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

Featured Resource, FYI, Member News, Uncategorized

Advanced Technology Recycling: Michigan 1 Million Pound CRT Challenge for 2016

Advanced Technology Recycling (ATR) in Grand Rapids announced they have secured a major OEM contract that provides up to 1 Million pounds of free CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) recycling and 500,000 pounds of other CED’s to Michigan Residents until 10/1/2016.  The agreement is part of an ongoing effort by ATR to provide certified and secure end of life recycling solutions within their ever expanding coverage areas.   Michigan OEM Take back program participation has been sluggish in recent years due to increased CRT processing fees which often get passed onto consumers.   The agreement comes midterm in the 2016 program year and poses a unique challenge for collection partners that have been forced to charge a fee in the wake of record low commodity prices.   In 2015 ATR used the One Million Pound Challenge (OMPC) initiative to successfully motivate consumers on Earth day and successfully set a new Guinness World Record for “Most Consumer Electronics Recycled in 1 week across multiple locations”  and collected 1,180,442 Pounds of e-Waste.  “We’re rebooting the OMPC for 2016 and focusing our attention on Michigan” said Brodie Ehresman ATR’s National Business Development Manager based out of their Grand Rapids location.

“Michigan residents have been paying for CRT recycling for some time now” said Ehresman  “The collection events are Free to local residents until the quotas are reached or time runs out and ATR will be counting all electronics collected until September 30, 2016 toward their program goals” said Ehresman.   “Many counties including Kent are graciously allowing surrounding communities to participate” continues Ehresman “please check with your local DPW or contact us to see your county is a registered collection partner prior to dropping off your electronics or you may be charged.  ATR is actively seeking recycling partners that have qualifying pounds and if you would like more information on how you can help or sponsor your own collection please call our local office at 616-452-7770, email questions to Support@ATrecycle.com  or chat with us live at www.atrecycle.com during normal business hours.  Hurry before time runs out and take advantage of this amazing opportunity to recycle your old CRT’s for FREE.


WMSBF and GHI Mixer at Odom

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and GreenHome Institute will host a joint open house at Odom Reusable Building Materials Grand Rapids on Thursday, September 22 from 5 to 7 pm. This mixer will provide an opportunity for the organizations respective members and other interested parties to network and learn about renewable building materials.img_3433-jpg

Odom is a full service salvage, deconstruction and retail building materials operation in Northern and Western Michigan. It serves building owners from institutional, commercial and residential sites, allowing customers access to materials that might have been otherwise lost, including rare high quality materials.

Furniture designer/builder/salvager Dan Chase will be on hand with drawings and photographs of a recent project for Spectrum Health that used hardwood from a large deck to make furnishings.  He will also have samples of other furniture he has made.

The GreenHome Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to empower people to make healthier and more sustainable choices in the renovation and construction of the places we live.

No cost to attend with registration. Beer and light appetizers served.

Register here for name tags.img_3544

Thursday, September 22
5 pm to 7 pm
Odom Reusable Building Materials
1029 4 Mile NW
Grand Rapids, 49544
(At intersection of Alpine Avenue)

Past Events, Uncategorized

August Review: Future Green Leaders Golf & River Outing

The 11th Annual Future Green Leaders Golf & River Outing last week at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University raised approximately $3,200 in funds to support local students and emerging professionals.

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See photos on Facebook here.

Fortunate for all, this year’s outing had the weather cooperating, with clear sunny skies and warm temperatures from start to finish. During the event, 44 golfers enjoyed friendly competition on the links, with various team and individual awards to swing for. Meanwhile, 15 kayakers relaxed on a float down the Grand River with plenty of plant and wildlife keeping them company. The event capped off with a reception hour, including hors d’oeuvres, Brewery Vivant beer, and a door prize awards ceremony.

A special thank you to all those who participated in this year’s golf & river outing, provided door prizes, and sponsored. Many thanks to our door prize donors Long Road DistillersCrystal MountainWatermark Country ClubEssence Restaurant GroupGrand Valley State UniversityMadCap CoffeeGrand Rapids Art MuseumGrand Rapids Public MuseumGrand Rapids Griffins, and Graydon’s Crossing.

