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    June 30, 2016
    UIX: Haris Alibšic keeps sustainable growth on GR's horizon

    This feature article highlights Haris Alibašic, as an influential person transforming West Michigan through his sustainable efforts in his current roles as both Director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability, and professor at Grand Valley State University.  To read the full article for further insight go here.

    May 17, 2016
    West Michigan Community Sustainable Partnerships Ignite
    The Community Sustainability Partnerships of West Michigan, which include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Spring Lake/Grand Haven, Holland, Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor/St. Joseph invite you to their IGNITE event on May 17th. The event will start at 1:17 p.m. and end at 5:17 p.m. and will be held at GVSU Eberhard Center. There will be approximately twelve 15 minute presentations that will inspire the audience to ignite and amplify the environmental, social and economic nexus of sustainability. We will showcase some of West Michigan’s best practices and ideas under the theme of The Path to 2030: We Will Get There Together.
    Speakers include: Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Alan Steinman, Darwin Baas, plus more.
    Tickets for the event are $20 and can be purchased here.
    Point of Contact: Renae Hesselink, LEED AP BD+C renae.hesselink@enichols.
    Getting Green
    WGVU Monthly conversation on green practices and sustainability. Featured Talk: Dr. Jonathan Smieja, Leader of Sustainable Design and Development at Steelcase.
    Listen here.

    WGVU Sustainability Community Voices
    Sustainable Community Voices, brought to listeners by WGVU, monthly speaks with guests on the topic of sustainability. On January 20th the topic was on a recent sustainability happenings in the City of Grand Rapids with guest Dr.Haris Alibašić. To listen to the show, click here.​

    Sustainability Plan Progress Report marks accomplishments at five-year milestone

    This week, the City of Grand Rapids released a sustainability plan report showing remarkable progress made in implementing a variety of sustainability goals.

    The Sustainability Plan Progress Report states that in the past five years, Grand Rapids completed over 81 percent of its targets with another 18 percent in progress. Those sustainability projects include the implementation of alternative fuels in city vehicles, use of renewable energy, installation of electric vehicle charging stations, investment in brownfield redevelopment projects, stepped-up flood resilience and planning, additional energy and water conservation measures, and continued dedication to improved water quality in the Grand River and its tributaries.

    According to Grand Rapids’ Energy and Sustainability Director, Haris Alibašić, this document serves as a snapshot of the cumulative work performed over the last five years of Sustainability Plan implementation​. To read the full article, click here​. To view the progress report, click here​



    Grand Rapids, Salt Lake City release letter from 70 mayors supporting President Obama setting science-based air quality standards
    Today, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City, Utah released a letter signed by 70 U.S. mayors from around the country signaling support for President Obama setting the strongest possible clean air protections against smog pollution, also known as ground-level ozone. 

    The letter was signed by a diverse coalition of local leaders from 24 states, many of which have of a history of high smog pollution levels; including California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The letter supports efforts by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stay true to the science and issue protections consistent with the recommendations from leading public health organizations like the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Heart Association.

    “Millions of children suffer from asthma in this country, many of them right here in Grand Rapids,” said Mayor Heartwell. “It’s simple – strong smog pollution protections will save lives and prevent asthma attacks so we stand united in calling for action.”

    According to the American Lung Association, inhaling smog pollution is like getting a sunburn on your lungs and often results in immediate breathing trouble. Long term exposure to smog pollution is linked to chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death. Children, seniors, and people with asthma are especially vulnerable to smog’s health impacts. To read the entire press release click here.

    Communities create a ‘grand strategy’ focusing on Grand River projects

    Several area communities, including Grand Rapids and Kent County, are in the running for millions of dollars from the federal government.

    A collaborative West Michigan project called The Grand Strategy is competing for a portion of $1 billion to be allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the National Disaster Resilience Competition, launched in September 2014.

    The grants are available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. All states with counties that experienced a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster in 2011, 2012 or 2013 were eligible to submit applications.

    West Michigan communities in the running for the grants are those that were greatly affected by the April 2013 flooding of the Grand River, including Kent County, Lowell, Ada, Cascade and Plainfield townships and the cities of Grand Rapids, Walker and Grandville. To continue reading this article from GRBJ, click here.

    U.S. Mayors Step Up As Key Advocates for Climate Change Action during UN Conference in Paris
    Local Climate Leaders Circle Brings Together More Than a Dozen Cities to Highlight Examples of Strong Climate Action
    A coalition of U.S. mayors and city officials announced today that they will join the UN Conference of Parties (COP) meeting in Paris in December to showcase their cities’ climate leadership and call for an ambitious international agreement that addresses our climate crisis and supports further action at the local level.
    This group of mayors, called the Local Climate Leaders Circle, includes mayors of Atlanta, Boulder, Chula Vista, Columbus, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, West Palm Beach, and councilmembers from Santa Monica and King County, Wash.
    The Leaders Circle is coordinated in partnership by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, National League of Cities, and U.S. Green Building Council in association with the Compact of Mayors and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. The Leaders Circle works alongside city officials from across the United States to advance their local climate goals. The partners are working closely with these cities on a range of efforts including updating measurements of their greenhouse gas emissions, preparing local projects to better access needed financing, engaging citizens on climate action, and meeting with high-level representatives from the U.S. government and international community to advance a climate accord that benefits city action, recognizing that the most ambitious local goals can only be achieved alongside an enabling national and international framework.
    “Supporting a global climate agreement is critically important for cities around the world,” said National League of Cities President Ralph Becker, Mayor, Salt Lake City. “I’m honored and encouraged that so many of my fellow city leaders have joined in this mission for their residents and the thousands of communities throughout the nation.”
    The members of the Local Climate Leaders Circle have committed to the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of mayors and city officials pledging to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and track their progress transparently.
    “These twelve cities deserve great credit for acting quickly to confront climate change,” said Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former mayor of New York City. “By drawing attention to the work cities around the world are doing - and helping them speed their progress - the Leaders Circle can help set the stage for a successful climate change summit in Paris later this year."
    “National governments are making important commitments ahead of Paris, but they can’t do it alone. To close the gap between current national pledges and a safer future, we need everyone in the game. These cities already have goals and action plans that show the way toward the stronger action we need,” said Lou Leonard, WWF’s vice president of climate change. “As first responders to the expensive and growing impacts of climate change, it makes sense that mayors are way ahead on this challenge.”
    “Mayors and county officials are widely recognized for playing an exemplary role in tackling climate change on different fronts.  Many communities have made measurable cuts in emissions by reforming policies and regulations related to polluting sectors like energy and transportation, and have also led by example in their own municipal operations,” said Brian Holland, Director of Climate Programs, ICLEI USA.
    “These leading mayors will share examples of how local solutions are playing a critical role to address the truly global challenges related to climate change,” said National League of Cities CEO Clarence E. Anthony. “Our goal is for the Local Climate Leaders Circle partners to share the experiences and best practices learned in Paris with city leaders across the nation to inspire their peers to reach higher to mitigate climate change.”
    “From Atlanta to West Palm Beach, cities across the U.S. are eager to take action on climate change and improving the performance of the building stock is a key component to reaching their greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “Buildings account for 30 percent or more of total carbon emissions, so many cities look to building retrofits to reduce their carbon footprint and spur job creation. We are proud of the fact that many cities across the globe choose LEED certification as the pathway to saving energy, water and money while also promoting the increase of renewable and clean energy across their local economies.”
    This Local Climate Leaders Circle is a project of the Resilient Communities for America campaign founded by the Leaders Circle partners which has collected over 200 pledges from local elected officials across the U.S. toward building cities and towns that can bounce back from extreme weather, and economic challenges.
    To learn more about the Local Leaders Climate Circle, click here.



