Michigan’s Water Strategy and Clean Water By Design Focus of Upcoming Event

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, and Berrien County Drain Commission will host an event intended to educate local decision makers on strategies to protect Michigan’s water resources.

Municipal staff and officials, professional engineers/planners, representatives from watershed groups, leaders from local businesses and institutions, and citizen stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

The Great Southwest Clean Water Summit will feature a workshop format with leading experts from across the state, including a luncheon keynote presentation from Jon Allan, Director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, who will speak on water conservation in the region and Michigan’s Water Strategy. Full-day summit attendees will learn about the community and economic benefits of employing low impact development techniques and green stormwater infrastructure.

Luncheon and full-day options are available for the event at Weko Beach House on Wednesday, May 9. The full-day summit is 10:30 am to 4 pm, with the luncheon session from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

The Water Strategy is a 30-year plan for Michiganders to protect, manage, and enhance Michigan’s water resources for current and future generations. It identifies key actions for actors at many levels to promote healthy water resources, organized to ensure the viability and sustainability of Michigan’s water resources over time, placing Michigan on a path to achieving its water vision in a way the that builds economic capacity while sustaining ecological integrity of this globally-significant resource.

Green stormwater infrastructure and related practices are proven strategies for managing wet weather impacts more cost effectively and sustainably than traditional, single-purpose stormwater infrastructure (conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems). These practices reduce and treat stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. Stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution and erosion in Southwest Michigan.

Jon Allan became Director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes in 2012, contributing his considerable aquatic sciences experience to the office’s mission to protect, restore, and sustain the Great Lakes watershed. With nearly three decades of experience in environmental and energy policy, he has professionally applied his understanding of ecological management in a variety of academic, corporate, and public occupations. Other featured speakers include Don Carpenter, Vice President of Drummond Carpenter, Claire Schwartz, senior civil engineer with FTCH, and Elaine Sterrett Isely, Director of Water Programs for West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

The Great Southwest Clean Water Summit is presented by Spicer Group, Inc. and Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber.

Learn more and RSVP here.

Forum to Discuss Future of Sustainability in Michigan’s Great Southwest

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will host a special Earth Day discussion next Friday, April 20 inviting local leaders to share their visions for sustainability in the region at the 8th Annual Sustainability Issues Legislative Forum.

Hosted by Wightman Associates at its Benton Harbor headquarters, St. Joseph Mayor Michael Garey, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, and State Rep. Kim Lasata will be joined by Ritchie Harrison, co-director of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy and former community planner for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Harrison will present a vision for Michigan’s Great Southwest based on leadership and collaboration for the common good, drawing on his experiences working in the City of Detroit. He will also highlight the unique value of natural resources in promoting economic development and community prosperity.

“The City of Detroit transformed its image through collaboration and working together, leveraging that for programs and initiatives such as the project that revitatlized the waterfront,” said Harrison. “We’re going to talk about how leaders can create a vision that brings people and resources together fot the common good.”

Doors open at 11:30 am for lunch, with the program from 12:10 to 1:30. Lunch is $15 for MGSSBF members, $20 for non-members. Learn more and register for the event here.

Opportunity for Local Organizations to Learn About Energy Management Strategies, Smart Buildings

WhirlpoolEMEAMichigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum is hosting a pair of energy education programs for local businesses and institutions next week featuring regional and national experts on intelligent buildings, energy efficiency planning, and local incentives.

The back-to-back programs on Wednesday, March 21 at Whirlpool Global Headquarters includes an educational and networking luncheon for facility managers, property owners, and other stakeholders from all sectors, plus a customized training in the morning for municipalities, universities, schools and healthcare facilities.

Whirlpool and JLL Director of Operations Dave Clayton and Building Managment System Specialist Keith Kiser will discuss how Whirlpool has utilized integrated technology and dashboards to improve the performance of its properties locally and globally. The program will introduce attendees to the potential of intelligent building technology, detail how it can be used in different building types (office, manufacturing, medical) and provide a demonstration of Whirlpool’s 26-property local intelligent building infrastructure.