Also, thank you especially to sponsors Valley City Electronic RecyclingERMREHAUPadnosFTC&HExperience Grand RapidsThomas J. Newhouse DesignBrilliant General Maintenance, and Brewery Vivant.

Thank you again and please plan to attend our next Membership Meeting and MiSCON Conference on September 14.

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FYI, Guest Blogger, Norman Christopher, Uncategorized

Christopher: Making Real Sustainability Progress Through Cross Sector Partnerships!

All sectors including public, private, service, and academic organizations, are trying to address systemic sustainability issues and concerns within their own area and span of control. Many leaders of these organizations are asking why more collective progress that addresses these issues has not been achieved to date? The reasons are numerous and many times the feedback focuses on silo thinking and not interacting with others that can provide critical input and feedback. We are now at a tipping point with the realization that business, government, NGOs, and academia all need to work together to address and solve our most challenging problems and concerns. The solutions are there with the use of sustainable development best practices, but if we do not work together significant collective progress and impact will not be made.

So then how can we develop these cross sector partnerships to advance sustainable development? Is there a roadmap that can be followed?

Start a meaningful conversation! This first step sounds trivial but is significant in expanding thought and perspectives. Many times we only start conversations with those we know or who have a similar mindset. However, diverse feedback on critical issues requires many inputs from various cross sector sources. For a business, have you tried reaching out to existing and potential new customers and suppliers, professional and trade organizations, colleges and universities, about sustainable product and supply chain product opportunities? For NGOs, obtaining feedback from those who actually receive the services provided is critical for the development of high impact programs and value creation. The concept of design thinking is a great process to use to begin these important conversations.

Establish an in depth discussion! Following on is a second distinct step concerning in depth discussions.  Again, this step may seem simplistic but it requires the complete understanding of the needs and wants of others. One of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “seek first to understand then to be understood.” For example, colleges and universities need to reach out to local employers to determine the required skillsets for entry level employee positions, so that the appropriate curriculum and learning outcomes can be developed for students. Communities should reach out to their local residents and neighborhoods through surveys and town hall meetings to learn about prioritized needs and wants, build trust, and gain support for citizen programs and initiatives. Deep listening is a tool that can be used to determine and understand needs and wants, as well as begin the process of co-creating breakthrough products and services with the required delivery systems.

Begin to collaborate! The next step in the process focuses on establishing an area of collaboration. Many times these areas naturally surface, as they relate to the vision and mission statements of mutual interest, or key goals and objectives that are beneficial to both parties. Once the area of focus has been established, a pilot or demonstration project could be developed. The partners can play either an active or silent role, but mutually share in the needed resources required and ensuring the success of the overall project. An example would be healthcare providers that want to develop exemplary community based healthcare systems and need the support and feedback of both local residents and businesses to make it happen. A successful pilot or demonstration project paves the way for establishing broader programs and activities.

Develop a working relationship! Needless to say, developing a true working relationship may take years in the making! Why? Building a working relationship takes time and effort on behalf of both parties. The first requirement is trust! Everyone wants improved working cross sector relationships, but many times the trust factor is just not there. Another critical success factor is sharing and openness. Are you able to truly acknowledge your expectations and outcomes about this working relationship? How will progress be mutually measured? How will the working relationship be organized? Besides what’s in it for you, do you also appreciate the importance of what’s in it for the other party as well? In Grand Rapids, the Business Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (www.bifma.org) is currently developing a new e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard for its trade association and members. This new grassroots standard is driven by the input from the organization’s membership who have raised the bar themselves to establish this industry-wide collaborative effort. Public, private, service, and academic sector organizations have all participated in the process. Benchmarking sustainable development best practices and using an effective project management process are good guidelines for consideration.