    UN calls on Grand Rapids for Conference of the Americas
    Grand Rapids will host a global conference on sustainable development that will bring leaders from six countries to the city.

    Mayor George Heartwell announced that Grand Rapids was invited by the United Nations to host the Regional Center of Expertise 2015 Conference of the Americas, which is being held Aug. 9 through 11 at several locations across the city.

    The Regional Center of Expertise, or RCE, consists of a network of organizations acknowledged by United Nations University “to educate on sustainable development in its community.”

    RCEs think globally but act locally, having official links to U.N. agencies, while also acting as stewards of knowledge about sustainability challenges in their home regions, according to the RCE website. To learn about the conference goals by reading the GRBJ article, click here.


    Environmental Service Employees Earn Prestigious Awards

    The Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) has awarded Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department chemist Sandra Buchner its 2015 Educational Professional of the Year Award recognizing her exemplary professionalism and promotion of water resource learning.

    “Ms. Buchner’s tireless efforts to increase awareness about the critical importance of protecting, preserving and enhancing our state’s water resources reflects a commitment to excellence and leadership that all Michigan residents can applaud,” said MWEA Executive Director Jerry Harte. “Grand Rapids is fortunate to have a public servant who is as skilled and dedicated to her craft and improving the quality of the Grand River as Ms. Buchner.”

    In addition to her duties as a laboratory chemist at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Buchner leads free weekly tours of the facility for Grand Rapids third-grade students and above as well as public tours for groups of city residents.

    During her 10-year career with the department, city records show Buchner has provided environmental instruction to more than 12,000 tour patrons. In addition, Buchner serves on multiple water resources committees and works with the nonprofit FLUSH water education program that informs Michigan Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts about the value of maintaining fresh water resources.

    To continue reading this press release by City of Grand Rapids, click here.


    Solar feild at old Butterworth Landfill moves along

    A new major Grand Rapids Solar Reuse Project promises to save the government agency $200,000 or more in annual energy costs. The Grand Rapids City Commission today authorized City staff to begin negotiations with American Capital Energy (ACE) for a long term power purchase agreement and land lease arrangement for a solar facility at the former Butterworth Acres landfill site.

    In November 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-funded Solar Reuse Feasibility Study for the Butterworth Acres Superfund determined that it was feasible to utilize the site for solar energy. In the past two years, the City evaluated several options for utilizing the solar energy produced at the site before identifying the adjacent Wastewater Treatment site as the most cost effective option.

    Click here to finish reading this press release by City of Grand Rapids. 


    City of Grand Rapids Completes Water Quality Project

    According to Grand Rapids officials, the State of Michigan issued a mandate to the City in 1988 to eliminate all CSOs by 2019. The mandate was necessary to upgrade a portion of the 100 year-old Grand Rapids sewer system that used a system of combined sewers with both storm water and sanitary sewage transported in a single pipeline. The CSO approach was common across the country at the time of construction. However, engineers over-time discovered that the antiquated CSO system did have serious drawbacks including prompting flooding during heavy rainfalls which caused basement backups and allowed untreated sewage to be discharged into area rivers.

    “Reengineering and digging up our historic city over the past 30 years to install proper storm and sewerage system was no small feat,” Mayor Heartwell said. “Although it inconvenienced our residents with, what seemed to be, an unending series of construction projects that interrupted neighborhoods, we can positively say now that it was the right thing to do. The water quality improvements produced by this project are remarkable and are a generational bequest to the Grand River watershed.”

    Design services for the city’s CSO project began in 1987 with the construction of a 30 million gallon retention basin and then continued with engineering for separation of the City’s combined sewers. At that time, the City’ combined sewers carried approximately 1.96 billion gallons annually and encompassed a more than six-square-mile area. The enormous scope of work included eliminating 59 sewer overflow sites and discharges into the Grand River by separating and replacing storm and sanitary sewers and installing 119 miles of new pipelines. The City completed the first phase of the project on the west side of the city in 1999.

    This month crews completed work at the intersection of Washington Street and Lafayette Avenue -- the last of the 59 original overflow sites.

    Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong says the project significantly enhanced the city’s water quality and reduced the chance of localized flooding. “Although the project seemed overwhelming and a massive undertaking, Grand Rapids looked at the mandate as an opportunity to invest in rebuilding neighborhoods and business districts while achieving this critical environment outcome. Our CSO projects focused on each element of infrastructure that creates quality places.”

    To continue reading this press release from the City of Grand Rapids, click here.


    Grand River Restoration Project Moves from Planning to Implementation Stage
    On Tuesday, July 28 the Grand Rapids City Commission approved River Restoration ReportRiver Restoration Reportthe Grand River Restoration Steering Committee’s (GRRSC) Final Report -- marking a shift from the visioning stage of work to the early implementation phase of river restoration.

    In its Final Report, the GRRSC recommended that the Grand Rapids City Commission authorize a transitional role for a successor to the Steering Committee and suggested it be named the Grand River Corridor Revitalization Committee (GRCRC). It also suggested that the new GRCRC work with key partners including the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Whitewater to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with Trust for Public Land (TPL) to secure private philanthropic funding to support the Grand River Corridor Revitalization Committee’s work, act as interim fiscal agency, and provide project management of the rapids restoration project.

    Assistant Planning Director Jay Steffen told the Commission that the Steering Committee further recommended that the new Grand River Corridor Revitalization Committee, supported by TPL, should explore the future formation of a “conservancy-like” organization to operate, maintain and sustain the improvements in the river and on the banks, and the establishment of a complementary “recreational authority”-like organization inclusive of key government jurisdictions upstream and downstream of Grand Rapids. “The entity or entities assigned to manage the oversight and coordination of the river corridor projects must work in partnership with others to closely monitor water quality and support both regional and local efforts to minimize pollutants to the Grand River,” Steffen said.

    In accepting the report, a grateful Mayor George Heartwell said that the River Restoration Steering Committee played a vital role in assuring coordination between river restoration and the GRForward visioning process for the downtown and river corridor.
    To continue reading this press release from the City of Grand Rapids, click here.

    Grand Rapids to Host RCE Conference on Sustainable Development

    Mayor George Heartwell has announced that Grand Rapids will host the Regional Centres of Expertise 2015 Conference of the Americas on August 9-11. The RCEs are a network of organizations acknowledged by the United Nations University to educate on sustainable development in its community.