The luncheon program will also feature a presentation from Jason Whitman, Energy Efficiency and Consumer Program Coordinator for Indiana Michigan Power, who will introduce I&M’s current rebate and incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements. Networking and lunch begin at 11:30 am, with the program from 12:10 am to 1:30 pm.

The morning session is a free workshop for Southwest Michigan municipalities, schools, and health care facilities to learn skills and practices that will support the planning and implementation of clean energy and energy waste reduction programs. It is presented in collaboration with the Michigan Community Energy Partnership and Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council.

Compared to private and residential sectors, municipalities, schools, and hospitals generally invest less in energy waste reduction and renewable energy initiatives due to unique financial and time constraints. A community energy management approach can free up capital to reinvest in future projects, reduce or eliminate large variable costs that public organizations face, and help organizations better manage financial resources for the benefit of constituents, patients, and students. Robust community energy management makes organizations more resilient, nimble, and proactive in a changing landscape.

Facilitated by John Kinch, Executive Director of Michigan Energy Options, the workshop will introduce attendees to benchmarking, revolving and energy fund establishment, and project financing. The workshop will also provide access to technical assistance and coaching, and for qualified applicants, continued one-on-one consulting on the development of energy projects.

Lunch is $15 for MGSSBF members, $20 for non-members. Learn more and register here.

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum Presents Recycling Event

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will host a networking and education luncheon for local professionals interested in recycling and composting on Wednesday, January 24 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Berrien County Conference Center.

Matt Flechter, Recycling Market Development Specialist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will share updates on efforts to double Michigan’s recycling rate, a recent goal of the Snyder Administration.  He will describe DEQ’s work to grow recycling markets, develop a statewide recycling education campaign, expand recycling opportunities at all state facilities so that the government is leading by example, modernize Michigan’s solid waste laws, and establish a sustainable funding mechanism to accomplish Michigan’s recycling goals.  He will be joined by Katie Venechuk, the MDEQ Recycling and Waste Minimization Specialist for Michigan’s Great Southwest.

Also on the agenda is Kate Binder, Sustainability Specialist for Bell’s Brewery, who will speak on the steps the brewery took to establish composting service in a community with no commercially available compost operations. This is similar to the current situation in Michigan’s Great Southwest, as no local waste haulers currently offer such a service.

Jill Martin, Environmental Property Manager for Berrien County Parks & Recreation Department, will share the county’s latest efforts to promote recycling, including the expected outcomes of its recent Recycling Education Grant.

Learn more and register online at mgssbf.org. Lunch is $15 for members and $20 for non-members if paid in advance.

MGSSBF to Honor Kliss, Recent Sustainability Projects at Inaugural Great Green Gala

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will celebrate sustainability in the region next week at the Inaugural Great Green Gala on Wednesday, November 8 at Shadowland Ballroom at Silver Beach.

This year’s event will feature a roast of MGSSBF Founder Becky Kliss, president of Green Connection Inc. and most recently, circular economy boutique Re*Imagine. A tireless advocate for sustainability in the region, Kliss is responsible for introducing the concept to countless local organizations and professionals.

Comedian and writer Dave Dyer of “The Bob and Tom Show” will kick off the event with a performance, followed by roasters from the local and national sustainability community, including Chris Brayak, Ron Segura, Marilyn Havenga and J.B. Hoyt. St. Joseph Mayor Michael Garey will also be making remarks.

MGSSBF will also honor four organizations with its inaugural Sustainability Leadership Awards, which recognizes meaningful efforts toward helping our community more equally value environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic growth. This year’s winners include:

  • Indiana Michigan Power – AEP is being recognized for its new Watervliet solar power plant.
  • Krasl Art Center piloted a recycling effort at its annual art fair.
  • Lakeland Health completed a major efficiency investment.
  • Village of Paw Paw is being honored for work to improve water quality in its community.

Tickets are $65 and still available at mgssbf.org/greatgreengala. The event also includes dinner, drinks, prizes and networking.


