Hope College has been recognized for sustainability excellence by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.

Hope was named a runner up for the 2022 West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year Award by the WMSBF during the organization’s Ninth Annual Triple Bottom Line Bash, held on Wednesday, Oct. 5.  There were a total of six nominees for the award, which is selected annually by a vote of the WMSBF membership, honoring the local organization that best represents the region’s commitment to the triple-bottom line and its efforts to advance climate leadership, social justice and the creation of a circular economy.

In announcing the nominees, WMSBF noted that “Hope College has been a key player in the growth of sustainability on the Lakeshore, and originated the city’s sustainability initiative.  Campus staff has provided leadership within the state, supporting emerging programs at other schools.  It is also innovating through the use of reusable food service materials.”

WMSBF produced individual videos about each nominee that it posted on YouTube and also presented during the recognition event.  The Hope segment shows a variety of sustainability initiatives and outcomes at the college, such as a tree planting in the Pine Grove; a “green roof” at the DeWitt Student and Cultural Center; beehives on campus to provide pollinating insects; and the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, which is one of three LEED-certified buildings at Hope.

Interviewed for the video, Michelle Seppala Gibbs, director of the Office of Sustainability at Hope, noted, “We’re really excited about this [recognition] because we’ve really prided ourselves on our partnerships that we’ve created on campus and throughout the community to make sustainability happen on campus. We really see sustainability as an ongoing journey here on campus. It’s not something that is a one-and-done project.”

Gibbs also singled out Hope’s unique ability, as an educational institution, to promote sustainability, such as through the Hope Advocates for Sustainability (HAS) student-internship program.  “This really gives our students an opportunity to have real-world experience and helps us to better our campus using their expertise and their knowledge,” she said.  Also, she said, Hope has “the opportunity to have impact with our students in their future jobs [and] the communities and networks that they continue to work on — and have ripples of influence going on into the future.”

In addition to what’s shown in the video, activities and practices at the college focused on sustainability have ranged from green purchasing policies; to trayless dining to reduce food waste; to replacing residence halls’ windows with better-insulated models and adding insulation to the cottages’ attics.  Along with the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, which opened in 2015, buildings on campus that have LEED certification are the van Andel Huys der Hope Campus Ministries house that opened in the fall of 2019 and the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center that opened in 2017 (LEED v4 and LEED Gold, respectively).

Among its other efforts focused on the campus, Hope makes a tradition of planting trees during national Campus Sustainability Month, each October, and Earth Week and Arbor Day, both in April.  During the past four summers, faculty and student researchers at the college have worked in partnership with the City of Holland and Holland in Bloom on an Urban Tree Canopy Project to inventory trees on city property and campus.

Hope offers academic majors in environmental science with concentrations in biology, chemistry and geology, and minors in both environmental science and environmental studies.  Multiple faculty-student collaborative research teams pursue environmentally-related projects, and Hope launched a new Global Water Research Institute this past spring based on the college’s strong tradition of research on water quality in particular.

Hope has received a variety of awards through the years for its sustainability efforts.  Hope has held a STARS Silver rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) since 2017, after previously holding a Bronze rating since 2012.  For the past four consecutive years, the college has received Tree Campus USA® recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation.  In October 2019, Hope received an Honor Award for exceptional grounds maintenance in the Green Star Awards competition of the Professional Grounds Management Society. In 2015, Hope College Dining received Gold-level recognition in the SEED sustainability program of Creative Dining Services.  In 2014, the college was certified by the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program for meeting the organization’s standards in overall grounds management practices.

More information about sustainability efforts at Hope and in the area is available at hope.edu/sustainability

Principally located in the Greater Grand Rapids area, WMSBF is the flagship Michigan Sustainability Forum, with satellite programs in Southwest Michigan and on the Lakeshore, and sister programs across the state.  Now in its third decade, the forum strives to meet emerging needs while leveraging the efforts of an increasingly robust community of vendors and educational initiatives working toward similar goals.

South East Market in Grand Rapids won this year’s West Michigan Sustainable Business of the Year Award.  The other nominees, also named runners up, were Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Meijer, PADNOS and Volta Power Systems.