    The conference will provide a global platform that elevates the conversation around education for sustainable development with a focus on the impact of water resources. We welcome leaders from six countries throughout the Americas and also the world, who are influential thinkers, researchers, authors, academics, and educators. Outcomes of the conference on education for sustainable development will impact and guide the implementation of future work of the RCE.

    The RCE keynote speaker is John C. Austin director of the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas Foundation, a center for ideas and network-building to advance Michigan’s economic transformation. Austin was elected in 2000, and re-elected in 2008, by the people of Michigan to the State Board of Education, and unanimously elected President by his peers. He also serves as a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution. The event will be held Monday August 10 at the City Flats Ballroom.

    Heartwell said this international gathering will attract visitors and dignitaries from cities and countries across the globe, including from Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Bogotá, Colombia
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada Dhaka, Bangladesh
Portland, Oregon, USA Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, USA, Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Tokyo, Japan
Kano, Nigeria and Jalisco, Mexico

    Community Sustainability Partners and other interested parties are invited to attend and network with RCE guests.

    For more information and to sponsor please visit​.

    A schedule of events and tickets are available at

    Source: City of Grand Rapids


    Grand-Rapids earns top honors for water conservation for second consecutive year

    For the second consecutive year, the City of Grand Rapids has been honored for its progress on water conservation at the annual Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative meeting held in Sarnia, Canada. Grand Rapids and the town of Blue Mountains, Ontario, each received the "2015 Water Conservation Award."

    The City of Grand Rapids Water System met the Great Lake Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative in 2007 by reducing water use by 15 percent. However, since that time, the Water System has actually doubled that original initiative and is now seeing a 30.62 percent reduction of water usage from the year 2000. The Water System through universal metering, water accounting and loss control has been able to accurately measure water usage and locate issues that would cause a loss of water. Utilizing new technologies such as Variable Frequency Drives and a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System have played a vital role in controlling and reducing water usage in the City of Grand Rapids.

    At this morning’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell praised the City Water System’s dedicated to using new methods and new technologies to conserve and lower the cost of operation to its customers. He also thanked the entire team, including Joellen Thompson, Grand Rapids’ water system manager, and Dr. Haris Alibašić, Grand Rapids’ energy and sustainability director, for earning the award. To continue reading this press release by the City of Grand Rapids, click here.


    City Influences White House Report on Climate Change

    After serving on the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and the City's Energy and Sustainability Director, Dr. Haris Alibašić are pleased to see that the task force recommendations influenced the White House’s newly-released Task Force Recommendations Progress Report. The report on Climate Preparedness includes a series of actions taken by the administration that targeted building climate resilience among vulnerable communities.

    The President's Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force first convened in 2013 to develop recommendations on how the federal government can better support local, state and tribal governments in achieving resilience through disaster preparedness, built systems, natural systems and agriculture, and community development and health.

    Shira Miller, White House council on environmental quality, said, “As part of his Climate Action Plan, the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to help the Federal Government respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change.”

    The progress report highlighted some of the key actions taken by the Administration in support of the Task Force’s recommendations, presented to the President in November 2014. The White House also announced a series of new actions that will be implemented in the near future that focus on building resilience in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, allotting over $25 million in private and public investments to the efforts.

    To continue reading this press release from the City of Grand Rapids, click here.

    To read past press releases from the City detailing Mayor's involvment with the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, click here and here. 


    Grand Rapids Mayor Wins First Place at US Conference of Mayors

    In San Francisco, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was presented with first-place honors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors/USA Funds 2015 National Education Pathways with a Purpose Awards.

    Heartwell and the city of Grand Rapids were Sunday honored for the Mayor’s 100 Campaign and received a $10,000 grant.

    The grant recognizes “mayoral leadership in developing and implementing programs that provide education pathways to successful completion of post-secondary education programs and entry into the workplace.” To continue reading please visit the Grand Rapids Business Journal here. 


    Mayor Heartwell endorses State and Provincial accord to restore Lake Erie at GLSLCI annual meeting

    Today, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell participated in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative annual meeting, where mayors from the United States and Canada congratulated the Premier of Ontario and the Governors of Ohio and Michigan for their leadership in joining forces under the Western Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement. The accord, announced late last week, commits the jurisdictions to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent over the next decade, with an interim goal of 20 percent by 2020.

    "I commend Governor Snyder's leadership role, together with the Ohio governor and Ontario Premier, in pledging efforts toward water quality improvements for Lake Erie, through specific targets of forty percent phosphorus reduction to help in addressing harmful algae blooms,” Heartwell said. “While the City of Grand Rapids has taken many steps to strengthen and improve water quality, it is timely to see collaborative efforts across state and national borders to address challenges and threats facing our water resources in the Great Lakes.” 

    “Premier Wynne, Governors Kasich of Ohio and Governor Snyder of Michigan are to be congratulated for demonstrating outstanding leadership in committing jointly to a decade of action to save Lake Erie,” said incoming Cities Initiative chair Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinloss (ON), “Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence stand together with the Premier and Governors in our commitment to do what it takes to achieve 40 percent phosphorus reductions by 2025.”

    Just last week, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative called on federal, state and provincial governments to commit to hard deadlines to reduce algae in Lake Erie. Canada and the U.S. have yet to release their proposed phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie for public comment. The two Governments have committed to setting targets by 2016 and develop domestic action plans to reach these reduction targets by 2018.

    “With the commitment to 40 percent reduction by Ontario, Ohio and Michigan, we now need our federal governments to show similar leadership” said Cities Initiative Board member John Dickert, mayor of Racine, (WI), “We encourage Canada and Ontario to immediately release their proposed Lake Erie targets for public consultation and to commit to reaching the interim and 2025 target dates outlined in the Western Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement.”

    Also at the Cities Initiative Annual General Meeting, member mayors passed a resolution calling for more stringent, harmonized safety measures to prevent oil train derailments that have been occurring on a regular basis throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. 

    “The goal must be zero derailments of trains carrying highly volatile oil,” said Cities Initiative Board member Denis Lapointe, mayor of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (QC). “To reach that goal, the replacement of outdated train cars must be accelerated and harmonized across the border.”

    At the annual meeting, cities participating in the Cities Initiative Water Conservation Framework were also recognized for their outstanding work on water conservation. The City of Grand Rapids was again recognized for its progress on water conservation along with the Town of Blue Mountains, Ontario, recieving the "2015 Water Conservation Award". Through the Framework, which was launched in 2007, cities have worked towards a 15 percent reduction below year 2000 water use levels by the year 2015.  Participants have collectively achieved a 19 percent reduction, having conserved 123 billion gallons of water.

    The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of more than 110 Canadian and US mayors, representing over 17 million people, who work together to promote, protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

    Grand Rapids Recognized as a Playfull City!

    Grand Rapids is once again a Playful City USA. KaBOOM!, in partnership with the Humana Foundation, bestowed the Playful City USA title on Michigan’s second largest city for the fifth consecutive year as it honors cities, towns and counties across the country for making their communities more playable.

