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.

Review: Green Drinks at Watermark Brewing Company

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted a Green Drinks gathering at Watermark Brewing Company on Wednesday, January 18.

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During the gathering, Forum members spoke about sustainable happenings in the region, as well as the direction the area’s sustainability community is taking this year and going forward.

Watermark is a central hub for conversation, laughter, storytelling and cultural arts within the downtown Stevensville corridor. Watermark offers not only a unique product, but also a memorable experience. Watermark clientele enjoy a comfortable meeting place where they can have a conversation with friends and family, and maybe meet some new ones. The taproom, covered patio, and bonfire in the beer garden are designed to feel just like home. Watermark is your oasis between the copious amounts of wineries, and the vast amount beaches. Watermark also collaborates in helping support other local community driven organizations.

Review: Green Coffee at The Mason Jar Cafe

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted a Green Coffee gathering at The Mason Jar Cafe on Wednesday, November 16.

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During the gathering, Ben Baker of Wightman & Associates, Inc. discussed the firm’s use of gardening and small-scale agriculture as an alternative landscaping method. The company’s garden started in 2015 with 6 beds and 14 participants, and has grown to 12 beds with 24 gardeners today. During the garden’s evolution, inexperienced gardeners were paired with those more experienced to help facilitate growth and educate participants in small scale agriculture. The garden has helped to provide a connection to knowing where your food comes from, and offers a valuable outdoor resource during a busy or stressful day to go outside, tend your bed, collect your thoughts and get ready to tackle your next task.

Review: WWTP & The Livery Brewery Tours

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted its signature event on Wednesday, October 19.

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The event included amazing behind the scene tours of the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph Joint Waste Water Treatment Plant and The Livery Brewery! The tour displayed how we are connected to the local cycle of water, and gave insight on where our water comes from, where it goes, how it is treated, and how a local brewery upholds its sustainability commitment.

This event was presented by Chemical Bank.

Review: Green Coffee at Clifford’s Coffee Canal

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted a Green Coffee gathering at Clifford’s Coffee Canal on Wednesday, September 21.

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During our group’s tour of the Coffee Canal’s facility, Ken Clifford spoke about their fish hatchery, rain garden & stormwater management system, green roof at their restaurant, as well as water quality in relation to fish & plants in the canal behind their building.

Ken is also active in the community, having designed and created the Curious Kids Museum Green Roof in St Joseph, bringing beauty and energy efficiency to the Curious Kids’ Museum Discovery Zone.

Review: Green Coffee at Full-Circle Cafe

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted a Green Coffee gathering at Full-Circle Cafe on Wednesday, July 20.

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Full-Circle Café & Espresso Bar brings together three Lakeshore High School alumni under one roof to show the downtown Stevensville food scene some love. Offering sweet and savory baked goods; all scratch-made, with an eye on seasonality, sustainability, local sourcing, all the while focusing on giving back to the community that has given them so much. A full-service coffee bar featuring Michigan-roasted coffee and espresso drinks will be available to compliment the ready-made food selections allowing guests to grab and go, or sit and stay for the free wifi or to read the paper, meet a friend or colleague, or do some work in an internet café style setting.


Review: Harbor Shores Signature Event

Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum hosted an educational programs and tour at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores on Monday, June 13. Thank you again to Brilliant General Maintenance for sponsoring this month’s event.

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The featured speaker was Bob McFeeter, Managing Director of the Harbor Shores Project as well as Evergreen Development and Real Estate Companies.  McFeeter provided details on the two-year effort to build the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and the myriad of sustainability issues encountered during the process that ultimately removed three million square feet of dilapidated buildings and over 140,000 tons of waste material from the Paw Paw River and surrounding areas.

Download McFeeter’s presentation here (PDF).

Following the presentation was a cart tour of select holes provided by Course Superintendent, including Hole 14, an EPA Superfund site formerly used as a dumping ground for a furniture company that used radium in its products, and prior to that an aircraft construction center during World War II.

Other problematic locations included the driving range and clubhouse, previously used as a dumping for Osco Steel Mill Casting Company, and Hole 15, built on top of the former Benton Harbor Landfill.

Harbor Shores has since become a community asset and is playing a key role in the development of Benton Harbor.  It donated 38 acres of waterfront land to the city and has provide public access to 12 miles of walking trails and public use of all cart paths.  When asked if he has taken a moment to step back and take a proud look at the success of Harbor Shores, McFeeter replied “it will be successful when the rest of Benton Harbor has also developed.”

Welcome New Member: Midwest Energy Group


Founded in 2007, Midwest Energy Group is a service company, focused on energy management and energy efficiency. Midwest Energy Group exists to provide positive financial and operational impact for their customers, serving commercial, industrial, municipal, and institutional organizations. Midwest Energy Group’s purpose is to develop and nurture long-term relationships, consistently driving customer profitability through the provision of expert advice, progressive engineering, custom energy efficiency solutions, and energy management plans.

Signature Event Review: Whirlpool Tour

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The Sustainable Business Forum hosted a standing-room only program and tour of Whirlpool’s new Benton Harbor Refrigeration Technology Center.

Part of a $155 million into the Benton Harbor area, the new facility opened a year ago in a state of the art repurposed from a plant used to built boats during World War II. It is Whirlpools largest refrigeration technology center and among the world’s largest, featuring research facilities and a testing ground for product performance.

The presentation from the program can be downloaded here (PDF).

Some highlights:

  • Brain Babel, Director of Facilities Management for JLL, which manages the facility, shared photos of the original building, with ships that were constructed on site and provided explanations of each type of ship.
  • Marcia Rarrick, a Senior Project Manager, discussed what should be included in an innovative and sustainable facility, and how Whirlpool operates under the idea of making people feel comfortable and closer to the environment in a welcoming workspace. Whirlpool has adopted that notion into their “winning workplace” motto that includes three key features: environment, tools, and culture. To implement a winning workplace they have eliminated “me” spaces and created “we” spaces, meaning there are less personal offices and more collaborative areas to promote more of a team atmosphere.
  • Ceile Cull, Senior Project Manager, and Senior Chief Engineer, Tony Tomal also discussed new construction and sustainability aspects of the building. Sustainable features include building reuse (urban infill), utilization of natural light, alternative transportation (car charging stations and LEFE vehicles), certified wood, low emitting materials, water use reduction and thermal comfort.
  • The facility reused the original wood ceilings, which are visible above the engineering area.