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 Electronics 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.

usa - green environment concept
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 ( 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 (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.



Call for Board Member Candidates

The time to elect new directors for our board is upon us. Candidates should be willing and able to lend their vision and leadership to enhancing the direction of the forum over the next two years. A summary of the responsibilities of board membership here and any further detail will be available upon request.  There are four open spots.

Once nominations are received and reviewed by the nominating committee, a slate of candidates will be presented for a vote of the full membership in April. The results will be announced the following month with newly elected directors beginning their terms in June.

WMSBF has grown significantly in the last year, not only with membership but in the scope and diversification of projects and partnerships. The continued leadership of its members and willingness to challenge one another drives the success of our strategic plan and allows growth to continue.

You can apply by completing the Board Application Form here.  Deadline for applications April 2.


Energy Efficient Buildings in 2015

Check out this blog post from WMSBF member The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan.

Four factors are now perfectly aligned to create significant energy-saving opportunities for commercial and industrial property owners in 2015. They are (1) The sheer number of buildings built prior to 1999 that, on average, consume 67% more energy than those of newer construction.(2) Removal of the greatest barrier to energy efficiency projects – the initial upfront capital and development costs. (3) The meteoric rise of long-term funding available for energy efficiency projects. (4) The decreasing cost of a growing number of technology choices that foster energy savings.

Keep reading here


Organicycle Offering Neighborhood Yard Waste Program

Grand Rapids’ local provider of curbside composting service, Organicycle, has teamed up with local neighborhoods and businesses to provide reduced-cost yard waste services for Grand Rapids residents. The 2014 Neighborhood Lawn & Leaf Program serves as both a benefit for area neighborhoods as well as a cost-savings for residents.

The bags — made of compostable material — are more durable than traditional paper yard waste bags, and at 33 gallons, are bigger and less expensive than those used in any other program offered in the city. Organicycle’s bags are sold in packs of 10 for $20 and include free pick-up to Grand Rapids residents.

Five percent of bag sales go back to participating neighborhoods including Eastown Community Association (ECA), Alger Heights Neighborhood Association (AHNA) and Ridgemoor Neighborhood (RN). Bag sales are driven through partnering businesses including Alger Hardware & Featz Hot Dogs (inside Breton Village Mall).

Program participants must live in the City of Grand Rapids and only requires the purchase of Organicycle bags and online registration (

“This is a wonderful community program that collectively benefits Grand Rapids residents, their neighborhood
and a local business,” explains Justin Swan, Director of Sales & Development for Organicycle. “When Organicycle met with a few neighborhood organizations this Spring, we each saw an opportunity to provide a valuable service at a cost savings to residents while raising funds for the neighborhood association.”

Organicycle anticipates a healthy increase of participants compared to the Spring program, and is prepared for a
much larger participation compared to last Fall’s pilot program.

“Our 2013 pilot included nearly 100 new residential stops on our curbside composting route, and generated
several hundred dollars for local neighborhoods,” said Swan. “This year, our goal is raise over a thousand dollars
for the neighborhoods, draw awareness to our award-winning curbside composting program, and drive traffic to
local small businesses that are eager to give back to their community.”

The 2014 Neighborhood Lawn & Leaf Program will run through December 5, with weekly collection, in Grand
Rapids only. Organicycle bags can be purchased at Alger Hardware, Eastown Community Association and Featz
Hot Dogs in Breton Village Mall.

In September, Organicycle was awarded “Sustainable Business of the Year” by West Michigan Sustainable
Business Forum, and has twice been named to the “Best & Brightest Sustainable Businesses” list (2013, 2014).