DiscoveryGo streaming service, for rent on Amazon, on Apple TV, and on Xfinity video-on-demand. 

Tuesday, October 27 7:00pm-8:30pm along with our annual film series partners League of Women Voters – Holland Area Chapter, Hope College’s Green Team, and Macatawa Creation Care we will host a panel of local experts and breakout discussions. The panelists will reflect on the film and share information about the issues with plastic as well as provide tips on ways each of us can help with this issue.

Register for the film license and/or the discussion by using this link: Starting on October 16 we will email links for a ONE-TIME VIEWING of the film which will be open until October 27 (please do not share or post your link online). On October 26 we will email links to the zoom discussion meeting for the October 27 event.  

View the trailer: 

Living Sustainably: Energy-saving “silver linings” can be found during COVID crisis

By Ken Freestone, City of Holland
Have you ever thought about working or studying from home? Yes? Now everybody has! Now that we all have been home way more than we expected, and we are entering heating season, what lessons about the health of our home, family, and energy efficiency have we learned? And what might usage data show for comparison between 2019 and 2020 and the future?
With so many people working, studying, and even gathering (virtually) from home, our new routines are teaching us valuable lessons. My most valuable lesson from being home? How healthy, safe and energy efficient my home is and how much more I can still improve.
Being at home may also have given us insights that can inform our conversations locally about the Community Energy Plan and other local energy efficiency initiatives for the City of Holland – topics of a virtual meeting coming up Monday evening.
Here are some key energy saving targets to consider at home: More devices running most of the day.
Lights on in typically vacant rooms. TV’s and game consoles running more. Maybe even space heater use or increased air conditioning.

We can see that stay-home habits are having an impact: The average increase for electrical usage in Holland for the April to June period was 17 percent. Across the country, residential electricity use has shown increases ranging from 18 to 50 percent. Gas usage has been down overall globally, but we are just now entering our heating season.
Another startling realization for me came from a recent webinar series by Mark Jewell, an author and speaker on the energy sector. Jewell illustrated that money we spend personally on utilities is “after tax” money. Expenses that were previously covered at your workplace is now money you are spending personally. So, it makes sense to work to limit that energy expense.
On a positive note, the COVID-19 impact may illustrate some “silver linings” of energy efficiency possibilities for all city residents through incentives, grants and rebates.
From Sept.1 through Dec. 31, 2020, all City of Holland homeowners (including landlords of up to four-plex buildings) have access to a 20 percent grant towards energy efficiency projects that could include insulation, heating/cooling/water heaters, appliances, and windows.
Also, there are still rebates available from the Holland Board of Public Works and SEMCO, and SEMCO is also offering bonus rebates for many energy efficiency upgrades.
The city also offers a free resource for getting more information about energy efficiency upgrades by contacting Ken Freestone, residential energy advisor at or (616)355-1364.
Visit for information on rebates.
Another way for area residents to learn about opportunities for energy saving is to attend the next Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore event, a virtual Community Energy Plan Conversation at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13.
Speakers will present updates on greenhouse gas emissions for the city and will provide updates about the strategic development team review of the City of Holland Community Energy Plan. They also will offer tips and resources for energy efficiency for homeowners. Register for the event at
We know that there are numerous challenges with COVID-19 and with the impacts of climate change. At the same time, City of Holland residents and our neighbors have unique opportunities for “silver linings” to create a better energy future.
 Ken Freestone is the residential energy advisor for the City of Holland. He can be reached at or 616.355.1364.

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.

As home energy use has increased with more at-home activities because of COVID, energy efficiency incentives and rebates like insulation or caulking can have an even bigger positive impact.
December 18, 2013 – Julian Gonzalez with Long’s Peak Energy Conservation, blows insulation into Cathy Schultheis’ attic in Niwot, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)
A virtual meeting Monday evening about the Community Energy Plan will include tips on home energy efficiency measures, like insulation or smart thermostats, and incentives to implement them.

Michigan Campus Earth Day 50.5 – Virtual Conference – October 22

Michigan Campus Earth Day 50.5 – Virtual Conference

Thursday, October 22 / 9 am to 5 pm  (come and go as your schedule allows)

The Michigan Campus Sustainability Collective (MiCSC), a program focused on influencing and educating future generations on sustainability and elevating and promoting the use of sustainability on Michigan campuses is proud to present MI Campus Earth Day 50.5.

Michigan Campus Earth Day 50.5 is a collaborative event to engage faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders in a series of virtual convenings. The event will educate and provide action items for campuses to create awareness and advance environmental and social justice, including the importance of voting, how to incorporate environmental justice in curriculum, and how to improve food justice on campus.

The event includes a civic engagement component, including a live voter registration.  The day is split into morning and afternoon sessions geared toward professionals and student audiences, respectively.