    The Grand Rapids community has a strong focus on parks and play. Since approval of the park millage in November 2013, Grand Rapids is working diligently to make improvements to outdated and/or lacking park equipment and amenities. Improvements include: safety wood fiber playground surfacing, hazardous tree trimming, fire extinguishers installed at park buildings that were deficient, and drinking fountains. Improvements to basketball and tennis courts are underway at ten parks throughout the city. Infrastructure improvements at eight parks are also under construction. These improvements consist of water playground installation, new border/surfacing at playground areas, new playground equipment, drinking fountains, ramps for barrier-free access, benches, grills, and picnic shelter renovations. All the improvements are going to continue boosting the playful culture that has been established in Grand Rapids! To continue reading, please click here.


    "No Wipes In The Pipes" wins social media's top honor

    The Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department’s innovative embrace of social media to promote awareness of its “No Wipes in the Pipes” campaign has captured a 2015 Award of Excellence by the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

    Held annually, the PRSA PACE Awards are mid-Michigan’s highest honor of public relations activities and award public relations practitioners who, in the judgment of national peers, have successfully addressed a contemporary issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness. Judges rate submissions based on quality of research, planning, execution and evaluation.

     “We are proud that national experts in the public relations and marketing industry recognize Grand Rapids’ communication services as among the best in Michigan,” said Environmental Services Department Manager Mike Lunn. “We pledge to engage citizens and keep them informed to ensure they continue to receive high-quality service.” To continue reading the press release by City of Grand Rapids, click here.


    Business in Grand Rapids work to cut emissions, energy use and water in half

    A new effort led by the private sector in Grand Rapids will try to cut water, energy use and transportation emissions in half over the next 15 years.

    More than a dozen businesses, including Spectrum Health, Consumers Energy, Rockford Construction and SMG, which manages DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, have agreed to the general concept. A new committee will draft details of the plan this year.

    Dan Scripps heads the Institute for Energy Innovation, a non-profit organization that’s coordinating the effort. “At this point we’ve done a lot of initial engagement, brought people on board who are willing to say yes they’re willing to go forward on this. Now we get to go a lot deeper,” Scripps said.

    To read the complete article by Michigan Radio, click here


    Water Department and 311 Center win national customer service award

    The 2015 CS Week Conference recognized the City of Grand Rapids Water Department and the 311 Customer Service Center last week, honoring the team with this year’s Expanding Excellence Award for Innovation in Customer Service at the annual gathering in Charlotte, NC, stating their efforts “far exceeded the ingenuity, success and commitment we envisioned when this award was created.” To continue reading the press release by City of Grand Rapids, click here.

    City’s Recycling Program earns special recognition from the State of Michigan

    The Michigan Department of  Environmental Quality and Governor’s Recycling Council recognized the City of Grand Rapids for excellence in recycling on May 4th, 2015 at the Governor’s Recycling Summit.

    The Public Services Department received special recognition for excellence in education and outreach for the “mygrcitypoints” incentive program. Through this awardwinning program, Grand Rapids recycling customers and public service volunteers earn points redeemable at participating local businesses for products and services. More than 13,000 mygrcitypoints participants take advantage of rewards, ranging in value of up to $500, by 27 companies. Reward offers from businesses such as Anna’s Hammocks, Boxed Gr, Brewery Vivant, Derby Station, Eastern Floral, Logan’s Alley, River City Improv, The Rapid and more each have an average value of $41.66.

    Grand Rapids was one of 28 honored at today’s Kalamazoo event. The award honor organizations excelling in several key categories, including providing leadership, improving measurement tools, expanding recycling rates, focusing on outreach and education, increasing access to recycling, and “closing the loop” by designing or creating new recyclable products or by purchasing and using products made of recycled content.

    Gov. Rick Snyder outlined these components in his April 2014 statewide plan to increase the state’s recycling rate to 30 percent.

    “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the City,” said James Hurt, public services director. “This program has not only transformed the City’s operations and boosted public participation in recycling, but it has also increased volunteerism throughout the community. This award is a tribute to our residents who have embraced this environmental program and continue to make it a success.”

    To learn more about recycling opportunities in Michigan or to see Michigan’s plan for  increasing recycling, visit

    To learn more about Grand Rapids’ recycling efforts, visit To sign up for
    points, visit

    2030 District partnership demonstrates long-term economic growth impact 

    Grand Rapids has long been recognized for the number of public and private development partnerships contributing to the lifestyle and therefore the growth of the community, but the recent commitment of Mayor George Heartwell and city staff in a partnership with building owners and developers may be one of the most important to date.

    The city’s acceptance as an Emerging 2030 District, designated by nonprofit think tank Architecture 2030, includes the city as part of a growing national effort to reduce energy use in urban areas. The designation would not have been possible without the might of well-recognized local developers, the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan and the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. To continue reading this editorial by the Grand Rapids Buisness Journal, click here.

    Wipes in the pipes: City warns of rising cost to clean the clogs 

    Wipes in the pipes. It’s a problem around the world, and it’s costing cities millions of dollars a year. Cleaning wipes advertised as ‘flush-able’, but the City of Grand Rapids is sending a stern message that flush-able doesn’t mean it will disintegrate in water.

    The Grand Rapids Water Department said that it spends more than $10,000 dollars a month just to unclog these wipes in the pipes. The city said that in the past decade the popularity of disposable wipes has skyrocketed and it’s taking the problem to new levels along with it’s demand. To continue reading this article by Fox17 and to learn how you can help, click here.

    2014 Biggest Losers Battle of the Buildings

    The winners of the inagural 2014 Battle of the Buildings Competition have been announced by the USGBC West Michigan Chapter. To read stories on each of the participating entities and to find out how they did it click here to link to the GRBJ supplement published on April 20, 2015. To find out who the winners of each category were, click here.

    WGVU Getting Green presents Battle of the Buildings Winners

    Getting Green, monthly sharing news from guests in the green building and sustainability fields. This segment presents the winners of the Battle of the Building awards including Mike Lunn, Environmental Services Manager at City of Grand Rapids and Sara Damm, Sustainability Coordinator of Muskegon County. To listen to the interview by host Shelley Irwin, click here. 

    Powerhouse team backs energy reduction plan

    A new public-private partnership is about to change the way energy is used in Grand Rapids forever.

    On the morning of April 24, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, backed by some of the area’s most powerful developers, building owners and operators, and other stakeholders, announced the city of Grand Rapids has been named an Emerging 2030 District by the nonprofit think tank Architecture 2030, making the city part of a growing nationwide effort to reduce energy use in urban areas.

    Becoming an energy district, which Heartwell had already laid out as one of his goals in his 2015 State of the City address, means Grand Rapids is now on track to hit targeted reductions of building and district energy use by the year 2030. To continue reading this article by the Grand Rapids Buisness Journal, click here.

    West Michigan Community Sustainability Partnerships Ignite Speakers Announced! Room for more! 
    The Community Sustainability Partnerships of West Michigan, which include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Spring Lake/Grand Haven, Holland, Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor/St. Joseph invite you to their IGNITE event on May 18th.  The event will start at 1:18 p.m. and end at 5:18 p.m. and will be held at GVSU Eberhard Center.  

