WMSBF Names Bazzani, Steketee, DeBruyn To Hall of Fame

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will celebrate its work and honor local sustainable business leaders at The Third Annual Triple Bottom Line Bash next Wednesday, October 12 at Studio D2D.

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.

Each year, WMSBF honors the sustainable business practitioners that have made the greatest contribution to sustainable business in West Michigan over the course of their careers. This year’s class includes Guy Bazzani, President & CEO, Bazzani Associates, and founder of Local First of West Michigan; Deb Steketee, Professor of Sustainable Business at Aquinas College; and Gayle DeBruyn, Associate Professor & Chief Sustainability Officer at Kendall College of Art and Design.

Perhaps the region’s most visible green building practitioner, Bazzani has led West Michigan with his expertise in sustainable business practices through his firm’s architectural design, construction, and real estate services for commercial and residential development. As founder emeritus of Local First and a member of the Social Venture Network, Guy has helped set the direction for positive social and economic growth while respecting the environment in West Michigan. An example of this leadership is The East Hills Center of the Universe project featuring a blend of advanced green building technology, including passive solar design, zero-stormwater discharge, and appropriate neighborhood use. The project earned the Cool Cities Award from the state of Michigan for its innovative green technologies, LEED Double Gold Certification, neighborhood support, and sensitivity to the historic fabric of the area. Among many other accomplishments, he was a founding organizer of the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and recently his company was named a B-Lab “Best for the World” for second straight year.

Steketee joined the Aquinas College Sustainable Business Program in the fall of 2005, bringing an interest and expertise related to innovation, strategy and the social dimensions of sustainability. From 2006-2013, she served as Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability, and continues to contribute to Aquinas’ momentum toward sustainability.

DeBruyn is a designer and sustainability professional perhaps best known for founding Wege Prize, the interdisciplinary student circular economy design competition. She is currently or has been in leadership positions with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, GreenHome Institute, U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter, Grand Rapids Community Sustainability Partnership, UNU Regional Center of Expertise advisory committee and Design West Michigan.

One emerging professional will also be honored with the Future Hall of Fame Award: Eric Saigeon, the locally based Sustainability Manager for worldwide testing lab Intertek’s US and Canadian operations. Saigeon is a recent graduate of Aquinas College.

Voting is currently underway for the event’s top prize, The Sustainable Business of the Year Award. Selected by the WMSBF membership, the award honors the company that best represents the values of the triple-bottom line. Finalists include Amway, Aquinas College, Catalyst Partners, City of Grand Rapids, Disher Design & Development, Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller, Kent County Department of Public Works, and Rockford Construction. Prior winners include Organicyle and Brewery Vivant.

Two organizations will be recognized with special honors as part of the Sustainable Business of the Year Awards. Steelcase will receive the Champion Award for its legacy of sustainability leadership. Barfly Ventures will receive the Change Agent Award for its aggressive recent efforts to become a sustainability leader in its industry and the region.

A sell-out in its first two years, the triple bottom line bash has become the signature function for local sustainable business professionals in West Michigan. An untraditional awards show, the Bash is designed to make a serious and often overwhelming topic fun, this year featuring a special performance by local comedy troupe Funny Girls: HallowGreen! Individual tickets are $100 each.

Learn more about the event and the awards at wmsbf.org/bash

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WMSBF to Host Program on HR and Sustainability


West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will present a luncheon examining the triple-bottom-line impacts of employee development and advancement on Monday, July 11 at the Grand Rapids Community College Applied Technology Center from 12 to 2 pm.

Featured speaker is Kenyatta Brame, Executive Vice President of Cascade Engineering, who will discuss the critical importance of worker opportunity and equity to an organization’s sustainability strategy, its long-term profitability, and community prosperity. West Michigan Works! and GRCC Workforce Training will also present on available resources and financial incentives for employee training and development.

A tour of the recently updated ATC facility will immediately follow the meeting, including a visit to the school’s new training brewery.

Cascade Engineering has distinguished itself as West Michigan’s most progressive employer through innovative programs that provide access to meaningful, thriving careers for workers of all backgrounds and situations. Its Welfare to Career, Anti-Racism Awareness, and Re-Entry Employment Resource Center have been assets to both its internal culture and the greater community.

