Golf outing! Those are celebrated words in West Michigan, and it was especially evident as a couple of hundred Michigan State University alumni and friends stayed the Egypt Valley course through one of the steamiest days yet last Monday.
It put a bit of an energy damper on the annually ebullient crowd — except for MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo. The coach headed to the podium to start the dinner segment of the annual Steve Smith Charity Challenge. When FOX 17 news anchor Tim Doty — an MSU alum — had trouble getting everyone’s attention through the reception roar, Izzo yelled, “Hey, hey! I know nobody likes media, especially me, but he’s helping out here! OK, that’s the last time you’ll hear me yell tonight. The yelling part’s done.”
The confusion of the dinner hour start was in no way helped by the fact that, as guests arrived, they were given table numbers — but no numbers marked the tables. So, as usual, almost everyone stayed in line at the bar.
Izzo again this year said no alumni event he goes to anywhere in the country is as well attended or beneficent. “This is the best,” he told the cheering audience, “and I mean it. It’s the best. Not a lot of you are Yoopers or from Flint … places where they can’t even say the word ‘philanthropic.’”
Izzo is a native of Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula.
Friends and neighbors near the MSU coach’s Lake Michigan home noted Izzo was finally seeing renovations come to an end. He needed to install 12-foot ceilings so the team feels at home.
Raise a toast
The letter B can stand for many things. Beer. Bikes. Burgers.
At Brewery Vivant, it now stands for Certified B Corporation — where B stands for Benefit. B Corps use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
The certification is similar to Vivant’s building gaining LEED certification, but instead of focusing on one aspect of the business — the renovation of the turn-of-the-century Metcalf Funeral Home into the brewery and pub — it focuses on the entire operation, said Kris Spaulding, co-founder along with her husband, Jason Spaulding, and director of sustainability at the brewery.
How Brewery Vivant treats its employees, the way it engages with the community and the steps it takes toward environmental stewardship all factor into the certification process, she said.
The detailed certification process is open to any business. She said Brewery Vivant sought it out to protect its core mission of sustainability and to strive for continuous improvement in its commitment to the triple bottom line (people, profit and planet).
“We also wanted to step it up a notch," she said. “The craft beer industry is known for its independent thinkers, outside-the-box doers and envelope-pushing community engagers. B-Corp marries a lot of what we're already thinking and doing into a legal framework.”
Each year Brewery Vivant releases its "Beer the change …" report, which includes a look back at the previous year's goals and benchmarks. It’s a guiding roadmap for where the company has been and is going. B-Corp adds another layer to that accountability.
“It gives us more to think about as a company and inspires us to reach and stretch,” Spaulding said.
From offering employees affordable health care, retirement planning and profit sharing, to volunteering in the community, working toward zero waste and donating 10 percent of profits to charitable causes, Spaulding said Brewery Vivant hopes to serve as a beacon not just to the beer industry but to the business community as a whole.
“For years, we at Local First have believed that business has the power to positively transform the community. Brewery Vivant exemplifies that,” said Elissa Hillary, executive director of Local First. “We appreciate their leadership and are excited to partner with them, and B Corp, to amplify this conversation in West Michigan.”
There are currently slightly more than 1,000 Certified B Corporations across the globe. Other companies of interest include New Belgium Brewing (the only other certified brewery), Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, and in West Michigan: Better Way Imports, Cascade Engineering and Gazelle Sports.
The Spauldings invite their friends and East Hills neighbors to join them at 4 p.m., July 24, to raise a glass to this accomplishment. Representatives from all four West Michigan B Corps and Local First also will attend.
Having a blast
How much of your money went up in smoke over the Independence Day weekend?
According to researchers from the website couponcodespro.com, the average American household shelled out $235, most of which was spent on alcohol (34 percent), food (21 percent) and decorations (16 percent). Fireworks (13 percent) and travel costs (11 percent) rounded out the top five.
The survey of nearly 3,000 Americans also revealed that the top five states in terms of Independence Day expenditures were Washington ($415), California ($390), New Jersey ($320), Texas ($310) and Georgia ($295).
It has been more than 40 years since the oil embargo of October 1973. Four decades later, Americans are still exposed to oil price hikes and high gas prices at the pump because of an overwhelming reliance on one source of fuel.
Mitch Miller, CEO of Carbon Green BioEnergy LLC in Lake Odessa, would like to see that change.
“In 2005, our country imported more than 60 percent of our crude oil needs. That number has been reduced to around 35 percent in 2013,” Miller said.
“This reduction has come from a number of factors, including increased domestic oil production, increased efficiency of our vehicles, as well as an increase in the blending of renewable fuels into our fuel supply. In 2013, we blended over 13 billion gallons of American-made ethanol into our fuel supply. Had we not displaced those 13 billion gallons of gasoline, we would have been forced to import over 40 percent of our crude oil needs.”
Miller pointed out that the cost of importing this oil is expensive. He said the U.S. spends between $27 billion and $137 billion annually on military operations to secure the safe delivery of oil from the Persian Gulf. Put another way, this is equivalent to adding an extra $1.17 to the cost of every gallon of gasoline.
“Wouldn’t this money be better spent elsewhere?” he asked.
“There is a solution in place today that can greatly reduce our dependence on foreign fuel. Flex Fuel E85 is a 100 percent American biofuel that is produced right here in Michigan. In fact, it is produced just 40 miles from Grand Rapids, and it is available at 28 local stations for a guaranteed $1 less per gallon than gasoline. You can locate all the locations by visiting yellowhose.com.
“The money spent at the pump on higher level ethanol blends will stay at home in our own economy supporting local jobs and farms instead of potentially leaving for good.”
That sounds like a pretty patriotic plan.