Grand Rapids’ innagural Midwest Climate Ride cruises toward success

Emily Loeks responded without thinking when a friend told her about Midwest Climate Ride: “That’s crazy!”
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nAnd it was. Wasn’t it? A bike ride of approximately 300 miles (that’s 60 to 80 miles per day), from September 6 to September 9, beginning in Grand Rapids and finishing in Chicago, Illinois, would bring innovators, entrepreneurs, and everyday people together to support more than 60 environmental and active transportation organizations, locally and nationally, working in the areas of sustainability, renewable energy, climate change, public health, and bicycle advocacy. Some 150 bicyclists had already signed up to participate.
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nTwo nights later, after a bit of tossing and a bit of turning, Loeks woke with a revised thought: “That sounds awesome!”
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nLoeks, the director of community affairs for the chain of family-owned movie theatres known as Celebration Cinema, trotted down her basement steps to look for her old bike. It was down there somewhere …

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“I’m going to be riding that same bike,” Loeks smiles. “It’s been in the basement for about ten years, but I turned 40 this year, and I thought, well, why not? I’d always enjoyed riding.”
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nThe bike got dusted off and tuned up, odometer attached and new tires put on. Loeks hopped back on her bike, and her 6-year-old son, Joshua, was watching.
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n“Joshua rode his bike along with me, and on his first time, he took right off!” Loeks’ pride in her son shines through.
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nHer pride in the cause that inspired her to get back on her bike shines through, too. A Grand Rapids resident, Loeks loves her city and her community. She serves on the boards of two of the beneficiaries of the Midwest Climate Ride, and she has chosen to raise funds for four organizations: Local FirstWell HouseGreater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
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nLoeks says: “I care passionately about the place my children are growing up into. Climate change has become a hot button issue—but it seems obvious to me that climate is having an effect in our area. Science bears it out. We have to look to the long term.”
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nLooking to the long term is what Tom Tilma, executive director of Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, does best. Seven team members from GGRBC will be on the Midwest Climate Ride.
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n“We advocate with and advise local governments with the goal of building a bicycle-friendly infrastructure,” Tilma says. Participating in the Climate Ride, he says, “benefits our work in Grand Rapids, benefits the economy, the health and environment of our area, and it underscores our commitment to make Grand Rapids a more sustainable region.”
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nYet another benefit of participating in the Climate Ride, Tilma says, is that the six team members from the Coalition include casual cyclists, daily commuters and competitive cyclists, building a camaraderie that is both personal and business.
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n“We’re building new networks,” Tilma says. “We know many out there share our goals, people looking for ways to change our planet. Our advocacy work provides a direct solution that people can easily rally around. Climate Ride is a well-regarded organization, and it’s very exciting for Grand Rapids to be chosen.”
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n“Days one and two of Climate Ride Midwest showcase some of the 1,300 miles of trails and bike paths that crisscross the state of Michigan,” says Tim Frick, Chicago-based Climate Ride board member and organizer. Bicyclists will enjoy serene forest preserves, protected marshlands, rivers and creeks, sand dunes and beaches. They will ride through blueberry farms and quaint artist villages, pass by craft breweries and wineries and cider houses, and earn the occasional stop to enjoy.
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nAfter day two, Frick says, riders will see more of why they are riding to raise awareness about the impact of climate change. Crossing the Kalamazoo River, bicyclists will ride by the largest and costliest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history, when an Enbridge pipeline burst into the river near the town of Marshall in 2010. Clean-up is yet to be completed.
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nRiders will pass nuclear power plants and coal-powered electrical plants. They will pass through areas of toxic spills, and they will ride from wilderness and small towns into industrial areas and big city skylines. The ride concludes in Grant Park in Chicago.
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nAlong the ride, bicyclists will participate in curated evening programs that highlight ideas, advocacy, and social entrepreneurship, learning how they might make a difference in curbing the effects of climate change when they return home.
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nJamie Barnes, a Wyoming resident, heard about the Midwest Climate Ride from a friend in Chicago. A recent graduate in marketing from Davenport University, Barnes browsed through the teams of riders who had signed up for the adventure and decided to join a team called B the Change, riding alongside Tim Frick.

