Recognizing ‘sustainability champions’

GVL / Emily Frye    
Julia Henderson gets to work at the GVSU Sustainability Farm on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Julia Henderson gets to work at the GVSU Sustainability Farm on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

Megan Webster

Sixty nine students, faculty members and members of the community received recognition at the ninth annual Grand Valley State University Sustainability Champion Awards (SCA) Friday, March 31. Among these individuals, five received scholarships for their sustainable efforts. The event was hosted by the Office of Sustainability Practices (OSP) in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room.

The award ceremony was divided up into several different categories: students, faculty/staff, community, projects, recognition, the Nichols Sustainability Scholarship and the Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project Fund.  In accordance with their ideals, the OSP members declared the ceremony to be a zero-waste event by providing lunch to the attendees without producing waste.

The SCA recognized members, or champions, of the university and of the community who support and live by the ideals of sustainable practice. In order to receive an award, the champion must serve as a leader in sustainability, doing whatever they can in order to uphold the idea of sustainability within their own lives.

Anne Hiskes, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, said award recipients should not go unnoticed for their great achievements.

“I want to emphasize again that the people in this room, I see many students, faculty, administrators, community members, all of you are the people who make sustainability happen in our community and in the university,” Hiskes said.

Hiskes also mentioned that the OSP makes a great effort to uphold GVSU’s core value of sustainability.

“The sustainability office ensures that sustainability is upmost in the minds of all of us across the university as we make important decisions about buildings, about operations, about what we do and how we act,” Hiskes said.

GVSU takes pride in its sustainability efforts through various programs and applications, including the LEED-certification of 24 sites and structures on campus, 250 offered sustainability courses, the university’s designation as a bicycle friendly campus and its seventh-year designation as one of the country’s green colleges.

Greg Sundstrom, city manager of Grand Rapids, attended the SCA and said sustainability does not only concern the environment but finances as well. He explained that the City of Grand Rapids has become financially sustainable through hard work and dedication over the past six years.

“Now today, we have taken that $30 million hole, and we now have $30 million in reserves, the highest level of reserves in our history,” Sundstrom said. “That will enable us to weather the next economic downturn. That is our part of our plan to become long-term sustainable.”

Sundstrom also pointed out that a community cannot become 100 percent sustainable unless there is racial equity as well, another issue the City of Grand Rapids is striving to improve.

“For us, this community cannot be a sustainable community unless we address the disparities that exist between groups and our community,” Sundstrom said.

To see a full list of all 69 individuals who were recognized at the award ceremony, as well as winners for the previous eight years, visit