Thursday, September 2, 2010

Retreat while still forging ahead

Last week the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce closed its doors for one day for our bi-annual all staff retreat. This was our time to come togethor and decide to what heights we are going to take the organization to this coming year.

After eight hours of listening, learning, engaging, sharing, crying...ok maybe not crying but we put in some serious sweat equity into this years goals and objectives. And let me tell you our sights are high.

This year, the Chamber decided to use a sustainability model and split our objectives into three areas; Economic, Social and Enivornmental.

Like any great project, before embarking on constructing the Chamber's goals, we needed to read the instructions. This came in the form of a great presentation by Steelcase's John Malnor about Design Thinking. The presentation was so inspiring we changed up the plan and based all of our goals on the "what if's".

What if Chamber membership was free?

What if the Chamber had 0 Carbon emissions?

What if all Chamber events were free?

What if we ...

The list is endless

After a short lunch break and put-put tournament to get our juices flowing again we were back in the saddle.

The staff was split into four groups in which we came up with ideas/goals/suggestions for each category.

Each group was to come up with the top two ideas to post under the topic and viola! Our objectives for 2010-2011 had began to form.

As I type now the Chamber's Leadership team is locked away in the conference room fine tuning the ideas and turning them in to a living breathing map that will direct the course of the S.S. Chamber for the next six months. Once completed, stamped and approved you shall have full access to what we came up with...get ready!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Navigating the Single Stream Running Through GR!

You've seen the billboards, the commercials, the propaganda supporting the Single Stream Recycling effort kicked off in Grand Rapids on July 20.

But what is it?

Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic that are currently separated into different recycle bins are now placed all together in one recycling cart. It is still important to follow the same preparation guidelines for recycling preparation except you just put all your recycling in one container.

Why bother?

Single stream recycling makes recycling easier for residents. No sorting of accepted recycling materials, all recycables go into one cart. It is more efficient for employees. This program will use recycling carts in place of the recycling bins or tubs residents currently use. The carts will be emptied using semi-automated equipment. Residents will choose the recycling cart size that best fits their needs. Recycling cart sizes available are: 35 gallon, 64 gallon or 96 gallon recycling cart. The carts are the same sizes that are offered with the refuse cart program. Each cart is made with 40% recycled plastic and will have a bright yellow lid.

*Info taken from The City of Grand Rapids

To read more about this great cause sweeping through the streets and doorsteps of Grand Rapids check out the City of Grand Rapids website.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fun for the whole family!

Summer is winding down (I know, I know, but we all knew it was coming) but the event scene in Grand Rapids is not! There are two fabulous events for you to attend that will support and educate the West Michigan communitiy.

"Future Cities: Climate Strategies for Sustainable Communities"

Concerned about climate change and how it will impact Michigan?

The economic and environmental health of Michigan and communities across the Midwest are threatened by climate disruption. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, many communities have some climate mitigation policies but more must be done. Future Cities: Climate Strategies for Sustainable Communities, presented by GreenTown: The Future of Community, will host mayors from across Michigan to identify and implement the needed steps to mitigate climate disruption and the rising threat to Michigan's economy.

To read more click here.

2nd Annual Grand Harvest Festival

Come join us for the 2nd Annual Grand Harvest Festival on Saturday August 28th 11-4. The festival is to support Feeding America West MI. Bring in YOUR locally grown produce NOW through August 28th for a chance to WIN our grand prize of $500 in gardening gear! Large or small every donation counts to help feed the hungry.

The festival features music by Serita’s Black Rose, Me 3 Mind and more. You can enjoy local food, environmental groups, craft and other fun vendors. We will have games and prizes (great freebies from our generous suppliers). Come down to enjoy Food, Music, Games, and great giveaways all to support our local food bank Feeding America West MI

To read more click here.

Do you have an event you want buzzed about?
Contact Abby at The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce 

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's a wash

Nothing annoys me more than when I am on the internet and I have to fight off a million pop-up windows containing “hidden diet secrets revealed!” or “lose 10lbs in 1 hour guaranteed!”, ok so maybe I bluffed a bit with that last one. My point is all of these are radical claims and we (most of us) know they are not true.

The same rules apply for the green product industry. As consumers we need to make smart conscious decisions and research what we are buying. Just because something has a green label does not mean that it is environmentally friendly.

Greenwashing was defined at the MiBiz Review forum as
“giving consumers and policy makers the impression that the company/organization is taking the necessary steps to manage its ecological footprint. Evidenced by a company spending more time and money on claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.”

Need some examples of greenwashing?

1. An energy company that promotes its efforts to develop “green” technology, when in reality it represents a minute portion of its overall business.

2. Hotel chains that refer to itself as “green” merely because guests may reuse sheets and towels during their stay, yet does nothing to reduce water and energy usage.

3. A bank may advertise “green banking” because you can access your account on-line.

If you are concerned about greenwashing, Greenwashing Index gives criteria for determining if a product or service you are using is faux green.

1. The ad misleads with words

2. The ad misleads with visuals or graphics

3. The ad makes a green claim that is vague or seemingly improvable

4. The ad overstates or exaggerates how green the product/company/service actually is

5. The ad leaves out or masks important information, making the green claim sound better than it really is

If you are concerned that a product or service you are using or producing might violate the laws of greenwashing check out these resources from Warner Norcross & Judd. I had the opportunity to sit at a roundtable discussion with Janet Ramsey who specializes in the legal side of Green Marketing and she passed on these awesome resources.

