From the Office: Spring Greening Tips


By Anna Szalay

Spring Clean the Natural Way

You can most likely find “green” or “natural” cleaning products at your grocery store. But you can save some money and make your own cleaning product from supplies you already have.

All-purpose cleaner and deodorizer  

  • 4 tbsp baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Essential oil

Glass cleaner

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup white or cider vinegar
  • ¼ rubbing alcohol
  • Essential oils

Heavy duty scrub

  • Lemons
  • ½ cup borax or baking soda
  • Vinegar

Garden and Compost

We promise it’s easier than you think. For households, composting is a way to recycle certain materials and kitchen scraps and turn them into a beneficial soil amendment for home gardens and reduce waste output. In fact, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. The combination of this food waste, along with yard trimmings, makes up 24 percent of our nation’s municipal solid waste stream. When organic waste enters the landfill it becomes trapped from air and produces methane, one of the worst greenhouse gas that is over 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide

What can go into the compost: Food scraps, grass clippings, plant cuttings, dry leaves, hay and straw, simple paper products (newspaper, cardboard, etc.), crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, sawdust and wood clippings. (Whew! That’s a lot.)

In short, it’s a no-brainer that composting will drastically reduce your waste.

Declutter your Life

Keep It:

A good rule of thumb to remember is if you have used it in the past year, chances are you’ll use it again.

Donate It:

Even though these things are disposable to you, they may have many useful miles left. Keep items out of overcrowded landfills by asking family and friends if they have use for any of your unwanted items.

Recycle It:

Commercial mail, old magazines, un-read books – all of these items can be recycled. Consider this: A family of four uses 1.25 tons of paper per year on average, and the U.S. EPA reports that recycling 1 ton of paper saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, AND energy to power the average American home for six months.

Trash It:

Be cautious when disposing of hazardous materials, as inappropriate distribution can cause toxic components to leach into the soil and groundwater. But even if something isn’t recyclable, chances are it may be reused in some creative capacity

Get Your Fitness On

150507_Active Commute-07

Studies show that physically active individuals save, on average, about $2000 a year in medical costs compared to those who don’t exercise. Those prescriptions, medical exams and doctors’ visits all come with significant eco costs.

American hospitals generate approximately 6,600 tons of waste daily. As much as 85 percent of that is non-hazardous solid waste, such as paper, cardboard, food waste, metal, glass and plastics, according to Practice Green Health.

While gym fees can be relatively expensive, you can alternatively find a jogging buddy, download yoga classes online or get out that bike again and commute to work!


From the Office: Community Outreach Waste Sorting Event

The Office of Sustainability Practices recently partnered with Facilities Services to rally our recycling efforts for recyclemania during GVSU annual community outreach week. Community Outreach Week is a week of service where Lakers unite from around the globe to give back to their local communities in the name of Grand Valley.

With a week left to the end of recyclemania, the office of sustainability and facilities services saw the opportunity to give back to the grand valley community by performing a waste sorting and auditing event using just a day of trash collected from a few living centers across campus. This is in hopes of increasing our numbers in the recyclemania completion and making students conscious of the realities of the world around them. Student and staff volunteers assisted in the completion of a waste audit where they sorted through trash and recycling collected from a few living centers in search of the most commonly disposed of items on campus.

Volunteers sorted through more than 200 pounds of trash and roughly over 150 pounds of recycling. Volunteers sorted trash into categories that included mixed paper, corrugated cardboard, paper towels, plastic and glass recyclables, food waste, liquids, plastic bags, packing materials, non-food compostable waste, clothing, reusables (including trash can!), and miscellaneous trash. They then recorded the weight and volume of each category (Recycling, Compost and Landfill). Waste audits like this are useful because they provide data about what people throw out and where they throw it out. This is a great opportunity for the campus community to reflect on their relationship to consumerism and waste.Check out the results from the waste audit below:

Compost: 113 lbs + Recycle: 113 lbs + Landfill: 155 lbs

Total: 381 lbs.

113 lbs (recycle) +113 lbs (compost) = 226 lbs

60% diversion

We are grateful to everyone who came out to support. It is our hope that the impact made by volunteers help to advance and encourage sustainable practices on campus and in our community. Together, zero waste is possible. Thank you all!

