From tourism to food, development and more, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum sets sights on growth in Muskegon

A previous Sustainable Muskegon forum. Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

As Muskegon continues to grow, a regional group focused on business and sustainability is expanding its footprint in the area in an effort to shed light on the role the evolving economic landscape can play in improving the environment.

The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF)—a “regional collaboration of business, government, nonprofits, and academia dedicated to promoting business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality and social responsibility,” as described on its website—has long been involved in Muskegon, but the organization is currently growing its reach in an area it sees as playing a vital role in West Michigan’s economy and environmental sustainability. 

All of which is to say: the WMSBF will be focusing on, well, a lot in Muskegon. Think: recycling and composting, energy efforts in the face of climate change, the preservation of our lakes and lakeshore, and much more.

“Currently, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum covers all of West Michigan, but they typically host events in Grand Rapids and a lot of their members are in Grand Rapids,” said Rose Spickler, the membership and campaigns manager for WMSBF. “We have a branch in the South Haven/St. Joe area that’s really successful; they’re doing a lot of events there and have members there, and we want to do the same thing in Muskegon.”

Now in its third decade, the forum promotes a wide range of issues, from climate leadership and corporate social responsibility to the growth of sustainable business. This essentially translates to the question of: how can business change our world for the better? 

For years, the group has worked with local businesses and institutions to focus on practices that reduced environmental impacts and benefited their surrounding communities—and which were, at the very least, financially feasible, and, more often than not, increasing the various groups’ profitability.

In Muskegon, the WMSBF is focusing on monthly “Sustainable Muskegon” forums, creating a “positive environment of sustainability so people know Muskegon is pushing forward with sustainability,” and a Sustainable Muskegon taskforce that aims to engage “decision-makers” in the community to address questions of sustainability in development.

“We’re growing so quickly, and we don’t want to skip over the sustainability piece,” Spickler said.

A previous Sustainable Muskegon forum. Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

The monthly Sustainable Muskegon forums will focus on a wide range of issues, including such upcoming topics as the Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, a clean energy program, and sustainable food systems.

The next Sustainable Muskegon forum will be held Tuesday, Dec. 17 from 11:30am-1:30pm at Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, located at 1501 E. Apple Ave. The general public is invited to attend; admission ranges between $10 and $20. [To see more about the event and purchasing tickets, click here.]

The Dec. 17 event will focus on Goodwill Industries’ recycling and reuse efforts, and speakers will highlight Goodwill’s new 64,000-square-foot retail outlet center in Muskegon that sells goods by the pound. The space allows Goodwill to ramp up its retail recycling efforts. Additionally, speakers from Goodwill will discuss their initiatives to connect with other local groups on recycling or reusing items. For example, when Spectrum Health renovates one of its spaces, it will donate items like chairs, tables and cubicles to Goodwill, allowing those items to be reused instead of ending up in a landfill.

Speakers will include Goodwill Industries of West Michigan President and CEO Jeanette Hoyer, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan Environmental Sustainability Manager Dan Broersma, and Spectrum Health System Senior Sustainability Project Manager Sarah Chartier. Los Amigos will provide the lunch for the event, which will also offer participants the chance to tour the Goodwill facility.

“With the forums, we want to bright light to what people are already doing here,” Spickler said. “We’d like to share those ideas and encourage them.”

With the WMSBF’s third goal for Muskegon, the Sustainable Muskegon taskforce, Spickler said the group—a subset of the WMSBF—will tackle such topics as access to recycling and composting in our communities, sustainable tourism, food system sustainability, energy efforts in the face of climate change, the preservation of clean, fresh water, and much more.

The Sustainable Muskegon taskforce from the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum aims to foreground the community’s success stories, working to normalize discussions of sustainability and highlight its potential as an economic driver and a defining feature of the Lakeshore as an economy and destination,” Spickler said. “We are hoping to inspire opportunities for involvement from local influencers and decision-makers, promoting a wider ownership of sustainability in the community.” 

Spickler emphasized that the WMSBF welcomes public input and participation; to connect with the group, follow Sustainable Muskegon on Facebook, learn more about the Dec. 17 event by clicking here, or visit the WMSBF official website here.

“We have a vested interest in Muskegon and are really excited to do more events on sustainability in Muskegon,“ Spickler said.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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