Brame joined the company in 2006 and has been crucial in leading several of its Employer of Choice initiatives including B Corp certification and a Full Partner designation from the Partners for a Racism-Free Community. Prior to joining CE he was the Senior Vice President for Operations and Merchandising at Sysco Food Services of Grand Rapids, LLC and served as a practicing attorney for Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cumminsky, P.L.C. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Raised in Grand Rapids, Brame holds numerous degrees including a juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School, a master’s degree from Michigan State University, and a bachelor’s degree from Wabash College.

This month’s meeting sponsored by West Michigan Works!

Learn more and register at wmsbf.org/july2016.

Past Events

May Review: SpartanNash and Plaster Creek

The May membership meeting at Calvin College featured a presentation on sustainability efforts at SpartanNash and an introduction to water quality issues in Plaster Creek.

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SpartanNash is a food distributor and grocery retailer headquartered in the Grand Rapids area.  It is also the largest distributor of military commissaries in the United States.  Speakers were Meredith Gremel, VP, Corporate Affairs & Communications and Executive Director of the SpartanNash Foundation, Alison Sutter, Manager of Corporate Responsibility for SpartanNash

Some highlights:

  • The company takes pride in it energy efficiency programs, using low emitting light bulbs in store overhead lights as well as refrigeration lighting. It recently converted all 22 fuel centers to LED lighting, spending seven million and turning over 16 million in savings.
  • SpartanNash prioritizes corporate culture under the assumption that working well with your workplace associates translates to providing exceptional services to communities, vendors and supplies, and most importantly, valued customers.

Presentation here (PDF, 25MB)

Gail Heffner, Director of Community Engagement for Calvin College, spoke about the Plastic Creek Stewards and detailed the poor condition of the 26-mile long tributary of the Grand River, a significant watershed in the Grand Rapids area.  It affects over 100 schools, nearly 200 churches and faith communities, and more than 50% of Calvin’s faculty and staff.   The program focuses on education and outreach; working mostly with elementary schools, research done at the college, and implementing active change through restoration, using low impact development such as rain gardens throughout the city.

A copy of her presentation can be found here.





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Monday, May 9: Sustainability At SpartanNash


West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s May meeting will feature a spotlight on sustainability efforts at SpartanNash and an introduction to low impact development for water quality from Calvin College.  The event is this Monday, May 9, at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College from 12 to 2 pm.

Following its 2013 transformational merger to become the nation’s fifth largest food distributor, SpartanNash has accelerated its environmental sustainability and social responsibility initiatives throughout its retail, wholesale and military distribution, and service center operations. Featured speakers Meredith Gremel and Alison Sutter will will discuss the company’s work to establish an internal and external framework for corporate social responsibility that extended across a massive scale of locations, sites and stakeholders.

Among other topics, the company will discuss its work to address animal welfare concerns, improve the energy efficiency of its stores and distribution fleet, working with local vendors, and promoting community health and wellness.

Also on the agenda is Gail Heffner, Director of Community Engagement for Calvin College, who will be discussing Calvin College’s work on Plaster Creek.  Plaster Creek is the most polluted waterway in West Michigan and drains into the Grand River just south of downtown Grand Rapids.  Plaster Creek Stewards is a collaboration of Calvin College, local schools, local churches, and community partners working to restore health and beauty to the Plaster Creek watershed.

Learn more here.

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Study Finds Recycling Michigan Garbage Potential $399 Million Economic Impact


Food waste and cardboard among top materials sampled from state’s landfills 

  • Study sampled waste from eight sites across Michigan, sorting approximately 10 tons of material
  • Michigan garbage contains an estimated $368 million of recyclable material
  • Capturing this material would have a $399 million economic impact, or an estimated 2,619 jobs
  • West Michigan garbage contains an estimated $52 million of recyclable material
  • In communities with recycling programs, 42% of garbage is “easily recyclable”
  • Food waste accounted for 13.6% of garbage, the largest source of divertible material
  • Corrugated cardboard a “high-volume, high-value opportunity” material at 8.4%, but more prevalent in commercial waste (10.5% commercial to 5.8% residential)

GRAND RAPIDS – April 18, 2016 – A study released today by West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and Grand Valley State University estimates the total material value of municipal solid waste disposed in Michigan landfills and incinerators at as much as $368 million per year.  If all material of value was recovered and sold to the market it would have an estimated total economic impact of up to $399 million per year, and employment impact of up 2,619 jobs.

The report, Economic Impact Potential and Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in Michigan, is the result of the Michigan Municipal Solid Waste Characterization and Valuation Project, an effort launched last year to characterize economic and environmental opportunities available through recycling, composting and other waste diversion strategies.  Commonly known as trash or garbage, municipal solid waste (MSW) consists of the everyday items discarded from homes, schools, hospitals and businesses, excluding waste from industrial uses and construction sites.