From the Office: RecycleMania Kickoff!

Recyclemania is a friendly competition among over 250 colleges in the state and beyond, that aims to promote awareness on recycling and waste reduction on campus. Over the next 8 weeks, Grand Valley will participate in the national competition among colleges to collect the largest amount of recyclables and to reduce waste generation as much.


Grand Valley will be ranked in various categories based on the amount of recycling and trash collected each week. Categories include, diversion, food organics, and per capita classic. With each week’s updated ranking, we will be able to benchmark our performance against other colleges.

The overall goals of recyclemania is to motivate student and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation, generate attention for campus recycling programs, encourage colleges to measure recycling activity, and to have a friendly competition among colleges.


What can you do to help? In collaboration with Campus Dining, Housing and Residence Life and Facilities Services, the office will be hosting several events, so be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for more details. You can also contribute by spreading the word. Help GVSU be the Grand Champion!

From the Office: Tips for a sustainable semester

welcome back

Happy New Year Lakers! School is in session again. As we gradually slide into our routine ‘school life’, it’s important to think about our general environmental impact and how to keep sustainability in mind in whatever we do. Whether you’ve already got everything figured out or not here are some great tips to help guide you to a sustainable semester!

  1. In the craziness during the semester, it can be hard to remember to compost, reuse, and recycle. It’s easy to find recycling bins for paper, plastic, and glass all around campus. Here are a few simple recommendations:
  • Use packaging you can recycle or reuse. For example reusable dishes and water bottles
  • Have both recycling and trash bin in your room
  • Use less paper – Go electronic and print less
  • Unplug a few times during the semester to connect with ourselves, our loved ones and our community.
  • By used or rented books — they’re cheaper anyway!
  • Conserve energy and water! – Turn lights and electrical appliances off when not in use.
  1. Buying a new set of school supplies every year might be exciting for you, but some can be unnecessary if you give thoughts to them. Take a look at what you already had from the previous semester and your shopping list may quickly grow shorter! Repairs, repurposing, and upgrades will usually come at a lesser cost to you and the Earth, especially when it comes to resource-intensive products like electronics. What’s worse – many school supplies can also come at great expense to the planet and your pockets. For example, if old notebooks aren’t used up – try recycling last year’s pages and adding a new cover for the new school year!
  2. Eat healthy and look out for your health. It is so easy to be consumed in the tussle of school and to not be aware of your eating and wellness habit. Be conscious of your diet and try to get as much exercise as possible to stay healthy.
  3. Take action. Through student organizations clubs and projects, you can commit to environmental awareness and action, both on campus and in the larger world. You can also commit to various volunteer opportunities we have on campus. Sustainable initiatives ensure we do more and more each year. If you have any ideas, do not hesitate to contact our office for any support. We love working with you to implement visions whenever we can.

Let us know how you are living sustainably this semester by sharing what you do. As always, we encourage and appreciate your efforts to engage the world … sustainably! Enjoy your semester!!!

From the Office: Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide

Gift giving is one of the joys of the holiday season. The exchange of gifts and cards during holidays is nothing new to the American tradition. We all love this custom during the holiday season. It can however be hard to balance the desire for a simpler, less wasteful lifestyle with the desire to “wow” friends and loved ones with the perfect gift. About 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold in the United States each year—that’s enough to fill a football stadium 10 stories high. Excessive gift-giving not only takes its toll on our fiscal budgets, it also harms the natural environment. As we celebrate the holidays, it pays to be mindful of sustainable consumption and materials management practices. Millions of tons of paper products and packaging are taken to the landfill during the holiday season.

In keeping to our goal of guiding GVSU through a sustainable future, we have developed this Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide in order to provide the community with tips to lessen their environmental impact during the holidays. These tips will help you to reduce the environmental impact of your shopping and giving this year. Here are some “green” gift giving ideas for Christmas, thanksgiving, birthdays, and beyond!

