No Corporate Green Project Is Too Small


    In the eleventh hour of finalizing the deal to build the M-6 Paul B. Henry Freeway, local media provided more airtime to those who had been opposed because of the problems associated with its environmental impact. The “controversy” had seemingly come out of the blue, despite detailed study facts. Stopping or altering the project at that point would have been akin to standing directly in front of a speeding train. The new highway has been awaited for more than 20 years and is popular with residents across the region. The commitment of Grand Valley Metropolitan Council and four area units of government to build a non-motorized trail north or south of the project is therefore more reason to celebrate, especially for its ability to preserve, rather than develop more of the land surrounding M-6.

    The trail is also meant to connect to Kent Trail, which especially pleases the Byron and Gaines township supervisors who are watching unprecedented growth and development in the area.

    When Consumers Energy Co. last month jumped to sign up as the first provider under Michigan’s Renewable Energy Program Grand Rapids Business Journal speculated that it was one of too few area firms ready or willing for the corporate green era. Certainly the automakers doing business in Detroit continue to work with blinders in this regard, as reported during national debate on legislated clean air standards.

    Once again, Japan is already manufacturing vehicles with alternative energy sources. Most of the European community, too, is well ahead in the green era as a matter of public policy as well as corporate efforts.

    Last week the Business Journal reported that Steelcase and Cascade Engineering have jumped on bandwagon as two of 18 national companies agreeing to purchase a portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Both will participate in the Consumers Power program which offers as little as 3 percent or as much as 50 percent of a customer’s electricity from “green sources.”

    Cascade Engineering Chairman Fred Keller said his company committed to 4 percent of its energy use from green sources, and considered the corresponding rate increase (from $15,000 to $20,000) “a reasonable investment in the future.”  Keller regards the higher cost associated with development of alternative energy to be an investment in that industry. With enough participants, such increases will not likely have to be sustained.

    Michigan may indeed lead the way in a variety of green initiatives — and set a new pace for automakers. We make the point here that Steelcase, like auto the manufacturers, is not having its best year but nevertheless does not back away from its decades-long environmental stewardship. The efforts of State Sen. Ken Sikkema have provided headlines all year, from his initial call to halt discussion of Great Lakes water diversion to this week’s signing of a law to inspect ocean-going ships’ ballast water for “alien species.”

    In regard to environmental stewardship there are no small efforts. Just as the non-motorized trail proposed for M-6 joins a larger project in its connection to Kent Trails, the pieces of a very big puzzle eventually come together.

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