MGSSBF Founder Becky Kliss

MGSSBF Hosting Food Waste Council

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum parent organization West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has received a seed grant from the Michigan Local Food Council Network to promote food recovery among local businesses and institutions through the creation of a new multidisciplinary council of food waste stakeholders.

The Western Michigan Food Recovery Council will serve commercial and industrial markets in West and Southwest Michigan, with a particular emphasis on large grocery operations and the commercial and institutional food service operations that account for an estimated 48% of food waste landfilled in Michigan, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.  The council will provide access to peer-to-peer education, multidisciplinary networking, technical resources, and opportunities for collaboration.

“There is an enormous economic and environmental value lost to waste within local food systems that could be retained with efforts to promote less-wasteful, money-saving practices among businesses and institutions,” said Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. “We can retain value through reuse options that feed the hungry or animals, through waste minimization, and the creation of marketable compost products and services.”

A recent WMSBF study found that Michigan disposes of an estimated 1.1 million tons of food waste through its municipal waste stream each year, the single largest source of material disposed in the state’s landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. West Michigan disposes of an estimated 132,000 tons of food waste, while Southwest Michigan disposes of an estimated 106,000 tons of food waste. Nationally, the USDA estimates that as much as 40% of food purchased is waste.   Business and institutions generate a slight majority of food waste, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, and offer the most opportunity for recovery improvement.

Founding Southwest Michigan council members include Meijer, Bells Brewery, Gordon Food Service, Creative Dining Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Lake Michigan College, Lakeland Health.

Local organizations interested in participating should contact Daniel Schoonmaker at dschoonmaker@wmsbf.org.

The Michigan Local Food Council Network is a program of the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) at Michigan State University.  It has provided support for a dozen county local food councils across Michigan over the past year.  WMFRC is the first council in the network organized around a specific issue, and will collaborate with other network councils in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.

“Our goal is to strengthen the network of food councils across Michigan, and the WMFRC will fill a unique space in the state’s food council landscape,” said Liz Gensler, co-coordinator of the Michigan Local Food Council Network and Outreach Specialist at CRFS. “We see great potential for WMRFC to impact food recovery innovation both locally as they work alongside councils in West Michigan and across Michigan as they share learnings and the tools they develop through the network.”

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum Launches Recycling User Group

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum is launching a new recycling initiative designed to help local companies implement waste diversion programs and potentially establish zero waste to landfill goals.

The MGSSBF Zero Waste Initiative is based on a program that has helped Kent and Ottawa county organizations collaborate on shared challenges for recycling and waste diversion. Facilitated by Sustainable Research Group, which also facilitates the Grand Rapids program, the Zero Waste Initiative supports the efforts of Southwest Michigan businesses to keep waste from being sent to landfills. It will promote the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recovery hierarchy, helping to establish a circular economy in the region through education, evaluation, research and joint activities.

The initiative is led by a group of six founding sponsors: Brilliant General Maintenance, Jones Lang La Salle, Lakeland Hospital, Stryker Corporation, Western Michigan University, and Whirlpool. It will meet once per quarter, with educational opportunities and other support provided virtually in between meetings.

Formed in 2013, the Grand Rapids-based Zero Waste to Landfill User group assists local manufacturers in finding alternative disposal methods for troublesome waste products by working across multiple industries, combining small- and medium-sized manufacturers with the likes of Haworth and Herman Miller. Members of the original group already have had considerable success with developing internal recycling programs for materials such as paper, corrugated cardboard and food waste, and were looking to address the last 10 percent of or most difficult materials to recycle in their waste streams.   MGSSBF founder and Green Connection Inc. President Becky Kliss organized the Southwest Michigan group.

The Southwest Michigan group will focus on program implementation and infrastructure development, aligning with other waste reduction activities in the region, and benefit from the experience of the more established participants in the sister group.

Any organization with waste reduction needs may participate for an annual fee of $250 for up to two representatives per company. Organizations that are not members of MGSSBF will be asked to join the organization after one year or pay an increased annual fee.