Gift Giving & Shopping

  1. Gift Cards and Tickets – Want to give a gift that is unique but in keeping with the recipient’s taste? If you’ve got an adventurous coffee drinker on your list, try getting them a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Give gift cards for experiences people rarely buy for themselves, like massages and facials.Treat your loved ones to their favorite event tickets. Everyone loves music, so why not give iTunes or Google Play gift cards, Spotify, Audible etc
  1. Gift Sustainable Items – Give a gift that helps someone go green. Consider giving items or gifts that can be reusable and cause less harm to our environment. This can go a long way to impact good habits on recipients. You may want to consider buying items such as energy-saving power strips, motion sensor lights, reusable stainless steel water bottles, reusable cloth shopping bags, metal straws, reusable bees wrap, and reusable coffee tumbler among others.
  1.  Locally made Products – Support the local economy by purchasing locally made products. Consider locally made unpackaged soaps or candles. Antique and thrift stores are also great places to find unique gifts.
  1.  Plants – In the cold winter months, it can be a comfort to be surrounded by things that grow.  Potted plants make perfect gifts at Christmas time. Give a tree seedling that can be transplanted to the garden in the spring. And of course, you can never go wrong with fresh flowers any time of year.
  1. Charitable Donations – If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us don’t really need anything at Christmas time. One of the best sustainable gifts you can give is a donation to a charitable organization that holds special meaning to you. You may also consider giving the gift of your time or service. Volunteer for a charitable organization in lieu of a gift. Offer your friends and family an evening of babysitting or a home-cooked meal.
  1. Go for DIYs – One of the very best things to do during the holiday season is to sit down and create some DIY crafts. This is a great way to enjoy time with family and play host to all the warm and fuzzies that go along with the Christmas season. Christmas DIY can be everything from homemade gifts and decorations to creating delicious Christmas foods. The things can go as far as the mind will take you.

Gift Wrapping Alternatives

Make this holiday season a year to remember with this handy wrapping ideas. There are many alternatives that can be used to wrap your gifts without cutting on beauty. Actually, the only thing that will be cut down is waste and cost.You won’t have to break your budget with these wrapping ideas.

Newspaper WrapNEWS

While newspapers are becoming obsolete in recent times, you can find relevance to your old newspapers. Try wrapping your gifts with newspaper. Start spreading the news!

 Reusable gift & paper bags Gift bag

If you do use traditional wrapping paper, hold back the urge to tear through it and save the paper to use again next year.Gift bags and boxes that can be used again make a great alternative to old school wrapping paper as well. Not only do reusable gift bags cut down completely on waste, but they act as a gift itself as it can be reused for gift giving in the future. You may want to consider reusable bags for your green holiday!

Map it up! Map it

Giving to an adventurous loved one? An elegant touch in your gifting giving can be wrapping your gifts with a map. Do it the right way with gifts wrapped inside maps. This is not only meaningful but also shows that you care about your friends’ or loved ones passion.

Fabric gift wrapFab 1

Do you have extra fabric pieces around the house? From large cuts to smaller fabric strips, these can be used for wrapping and makes a super fun alternative to paper! Wrapping gifts with fabric from around the house is not only inexpensive, but it’s also eco-friendly since the wraps can often be reused. You can switch up your gift-giving routine, by using reusable fabric wraps during this holiday season.

Calendars Calenda

Gift wrapping can be a lot of fun. When all fails, old calendars can come in handy. Just tear out the pages and use it as you would sheets of wrapping paper. The date pages give your gifts a relatable appearance depending on the day or time of gifting. Depending on the number of gifts you’re giving out, this little trick could help you save a bundle.

Why not choose a few of these ideas that will be easy to incorporate into the holiday celebration? Not only are we contributing to sustainability and the natural environment, but chances are you will also simplify your life. Let’s go green Lakers!

Do you have some great zero-waste Christmas gift ideas you would like to share? We’d love to hear your ideas too!


Student Voice: Why I took an internship with the SAP

Hello everyone,Noah Lamboley

My name is Noah Lamboley. I am a senior at Grand Valley State University. Outside in the dirt is where I grew up so it feels nice to get back to where I used to spend so much time. How I look at farming and plants may be a little different and unique. I find that growing food is very satisfying and rewarding, knowing that the work I am putting in is allowing something clean and healthy to grow as well as being able to noticeably see plants respond to the care they are given. I also find that having a connection back to the earth and our food is important. It makes me happy knowing that our hard work at the farm to produce clean, healthy food is being shared in the community and people are able to know where their food has come from and know that it is clean.

