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Hall of Fame Nominees: Deb Steketee

For Deb Steketee, Sustainable Business professor at Aquinas College, businesses are central to creating change in our society.  “They are the ones who are harvesting the resources,” she said.  “They are the ones that can truly make the difference.”   As one of the driving forces behind Aquinas College’s Sustainable Business Program, Steketee has incorporated this idea into teaching a new generation of sustainability professionals that is influencing business in West Michigan and beyond.

Steketee’s experience in promoting environmental concerns in West Michigan reaches back to her work  with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and then  the Center for Environmental Study at GRCC, where she served as vice president.     While working with the Center for Environmental Study,  Steketee  began to see increased collaboration between business and environmentalists —a theme that would continue in her work in decades to come.   “That really set me thinking about who has the power to effect change in our society.  It really is business.  They are the ones who are harvesting the resources, they are the ones who can really make a difference through their influence in United States culture.”

At Aquinas College since 2005 as a professor and director of the Center for Sustainability, Steketee has helped Aquinas College to spearhead sustainability programming both on and off campus.   Through her work, she further developed the community relationships  with the Sustainable Business degree program at Aquinas in an effort to provide new opportunities for students and strengthen the shared learning experience of Aquinas’ sustainability mission.   She credits generous support from many early donors, including the Steelcase Foundation and Wege Foundation,  as well as the unique mindset of Aquinas College administrators and West Michigan residents for the success of the program.

“At Aquinas, the  idea is that business does not stand alone isThe notion that business is an entity that serves society has been really important to our program,” she said.   “The concept of the sustainability professional was just emerging at that time so in many ways, we were able to catch that wave and move forward with it.”   The Sustainable Business Program was the first of its type and scope at the undergraduate level, and has drawn students from across the United States to West Michigan.

As Director for the Center of Sustainability at Aquinas College, Steketee also oversaw the development of the school’s internal sustainability efforts, as well.  Aquinas’ recent accomplishments include the deployment of a zero-waste program campus-wide and LEED-certified buildings on campus, including the Grace Hauenstein library.

For Steketee, the West Michigan community’s ability to work together to find solutions is one of the reasons that organizations like the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and the Center for Sustainability have seen success in recent years. “That ability to have a collective impact is something that this community does very well—there’s a collaborative spirit and a learning mentality,”  she said.  “The vision that we have had in our community and the vision that  many individuals have exemplified really provide us with an optimistic future.”

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Hall of Fame Nominees: Renae Hesselink

 

hesselink photo 9-2012 (2)

Renae Hesselink, LEED AP and vice president of Sustainability at Nichols Paper and Supply, has been involved in sustainability efforts for the past 18 years, since the beginning of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. “[Nichols was] encouraged to join the forum through our relationships with customers, mostly in the office furniture industry,” she said. “They had reached out to us and wanted to bring their supply chain along that journey, so we jumped on board right away.”

Since then, Hesselink, a West Michigan native, has become engaged in many sustainability efforts in the region, ranging from her day-to-day work in her role at Nichols, to her involvement on the board of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan chapter. Hesselink has also presented on progress in sustainability and green buildings at many venues, including Grand Valley State University and Cornerstone University. Currently, Hesselink serves as chair of the Green School Committee for US GBC WM—an initiative that aims to promote a healthier, more functional environments for kids.

“The program focuses on developing healthier environments indoors, as well as creating schools as better places for communities to gather,” she said. “Right now, many of our schools shut down at the end of the school day and sit idle until the next morning.”

As part of the Green School program, Hesselink recently helped to set up the Green School Fellow program with the Grand Rapids Public Schools—a 3 year position which will not only assist with promoting green practices in the school district, but also help assist with developing curricula for students as well.

Currently, Hesselink is also working with the US GBC to promote the Battle of the Buildings program through her chapter—a year-long energy tracking and conservation competition among the region’s LEED-certified buildings. “There are 67 buildings in the competition this year,” she said. “The EPA has a similar program, and the first year that they ran it they had nowhere near that many participants, so we are pretty excited.”

For Hesselink, work in the sustainability field and progress in social and environmental conservation is about constant change and adaptation, as well as openness about business and manufacturing practices. Although she has seen positive changes in sustainable practices and an increased demand for green cleaning products in her industry, there is still work to be done.

