Award ceremony to honor 'Sustainability Champions'

By Ashlyn Korienek | 3/29/17 10:02pm

GVL / Courtesy - 2016 Sustainability Champions Award winners: Sam Bender, Anna Hill, Francis Merring, Suraya Shosten, Brittany Sincox, McKenna Smith, Hannah Swanson, Austin VanDyke, Jess Weal, Alex Wierenga.
by and / The Lanthorn

From its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings to developing ways to minimize waste on campus, Grand Valley State University and the Office of Sustainability Practices prides itself in modeling sustainable habits to impact the environment and local communities.

With this in mind, the Office of Sustainability Practices started the “Sustainability Champions Awards” nearly a decade ago. Leading by example, several students, faculty and organizations are recognized each year for the accomplishments and notable efforts supporting sustainability on campus and around the globe.

In 2016, nearly 40 awards were distributed.

“Anyone can be a Sustainability Champion,” said Yumiko Jakobcic, sustainability coordinator at the office. “Anyone can also nominate one. We really try to go across the board, community members and everything. As long as the project is sustainability related.”

Jakobcic said the ceremony will award Nichols Sustainability Scholarship winners, Sustainability Champions and the recently established Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) Fund awardee.

After the death of Dave Feenstra in December of 2015, the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies started a fund in his memory to allow for one or more student interns to continue his work with the SAP.

The award winner is named the “Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Intern Leader.” In 2016, the first recipient was Austin VanDyke, GVSU student community garden manager for the SAP.

For the 2016 awards, several projects will be recognized for exemplifying sustainable leadership in the community. Amongst the recipients, Brooks College Office of Integrative Learning and Advising is to be awarded for its “Laptop Recycling Project,” which loans used laptops to those in need.

Another group to receive recognition is the GVSU Beekeepers club for its multiple projects this year, including bee pollen research.

“It is an amazing feeling that GVSU Beekeepers is being recognized by the university,” said Emily Noordyke, vice president of the club. “All of our club members and our fantastic adviser, Anne Marie Fauvel, have dedicated so much time to the club in the past few years.”

The club has not only initiated a plethora of research this year, but also has focused on community outreach. For Noordyke, this collaboration has changed her life.

“It is important to us to encourage students to get involved with the bees in whatever way that inspires them most,” she said. “When student passion and bees combine, we've seen great things happen.”

As battling environmental issues can be hard work, Jakobcic said the award ceremony acts as a way to notice the positive changes made in the community.

“I think it is really important to recognize what has been done,” she said. “Some of the topics that we deal with can be sort of depressing like climate change, stuff like that. So it’s really nice to recognize the good things.”

In addition to raising awareness for sustainable practices, Jakobcic hopes the ceremony inspires others to create change in the community—whether the effort is big or small.

The Sustainability Champions Awards will take place Friday, March 31, starting at noon located in the Kirkhof Center’s Grand River Room. In addition, the environmental and sustainability studies showcase will feature student presentations.

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