GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Since 1978, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan has been serving the needs of the Latino community.

“Our official mission is to empower the Hispanic community to achieve equity, self-sufficiency and personalized prosperity,” language and workforce development manager Holly Rea Clarkson said.

The nonprofit’s building on Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW in Grand Rapids is certified LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

“Our Green Team, the team or the committee that focuses on those sustainable or environmentally friendly practices here, that was started from personal passions of us individually here at the Hispanic Center,” Rea Clarkson explained.

The sustainability efforts started small with recycling and composting, which have increased over the years. Green Team members have also started focusing on the revitalization of rain and stormwater runoff areas.

But perhaps the biggest emphasis lately has been on community education. Last year’s Hispanic Festival played a major role. The goal was to make the festival, one of the largest in the state, a zero-waste event. With the help of sponsorships, the center was able to buy compostable food containers and products and train food and market vendors on the importance of waste reduction. Though it wasn’t 100% zero waste, Rea Clarkson said it taught the team what changes they’ll need to make for next year and the importance of making sure everyone is included in the conversation.

“A lot of times the Hispanic community is left out of the solution when it comes to climate change and sustainable practices, but they’re one of the first communities to be impacted negatively usually in those circumstances,” Rea Clarkson said.

All the work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The nonprofit was nominated for the 2022 Sustainable Business award by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum.

Rea Clarkson said they aren’t done yet.

“We only have one planet so we only really have one chance to do it right,” she said. “I think it’s so important to include the Hispanic community in that solution, in taking action, making sure they’re educated properly on sustainable practices so that we can make a long-lasting impression, a positive impact here on our planet.”