My experience at the farm during the Summer was nothing short but great and filled with an abundance of information and knowledge for which Youssef, the farm manager, passed down to interns as we worked on and off the farm. I had the opportunity to engage in almost every process involved in farming from planting, selling, harvesting, preparing seeds for germination in trays, preparing beds and clearing plots of land to till up and then plant. Learning and innovation never stop with sustainable farming. However, I do feel I have learned an incredible amount and gained serious insight into what it takes to run and maintain a small-scale farm.

I would recommend to anyone interested in small-scale farming, health-conscious eating, and local support to gain an experience like this either with the Sustainable Agriculture Project or with another similar operation. This is a great opportunity to get your hands back in the dirt and not only connect with Earth but work in harmony with nature to grow clean, organic food. The work you put in is very rewarding especially knowing that the plants are growing well and producing because of the effort you put in to keep them healthy. It also feels good working with people who are just as interested in the farming process and it gives a sense of comradery when working together towards a similar goal.

Image result for Noah Lamboley.What’s next for me is still quite unpredictable. I have three more classes to accomplish this Fall semester before graduating in December. I am focusing on finishing school then I would like to possibly move in with some of my friends, have a fun job for a while and make some money before looking at land worth possibly purchasing. At that point, I would be looking to potentially kickstart a career in small-scale, sustainable farming. In this buffer time, I would like to continue to read and understand techniques that allow small-scale farms to survive. Youssef has provided a lot of this kind of information and keeps me updated with seminars that are going on around the country as well. I have a lot to indulge myself in yet before things start coming together.

Alumnus Voice: Breaking grounds with the SAP

DanielleI was a part of the group of students that originally dreamed up the SAP, at that time known as the GVSU Garden. We researched, planned and coordinated everything, and when the first summer came along, I worked with other students to break ground (literally, we built a fence in the really dense soil). I remember having to make a presentation to GVSU leadership for permission to use the land, and we were told that we could have it for a couple of years. So beyond planting, weeding and watering, we worked endlessly to integrate the garden into the Sustainable Community Development Initiative (now known as the Office of Sustainability Practices) and the University so that when we eventually graduated there would be a system in place for the garden to continue.

A lot of awesome things have happened since I graduated nine years ago! Right after college I spent a lot of time growing my professional skills and building a network in West Michigan. I did a one-year AmeriCorps term with Healthy Homes Coalition, worked for Catalyst Partners, a green-building consulting firm, and volunteered with WMEAC and The Spoke Folks. Interestingly, at Catalyst Partners we had a small garden, so I was able to put my green thumb to use in my professional life as well.

In the fall of 2014 my husband Patrick (also a GVSU alum) and I moved to northern California where we now both have jobs in tech. Since being here, I’ve shifted my work from green buildings to green commute, and I am currently getting my Masters in Urban Planning at San Jose State University. In addition, I get to work with LinkedIn as their Bay Area Transportation Program Manager, providing employees with commute options that provide them with a great commute experience while also working to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips made to campus.

I use what I learned at the SAP almost every day! I currently participate on a Talent Development initiative at work, and we were recently discussing the importance of a shared vision. Immediately I thought about the garden, and how from day one we had a ten-year plan that was full of BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). I truly believe that by setting this vision from the beginning, the garden was able to transform into the SAP.

Through this work I also learned the importance of bringing a team of people together on a project that have different perspectives and objectives than your own. This initiative is what makes a project resilient to time and inevitable change, and I regularly bring this understanding into my work life.

I am so incredibly proud of the students and staff that have taken the garden and turned it into the beautiful success that it is today. Our group had a 10-year vision, and I think every idea and dream we had for the garden has come true. But with the leadership of those that came after us, this project is an even bigger and better success than we could have ever imagined.

About Danielle Glaser: Danielle Glaser (formerly Danielle Ostafinski) graduated in December 2009 with B.A. Liberal Studies, emphasis in Sustainable Community Development and a Minor in Environmental Studies. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Urban Planning where she emphasizes in Green commute.