It was a class project with very practical community applications.
As part of their environmental and sustainability studies capstone class, students Adam Simon and Shari Brouwer spent the fall semester collaborating with Aldea Coffee, helping the Lakeshore coffee company improve its overall environmental impact by suggesting ways to reduce its energy consumption.
Aldea Coffee, with locations in Grand Haven and Muskegon, is one of a handful of companies in West Michigan to earn B Corp Certification, a designation that means a company demonstrates high social and environmental performance, among other criteria. Only 30 companies in Michigan are recognized with B Corp Certification.
Simon, a senior who is majoring in occupational safety and health, said he and Brouwer met several times with staff from Aldea and toured the coffee shops plus Aldea’s warehouse (and soon, new warehouse) in Muskegon. It was a thorough tour, down to counting the number of lightbulbs and making recommendations about the quantity, and reviewing refrigeration and heating/cooling systems.
Simon said working with Aldea paired well with his co-op experience at Woodward, an aerospace and industrial manufacturer in Zeeland, where he is part of the environmental, health and safety team. “Through this class, I got an experience working with a different company and it was community-based learning,” Simon said.
Brittany Goode, sustainability coordinator for Aldea, said the company has greatly benefited from participating in Kelly Parker’s capstone class for the past four years.
“We are not trained in these practices, so it’s great for me to utilize people who have this training,” said Goode, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2011. “They bring a fresh set of eyes to a project I need more information about.”
Last year, the project was to-go cups. Students in Parker’s class made recommendations to reduce the number of disposable cups. Aldea’s Abby Keessen said since Earth Week in April, a weekly average of 100 travel mugs are brought in by customers to be filled.
“The students and their work has been really valuable to us,” Goode said. “Through their projects, we’re able to focus on the low-hanging fruit, tackle things like to-go cups while continuing to share our story and implement sustainable systems at a reasonable progress.”
Parker, professor of philosophy and environmental and sustainability studies, said that’s the goal behind this capstone class project.
“Students are working directly with a community partner and learning a lot of things that you can’t get in a classroom,” Parker said. “There is a need to focus on what is most helpful to the partner rather than what is most interesting or easiest for the students. The stakes are, of course, a bit higher, too. The students have a real sense of responsibility to their community partners.”