    There will be approximately twelve 15 minute presentations that will inspire the audience to ignite and amplify the environmental, social and economic nexus of sustainability. We will showcase some of West Michigan’s best practices and ideas.  We are pleased to announce our line-up of our speakers (and we still have more to announce):

    Bob Willard: Bob is a leading expert on quantifying and selling the business value of sustainability strategies. He has given hundreds of keynote presentations, has authored four books, and provides extensive resources for sustainability champions. He served on the board of The Natural Step Canada for 12 years; has been named a “Best for the World Overall” B Corp for the last three years; and has a PhD in sustainability from the University of Toronto.

    Mayor George Heartwell:  Now serving his third and final term, Mayor George Heartwell took office on January 1, 2004.  During his tenure, City government has implemented a variety of environmental measures, including purchase of renewable resource energy, use of alternative fuels in city vehicles, continued attention to water quality in the Grand River, and widespread implementation of energy conservation measures.  In January 2007 the United Nations recognized Grand Rapids as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development.”  Grand Rapids is widely recognized as one of the most sustainable cities in America.  In 2010 the US Chamber of Commerce gave Grand Rapids the “Nation’s Most Sustainable City” award, and in 2012 Mayor Heartwell was given the first place “Climate Protection Award” by the US Conference of Mayors.

    Matt VanSweden: Proficient in restorative design and active in the local sustainability movement, Matt’s holistic approach includes a commitment to durable food systems, collaboration, and thriving communities. His work at Integrated Architecture strives to transform the social boundaries of place and community to create environments where every person can feel and be whole. 

    Anne Marie Hertl: Anne is the Community Activism Manager at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council to connect the communities, individuals, and businesses of West Michigan with resources to support their environmental journey through behavior, advocacy, education, and engagement. Hertl most values her contribution to WMEAC’s IDEAL (Inclusion and Development of Environmental Allies and Leaders) Initiative to facilitate inclusion and promote diversity in the environmental movement and within the organization. Hertl joined the WMEAC team in 2011 after graduating from Aquinas College with a BA in Political Science and Community Leadership and a minor in Urban Studies.

    Kris Spaulding: Kris manages the people and planet aspects of Brewery Vivant’s triple bottom line focus. She was the driving force in the pursuit of Vivant’s LEED and B Corporation certifications and is an advocate for businesses engaging with their community in a meaningful and impactful way.

    Brian Wolters:  Brian’s background includes a MBA in Sustainable Business from Pinchot University in Seattle, WA and over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, and project management. He has been involved in a wide variety of projects, including a 10,000 square-foot facility expansion at Impact HUB Seattle.

    Hannah Fernando:  Hannah is passionate about seeing communities flourish and fostering a culture of genuine hospitality, diversity, and wellbeing.  She is a junior at GVSU studying Community Food Systems and entrepreneurship, driven by the idea that a healthy food system can bring vitality to communities.  Currently, she works for the Community Engagement department of the City of Grand Rapids learning about how a city is structured, and what it takes to make one thrive.          

    Norman Christopher:  Norman is the Executive Director for the Office of Sustainability Practices at Grand Valley State University.  He currently serves on several boards and advisory groups including the: City of Grand Rapids Sustainability Advisory Team, Seeds of Promise, the Michigan Chemistry Council, the Grand Rapids Community Sustainability Partnership, the NSF Joint Committee on Sustainable Business and Industrial Furniture, and Valley City Sign. He was also appointed to serve on Governor Granholm’s Michigan Climate Action Council and the United States Department of Commerce’s Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee. Mr. Christopher has contributed articles and papers to various journals and books including Sustaining Michigan: Metropolitan Policies and Strategies and is the author of the book Sustainability Demystified! - A Practical Guide for Business Leaders and Managers.

    Carlos Daniels: Carlos is the aquaponics (fish farming and hydroponic agriculture) project manager at the Western Michigan University Office for Sustainability. His team designed the Local Loop Farm, an urban agriculture system which won first place in Wege Prize 2015. The team plans to establish Local Loop Farms as a Kalamazoo business.

    Tickets for the event are $18 and can be purchased by clicking here. 

    If you have a story, idea, or best practice to share there is still time to apply here.

    Thank you to our sponsors:


    Director of Michigan Agency for Energy to keynote inaugural Earth Day Energy Summit 
    The winners of the inaugural Michigan Battle of the Buildings — a yearlong competition between Michigan businesses to see who can reduce their energy use the most, much like the popular America’s Biggest Loser competition — will be announced at the inaugural Earth Day Energy Summit on April 22.
    The closing keynote address speaker will be Valerie Brader, who will be making her first public speech since her appointment as the executive director of the new Michigan Agency for Energy. Cheri Holman, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter, will kick off the event and be available for interviews. Representatives from local businesses that competed in the Battle of the Buildings will also be available to speak to the media.
    The energy summit is presented by the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter and the U.S. Green Building Council Detroit Regional Chapter. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are title partners.
    What: Michigan Battle of the Buildings Earth Day 
    Energy Summit and Award Ceremony

    Where: Ambassador Ballroom
    Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
    187 Monroe Avenue NW
    Grand Rapids, Mich.
    When: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Wednesday, April 22, 2015
    Who: Valerie Brader, Senior Policy Advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder
    Tom Kiser, CEO and Worthington Energy and “America’s Energy Coach” Cheri Holman, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter Representatives from local businesses that participated in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings. The event will be attended by a wide range of people interested in energy efficiency, including sustainability managers, building owners and property managers.
    About USGBC West Michigan:
    The USGBC West Michigan Chapter, organized in 2004, is one of 70 chapters that operate as licensed separate non-profits across the United States. The mission of the USGBC West Michigan Chapter is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated in a way that improves the quality of life in West Michigan. Learn more at

    About the U.S. Green Building Council:
    The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, a nationwide network of chapters and affiliates, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. Learn more at
    Sustainability Events for Upcoming Earth Day!
    Next week we will be celebrating Earth Day nationally. How will you celebrate? For a list of events occuring ​in Grand Rapids, click here. ​

    WGVU Sustainability Community Voices
    Sustainable Community Voices, brought to listeners by WGVU, monthly speaks with guests on the topic of sustainability. On April 15th the topic was on a Biophysical approach to national accounting. To listen to the show, click here.​

    Private-sector led exploratory committee being established for Grand Rapids 2030 District 
    The Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI), West Michigan Sustainable Business form (WMSBF), the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC-WM) and the City of Grand Rapids held a kickoff event for the establishment of a Grand Rapids 2030 District last Friday at Rockford Construction in downtown Grand Rapids. Private and public sector leaders are joining forefront cities across the nation through an attempt to launch the Grand Rapids 2030 District, an initiative that engages property managers and community professionals to sign on to voluntary goals including improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.