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“I’ve never participated in a long bike ride before,” Barnes says. She’s a runner more than a biker, regularly completing marathons. Raising awareness not only about climate change but also bicycle safety appealed to her.
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n“Anything we can do, we should do,” she says. “I enjoy being outside, taking advantage of good weather. It’s important to find an activity that you can be passionate about and get outdoors.”
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nFrom individuals like Barnes to nonprofit organizations like West Michigan’s Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), Midwest Climate Ride is signing up all kinds of riders, new as well as experienced.
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nWMEAC, a resource for environmental education and advocacy, is bringing four team members to the ride: Rachel Hood, executive director; Nicholas Occhipinti, policy and community activism director; Anne Marie Hertl, community activism manager; and Matt Bergevin, board member.
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n“Grand Rapids is on the leading edge for longtime commitment to sustainability,” says Hood. “Our participation in this ride is to raise funds and awareness, but all of us need to mobilize to reduce our individual impact on the climate.”
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n“This will be an opportunity to experience Michigan in a new way,” adds Hertl. “It will mean slowing down in an intentional way. I’ve been enjoying the quiet along the trails during training.”
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nHertl bikes or walks to the office, and she admits that her favorite part of biking is breezing by cars in traffic jams. Hood echoes that pleasure, but admits to not riding often since becoming a mom. Joining the team has her re-committed to biking and passing along healthy habits, along with a healthier community, to her children.
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n“I’ve wanted to do a ride like this for a long time,” says Matt Bergevin. “It agrees with my social stance as an advocate of biking. My uncle was a biker—he was killed while riding a bike a couple years ago, so I’m a big proponent of bike safety.”
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n“I hadn’t heard of Climate Ride before,” Nick Occhipinti admits. “What an amazing opportunity to really see the area I love! You don’t usually see it this way from the highways.”
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nEach bicyclist has to raise a minimum of $2,800 to join the ride. The first $1,400 covers expenses, but all funds raised beyond that go to the beneficiary organizations. Sponsors are individuals as well as corporations. 
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n“I’m buoyed in my work knowing that so many people care enough about climate change to do something like this,” says Hood. “We can’t deny the impact of climate change any longer.”

nClimate Ride, a nonprofit charitable organization, produces charitable multi-day rides, hikes and a DIY program:  Climate Ride NYC-DC, Climate Ride California, Climate Ride Midwest, Climate Hike and Independent Challenges. Visit www.climateride.org to learn more, to donate, or contact your favorite organization above directly.

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For original news article, click here.

Local businesses lining up for Washington Square street party

The all-star local lineup is set for the Washington Square street party.

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Local First is hosting its first Street Party on the Lakeshore from 3-9 p.m. on Sept. 20, and has lined up several Holland businesses for the event that features local food, beverages, musicians and family activities.

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It is a free event open to the public.

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“Washington Square is a great example of small business owners working together to create a vibrant space and walkable neighborhood-friendly experience,” Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary said in a news release. “Our intent is to feature local businesses and engage a diverse community by representing a variety of food and music.”

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New Holland Brewing Company and Vander Mill Ciders of Spring Lake are the official beverage suppliers, while Beechwood Inn, Electric Cadillac Delicatessen and Ray’s Tamale King will be offering food items. Pop also is being sold, and complimentary water will be provided during the event.

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The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland will provide face painting, interactive art and other kid-friendly activities.

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WaZoBia is planning to perform interactive Afro-Cuban drumming at the beginning of the event.

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The Latin Project are Vinylicious are among the local bands expected to perform. Local dance troupe The Circle Junkeez is part of the entertainment lineup, providing breakdancing between sets.

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The street party is being sponsored by Branch Capital Management, Computers and More, Details Interior Design, Girlfriend’s Fit Club, Globe Design and Vision, Holland Hospital and Schreur Printing and Mailing.

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For original article, click here.

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Photo credit: Andrew Whitaker

Local First and Holland Farmers Market hold inaugural tasting event

Chefs and farmers are teaming up to create culinary dishes to tantalize community members’ palates at an inaugural event on the lakeshore that will highlight the synergy among local vendors, businesses and consumers.

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Local First, a West Michigan organization supporting and advocating locally owned businesses, and the Holland Farmers Market, featuring more than 90 local vendors at the Eighth Street Market Place, announced Aug. 12 they would collaborate on an inaugural fundraising event, Gather: A Celebration of Local Food.

