WMSBF monthly meetings often foster spirited conversation between member representatives. The April Monthly Meeting and Future Green Leaders Competition, however, put table talk at the forefront of the meeting with a sustainability charrette focused on enhancing ArtPrize‘s sustainability efforts.
Sponsored by Odom Re-Use Co, the CarbonNeutral Company, and Busy Bea’s Services, Inc, the luncheon charrette focused on several different subject areas, including health and wellness, climate, food systems, social equity, waste, and transportation. Environmental and area-specific professionals led discussions with WMSBF member representatives and guests providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions to issues highlighted in ArtPrize’s sustainability plans.
Suggestions from each group, presented at the end of the charrette session, were as varied and innovative as the discussion topics. Ideas ranged from using art to promote local food and healthy eating and designing interest-specific ArtPrize maps to utilizing the event to promote eco-tourism and working with local community groups.
Several themes became apparent between the different subject groups throughout the charrette. Creating and enhancing alternative and public transportation opportunities, as well as making the event more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly were proposed by numerous groups. Multiple tables also suggested composting services as a sustainable alternative to recycling and trash at the event. Many also felt that education of the public was important to create an environment for the actual ArtPrize event to be more sustainable in the future.
Amelea Pegman, ArtPrize’s Director of Community Engagement, praised WMSBF members for their willingness to participate in the charrette. “It isn’t in every realm of work where I find people so engaged and so willing to share about what we are doing,” she said.
Meeting attendees also had the opportunity to hear entries from the three student finalists in WMSBF’s Future Green Leaders competition, an essay and video competition for sustainability-minded West Michigan students. Participants also were asked to respond to questions about their essay and their views on environmental concerns by a three-member judge’s panel, composed of Shelley Irwin from WGVU-FM, Phil Greene of Grand Rapids Community College and Justin Swan of Organicycle.
Competition finalists included Jamie Sansone of Aquinas College, who wrote about her efforts in building awareness about preserving apiaries on and off campus, and Kirk Rasmussen of Grand Valley State University, who highlighted his works in filmmaking, communications and environmental documentary work. Judges selected Youseff Darwich, also of GVSU, who wrote on his efforts in promoting functional ecology,sustainable landscape design, and responsible agriculture as president of GVSU’s Farm Club. Darwich was named the 2014 West Michigan Sustainable Business Fellow and received the $3,000 first-place scholarship. All three finalists received a $1,000 scholarship as well.
“As a Sustainable Business student, my studies have transformed my lifestyle and have shifted my perspective on many social and environmental topics,” said Sansone after the competition. “Being selected as a finalist for the essay contest assures me in all I am doing in school and in the community to help educate and lever the sustainability movement forward.”
“It is very gratifying to know that others see the importance of integrating functional ecology in our daily lives,” Darwich said. “I never set out to win any big awards or receive such attention for my actions, I simply wanted to pursue my passions and share them with others.”
Darwich was quick to note that his individual recognition comes second to the support he has received from other sustainably-minded individuals in West Michigan. “None of the things I am currently working on would be possible if it weren’t for the wonderful and inspiring people who have helped me get to this point,” he said. “To me, this award is simply a testament to what everyone can accomplish with the support of a strong community.”
For information about the May monthly meeting, please click here.