    GR2030 Kickoff event2030 Districts, initiated by the non-profit research organization Architecture 2030, are unique private and public partnerships bringing together property owners and managers to meet energy and resource reduction targets set by the 2030 Challenge for Planning. The 2030 District is a part of a larger national collaboration of cities including Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Los Angeles, Stamford, Toronto, San Francisco and Dallas. Grand Rapids could be the 10th city to establish a 2030 district, and is planning on achieving this status by the end of the year in accordance with Mayor Heartwell’s environmental commitments that were addressed at the State of the City address in January.​

    “Grand Rapids is already a recognized sustainability leader in the nation; our building owners understand the importance of protecting and enhancing assets. The Grand Rapids 2030 District will allow the sustainability movement in Grand Rapids to advance its momentum, bringing together private sector pioneers to further reduce energy use, water use, and transportation emissions,” shared Daniel Schoonmaker, Director of WMSBF. Through collaboration and shared resources the proposed GR2030 District hopes to benchmark, develop and implement creative strategies and best practices towards a shared district goal. “This initiative will further strengthen Grand Rapids to combat the effects of climate change, making it more resilient in the long run,” mentioned Dr. Haris Alibašić, Director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability at the City of Grand Rapids.   



    The GR 2030 District will also create synergies with other community efforts including the Battle of the Buildings, which in its first year enrolled more than 11 million square feet of commercial office space in Grand Rapids. "We are excited to encourage and support the establishment of a Grand Rapids 2030 district,” stated Cheri Holman, Executive Director of the USGBC-WM. “The USGBC-WM chapter mission of transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated in a way that improves the quality of life in West Michigan fits perfectly with the Architecture 2030 program. Grand Rapids business leaders know the importance of providing our residents with buildings and communities where they are safe and proud to live, work and play." As with Battle of Buildings, participants will track and communicate performance data to a central source, using Portfolio Manager on EPA’s ENERGY STAR web site.



     “It is inspiring to witness a strong endorsement for the establishment of a 2030 District in Grand Rapids,” said Dan Scripps, President of the Institute of Energy Innovation, to the more than 50 people community leaders who attended the event. Scripps and others have spent months organizing around the 2030 concept, and added, "we look forward to continuing this dialogue and convening a private led exploratory committee to develop district goals and solutions for achieving these ambitious, yet attainable goals.”  

    In the following weeks, the exploratory committee will be building momentum for the GR 2030 District, establishing a District boundary, and responding to any concerns and questions from potential participants. The effort also expects to get a boost with the upcoming visit of Ed Mazria, Architecture 2030 Founder and CEO, who will be in Grand Rapids next month for the 19th Annual Wege Lecture. Over the next few months the District will focus efforts on establishing a series of goals to advance the District agenda and to become a recognized, established 2030 District by the end of the year.



    For more information on the Grand Rapids 2030 District, please contact Dan Scripps of the Institute of Energy Innovation at



    The Wege Lecture featuring Architecture 2030 CEO Ed Mazria is Thursday, April 23 at 4:00pm at Aquinas College. Joining Mazria will be Vincent Martinez, Architecture 2030's Director of Research and Operations. The event is free with registration, which can be done at​.​







    West Michigan Community Sustainability Partnership Ignite Event! 
    A TEDx style event promoting Sustainability Practices in West Michigan is scheduled for May 18, 2015 at the Eberhard Center on the GVSU Grand Rapids Campus. If you would like to attend the event, register here.​ 
    WMCSP Ignite poster.jpg

    City of Grand Rapids Receives $147,100 Rebate for Energy-Efficient Upgrades to Water System

    The city of Grand Rapids is saving energy and money for its residents with improvements to its water pumping facility, resulting in a more than $147,100 energy efficiency incentive payment from Consumers Energy.

    Consumers Energy representatives, including Senior Vice President Dan Malone, second from left, present a ceremonial check to Grand Rapids city officials including  Mayor George Heartwell, far right, for energy efficiency upgrades to the city’s water pumping systemConsumers Energy representatives, including Senior Vice President Dan Malone, second from left, present a ceremonial check to Grand Rapids city officials including Mayor George Heartwell, far right, for energy efficiency upgrades to the city’s water pumping system.

    Mayor George Heartwell and city administrators received a $147,172.08 rebate check today from Consumers Energy representatives during a presentation at Grand Rapids City Hall.

    “The city and its residents have greatly benefitted from these energy efficiency programs,” Heartwell said. “With this most recent project, the city has received more than $430,000 in energy efficiency rebates from Consumers Energy since 2009,” Heartwell said. “The city’s focus on sustainability and energy efficiency has resulted in programs completed or underway saving nearly 6 million kilowatt hours of electricity. 

    These important programs are saving energy and money for the citizens of Grand Rapids.” The project highlighted today for the Grand Rapids City Commission involves a new variable-speed water pump at the city’s Coldbrook Pumping Station. The new pump allows the city to match the pumping energy to the actual water demand, reducing electricity use.

    The most recent improvements are expected to save the city approximately $150,000 annually in electricity costs, the equivalent of powering 200 homes for a year. Overall, the city is saving about $650,000 a year in electricity with the energy efficiency programs it has implemented since 2009.

    Presenting the check to Mayor Heartwell was Dan Malone, senior vice president of distribution operations, engineering and transmission for Consumers Energy. “Helping Michigan save energy is our Promise and we’re pleased the city of Grand Rapids has been an active and long-time participant in the energy efficiency program,” Malone said. “Using less electricity helps customers save money, promotes economic development and allows Consumers Energy to fulfill our Promise to Michigan.” 

    Consumers Energy has helped Michigan homes and businesses save more than $855 million since 2009. Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

    Residents and businesses may learn more about energy efficiency programs and how to apply for incentives here.​



    ​Future of Butterworth Landfill Project Bright with RFP Issue
    The city of Grand Rapids issued a request for proposals in January for the proposed large-scale solar array project planned for the old Butterworth landfill site.
    Haris Alibasic, director of the city’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, said the completed project would generate approximately 4 megawatts of solar energy. This electricity would then be directly powered to existing operations at the City's wastewater treatment plant. 
    This is an especially exciting project as it is the City's first large-scale foray into solar energy. It began gaining momentum in 2013, when the EPA paid $30,000 to conduct a feasibility study of the project. Now the city plans to enter into a power purchasing agreement with whichever developer is chosen for the project. To learn more about what this project would do to make Grand Rapids a more sustainable city, click here​

    TEDx Style Sustainability Event Coming to Grand Rapids
    A TEDx style event promoting Sustainability Practices in West Michigan is scheduled for May 18, 2015 at the Eberhard Center on the GVSU Grand Rapids Campus.  The planning group is looking for approximately 12 presenters, each given about 15 minutes of time to tell us their story.  If you have something you would like to share, or know of someone that does, click here. The link offers more information about the event and a form to submit ideas.  Please share this information with those you think might be interested!​

    ​City Building Earns LEED Status 
    ​​A city of Grand Rapids building recently underwent a retrofit that has earned it a LEED Certified designation. The city of Grand Rapids said last month that it has been awarded the LEED Certified rating by the U.S. Green Building Council for its Technical Services Building, at 1300 Market Ave. SW. The building recieved 45 LEED-rating points, needing at least 40 to recieve the designation. To read about the energy upgrades that have been made to the building and how the building has been repurposed, click here​