A coalition led by WMSBF sampled nearly 10 tons of garbage from eight sites throughout Michigan.  Sample loads were sorted by hand into 22 different categories, with food waste (13.6%) and miscellaneous inorganic material (14.7%) the most prevalent material in the state. Mixed paper (12%), miscellaneous organic material (9%) and corrugated cardboard (8.4%) rounded out the top five materials.  Altogether, organic material accounted for 35% of MSW disposed in the state.

2_1_Michigan Muncipal solid waste_perc by weight_LG-01

“A resident or business in a community with a robust recycling program and commercial composting would find it relatively easy to divert 85% of their garbage from the landfill,” said Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.  “Michigan can achieve its 30 percent recycling rate goal without any extraordinary measures:  We just need citizens and businesses to take advantage of conventional recycling options.”

The project was funded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as part of the Governor’s Recycling Initiative, the Snyder Administration’s goal to double the Michigan recycling rate to 30 percent.  Working with technical consultant Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, & Huber, Inc., WMSBF has created a waste characterization report for local communities and the state, providing much-needed data to decision makers on the materials sent to Michigan landfills and incinerators.  That information and commodity pricing data provided by WMSBF member companies allowed GVSU to perform an analysis of the potential economic impact to the state.

MI_total value Materials_4_2 _LG -01

Plastic packaging represented the highest potential value to the state, as nearly $75 million of the material was disposed last year, followed by corrugated cardboard at $57.5 million. The later topped the study’s list of recommendations, citing a clear opportunity for the state to improve cardboard recycling, particularly among businesses, as commercial waste contained 10.5% corrugated cardboard, compared to just 5.8% of residential waste.

“That is pretty much the definition of low-hanging fruit,” said Schoonmaker.  “Cardboard is easy to recycle, prevalent and valuable. It is the only material where we have both high volume and high value.”

The study concludes that efforts to increase the recycling rate in Michigan should first focus on the 42% of materials that have market value, which would include all standard recyclable commodities but glass, plus textiles.

To achieve the stated goal of doubling the Michigan recycling rate to 30%, the state must increase the quantity of diverted material by approximately 1.5 million tons per year through a combination of recovery and source reduction, according to the study.  To accomplish this, it offered the following recommendations:

  1. Aggressively promote efforts to increase recovery of corrugated cardboard, prioritizing commercial audiences.
  2. Support efforts to increase availability and usage of conventional recycling programs with a goal to increase recovery of non-corrugated paper products, metal, and high-value plastic resins HDPE and PET.
  3. Through recovery or source reduction, decrease the quantity of electronic waste disposed of in Michigan landfills by half.
  4. Promote source reduction and diversion of food waste.
  5. Promote source reduction of low-value plastic resins.
  6. Initiate efforts to increase recycling channels for textiles and promote availability of textile recycling.
  7. Educate the public on the financial difficulties of recycling and waste diversion.
  8. Pursue opportunities for further study.

The study also highlighted unique findings regarding electronic waste, deposit bottle containers, yard waste and textile recycling.  In addition, the study includes regional reports for West Michigan, Kent County and Muskegon County, which dispose of an estimated $52 million, $27.8 million and $7.2 million worth of recyclable material each year, respectively.

WMSBF partners opening their facilities to the project include Republic Services, Kent County Department of Public Works and Muskegon County. Members that provided commodity information and other support include Rapid Green Group, Padnos, Valley City Electronic Recycling, Organicycle, New Soil and My Green Michigan.

For interviews or more information contact Daniel Schoonmaker at dschoonmaker@wmsbf.org.  Graphics and pictures are available for download from the report’s media page at wmsbf.org/mswmedia.

Learn more about West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum at wmsbf.org.

Upcoming Events

ISO 14001 Audits Update

The Lakeshore Safety and Environmental Network will host its monthly lunch meeting at Tommy Brann’s Restaurant (4157 Division Avenue S) in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, April 12.

 Lunch will start at noon with a presentation by Jeff Eves of Intertek on “Auditor Interpretation and Enforcement of the new ISO 14001:2015 Standard”.

If you plan on attending, please RSVP to Su Paauwe at 616-738-7326 or via email at susan.paauwe@erm.com before April 11. Please indicate whether you would like the Sizzler or the Chicken House Salad.