Establish a partnership! Most organizations want to jump to a “partnership” straight away by leapfrogging over the other steps. However, it is estimated that between 40% and 70% of all joint ventures fail (1). Why? The reasons are also similar for the breakup of supposed partnerships as well. All of the concerns deal with misaligned values, organizational control, and ineffective performance measurements that lead to the breakdown of trust and mutual compatibility. Over the last 10 years, the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Valley State University have worked diligently to build a long-term effective partnership regarding the use of student internship and associate positions. Yes, there is an agreement in place that has stipulations and requirements on behalf of both parties. But what makes the partnership really work? It is the spirit and intent of the relationship. Each partner has the best interest of each organization as its primary goal. If something needs to be fixed or changed, both parties work together to effect that change. Each organization also has an alliance manager in place to help build the relationship and grow the partnership.

What’s beyond? As the need for cross sector partnerships continues to gain momentum, is there yet a higher ground to achieve? David Brooks, in a recent NYT article about covenants, articulates how both globalization and a sense of autonomy have helped dismantle our social fiber and national coherence (2). There is a dichotomy in place with a desire to try new things and be creative individually on one hand, with a need to feel connected to a sense of place on the other. When covenants are made, people essentially pledge to become part of one another. Relationships are cherished and identities are restored. Maybe there is an opportunity for each of us to affirm a covenant with our own local community to help provide servanthood leadership and recreate our social fiber?

All the best on your sustainability journey!

Norman Christopher

Director, Office of Sustainability Practices

Grand Valley State University




The REAL Benefits of Product Sustainability

Recently, Pure Strategies issued a report entitled, Advancing – On the Path to Product Sustainability. This 2015 report determined the benefits of product sustainability efforts from phone interviews with 152 companies with sales greater than $250MM. The report also included feedback and comments from Walmart, Clorox, Johnson and Johnson, Hewlett Packard, North Face and others. As evidenced, the survey covered a broad base of industry sectors including clothing, healthcare, food, etc.

Nearly everyone contacted in the survey reported that their company was engaged with product sustainability goals and objectives! The results and benefits from product sustainability efforts and programs were then broken down into a number of categories with the reported progress achieved including ongoing directives:

Cost Savings:

  • Logistics and Supply Chain (49%)
  • Packaging (47%)
  • Manufacturing (38%)
  • Product Materials (26%)

Demand and Growth:

  • Increased Sales (46%)
  • Retailer Requirements (43%)
  • Consumer Demands (43%)

Risk Reduction:

  • Supply Chain (50%)
  • Future Regulatory (49%)


  • Brand Enhancement (33%)


  • Employee (57%)

The documented results and benefits from developing sustainable products are similar to and reinforce the reported benefits from other surveys and reports conducted in recent years.  One major new reported area of progress is employee engagement, highlighting that workers and employees feel empowered, and positively influenced, when engaged with product sustainability initiatives. To achieve these impressive results, the companies surveyed highlighted several areas within both corporate alignment and business integration as the key reasons for success. For corporate alignment the crucial outcomes included:

  • Obtaining leadership engagement and buy in: 93% of the best reporting companies had obtained top management support through needed resources, a positive culture, and accountability measures. The key success factor is to have management actively participating and helping to advance these initiatives across management departments.
  • Determining relevant and structured business goals: 81% of the companies surveyed had structured product sustainability goals in 2013, with 100% of all companies surveyed having product sustainability goals in 2015! The key success factor is to link product sustainability goals to creativity, revenue growth, and management of the overall product portfolio.

For business integration, the crucial outcomes included:

  • Embedding sustainability into core business processes and practices: Depending on the product development stage, companies reported between 50%-80% or a high level of product sustainability integration into core business practices and processes. 93% of companies reported that packaging design and development now was their top investment priority. The key success factor is to fully embed sustainability best practices into all aspects of the product life cycle, from concept to end of life, to ensure all customer and supply chain demands and expectations are successfully met. 
  • Developing key performance metrics for business and company tracking: 24% of the companies surveyed indicated that executive compensation was directly tied to sustainability performance. The key success factor is to track product sustainability sales and revenue growth as part of overall business relevant metrics.

Overall, what are the key takeaways for businesses? Those companies that prepared, progressed, and performed well on product sustainability efforts reported that they achieved twice as many benefits than those companies with less robust programs regarding cost savings and earnings! Furthermore, the company revenues and growth from sustainable products and services represented a six fold increase over the 2010-2013 timeframe. The REAL benefits of product sustainability are here to stay!