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The event will be held at 184 120th Ave., Holland, in the Coppercraft Distillery facility on Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. as six area restaurant chefs partner with local vendors from Holland Farmers Market to create culinary dishes for attendees.

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Several of the restaurants participating include: American Char, an all American smokehouse located in West Olive; Butch’s Dry Dock, a downtown Holland restaurant; and The Farmhouse Deli & Pantry, which offers Michigan cheeses and smoked meats in Douglas. Salt & Pepper Savory Grill and Pub and Salt of the Earth are two other local restaurants engaged in the cocktail-style dinner experience.

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Those attending will be able to taste sample dishes at various stations, paired with cocktails from Coppercraft Distillery, Fenn Valley Winery, Our Brewing Company and Virtue Cider. They will also have the opportunity to interact with the farmers and chefs who collaborated on the dishes.

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Kara de Alvare, marketing coordinator for Holland Farmers Market, said Gather is an event meant to expand services offered, engage the community and raise funds to support the market.

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“We have so much positive feedback about the market and we hear from the community how much they appreciate the market and how much they treasure it,” said de Alvare. “We thought it would be great to do a farm-to-fork dinner that would hopefully raise some funds for the market to support our special events.”

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Michele Lonergan, lakeshore membership coordinator for Local First, said with each chef preparing a food item using ingredients sourced from a favorite local farmer, the event is an opportunity for consumers to understand and celebrate the connection between the farmers and the restaurants.

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“We believe that while farm-to-fork dinners tend to highlight chefs sourcing local ingredients, we felt that it was time to add an additional spotlight, and that spotlight (is) on the farmers themselves, the local food producers themselves,” said Lonergan. “This way we thought attendees will gain a deeper appreciation, not only the importance but also the joy of eating local, because they will see the connection between the farmer and the chef.”

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Eight vendors from Holland Farmers Market are anticipated to provide locally grown ingredients and locally made products for the event: Country Winds Creamery, Groundswell Community Farm, Homestead Acers, Hoffer Greenhouses and Farms, The Local Epicurean, Visser Farms, Grand Daddy’s Kettle Corn and Ottawa Glad Growers.

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De Alvare said the relationship among farmers, chefs and the community is extremely important.

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“We are fortunate in West Michigan to have so many beautiful farms and the freshest product available right at our fingertips,” said de Alvare. “I think our area chefs do realize how fortunate they are to have these ingredients at their fingertips, and we see a lot of restaurants sourcing directly from vendors at the market. The money then stays in the local economy, so it is a win-win all the way around.”

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With limited staff to oversee the marketing of the event, Holland Farmers Market partnered with Local First to assist in hosting the first culinary event bringing chefs and market vendors together. The two organizations have an existing working relationship due to the number of vendors at the Eighth Street Market Place who are members of Local First and a collaboration with the weekly chef series and cooking demonstrations.

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“Local First seemed like a natural partner. They are huge proponents of the local food movement and we have a great working relationship with them, so we thought this would be fun to give this a shot,” said de Alvare.

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Eating local is one method Local First uses to bring attention to how a slight shift in consumer spending to locally owned businesses can make a significant impact in the regional economy. A 2008 study of Kent County conducted by Local First, “Local works! Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy,” found that a 10 percent shift in consumer spending to local companies resulted in 1,600 new jobs and more than $140 million in new economic activity.

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“The easiest way to make that shift for people is, a lot of times, in the area of food,” said Lonergan in reference to a three-month campaign asking community members to shift 10 percent of spending. “It is a very easy way for people to start to shift some of their consumer spending to local food producers.”

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The Gather event is sponsored by GMB Architecture and Engineering, United Federal Credit Union, WestEdge Realty and Zeeland Farm Services. Tickets are $75 per person, which includes food, beverages, two drink tickets and a dessert from JK’s Bakehouse & Deli, with coffee from Lemonjello’s Coffee.

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“The local food conversation is really expanding and exploding on the lakeshore,” said Lonergan. “There is a real synergy happening between the farmer, the consumer and the restaurant.”

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For original news article, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Junebug Photography.

UIX: Kris Spaulding helps Brewery Vivant find a new way of making merry.