 More details about Tuesday’s meeting and future meetings are on this flier: Lakeshore Mtg Notice 4.16 

Member News

WMSBF Board Applications Open

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum is now seeking applicants for its 2016 to 2018 board of directors term.  Candidates should be willing and able to lend their vision and leadership to enhancing the direction of the forum over the next two years. You will find a summary of the responsibilities of board membership here and any further detail will be available upon request.

A slate of eight candidates selected by the nominating committee will be presented for a vote of the full membership in May.   We are anticipating five returning board members and three open seats.  Our bylaws require at least two directors rotate off each year.

The 2016-2017 Board of Directors will be presented to the membership at the Annual Meeting on Monday, June 20.  Retiring board members will be honored at the time as well, along with the 2016 Recipient of the WMSBF President’s Award.

Current vice president of the board Alison Sutter, manager of corporate responsibility for SpartanNash, is President-Elect.

Interested parties can apply by completing the Board Application Form here.  Deadline for applications is April 15th.

Contact Daniel Schoonmaker at dschoonmaker@wmsbf.org for further details.

Past Events, WMSBF Monthly Event, WMSBF News

2016 Conference Review

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West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum hosted more than 140 sustainability practitioners and other professionals at its fourth annual conference earlier this month at Cathedral Square Conference Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

Presentations can be found below:

Flint Recycling Potential:  Presentation Slides (PDF)
Matt Flechter, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Roger Cargill, Schupan Recycling

Moving Flint Forward: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Kristina Johnston, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

Keynote: Pashon Murray, Detroit Dirt Presentation Slides (PDF)

Electronic Recycling in Michigan: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Steve Noble, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Nick Carlson, Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids

The Lowell Energy Anaerobic Digester: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Greg Northrup, Sustainable Partners LLC

Resilient Landscapes Through Agriculture: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Levi Gardner, Urban Roots
Youssef Darwich, Grand Valley State University

Integrating Local Food Into Your Workplace: Presentation Slides (PDF)
Garrett Ziegler, MSU Extension

Keynote: Dar Baas, Kent County Presentation Slides (PDF)

This year’s conference presented by Valley City Electronic Recycling, Herman Miller and Kent County Department of Public Works.

Exhibit sponsors included Advanced Technology Recycling, Clothing MattersFlint & Genesee Chamber of CommerceLiveRoof and LiveWall, West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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Pashon Murray to Keynote Spring Conference

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Pashon Murray

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will host Detroit Dirt founder Pashon Murray as the keynote speaker at its fourth annual West Michigan Sustainable Business Conference on Monday, March 14 at Cathedral Square Conference Center in downtown Grand Rapids from 12 pm to 4:30 pm.

The half-day event will bring together regional sustainability practitioners from business, government, non-profits and academia to learn about timely issues, share best practice, and network. This year’s event will focus on zero waste and sustainable agriculture for the non-food business.

One of the nation’s rising circular economy stars, Murray has an unrelenting drive for waste reduction, recycling, and reuse of materials. She is helping to change the carbon footprint of Detroit through revitalizing neighborhoods, finding solutions for everyday waste, and eliminating trips to the landfill. In 2010 Murray co-founded Detroit Dirt, a local composting and biomass collection company that specializes in providing compost and biomass solutions for the metro Detroit community. Detroit Dirt’s closed-loop model process was designed by Murray to help revitalize Detroit. In 2015 she founded International Dirt whose primary focus is to create programs, tools and consult on strategies that will integrate zero waste practices.

She is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Fellow, that has received recognition from Modern Farmer magazine, Martha Stewart American Made, as one of 10 women to watch by the United Nations Foundation Global Accelerator’s Inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, as one of Food & Wine’s Most Innovative Women, and one of Newsweek’s “13 Women in Business to Bet On.”
Baas will share his call to action for making West Michigan a future zero-landfill community.

A list of current speakers can be found on the conference site here.

Early-bird registration is only $35 for WMSBF members, $45 for non-members.

FYI, Past Events, WMSBF Monthly Event

February 2016 Review: Food Waste

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum presented a luncheon on sustainable food management and organic waste on Monday, February 8 at Aquinas College.

Featured speaker was Susan Mooney, Chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 Municipal and Industrial Materials Section.  Other speakers included Janine Oberstadt, Sustainability Director for Creative Dining Services, Marla Poterack, Director of Campus Dining for Aquinas College, and Aquina College Dining Services Chef Andy Schultz.

Available presentations are below.

Susan Mooney:  Sustainable Food Management

Aquinas College Dining Services