ICMA workshop promotes sustainability with local leaders

Claire Fodell

The International City/County Management Association Graduate Student Chapter at Grand Valley State University hosted an event on Monday about sustainability in West Michigan and all over the world.

Jason Escareno, president of the ICMA student chapter, said the event was held to show students how the different themes they are learning in class can be applied outside the classroom.

“(We chose) professionals who are well-seasoned in their careers,” Escareno said, noting that the community leaders who lectured at the event were picked strategically.

Arn Boezart, Dennis Sturtevant, Mary Buikema and Haris Alibasic all spoke at the event and offered different perspectives on sustainability efforts in the area.

“(Sustainability is) about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the quality of life for future generations,” said Boezart, the director of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.

He noted the far-reaching tendrils of sustainability, adding that MAREC incorporates sustainability into its work with economic development, business development incubators and research on new technology for renewable energy.

The next speaker was Sturtevant, CEO of the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization Dwelling Place, which provides affordable housing and support to West Michigan families and individuals in need.

In his lecture, Sturtevant said Dwelling Place’s sustainability initiative is about more than just renewable energy, but it also places an emphasis on historic preservation of old buildings, urban gardening and creating housing close to public transit.

Buikema, the executive director of Kent County’s Habitat for Humanity, said her organization is making effort to create more sustainable homes. Energy efficiency isn’t just beneficial to the environment, but it also helps the families that use the Habitat for Humanity services to keep their energy costs down, Buikema said.

“We build ‘green’ because it benefits the families we help the most,” she said.

Alibasic earned his degree at GVSU and was once a professor. Now, he is the director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability for the city of Grand Rapids.

In his part of the lecture, Alibasic said Grand Rapids is recognized as a national leader in sustainability for various actions that it takes. Last year, Grand Rapids received a climate leadership award at the United States Conference of Mayors and also recently won an award for the most sustainable mid-sized community in the U.S.

The ICMA student chapter hosted the event in conjunction with GVSU’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration. The group is an international association that works to advance professional local government worldwide. The association recently allowed universities to form their own chapters, and the student chapter at GVSU became the first in Michigan earlier this year.

Escareno said the students of the chapter plan to host three or four events per semester in order to promote the ideas of the ICMA among the GVSU community.

For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/spnha/icma-gvsu-114.htm.
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