“ I have seen in our industry as well as the green building movement and food movement, the unwillingness still to be transparent about labeling, ingredients, and processes. I believe this will be required more over the years especially as purchasers and end users become even more educated and intelligent. We have seen that happen a lot already and will continue.  End users will become more demanding of this.”

Standards for products and processes will continue to evolve,” she continued. “We still don’t see many standards for products on the retail shelf. There are safety standards, but not environmental.

“It’s a journey—we’re not all there yet,” she said. “We need to continue down that path.”

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MiBiz: Commercial Waste Volumes Add Weight to Region’s Economic Recovery

MiBiz talked to several members of the WMSBF Waste Task Force this week in a story detailing how local waste volumes are a sign of economic recovery.  

The increasing waste volumes at Kent County landfills serve as one measure of an improving local economy, said Doug Wood, director of the Kent County Department of Public Works (DPW). “In 2011, volumes really started to turn around, and every year after that waste goes up more,” Wood said. “If you take into consideration waste generation and recycling, I think we can definitely see growth in the economy.” 

An MiBiz analysis shows that local waste volumes over about the last decade and a half generally track with other traditional economic indicators, such as commercial building permits and jobs numbers.

The reason behind that correlation is quite simple, said Paul Isely, chair of the economics department at the Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business in Grand Rapids. Long-term trend data show that economic growth leads to the generation of more commercial waste, he said.

“(Waste volumes) are not the best forecaster, but the data adds to many other pieces that are saying that things are good and getting better,” Isely said. “The indicator is useful in that it adds weight to that story.”

Tracking commercial waste volumes provides economists with a so-called “coincidence indicator” that shows where the economy is today but does not necessarily help them predict where it will be six months or a year from now, he said.

Read the full story here. 

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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

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Environmental Leader Insider Knowledge Report Needs Your Story

Are you interested in sharing your organization’s sustainability successes with a wider audience?

Environmental Leader, an online sustainable business-focused magazine, is currently collecting results of sustainability initiatives, environmental and energy management lessons, and other insightful advice that businesses have gathered in the past year for their annual 2014 Insider Knowledge report.

Stories that share metrics, before-and-after measurements, and ROI information are preferred. Suggested subjects include (from the Environmental Leader website):

  •  A test or implementation that worked better (or worse) than anticipated.
  • Lessons learned about specific tactics, such as onsite generation, building retrofits, sustainable supply chain initiatives, emission prevention, water conservation, etc.
  • Workplace stories – such as hiring, budgeting, green team activities, auditing & reporting, office politics, etc.

The report will be indexed by the author’s name and company. Anonymous submissions are also being accepted. Entries are limited to 750 words.

The Insider Knowledge Report will be distributed through various media outlets and will be available on the Environmental Leader website throughout 2014. Deadline for submissions is March 7.

For more information, or to submit a story, visit the Insider Knowledge Report website, here.

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2014 MSU Greening the Supply Chain Conference Expands and Features WMSBF Members

Building on the success of the 2013 conference, Michigan State University will expand its 2014 Greening the Supply Chain conference to procurement and sustainability professionals in Big Ten and Michigan public universities, in addition to MSU suppliers. The conference will also showcase green business practices and innovations at WMSBF members Grand Valley State University, Steelcase, and Nichols Paper, among other organizations and businesses.

According to Bill Latta, Assistant Vice President for Administration at MSU, the conference is focused on broadening sustainability and reducing environmental impact on campus together with product and service providers. “It’s bringing suppliers that provide products and services tot he university together with staff who purchase those,” said Latta in a 2012 interview. “What we’re trying to do is collaboratively figure out a better definition of what does sustainability mean for our campus and how can we reduce that environmental footprint or impact of the purchases we make.”

The April 21 conference will give participants the opportunity to attend several presentations and panel discussions on subjects ranging from end of life materials management and green construction practices to sustainable food sourcing and environmentally-friendly office supplies. The new Supplier Learning Showcase—an opportunity for suppliers to present on their sustainability practices—will follow these presentations.

The conference will take place at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center, located on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, and will run from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. Registration is $75. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided.

For more information, or to register for the conference, visit the Michigan State University website, here.

