Upcoming Events, WMSBF Monthly Event, WMSBF News

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Retrospective Panel: Monday September 8


In the summer of 1994 a group of 10 like-minded companies launched an initiative that would allow local companies, colleges, governments and non-profits to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives promoting sustainable business practices within their organizations and the region. One of the first organizations of its kind in the world, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has served as a support network for two generations of triple-bottom-line practitioners, playing a critical role in distinguishing West Michigan as the nation’s unofficial capital of sustainable business, helping to popularize green building, sustainable product design, beyond-compliance practices and savings-driven sustainability.

“Founding the forum took a lot of legwork, and there was some apprehension on many people’s parts, as you might imagine,” said David Rinard, Director of Global Environmental Performance for Steelcase Inc. “It took persistence and determination, but today we’re a strong robust organization. I think that idea that businesses and environmentalists cannot work together has been disproven.”

The anniversary celebration begins with the regular forum monthly meeting on Monday, September 8 from 12 to 2 pm at the Main Branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library.  The retrospective on 20 years of sustainable business in West Michigan offers a high-powered panel of local sustainable business experts including Tom Fehsenfeld, Crystal Flash; Mark Lacroix, The Carbon Neutral Company; David Rinard, Steelcase Inc.; Deb Steketee, Aquinas College; Bill Stough, Sustainable Research Group; and Keith Winn, Catalyst Partners.  Grand Valley State University’s Norman Christopher will moderate.

The panel will discuss how leading West Michigan organizations began to invest in sustainability initiatives during the 1990s and the challenges such efforts encountered, the region’s unique role in promoting pollution prevention, sustainable design and green building practices nationally and internationally, and how approaches to sustainable business and the triple-bottom line have evolved over three generations of sustainable business professionals, among other topics.

“West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum was the vanguard of bringing business and environmental issues under one umbrella, and saying that these two aren’t counterproductive to each other, but mutually beneficial to one another,” said Stough, who was the primary organizer for the forum in 1994.

The meeting will also include updates on two initiatives discussed at recent forum meetings: the ArtPrize sustainability project and Michigan community solar.  Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for non-members.  Learn more and register at wmsbf.org/September.


Member News

Holland Selected for Next Round of Georgetown Energy Prize Competition

The City of Holland has been selected to advance to the quarterfinalist round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million national incentive competition that aims to dramatically improve America’s energy standing by challenging communities across the U.S. to reduce their energy consumption.

The City currently has a 40-year strategic energy plan underway, and has a long history of large-scale, energy efficiency programs, including:

  • capturing waste heat from energy production for the downtown snowmelt system;
  • installing LED pedestrian lighting downtown and at Centennial Park;
  • converting traffic signals to LEDs;
  • determining next generation energy production at the upcoming Holland Energy Park, which cuts greenhouse and other emissions by more than 60 percent;
  • offering a wide variety of utility energy efficiency and educational programs.

“Holland is a leader in researching and implementing ways to save and reduce energy, which gives us a strong starting position for the Georgetown Energy Prize,” said Ryan Cotton, city manager. “Additionally, our history of collaboration and cooperation between community organizations gives us a competitive edge we need to make it into the next round.”

The City has assembled a collaborative team, outlined a plan and has secured commitments from local government, utilities and several community-based organizations such as Holland Board of Public Works, Hope College, Grand Valley State University, West Coast Chamber of Commerce, Good Samaritan Ministries, Michigan Saves, Holland Public Schools, SEMCO ENERGY Gas Company, the Holland Community Sustainability Committee, and the Community Foundation.

Holland plans to use the Energy Prize process to assemble new programs, best practices and methods to communicate additional ways to save energy, save money and increase the environmental quality of life for its residents. During the next few months, Holland will fine tune energy efficiency plans, and will look to the community for input and participation in the competition. 

In total, during the two years of the GUEP competition, there is the potential to save more than $1 billion in total energy costs and cut millions of tons of CO2 emissions, collectively among competing cities. If awarded the $5 million prize, it will be used on energy efficiency programs that help ensure the continued implementation of the plan.

Dr. Francis Slakey, founder of the $5 million competition at Georgetown University, remarked that, “the communities we selected are leaders in energy efficiency who will develop innovative approaches that will inspire and enable others to follow in their footsteps.”

To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition’s progress, visit www.guep.org, or follow the Prize on Twitter (@GUEnergyPrize)

Member News

Job Fairs This Week with Michigan Works!


Great opportunities for jobseekers to connect with employers in our community! Please share this information with those looking for employment.

