The Green Team: Sustainability Superheroes

by Michele Coffill

They are diving into dumpsters, they are raising bees and they are conserving watts of electricity. They are the Green Team.

photo by Elizabeth Lienau


From left are Green Team members Paul Jaenicke, Rose Yoder, Anne Marie Fauvel, Emily Delano, Dan Broersma, Melissa Peraino, Lisa Miller and Kellie Pnacek-Carter.

Members patrol the Meijer Campus in Holland in search of excessive electrical use, unwanted paper products and other violations of sustainable practices.

Established in 2008, Green Team members are students, faculty and staff members who are dedicated to sustainable practices on campus. They meet regularly to plan programming
and discuss new ideas.

They have become passionate experts about sustainability. Most team members implement practices at their homes, and some have given local and national presentations on the topic. They have partnered with community and nonprofit organizations to meet the “triple bottom line” (social, economic and environmental factors) of sustainability.

Lisa Miller, director of the Meijer Campus, said the team is successful because its members bring expertise from their jobs or personal lives.

It’s the straightforward ideas: “Instead of having plastic silverware on hand, we’ve purchased silverware from thrift stores,” Miller said. That idea came from office manager Rose Yoder.

And this: Miller said they’ve checked — and been able to reduce — electrical use throughout the building by using the handheld Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor.

Or complex ideas: Anne Marie Fauvel, affiliate faculty member in liberal studies, raises bees at her home. She posed the idea of having an apiary on site at the Holland Campus several years ago; last June, it became a reality.

She teaches a course that focuses on the apiary and how honeybees impact society. The campus apiary is the only Michigan connection to a NASA project that draws data from hives around the country to help scientists better understand climate change. Start-up costs for
the apiary were funded by a grant from Grand Valley’s Sustainable Community Development Initiative.

Dan Broersma, liberal studies major, led the team’s efforts to reduce waste by diving into dumpsters. Broersma, who works for Herman Miller as an environmental specialist, has done about 20 dumpster dives, including two at the Meijer Campus.

“A dive gives you a baseline to see what is being thrown away and what can be recycled,” Broersma said. Nearly half of the recyclable waste he collected in the dive was cardboard or paper.

After that first dive, Broersma wanted to know where the campus’ recyclable materials go. His community connections led the team to partner with New Life Recycling Center, which is part of the Holland Rescue Mission. Now, materials from the campus are sorted as part of the mission’s job training program, and profits are used to support the mission.

“So, we’re reaching the triple bottom line with our materials,” Broersma said.

Miller said the campus is moving toward zero waste. She added that efforts like composting and creating a centralized recycling hub have led to fewer campus pick-ups by trash haulers.

The team is also good at making sure guests at the Meijer Campus know the skinny. Miller said the Green Team story is shared with classes at the start of each semester and with community groups that host events there.

The message goes far, Miller said. “Once people hear the story and rationale, they are usually excited to participate,” she said. “It’s great to see our repeat visitors help others to make sure they are disposing their waste properly.”

The team updates a website with its progress and details simple sustainable ideas others can implement in their homes or businesses. Visit the website www.gvsu.edu/holland and click on “Meijer Campus Information.”
 

Page last modified May 10, 2013