It’s not just the regular releases of always-popular beer that Brewery Vivant is now celebrated for, but a renewed commitment to its three tenets—people, profit, and planet—as bolstered by a recent B Corp certification. The certification, finalized by the B Corporation nonprofit organization B Labs in early June, has given co-owner Kris Spaulding, “Vivant Prophet” Brooks Twist, and the rest of the company a benchmark by which to measure their continued improvement.
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nIt was actually over a year and a half ago when Spaulding first conceived of attaining B Corporation status for the company. She knew Vivant was on the right track, but there were certainly areas the company could improve upon. Add to that the fact that the Michigan state government does not recognize the legal status of B Corporations, so there is no tax benefit, and the idea was tabled for some time.
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n“I determined some things that we were doing well and things that we could improve on. For me, that was all I needed at the time,” Spaulding says. “I was looking to figure out what our next step would be. We qualified at that point but I just didn’t feel the need to pull the trigger. A year later I was talking to Twist in our office. He said we should look at the B Corp certification and I said, ‘That’s funny you should mention that because I already did that a year ago.’”
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nA B Corps event held by Local First at Grand Valley State University earlier this year helped answer many of the questions Spaulding still had about the certification.
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n“I wondered if it was just a feel good thing, but what I got out of talking to Chris Lampen-Crowell from Gazelle (http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/uix/people/LampenCrowell.aspx) at a later point was, the network side of it is really pretty beefy.”
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nAll the B Corporations in West Michigan get together on a regular basis. The work that Local First is doing is aimed at increasing that number.
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n“I think that having a network of local businesses that may be totally different than ours but have a similar mindset about what a business should be doing outside of just making money would be pretty fantastic,” Spaulding says.
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nOutside of paying the certification fee, which Spaulding says is very modest, B Labs also offers language that could be incorporated into any business’ operating agreement.
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n“The end result is, if something were to happen to Jason and I and someone else took over the brewery, it’s now signed in our bylaws that they have to consider people, profit, and planet—our three tenets—and that a manager can’t be fired for making decisions that aren’t based purely on money,” Spaulding says. “I loved that.”
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nOn larger level, B Labs reaches out to help connect certified businesses together, and offers different webinars and meetings. It was this networking opportunity that sealed the deal for Spaulding.
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n“There haven’t been any big events but the local certified B Corporations have met twice so far, so just being in a room on a regular basis with that group is awesome,” she says. “Maybe there’s not a tangible outcome that’s happened already but it gets your mind going and any time you talk to people about what they’re doing, you think about what you could be doing better. Those are companies that are so inspiring to sit with.”
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nThe B Labs website offers a substantial tool in networking, which Spaulding says has come in very handy as a newly certified organization.
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n“You can search for a company and see their scorecard. Then, we look at where we’re doing well and what we need help on and I can search for other breweries or restaurants and see who else is on there and how they’re doing,” she says. “B Labs connects the other businesses together and you can be pretty direct in asking for some information on the best practices. A lot of what I believe they do is share the best practices through the webinars and then they have an annual retreat, too.”
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nWhile the brewery was already far ahead of the curve with its environmentally-focused work—being a zero waste facility, among other practices—Spaulding, who comes from an environmentally-focused educational background, admits there are other areas where the team is looking for more innovative approaches.
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n“There are 200 points possible and we have 86, so we have 114 points, in theory, that we could make up for to be a better business,” Spaulding says. “The way they break it down, our strongest area was our environmental work. We have good momentum, so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The main thing we’re focused on now is our safety program. We have people that are smart and know how to do their job. Our managers definitely have a safety mindset. That filters down to the staff but we don’t have a formal program.”
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nThe points are awarded based on an audit of a company’s existing systems. B Labs asks for certain data to be collected from each applicant and then calls to go over the points.
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n“They’re either the most misunderstood issues or those people give themselves too much credit for,” Spaulding says.
nBased on that conversation and the points received, B Labs asks for applicants to provide proof of completion on each of the other points. Spaulding say she was appreciative that the process was so thorough, that certification seems to only be attainable by those businesses that truly deserve it.
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nIn comparison, Spaulding say, LEED Certification, which Brewery Vivant received in 2012, is a much more rigorous process, but only because a building is only built once, while a business grows and changes over time.
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n“Our staff is really proud of the LEED certification for the building but they aren’t exposed to the B Corp stuff as much, so we try to educate them. What’s cool about the B Certification is that you have to recertify every two years, so every two years you have to redo the assessment over all 200 points and they change it over time to reflect the increasing knowledge on their part,” Spaulding says. “And 10 percent of all certified companies will also get an on-site audit in between the two years. At some point, the longer you’re certified, the more likely someone will physically come and check.”
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nAccording to B Labs, B Corps are certified by the nonprofit to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today, there are more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries, a number which constantly grows.
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nWhile the state government in place right now does not recognize the legal status of B Corporations, Spaulding expects a large shift in attitude this coming November.
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n“I think there are 20 to 30 states that do recognize benefit corporations, and I think there will be a mass of states that start trending in that direction,” Spaulding says. “You’ll have to jump on board if you’re a late one to look like you’re on an even playing field. We can all hope that our state gets it. The more the merrier.”
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nAnd while the future of B Corps in Michigan will likely see change, the future of Brewery Vivant is looking better every day with this new certification, too, Spaulding says.
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n“It’s great to devote time to step outside your business and see where you could be better—how you could be best in your industry,” she says. “We want to be best for our size and now we have a good tool to help us get to best.”
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nFor more information on B Corps, visit http://www.bcorporation.net/
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nFor more information on Brewery Vivant, visit http://www.breweryvivant.com/