I wish you the best on your sustainability journey!

Norman Christopher is Director, Office of Sustainability Practices, Grand Valley State University and Author of Sustainability Demystified

Past Events, Uncategorized

March Review: Pashon Murray & Detroit Dirt

During West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s fourth annual conference at Cathedral Square Conference Center, keynote speaker Pashon Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt, gave insight on composting and the future of waste to energy.

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.

See her presentation slides here

FYI, Member News, Uncategorized

Steelcase Announces New Wind Power Investment

Steelcase Inc. announced a 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Apex Clean Energy for 25 megawatts of wind power. Since 2014, Steelcase has invested in renewable energy credits equivalent to 100% of its global electricity consumption. This latest investment will make up nearly half of Steelcase’s renewable energy purchases, directly support the construction of a new clean energy facility set to begin operations in 2016, and further diversify the company’s renewable energy portfolio.

“Our decision to partner with Apex and execute a long-term renewable energy agreement reflects our longstanding commitment to drive a clean energy landscape,” said Jim Keane, Steelcase president and CEO. “At a time when businesses and governments are working to align on climate strategies, we maintain a sense of urgency and optimism. We are focused on finding new ways to reduce our overall energy use and investing in innovative, economically beneficial projects like this one to take one step closer to a sustainable energy future.”

Under Steelcase’s long-term PPA with Apex’s Grant Plains Wind project, a 150-megawatt facility in Grant County, Oklahoma, Steelcase is committed to support production of approximately 100 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable wind energy each year. This amount is equal to approximately 70% of Steelcase’s U.S. electricity usage, or roughly the electricity needed to power 9,100 homes per year.


ATR Attempting Guinness Record for E-Waste

Advanced Technology Recycling (ATR) will be attempting to break a new world record in celebration of Earth Day 2015.

“One Million Pound Challenge” will focus on keeping over one million pounds of electronics out of landfills. ATR will be partnering with businesses and municipalities to host Electronic Recycling Drives for residents to bring out their old electronics for recycling. The attempt will kick off on Saturday April 18 and run till Saturday April 25 at 6:00pm.  The One Million Pound Challenge will take place across ATR’s six facilities: Pontiac & Peoria IL, Grand Rapids, San Antonio, Birmingham, AL, and Buffalo.

ATR will be using the Guinness World Records to officiate the attempt to break the world record.  The current record for “most consumer electronics recycled in one week at multiple locations is 474,227 kg (1045,491 lb 10.505 oz) and was achieved by TechCollect / ANZRP Ltd (Australia) at five locations in Australia, on 6 May 2013” states Amanda Mochan from the Guinness World Record (GWR) team in New York. On April 25 at 6:00 pm there will be a ruling from an official Guinness World Records judge located at the company’s corporate headquarters in Pontiac, IL.

“Consumer Electronics or e-Waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and technology hungry countries like the US are among the largest contributors” said Brodie Ehresman, National Business Development Manager for ATR.  Earth Day is very important, because it offers the chance for all people from different walks of life to help keep the Earth Beautiful.

For more information on how you can participate or bring electronics to an event please contact us at clientsales@atrecycle.com (616)452-7779.


Governor Snyder Unveils Energy Plan, Calls for 30-40% Renewable Energy + Efficiency by 2025


This blog post is courtesy of WMSBF member Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

Governor Snyder on Friday unveiled his long-awaited energy plan, calling for energy efficiency plus renewable energy to meet up to 40% or more of the state’s energy needs by 2015. The Energy Message follows a flurry of state energy policy activity, including House Energy Policy Chair Aric Nesbitt’s introduction of an eight-bill energy plan that would eliminate the state’s successful Energy Optimization program while moving to a new integrated resource planning process, a bill from Representative Ray Franz that would repeal the Renewable Energy Standard that has spurred $3 billion in economic activity since 2008, the release of a discussion framework by Senate Energy and Technology Chair Mike Nofs that would replace the current efficiency and renewable standards with a new Clean Energy Standard, and a proposal from legislative Democrats to extend and expand both the renewable energy standard and energy optimization standard.