1. "Greening Your Products" by Environmental Protection Agency

2. "Green Certification and Ecolabeling" by U.S. Government

3. "Guides for Use of Environmental Marketing Claims" by Federal Trade Commission

4. "How to Comply with Environmental Marketing Guidelines" by Federal Trade Commission

5. "Green Marketing" by United States Government

6. "Greener Choices" by Consumer Reports

7. "Sins of Greenwashing" by TerraChoice

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jailhouse Blues...or Green?

Grand Rapids has the most LEED certified buildings per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., true. When we think of those buildings we think hotels, restaurants, offices but what about the jail?

In early May of 2010 construction began to install a geothermal heating and cooling system in the Kent County Correctional Facility Fuller complex. The facility is the second county building to use this alternative energy source the first being the 63rd District Courthouse.

So how does geothermal heating and cooling work? It is all about transferring heat, even cold air contains heat! "The whole process is simply transferring heat from one place to another," said Don Steeby, an associate professor of heating and refrigeration at Grand Rapids Community College. "It is the most sustainable alternative energy available. The heat is always there, regardless if the sun isn't out and the wind isn't blowing."

This new construction is said to provide a less than 10-year payback!

Other locations in Grand Rapids are being looked at (including the zoo) but lack the proper funding to execute.

To read more information on the geothermal facility visit: Mlive

Thank you to Mlive and Consumer Energy for the information!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Little things that make a difference

A lovely co-worker of mine spotted this on yesterday and since I know that everyone is trying to save a little change these days I thought I would pass it on.

If there is one thing I have learned while working on reducing the Chamber's Carbon Footprint is that little things do make a difference. For example, The GRACC Paper Challenge 3 sheets a day may not sound like much but times it by 30 people in the office (that 3 sheet turns into 90 a day and then 450 pieces in a week).

If you have any other tips/suggestions please feel free to share!

Enjoy these quick tips and have a GREAT weekend!
For the full article click here

• Unplug — Be sure to unplug any devices you and your workers are not using. This tip can save you money in the long run. In fact, battery chargers for our everyday business tools, such as smart phones, laptops and PDAs, still consume energy when plugged in.

• Shut down — Once you’ve agreed to unplug, it’s also time to shut down. According to the Energy Awareness Campaign, there are about 104 million office computers in the country, and approximately 31 million are left on at night, not in use. This results in the release of approximately 15 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, totaling a staggering $1.7 billion spent on energy that has been wasted.

(Don't get as excited as I did when I read the first bullet point)

• Sleep — When you and your employees have stepped away from the computer, be sure to have the sleep feature turned on. This will result in your PC using less energy. The good news is that, with newer operating systems, sleep can be turned on by default, allowing your PC to go to sleep automatically.

• Stop using screen savers — Use an alternative feature like display blanking, which is a solid black screen, instead. This not only saves on overall energy costs for the company, but it also can extend the life of the monitor, avoiding additional repair costs down the road.

• Power up — Take advantage of the existing power-management tools in your PC’s control panel to select energy-reducing settings, such as sleep and battery options. If you and nine of your employees implement these settings, the energy savings is the equivalent to taking one car off the road.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Chamber...a well made piece of furniture

Recently, I have been tasked with creating a comprehensive and measurable sustainability plan for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. At first, the task seemed rather daunting and intimidating because the concept of sustainability is so complex…how can it fit into one single plan? I realized it needed to be broken down. Sustainability (as we often forget) is really a three legged stool…right?


My problem is that when I think of sustainability my brain automatically thinks GREEN. But that is not the whole picture. Sustainability is three parts; Economic, Social, and Environmental.

Too many times the two other legs of the stool are overlooked (the economic and social).

Before I embark on writing the Chambers sustainability plan I thought I would give you a sneak peak outline of where I think the Chamber’s goals will fit into these three categories.


The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is committed to being the leading business membership organization in West Michigan by providing outstanding membership, advocacy, diversity and community programming that promotes inclusion, prosperity and growth.

The Chamber works to attract and retain members by providing top notch customer service and fostering the growth of our local and regional businesses. We hope to grow our Chamber by providing benefits to our members such as business networking opportunities, facilitating events that will foster business growth, vendor discounts and marketing our Chamber opportunities to actively engage the community.

Social Responsibility

Through collaboration, volunteering, professional development the chamber will become great stewards of the community. The Chamber encourages staff members to attend events from other local organizations, engage in Chamber networking events, and actively contribute to their professional development. The Chamber will maximize the power of cultural competency to drive

superior business results and competitive advantage. We believe in utilizing the awareness, knowledge and understanding of all people as an asset for our region. It implies an ability to work within and among diverse citizens, embracing talents, experiences, and perspectives from various cultures.


The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has dedicated its resources to implement the Partnership for a Sustainable Community (PSC). The Partnership includes but is not limited to the Carbon Footprint Calculator, sustainability resource blog, sustainability member resource guide, and PSC meetings. Along with the Partnership, the Chamber has made efforts to implement sustainable practices into our day-to-day operations. The Chamber completed the Carbon Footprint and is now working to reduce their Carbon footprint by reducing paper usage, switching to 30% recycled content, using compact florescent lighting, etc. The Chamber is continuing to find ways to reduce reuse and recycle.

In conclusion, this is not all of efforts but it’s a start. How is your company implanting all three areas of sustainability? SHARE

And remember sustainability is a three legged stool…imagine how hard it would be to balance with just one? You’d fall over!