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Professor's energy efficiency efforts earn statewide recognition

  • man stands in front of house and car

Posted on October 02, 2018

Roy Cole, professor of geography and sustainable planning, and his wife, Mary, were nominated for a Governor’s Energy Excellence Award for their efforts in making their home energy efficient.

The awards recognize projects by people and organizations in Michigan that prioritize energy efficiency. The Coles, who live in Holland, were nominated after installing solar panels on their home's roof and completing an extensive project with foam insulation. He said those efforts cut their energy consumption by nearly 50 percent. 

They were among three finalists in the "Best Residential Projects" category but lost to a couple from Lyons who had a ground source heat pump system installed in their home. The awards ceremony was held in September in Grand Rapids.

Even before being nominated for the award, the Coles had been making changes to their home to lessen their impact on the environment. 

They installed a highly efficient furnace and air conditioner, placed a double roof on top of their house and incorporated drip irrigation into their vegetable garden to conserve water. Cole said he learned that last tactic while serving in the Peace Corps in Africa. He also drives an electric car. 

Cole said he incorporates issues of sustainability through the courses he teaches at Grand Valley. He said one course, Geography for a Changing World, focuses on human and economic development and sustainability. "So, we're passing on a situation to our children and grandchildren that is not worse than it is today," he said.

He credited his department and the university for recognizing the importance of sustainability.

“Sustainability is just woven through this place, it's all we talk about, and we try to model behavior for our students,” Cole said. 

-- written by Madison Barnes, student writer