July Meeting Update

From a school studying and striving for sustainability in the Bahamas, to a community embracing sustainability in West Michigan, the July Sustainable Business Forum meeting was full of exciting sustainable ventures.

Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas was the first discussion topic of the afternoon. Brian Schultz explained a week-long field study for sustainability professionals which will take place at the school in March of 2013. Although the school is usually reserved for college students from around the globe, it will be open for working professionals during the week-long March session, lead by Schultz.

The Cape Eleuthera institute focuses on the exploration of sustainable strategies for energy, food, and water, and is aided in these processes through some recognizable West Michigan connections. The Devos family donated the land where the school is currently housed, land that is just north of the family’s resort. It is not just the Devos family that has donated to the school, though, a grant from the Wege foundation funded the wet lab, where students can study and raise local fish, as well as some of the institute’s solar panels and the school’s only wind turbine. Peter Meijer also donated to the school, resulting in the conference center bearing his name, and, according to Schultz, all the furniture in the conference center is from Steelcase.

The Devos connection helps the Cape Eleuthera Institute with its sustainable initiatives, mainly because it allows for a connection with the Princess cruise line, also owned by the Devos family, which comes into port a few times a week. The institute uses the left over cooking oils from the cruise line, the Devos’ resort, and a few other hotels on the island, to create biodiesel to run all of its vehicles. The school produces around 100 gallons of biodiesel per week.

Not only are Cape Eleuthera Institute’s mission and transportation choices sustainable, the construction of their buildings is environmentally friendly as well. Living roofs, solar panels, and reclaimed wood from old ships are all great examples of the sustainable construction of the school’s dorms, classrooms, and bath facilities. The school currently runs off of 99% solar power, and, with the help of their single wind turbine, actually produces more power than is necessary to maintain itself.

The Cape Eleuthera institute is not the only place where renewable energy is at the forefront, though. Closer to home, the city of Holland is also considering ways to make a more sustainable community with its Community Energy Plan. The plan is a long-range look at Holland’s energy future, which focuses on efficiency and community. Currently some of Holland public schools are being renovated to include more energy efficient, 21st century learning environments. Holland New Tech is a prime example of the sustainable initiatives going into the schools. With automatically dimming lights, carpet tiles, energy efficient windows, and more the school is able to cut energy costs while allowing students to learn in a project-based, 21st century environment.

There is more to the energy future of Holland than the school renovations. Currently, the Holland sustainability committee is advocating to the city a more energy efficient option for a power source to replace the James DeYoung coal power plant. The current plan is to build a new coal plant, but the sustainability committee would like to see a natural gas plant built, as well as the utilization of wind and solar power when appropriate. Both plans will cost $300 Million in the end, but the natural gas plan will allow $70 Million for energy efficient building investments in the Holland area, $80 Million to utilize excess heat given off by the new power plant, $40 Million for the strategic use of wind and solar power, and $110 Million for the new natural gas fuel power plant.

This power plant is just one step in Holland’s 40-50 year plan to optimize energy usage and work toward a sustainable future.

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