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For original news article, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Steph Harding.

Brewery Vivant: Belgian Tradition, Local Mission

The beer scene has never been better in Grand Rapids with the growth of the craft beer movement over the past decade (Beer City USA anyone?). I won't try to convince you to drink local craft beer over generic domestics, because if you don't know that already, there's not much I can do to help. But I can show you how one of our craft brewers is doing some pretty cool things in conjunction with the local food movement in Grand Rapids, which makes it even more compelling to support them.

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Brewery Vivant is a pub located in Grand Rapids that produces French & Belgian inspired beer and food. Not only is their beer top rated (especially their canned beer), their food is top notch (if you haven't tried their truffle fries, duck confit nachos, or famous bacon stuffed burger, add it to your list of places to visit this fall) – they also hold themselves accountable to “beer the change” in their community with measures like their recent B Corporation status.

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Local Partnerships

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Vivant is very attuned to their local community – in fact, their goal is to make over 90{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} of their purchases within 250 miles. Right now they're at 61.5{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} of all purchases sourced from locally owned businesses. That means that when you buy a beer from Brewery Vivant, you're actually indirectly supporting multiple local businesses in the process. Check out their Beer the Change sustainability report for more fun stats.

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One local organization they support is West Michigan Farmlink, a wholesale food hub for chefs/restauranterus, institutions & schools to connect with farmers & producers. This provides a platform for Vivant to meet the farmers that grow their food and cultivate relationships with them. And, they supplement their menu with food grown in their very own garden. If you've ordered a burger recently and found juicy purple tomato slices on it, you're one of the lucky few to experience their summer harvest first hand!

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Partners in Crime

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This whimsical collaboration called “Agent a Deux” combines Propaganda Doughnuts French-inspired pastries and Vivant's french-style beer. The outcome is a delicious espionage-themed dark ale brewed with black currants, vanilla beans and rose petals. Note: this beer is limited edition, so if you want to try it, do it soon!

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“We are a Belgian and French inspired brewery and Tory leans heavily on his French culinary background, so when he talked about baking with French flavors, this came into the picture. We had never worked with those flavors together in a beer before,” said Kate Avery, Marketing Director. “It was a delicious experiment!”

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The 10×10 Pledge

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You can use your 10×10 dollars this week to incorporate Brewery Vivant's beer into a meal. Drink it on the side, or get creative and flavor your chicken with the Big Red Coq!

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Haven't taken the pledge yet? Do that here:

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TAKE THE PLEDGE

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Get your fill of Brewery Vivant's beer at this year's Fork Fest on October 23. Mark your calendars for this foodie event! Also, keep an eye out for Vivant's Wood Aged Beer Festival on October 4.

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The Eat Local Challenge is sponsored by Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose.