Learn more at mgssbf.org/zero.

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum presents Seventh Annual Sustainability Issues Legislative Breakfast

pptBvKFzJpLUznn-1600x900-noPadMichigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will celebrate Earth Day this week with a panel discussion on Great Lakes conservation, clean energy and other topics at its Seventh Annual Sustainability Issues Legislative Breakfast on Friday, April 21 from 7:30 am – 9 am at the Hanson Technology Center at Lake Michigan College.

This year’s panel is headlined by Rep. Fred Upton, Southwest Michigan’s representative to Congress since 1987, and Rep. Kim LaSata, recently elected Representative for Michigan’s 79th House District, which includes St. Joseph, Benton Harbor and the surrounding areas. Other experts include Liesl Clark, President of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and Patty Birkholz, West Michigan Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, a former State Senator and current Member of the Great Lakes Advisory Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Board of Directors.

Panelists will discuss current issues relevant to sustainability locally and nationally, including Great Lakes conservation efforts and funding, clean energy, environmental regulation, and a selection of questions submitted by MGSSBF members prior to the event.

A hot breakfast will be provided. Event is $15 for MGSSBF members if paid online, $20 for non-members.  Learn more and register here.

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum Merges with West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum has completed a merger with West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum to create the largest regional organization for sustainable business practitioners in the Midwest.

The combined organization, headquartered in Grand Rapids, will serve 220 member organizations and the general community in a 10-county territory that stretches from Muskegon County to the Indiana border with a unified mission of promoting business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social responsibility.

The merger allows MGSSBF to share administrative costs with the larger program and invest more resources to its mission.  It is already bringing new programs to the Great Southwest, including a recycling user group based on a successful program in the Grand Rapids area, an initiative to help local events and fairs implement recycling and sustainability programs, and a program to capture unique waste materials for use by artists.

Continue reading Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum Merges with West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

Forum to Host Green Event Workshop and Networking Event

BENTON HARBOR — FEBRUARY 15, 2017 — Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will host a luncheon workshop for local businesses, event planners and other interested parties on green events and event recycling on Friday, February 24 at Western Michigan University’s Southwest Campus.

Implementing recycling and other sustainable practices at Southwest Michigan events is a consistent interest of Sustainable Business Forum members and a strategic priority for 2017. Through feedback captured at this event, MGSSBF will work to create a toolkit for local organizers. A committee recently launched to assist local cultural events with implementing recycling and other practices.

To begin this effort, the organization has assembled a panel of experts that have led sustainability efforts at events and venues large and small, including corporate meetings and picnics, fairs and concerts, volunteer events, and weddings, throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Presenters include:

Roger Cargill, Special Events Manager at Schupan Recycling leads a team that has provided recycling expertise to Michigan State University sports events, NASCAR, Common Ground in Lansing, Herman Miller company picnic, and the Green Street Fair in Plymouth, as well as many other sporting, music and community events.

Alyssa Ferguson, Principal of Fleurology Designs, is a floral designer, artist and consultant that has worked with wedding venues throughout Michigan.

Autumn Sands, Sustainability Manager for Barfly Ventures, has led sustainability efforts for a series of large-scale, multi-block events at various Hopcat locations throughout the Midwest, most notably Irish On Ionia, a zero-waste event that each year serves over 15,000 revelers in Grand Rapids.

Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has organized over a hundred events on behalf of environmental organizations over the past decade, ranging from 1,000-person volunteer events to corporate luncheons. He has developed and tested protocols to help planners with incremental improvements on food sourcing, carbon offsets, recycling and general sustainability, and will speak on partner efforts underway in Grand Rapids to improve event recycling in downtown Grand Rapids.

The event includes lunch, networking, a panel presentation and will end with a facilitated discussion that will help local businesses, event organizers, volunteers and other interested parties develop recycling and sustainability plans for events. Lunch is $15 for MGSSBF members and $20 for prospective members if paid online.

Learn more and register here.