 

 

 

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DEQ Webinars a Resource for Sustainability Knowledge

With topics ranging from hazardous waste management to soil erosion, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality‘s webinar series provide free information that can be valuable to anyone concerned with sustainability and environmental preservation.

The online seminars, which feature live presenters and slide shows,  are hosted by DEQ representatives and environmental professionals.  Presentations generally last about an hour, and are open to the public.  Viewers can receive certification of participation from the DEQ webinar site.

Currently, registration is open for the February 19 webinar on greenhouse gas accounting and product life cycle management.  Presented by Deanna Lizas of ICF International,  discussion will focus on the implications of purchasing recycled content products on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as source reduction and reuse of materials.

To register for the February 19 webinar, or to view the archive of available recorded webinars, visit the DEQ’s webinar site here.

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Green Healthcare Chemical of Concern Webinars

The Michigan Green Healthcare Committee would like to make WMSBF members aware of several free 30 minute webinars on chemicals of concern in many healthcare products during November and December.   A schedule of the webinars is below.  Register or learn more at greensciencepolicy.org/events.

  • November 19, 11am PST: Solvents (toluene, xylene, acetone, etc.)

Liz Harriman, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute

  • November 26, 11am PST: Heavy Metals (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, etc.)

Graham Peaslee, PhD, Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry, Hope University

  • December 3, 11am PST: Do We Need It?

Debbie Raphael, Director, California Department of Toxic Substance Control

  • December 10, 11am PST: Green Chemistry

Bob Peoples, PhD, Former Director of ACS Green Chemistry Institute

 

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Wege Prize: Students Solving Wicked Problems

WegePrize Logo

The brightest collegiate minds in West Michigan are gathering to solve a truly wicked problem.  Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) and The Wege Foundation have announced a new, annual transdisciplinary design competition that gives teams of five students the chance to work collaboratively, use design thinking principles, and win the Wege Prize – $30,000 in total cash prizes –  to show the world what the future of problem solving will look like.

This year’s wicked problem: How can we create a circular economy? A circular economy is a tightly looped, restorative economic cycle where resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or the loss of revenue. If we continue to rely on our current model of extract-manufacture-dispose, which is contingent upon vast reserves of expendable resources and an environment that can absorb the waste, we will never inhabit a sustainable planet. Your challenge is to design a product, service, or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model.

Teams will have until Feb. 16, 2014 to develop a solution.

To participate on a team and compete for the Wege Prize, you must be a full-time undergraduate student (12+ credits/semester). All teams must consist of five students from least two different educational institutions and represent three or more different academic disciplines. Find your teammates, create a team, and go to wegeprize.org/registration to learn the details of the competition and to register.

Registration begins Nov. 1, 2013, and teams must be registered in full by no later than Dec. 1, 2013.

Solutions will be judged on cogency, process, impact, and illustration. What have you designed? How did you arrive at your solution? Have you considered all the necessary factors of the wicked problem? Can your solution be realistically implemented on a large scale? Can you communicate your solution visually in a way that will convince others of its worth? These are the questions that should come up repeatedly as you work.

All submissions will be initially judged by a review panel, which will select the top five solutions to move on in the competition. These five entries will be displayed at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and online at wegeprize.org.  The public will view the entries and cast their vote for the one that impresses them most. The finalists will present their solutions to a panel of guest judges who will examine the solutions and name the winners of the 1st and 2nd place awards.

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New Member: Michigan Works! of Kent & Allegan Counties

Michigan Works! Business Services Representatives work with companies in Kent and Allegan counties to create a customized solution that address unique talent needs.

  • Access to the broadest talent pool in Michigan and can help you find candidates that match your unique employment needs, no matter the level or skill set.
  • A wide range of Human Resource services such as wage research, recruitment, pre-hire assessments and job fairs.
  • Through a variety of state and federal programs, Michigan Works! is able to provide a number of training options to help you develop a strong, skilled and educated workforce.

Business Services Representatives work with employers within industry sectors such as manufacturing, information technology and health care, to develop in-depth expertise on a specific industry and identify common talent needs and trends.  It maintains partnerships with regional economic development agencies and educational institutions to provide the most comprehensive solution to your current and future employment demands.  Ask about funding for worker training.

Learn more about Michigan Works! here.