HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The work of Hope College’s “Green Team” is about creating a culture of sustainability and encouraging students to take that culture elsewhere, organizers say.
“Institutions set policies and procedures. They form a culture for better or worse,” Green Team co-director Steve Bouma-Prediger said. “We’re working on changing how the institution does things and that shapes people’s behavior, often in ways they don’t even realize, for the better.”
When he started working at the Holland college 28 years ago, he said, there weren’t even recycling bins. Now there’s an entire team focused solely on sustainability, with work on recycling, conservation, mitigating the school’s carbon footprint and more.
The Green Team — or, more formally, Sustainability Advisory Committee — is made up of 15 members, including faculty, staff and students. There is also an internship program. Its work extends off campus.
“Hope and the city of Holland have a really great town-gown relationship in terms of sustainability,” Michelle Seppala Gibbs, the director of the Office of Sustainability at Hope, said. “So we’re working on projects together about our trees, water quality and doing assessments and things like that.”
A business concept called the triple bottom line breaks down sustainability into three parts: profit, people and the planet, meaning organizations should measure their social and environmental impacts in addition to making a profit.
“Obviously we don’t create a product, but we create future employees and future citizens of the world. So we have that opportunity,” Seppala Gibbs said.
Hope has been recognized by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum for its work.
“You don’t have to try and take it all on all at once, but if you can get involved and try and help a little bit at a time, it really makes a big difference,” Seppala Gibbs said.