Sustainability 101—Grand Rapids’ mayor George Heartwell addresses Albion students

On Aug. 26, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, ’71,  delivered the 2010 William K. Stoffer Lecture at Albion’s opening convocation, focusing on sustainability. The lecture was the first event in Albion’s theme year of sustainability.

Heartwell has promoted sustainability across the city since 2004, stressing the need to encourage sustainability on three fronts—economic, environmental and social equity.

“As a mayor, I can’t escape to Washington, D.C. or Lansing,” Heartwell said. “People say to me, ‘We need to do this or need to do that.’ There’s a sense of immediacy to it.”

Albion has dedicated the 2010-2011 academic year to sustainability in its strategic plan; wellness and global diversity will follow sustainability in a three-year cycle of theme years. The 2010 William K. Stoffer Lecture kicked off Albion’s “Week of Impact,” with activities ranging from a Kalamazoo River clean-up to the ongoing Sustainability Year Film Series.

Currently, Grand Rapids is participating in several wind turbine projects, using alternative fuel in city vehicles and continuing to improve water quality in the Grand River, among other measures, according to Heartwell.

Due to the city’s initiatives, Grand Rapids received the 2010 Siemens Sustainability Award for being the most sustainable mid-size (50,000-500,000 residents) city in the nation.

Heartwell also fielded questions from both students and faculty at a question-and-answer session held in Bobbit Auditorium prior to the William K. Stoffer Lecture.

John Rogers, Rochester first-year and Ford Institute member, attended the question-and-answer session.

“(His responses) seemed insightful, and obviously he’s spent a lot of time and put effort and passion into this,” Rogers said. “I appreciate (his dedication) because I don’t know very much about it.”

Of all Grand Rapids’ environmental initiatives, Heartwell most enjoys the improved water quality in the Grand River.

“Now people are catching bass, taking them home and eating them,” Heartwell said. “You couldn’t have done that 10 years ago.”

The next Year of Sustainability event is the “Ballet in the Pasture” presentation by Joel Salatin, a Virgina farmer featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The event is scheduled on Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the College’s Goodrich Chapel.

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