Community Job Fair

Wednesday, August 13th

9:00am – Noon

Kentwood Community Church – Wyoming Campus

2950 28th Street SW, Wyoming MI  49509

Sponsored by Kentwood Community Church in in collaboration with Michigan Works!.


Michigan Works! Job Fair

Friday, August 29th

10:00am – 12:30pm

622 Godfrey Avenue SW, Grand Rapids MI 49503

Sponsored by Michigan Works! in collaboration with GRCC.

Member News

Make Nominations Today for the Energy Innovators Awards

Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council is accepting nominations for the second annual Energy Innovators Awards though October 8, 2014. The business awards include three categories: business of the year; emerging company of the year; and employer of the year. In addition, there are two individual award categories: public official of the year and Michigan energy innovators hall of fame. Only EIBC members or Michigan Energy Innovators Gala sponsors may make nominations.
Registration is now open for Michigan EIBC’s Second Annual Energy Innovators Gala, which will be held Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing. This annual event celebrates the companies and individuals who are working to build Michigan’s growing advanced energy industry, and includes unparalleled networking opportunities, a keynote speech, and the opportunity to recognize industry leaders.

Member News

Member Solar Winds Powers Up Funeral Home

WMSBF member Solar Winds Power Systems LLC as a unique case study in its recent installation of a 208-panel, 52-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system on the roof of a St. Joseph funeral home, Starks Family Funeral Homes & Cremation Services LLC.

The array is sized to generate more than 50 percent of the electricity used by the company over the year, although it will likely generate more than the building uses in the summer, sources said. The energy produced by the system will result in solar production credits being applied directly to Starks’ electrical bills. Visitors can monitor the amount of solar energy being produced via a display in the funeral home’s lobby.

The installation, which was completed earlier this year, is likely the first of its kind in the Midwest for a funeral home, said Mike Linsea, president of the family-owned Shelbyville-based Solar Winds Power Systems.

Read the full story on MiBiz here.

Member News, WMSBF News

Nominees for Sustainable Business of the Year, Hall of Fame

As part of its 20th Anniversary Celebration, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum is launching a new annual recognition for local organizations and practitioners:  The West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year and the West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame, respectively.Through a blind vote, the WMSBF board of directors has chosen five finalists from 27 nominees for the first annual West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year award competition.

The finalists for the 2014 Sustainable Business of the Year are: 

Through the same process, seven finalists were chosen for potential inclusion in the inaugural class of West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame inductees. The honor recognizes practitioners who over a career have best demonstrated leadership, innovation and impact in pursuit of the principles detailed in the WMSBF mission and vision.  Three will be chosen this year, at least two of those by popular vote of the membership.

Nominees for the 2014 West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame include:

An electronic ballot was sent to WMSBF member representatives earlier this week.


DEQ Announces $250,000 in Grants for Recycling to Three Organizations, Including WMSBF



The DEQ today announced $250,000 in Community Pollution Prevention Grant funding to three Michigan organizations for projects to improve recycling.   In April 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder announced his plan for improving residential recycling rates in Michigan. These grants will help inform state and community decision makers as they pursue these needed improvements to local recycling.

Organizations receiving awards include:
• Michigan Recycling Coalition, $99,800
• Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, $99,900
• West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, $50,300

Through the Community Pollution Prevention Grant Program, the DEQ provides grants to non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments, local health departments, municipalities, and regional planning agencies. Grantees must fund at least 25 percent of the total project cost.

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will conduct a waste characterization study for West Michigan counties and the state in partnership with its member organizations Grand Valley State University, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Republic Services, Valley City Electronics Recycling, Kent County Department of Public Works, Muskegon County DPW, Rapid Recycling, New Soil, Organicycle and AL & S Solutions.  The total project cost is estimated at $70,000.


Free July webinar on hazards of antibacterial cleaning products

Originally posted on Our Kitchen Table:

Hosted by the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse
“GreenScreen® Assessments of Antimicrobials Triclosan and Triclocarban,” 3 p.m. TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014

Presented by Beverly Thorpe, Consulting Co-Director and Co-founder Clean Production Action and Fe De Leon, Great Lakes Toxics Policy Expert and Researcher Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)

Beverly Thorpe

Triclosan and Triclocarban are widely used as antibacterial/antimicrobial agents in many products including cosmetics, personal care consumer products, textiles and food contact materials. GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, a recognized tool for comparative chemical hazard assessment, was used to assess the environmental and human health profile of both of these chemicals.
GreenScreen® classifies Triclosan as a GreenScreen® Benchmark 1 (Avoid – Chemical of High Concern) and Triclocarban as a GreenScreen® Benchmark 2 (Use –  but Search for Safer Substitutes).  These results will add new support for the growing movement to restrict Triclosan as well as demonstrate the value of comprehensive chemical hazard screening for…

View original 231 more words

Member News, Upcoming Events, WMSBF Monthly Event, WMSBF News

July Meeting Features Governor’s Water Strategy, Plus Holland’s Project Clarity and New Energy Park

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will present a luncheon program examining state and regional water quality initiatives, plus a sneak peak of the new Holland Energy Park, on Monday, July 14 at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland from 12 to 2 pm.  Presented by Holland Board of Public Works and Project Clarity.