    ​Grand Rapids' Leadership and Green Transformation Highlighted in National Publications​
    ​Grand Rapids' leadership in sustainability continues to garner national attention as two leading publications recently shined the light on Grand Rapids’ environmental achievements. Governing Magazine, a monthly, non-partisan publication has published two leading pieces about the sustainability efforts being made in the city and the leaders that are responsible for the vision of sustainability becoming a success. In addition, Green Building and Design (gb&d) magazine also published an article highlighting the city's plan to restore the Grand River and redevelop the downtown riverfront. Gb&d is a magazine that covers green building and design across industries, and is a leading media source for green professionals in architechture and development, planning and policy. To read the Grand Rapids Media Release about these articles, click here​
    ​Lessons From 10 Years of Sustainability in Grand Rapids, MI 
    It was one of the first cities to join a nationwide movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2005. The city's director of energy and sustainability, Haris Alibašić, looks back at what's changed in the past decade with Governing Magazine's J. B. Wogan. Click here to read the article. ​
    City of Grand Rapids is a Serious Contender of This Year's West Michigan Battle of the Buildings​
    The Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant is in it to win it when it comes to the 2014 West Michigan Battle of the Buildings, and Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn is ready to share the secrets of his sucess to wastewater professionals around the world. Lunn already spoke at the Michigan Water Environmental Conference, and come this September he will have the chance to share at the national conference. To read more about recent projects and future developments being made by this endorsing partner, click here to read the article published by the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.​
    ​Final Version of the Michigan Storms Report Complete
    Yesterday a study was released by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council regarding the way climate change has effected extreme rainstorms in Michigan. To read the press. To read the press release that discusses the general trends of this report, click here. To read the full report, click here. ​
    ​Grand Rapids' DDA; Past Projects, Future Focus 
    ​Grand Rapids' Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has supported many notable projects, including the construction of the Van Andel Arena, the expansion of the Devos Place Convention Center, reconstruction of Monroe Center and Rosa Parks Circle, among other things, as recently noted on the Michigan Economic Development Corp. website. However, Port Huron City Manager James Freed recently asked the DDA to refocus its agenda on long-term infrastructure improvements. To read about Freed's direct statements and his aim to insure the DDA follows state law, click here​

    President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and 
    Resilience presents recommendations​- Press Release

    State, local, and tribal leaders from across the country, including Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and the City's Energy and Sustainability Director Haris , met with Vice President Joe Biden today to discuss the pressing issues of carbon pollution and climate resilience and to deliver recommendations for addressing these global problems. Last year, as part of President Obama’s overall effort to combat climate change, the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience was created. In today's meeting with Vice President Biden and Senior White House Officials, Task Force members presented their recommendations as to how the Federal Government can aid communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of extreme weather and the changing climate. To read the entire press release, click here​. To view the White House Fact Sheet click here.​ 

    ​Grand Rapids Sets a High Bar for Climate Resiliency 
    After 12 years of service, Mayor George Heartwell will be leaving office in 2015 due to newly set term limits that were passed in a local election this month. Recently the Mayor sat down with Midwest Energy News to talk about his time in office and the work he accomplished in spite of the city's system that gives most policy control to the board of comissioners. To read this interview and learn about how Heartwell has elevated Grand Rapids as a model for sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency, click here​.

    Return to the River
    American rivers—once great economic powerhouses—have suffered decades of neglect. Today, they are returning to the urban imagination as planners and others realize the ecological and economic opportunities they offer. Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and New Orleans offer lessons in designing for the water’s edge. To learn about current river redevelopment projects that American  cities are developing, click here.

    6 Reasons Grand Rapids Earned a Place on the Great Transit Map
    The national Center for Transportation Excellence recently announced it will be holding its 2015 transit initiatives conference there, calling Grand Rapids a “learning laboratory for leaders around the country.” To read about how Grand Rapids successfully prioritizes multi-modal transportation in The Works infrastructure newsletter, click here.

    Smart city? The downtown development boom, examined
    This article is the second of a two-part series about downtown's recent boom in residential development. You can read part I here to learn about the whole story.
    1800 rental units in the downtown Grand Rapids area are set to nearly double in the next couple of years, with total units projected to total close to 3000, if all of the projects in the development pipeline come to fruition. These numbers don't include projects announced since the release of part 1, including those in Monroe North and on the West Side of downtown.
    As downtown's stock of old, vacant or underused buildings continues to get bought up and redeveloped, residential developers have turned their attention to new construction primarily on surface parking lots, a term that planners call "infill." This marks an important turning point for Grand Rapids: whereas many Great Lakes basin cities still have a slew of downtown area buildings that sit unused and continue to decay, GR's collection can basically be counted on one hand: the Keeler Building, the old Rowe Hotel, the Sligh Furniture Factory on Ellsworth South of Wealthy, and a smattering of small buildings in Heartside. 
    There's no doubt that a residential development boom is happening in our city. But what do all the numbers really mean? To find out by continuing the story, click here.
    City of Grand Rapids Receives $56,800 Rebate for Energy-Efficient Upgrades to Wastewater Plant 

    The city of Grand Rapids is saving energy and money for its residents with improvements to its wastewater treatment plant, resulting in a nearly $57,000 energy efficiency incentive payment from Consumers Energy.

    Mayor George Heartwell and city administrators received a $56,724 rebate check today from Consumers Energy representatives during a presentation at Grand Rapids City Hall.
    “With this most recent project, the city has received more than $285,000 in energy efficiency rebates from Consumers Energy since 2009,” Heartwell said. “The city’s focus on sustainability and energy efficiency has resulted in programs completed or underway saving more than 4 million kilowatt hours of electricity. These important programs are saving energy and money for the citizens of Grand Rapids.”
    The project highlighted today for the Grand Rapids City Commission involved a new technology to monitor treated wastewater.  The system allows for more efficient operation of treatment equipment, reducing electricity use.

    The most recent improvements are expected to save the city approximately $60,000 a year in electricity costs. Overall, the city is saving about $500,000 a year in electricity with the energy efficiency programs it has implemented since 2009.

    “Helping Michigan save energy is our Promise and we’re pleased the city of Grand Rapids has been an active participant in the energy efficiency program,” said Teri VanSumeren, Consumers Energy director of energy efficiency solutions. “Using less electricity helps customers save money, promotes economic development and allows Consumers Energy to fulfill our Promise to Michigan.”

    Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.5 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

    Seeds of Promise Releases new Newsletter
    Seeds of Promise released a newsletter for Fall 2014, providing program updates for the previous year. 

    Seeds of Promise (SoP) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is a place-based, urban community improvement initiative. SoP is committed to serving the neighborhood surrounding Dickinson Elementary in Southeast Grand Rapids. SoP promotes neighborhood transformation through collaboration with 53 Endorsing Partners, community leadership and empowerment, and performing continuous deep listening with residents to better address the needs and wants of community members.

    The philosophy behind Seeds of Promise is that those who live in the community must direct their own self-sustaining improvement strategies. Partners who serve or wish to serve the community must align their work with the community’s strategy. To read the full newsletter, click here.