Join us for speakers from around Michigan and surrounding campuses as we improve higher education sustainability initiatives through education, including an increased awareness of the importance of public health, racial equity, and social justice.  We will facilitate connections between professionals and students with environmental justice experts.  While the momentous Earth Day 50.5 was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts, the Earth Day 50.5 milestone provides an opportunity to develop a collaborative space for Michigan colleges to empower the future generation in sustainability work, while increasing voter registration on campus and educating individuals about environmental justice issues and candidate stances on the ballots.

See the full line-up and register at:
**This is a full day event, but you are free to come and go as your schedule allows. Recordings will also be made available to those that register.

Living Sustainably: is a one-stop website for non-partisan voter information

By Claudia Berry, League of Women Voters – Holland Area
Are you looking for unbiased information on candidates and proposals as you begin to fill out your absentee ballot or plan your vote for the Nov. 3 election? The League of Women Voters has the perfect website for you: is an online voters’ guide which displays candidate and ballot proposal information personalized to a voter’s address.
The League’s mission is to ensure the rights of all qualified voters and to encourage informed and active participation in government. It is a nonpartisan, trusted, grassroots organization that has been a source of information about candidates and ballot issues for more than 100 years. Since we are living in a digital age, the League has developed a national website where voter information is compiled and offered to voters in an easy to access, digital format.
The League of Women Voters Holland Area encourages every eligible voter with internet access (or the ability to use the computers at Herrick Library) to visit for nonpartisan election information.
To get started, type in the web browser. The home page has three main sections:
“Find What’s on Your Ballot,” “Register to Vote,” and “Check Your Voter Registration Status.” All these sections have links to the Michigan Secretary of State’s website. Click the box that says, “Find What’s on Your Ballot,” enter your address, and then click “Go to My Races.” The website will produce information on races for your location, with information in either English and Spanish.
Candidates participating in answer questions covering topics relating to the economy, health care, and the environment. All candidates respond in their own words. In some cases, the answers are blank, which means the candidate has not responded to that question. allows voters to compare candidate responses on these relevant issues. Candidates’ information is provided for the following races: state and local municipal races, the Michigan Supreme Court, local courts, and university trustees.
There is also a checklist for first-time voters. The League of Women Voters of the Holland Area is working hard to make voter information accessible even under COVID-19 social distancing constraints.
Look for our VOTE411 yard signs on lawns in the area promoting the website address. was launched in 2006 and its popularity has grown rapidly. During the 2018 midterm elections, more than 5.5 million people used the website.
If you choose to vote in person, Election Day is Nov. 3 and the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Go to to find your polling place.
Get the facts at and make your voice heard on election day by voting!
-Claudia Berry has been president of the League of Women Voters of the Holland Area since 2018.

The web site offers voters a range of impartial, non-partisan election resources.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Quality of Life: The community, through governmental, religious, business and social organizations, makes decisions that contribute to its own well-being.

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.

The League of Women Voters website,, is an online voters’ guide which displays candidate and ballot proposal information personalized to a voter’s address.

Green Commute Week 2020

The annual Green Commute Week hosted by the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council is an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to try out a greener commute option (and be entered into a drawing for prizes).

We hope you’ll join our continuing efforts to create a more sustainable campus by participating in this year’s program. Be sure you register with your email address so we can track the collective participation. Tag us in your fun green commuting photos too! Contact: Michelle Gibbs if you have any questions

Instagram @HAS_hopecollege and @HollandHopeSustainability

Facebook HopeAdvocatesforSustainability
Twitter HC_Green

Green Commute Week 2020 will take place October 5-9. The event will look a little different this year, with the commute challenge focusing on active and socially distant forms of green transportation. This includes walking, biking, telecommuting, driving a fully electric vehicle, or any other form of green transportation that involves physical activity (rollerblading, long boarding, skateboarding, etc.). All types of trips are encouraged, whether they are to and from a destination like work or school, or simply recreational.

How It Works:

There will be five commute categories:

Electric Vehicles
Other – Any other form of green transportation (rollerblading, long boarding, skateboarding, etc.)

Trip and Mileage Logging

Log each commute trip throughout the week, including miles and mode on the MACC website. Each trip should be entered individually.

Participation and Prizes

This year’s commute challenge is based on participation. At the end of the week, there will be a random drawing for $50 West Coast Cash within each commute mode category.

Each trip logged = one entry in the corresponding mode category. The more trips recorded and the more modes you choose, the higher your chances are of winning.

Example: If you log three trips by bike and four trips by skateboard, you will be entered three times into the bike category and four times into the “other” category.

The trip tracking form will close at noon on Saturday, October 10th, to allow Friday’s commutes to be logged. The winner in each category will be announced on Monday, October 12th.