Governor Rick Snyder has tasked the state government of Michigan with creating a vision for how it will manage water quality and quantity in the near and not-so-near future. The “water strategy” aims to steer water-related policy in all forms for the next 30 years toward sustainable, beneficial use.  The Office of the Great Lakes is spearheading this effort in partnership with several other state agencies, examining topics such as invasive species, water withdrawal, water quality and infrastructure, storm water, legacy pollution and restoration and coastal resilience, among other issues.  Jon Allan, Director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, will speak on this important work.

Allan served as advisor to the Great Lakes Compact negotiations, co-chaired Michigan’s Groundwater Conservation Advisory Council and the Water Resources Advisory Council that was tasked with formulating the state’s implementation of the Great Lakes Compact Agreement. He also served as chair of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s Environmental Quality Committee.  Recently, he served for a number of years as a member of the Environmental Advisory Council for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Jon recently completed his tenure as co-chair of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on State Parks and Recreation.

Travis Williams, Executive Director of the Outdoor Discover Center Macatawa Greenway will provide an update on Project Clarity, an initiative to permanently clean, restore and maintain the waters of Lake Macatawa. Water quality research in the Macatawa Watershed led to the development of a comprehensive restoration plan that identified five key areas in which to focus efforts that would make significant improvements in water quality.  From project staff, “Project Clarity is a story about water. It’s a story about people. It’s a story about hope for the future. And the story is just beginning. Everyone has a role to play in this story: from residents to government officials and farmers to business owners. Come and learn how you can be part of the story.”

The City of Holland has launched a comprehensive 40-year energy plan to become a world-class leader in energy security, affordability, sustainability and efficiency. As an important steward of the community’s energy assets, Holland Board of Public Works is developing a cleaner power generation source for Holland’s future. Dave Koster, HBPW General Manager, will describe the initiatives and investments being made toward that goal. He also will discuss the new Holland Energy Park, the quest to have it obtain the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s highest accreditation, and how community engagement is guiding it to be far more than a new power plant.

Tours of the MSU Bioeconomy Institute will also be available immediately after the meeting.

Cost for lunch is $10 for WMSBF members, $15 for non-members

Learn more here.

Upcoming Events, WMSBF Monthly Event

June Meeting: Ford’s Path to Sustainability, Plus Beneficial Reuse


West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will present a luncheon program featuring one of the nation’s leading sustainability practitioners on Monday, June 23 at the University Club in Grand Rapids from 12 to 2 pm.  Presented by Warner Norcross & Judd.

John Viera, the global director of sustainability at Ford Motor Co. has helped to bring a whole new view of sustainability to his company in the past five years. Before he was promoted to his current position, Viera says many people at Ford saw sustainability as more of a philanthropic venture than a business factor — and the sustainability director position was viewed mainly as a public relations role. Under his tenure, Ford has created a long-term product strategy based on stabilizing its carbon dioxide emissions, has increased its use of recycled materials in its vehicles and has created the first human rights code in the auto industry, which specifies working conditions — such as temperatures and fair wages — for its employees.

Viera will talk about his secrets to success, such as finding ways to make the business case for sustainability for every element of the company — including product development, manufacturing, purchasing, human resources and more — in order to build support throughout the ranks.

Warner Norcross & Judd Partner Troy Cummings will discuss Michigan House Bills 5400-5402, the new Beneficial Use Reform Act. If passed, the legislation will amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act in an effort to promote the use of beneficial use byproducts such as power plant ash, foundry sand and pulp and paper mill residuals. Advocates for the law believe that encouraging the responsible reuse of low-hazard materials will reduce disposal costs for manufacturers and provide economical savings over other raw materials that would otherwise be needed, extend the capacity of landfills and conserve resources, assure the safety of the materials for potential use and promote the concept of sustainability.

Cummings, chair of the WNJ Government Affairs practice group, represents businesses, municipalities and associations on matters before the Michigan Legislature and state agencies, including healthcare, environmental, natural resource, economic development, tax, banking and other issues.

Cost for lunch is $10 for WMSBF members, $15 for non-members.

Learn more and register here.

Update:  A third speaker was planned for the event but had to withdraw due to a personal conflict.