    ArtPrize launches its first sustainability initatives 
    ArtPrize kicked off its sixth year last week, and this year the annual open art competition, which will draw hundreds of thousands of attendees to downtown Grand Rapids over 19 days, has launched its first environmental sustainability initiatives.

    ArtPrize is focusing on two key areas: alternative transportation and waste diversion. To learn more about Artpize Sustainability Initiatives, click here.

    Spin Cities: Grand Rapids Benefiting from being Bike-friendly 
    Give Grand Rapids resident Joshua Duggan half a chance, and it seems he could persuade just about anyone to swap his or her car for a bicycle."I am really passionate about biking because it's fun. That's where it starts out for me," Duggan said." You see people out riding their bikes, and you can smile at them and wave at them, much more than people riding in a car.” "It really adds to a sense of community." That from-the-heart speech comes as no surprise, given that Duggan, 34, commutes to work year-round by bike, sits on the board of a local bicycle coalition and hosts a biweekly ride that starts in downtown Grand Rapids.  "It is just gaining momentum," Duggan said of the changes transforming the culture of the city. 

    In 2009, Grand Rapids had zero miles of bike lanes. Today, it has more than 50 miles, and it expects to have 70 by next summer and 100 in 2016. To continue reading this story, click here.​

    City’s solar generating proposal moving forward
    A com​bined RFQ-RFP will hopefully be issued by the city of Grand Rapids by late October to start the process of finding qualified solar energy developers willing to submit bids for a proposed generating facility on the city-owned former Butterworth landfill site.

    Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency granted $30,000 to Grand Rapids to cover the cost of a solar reuse assessment — essentially, an engineering study that determined the Butterworth site was suitable for two separate installations of photovoltaic panels that would occupy a total of 38 acres, producing up to 10.5 megawatts of electricity or more than 11,000 megawatt hours per year. To learn more about this project, click here. ​


    Repair America Panel Discussion
    All communities are facing more extreme weather. We must do more to prepare our infrastructure and make the right investments that also create good jobs in order to help us face the new realities.

    As an advisor on President Obama's Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, Mayor George Heartwell is already helping to lead the way on how communities prepare for climate change. Come join this discussion about spurring growth in clean energy and energy efficiency, upgrading our infrastructure to be prepared for climate impacts, and the need to reduce carbon pollution that is driving climate change. For more details click here. To RSVP for the event, please email Sue Browne at
    The discussion will be held at GVSU Old Bicycle Factory 2nd floor at 201 Front ave, SW. GR, MI on Septmeber 17, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
    Sustainability in Grand Rapids: Becoming Sustainable Through Partnerships
    A video overview of becoming sustainable through partnerships in Grand Rapids. How the City of Grand Rapids works with partners to further advance sustainability practices and initiatives. Click here to view the video.
    Sustainable Community Voices
    Sustainable Community Voices, brought to listeners by WGVU, monthly speaks with guests on the topic of sustainability. On July 16th Dr. Haris Alibasic from the City of Grand Rapids and Adjunct Professor at GVSU Professor was the sustainability guest. The topic was on GVSU's graduate certificate in Sustainability in Public and Non-profit Organizations. To listen to the show, click here.
    Grand Rapids Makes List of 14 Underrated Places You'd Really Want to Move to
    Grand Rapids, Michigan landed 13th on Buzzfeed's 2014 top 14 underrated places you'd really want to move to in the United States. The site mentioned, "Located on the Grand River about 25 miles from Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids houses some awesome architecture. It’s a great place to be in the winter for ice skating or the summer for fishing." We couldn't agree more!

    To view the entire list created by buzzfeed, click here

    Grand Rapids, Michigan Welcomes Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference
    Craft brewers will gather in Grand Rapids, MI, this fall to learn about water quality, water conservation, waste water treatment and alternative energy systems, with presentations by industry experts and speakers donating their time and expertise. The sixth Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference will be held Oct. 21-23 at the Eberhard Center, Grand Valley State University Downtown Campus. Early registration (through Aug. 8) is $175 (and then increases to $195). To register, click here.
    To learn more about this opportunity, click here.
    Planning and Implementing Climate Resiliency in Grand Rapids
    What is Resiliency? More importantly, what does it mean to have a resilient community? Resiliency can be best described as an attempt to prepare for the worst and to be able to rebuild from disaster. Resiliency should be viewed in the context of effective strategies undertaken by communities to prepare for unforeseen and unpredicted events as a result of climate change and extreme weather events, and their ability to revive after the disaster in a sustainable manner. The consequences of not preparing for long-term disasters can be devastating for human resources, buildings, and infrastructure.
     To learn more, click here.
    Grand Rapids Ranks as 3rd Mid-Sized Market in U.S. for jobs
    Grand Rapids is one of the best job markets of its size in the country.
    The Grand Rapids-Wyoming market ranks third in the ranking of “Best Mid-size Cities for Jobs” posted last month by Forbes.
    The local market is moving up Forbes’ annual ranking, placing eighth in 2013 and tenth in 2012.
    The Grand Rapids market had 410,200 jobs in 2013 and saw job growth of 9.7 percent over the last five years. To keep reading, click here.

     News Highlights



    Grand Rapids Makes EPA List of
    Top 20 Largest Green Power Purchasers

         The Top 20 Local Government list represents the largest green power users among local government partners within the Green Power Partnership. The combined green power use of these organizations amounts to nearly 2.6 billion kilowatt-hours annually, which is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of more than 277,000 average American homes annually.
         The City of Grand Rapids, MI appears as No. 20 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) Top 20 Local Government list of the largest green power purchasers. The City of Grand Rapids, MI is purchasing over 22,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, and is producing onsite with solar panel projects, which is enough green power to meet over 22 percent of the organization's electricity use. City of Grand Rapids, MI is buying a utility green power product from Consumers Energy.  This demonstrates a proactive choice to switch away from traditional sources of electricity generation and support cleaner renewable energy alternatives.
         “This is a huge honor and we are proud to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said  Mayor George K. Heartwell  “Purchasing green power helps our organization become more sustainable, while also sending a message to others across the U.S. that supporting clean sources of electricity is a sound business decision and an important choice in reducing climate risk.”
    Green power is electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydro. Purchases of green power help accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
         According to the U.S. EPA, City of Grand Rapids' green power purchase of over 22,000,000 kWh is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of nearly 3,000 passenger vehicles per year or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 2,000 average American homes annually.

    EPA Top 20 List of Green Power Purchasers 


    Recycling Has Increased by 80%

         Since the implementation of the new refuse program, Grand Rapids has increased recycling 80%.
         The City has worked together with Kent County to produce a single-stream recycling system so residents can place all of their recyclable materials in one bin for pick up instead of laboriously separating each type. Also, the City partnered with Local First to implement the MyGRcitypoints program in which residents who choose to recycle can earn and redeem points to be used at many local businesses. Currently, there are over 7,057 households participating in the MyGRcitypoints program. 
    Award Of Excellence 
         Grand Rapids has been presented with the Award of Excellence from the Michigan Recycling Coalition for the most successful and innovative waste reduction and recycling program in Michigan. ​
    Area Coverage and Other News