West Michigan nonprofits unite to send teams on 300-mile bicycle ride from Grand Rapids to Chicago

Six West Michigan, community-based organizations will join forces for a collaborative fundraising effort as they prepare to send teams on the first-ever Climate Ride Midwest. The nonprofits invite community members to learn more about this nationally-recognized event – and their own locally-focused projects – at the Climate Ride Party on August 19 on the lawn of Mangiamo in the East Hills neighborhood. 

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Climate Ride Midwest is a nearly-300-mile fully supported ride that will take participants from Grand Rapids to Chicago over the course of four days (September 6 – 9). This is the first time Climate Ride organizers have planned a Midwestern route and local participants are honored that Grand Rapids was selected as the starting point for the monumental event.

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“At Climate Ride, we want to highlight communities that lead in green innovation and forward-thinking transportation for their citizens,” said Climate Ride Executive Director Caeli Quinn. “Grand Rapids is at the heart of a region that has been committed to conservation, protecting its water resources, and promoting sustainable business. We have a national audience and we want them to see that Grand Rapids is a hip, friendly, and beautiful city with a 21st century vision of sustainability.”

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Each local team member is charged with raising at least $2,800 to participate in Climate Ride Midwest. In turn, participants will get a life-changing experience and the opportunity to raise significant funds for the West Michigan nonprofit of their choice.   

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Riders are raising funds from their own families, friends, and colleagues, with support from the organizations for which they are riding. While fundraising can be competitive, these six nonprofits believe there is strength in working together to generate financial support and awareness of Climate Ride Midwest and the positive impact it will have on the West Michigan community.

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The six West Michigan nonprofit organizations to benefit from the August 19 event include:

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Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition – Funds directed to GGRBC’s Room to Ride campaign for 100 miles of bike lanes in Greater Grand Rapids by 2015. Team supported by CompuCraft.  

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Local First – We foster the development of an economy, grounded in local ownership, which functions in harmony with our ecosystem, meets the basic needs of our people, encourages joyful community life, and builds wealth.

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The Nest – We are building one of the world's most sustainable affordable homes devoted to fostering community and creating a safe space where people can do life together. Partnered with Alliance for Environmental Sustainability and Homes of Hope.

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The Spoke Folks – We are a not-for-profit bicycle co-op providing open space for education, tools, and knowledge sharing, to act as a resource for the cycling community in Grand Rapids.

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Well House – Well House provides safe, affordable housing to the homeless by turning vacant houses into homes and vacant lots into urban gardens and orchards that provide healthy food, meaningful work, and income to under-served communities.

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West Michigan Environmental Action Council – Funds directed to WMEAC, which works to lead environmental protection in West Michigan by inspiring action, will support WMEAC’s environmental education and advocacy efforts throughout West Michigan.

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About Climate Ride

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Climate Ride is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that organizes life-changing charitable events to raise awareness of key issues while also supporting sustainability, active transportation, and environmental causes. Climate Ride events raise critical funds for nonprofit organizations throughout the country. Climate Ride Midwest is expected to generate significant revenue for the Greater Grand Rapids area, both through the tourism dollars it will funnel to the city, but also through year-end grants awarded to local beneficiary organizations. Other Climate Rides include Climate Ride California Wine Country and Climate Ride NYC-DC. 

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For original news article, click here

$200,000 grant aimed at getting West Michigan businesses to practice social entrepreneurism

Brewery Vivant has tracked its social entrepreneurism since launching four years ago by publishing an annual report that quantifies the business’ sustainability efforts — from supporting the local economy to its treatment of employees.

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Last year, the popular Grand Rapids brewery and restaurant at 925 Cherry St. SE, donated 11 percent of its profits to charities, shared a portion of profits with employees and bought nearly 58 percent of its purchases from Michigan companies. Employees volunteered 130 hours in the community, with Brewery Vivant compensating employees for some of those hours.

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Co-owner Kris Spaulding says it isn’t a financial hardship for a small business to make contributing to the wellbeing of its staff and the community a priority.

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“I don’t think there is really a cost,” Spaulding said. “I think there is a time commitment of doing things. But the more you hone in on information, the smarter you are.”

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Brewery Vivant recently took the commitment up a notch when it qualified as a B Corporation. The certification process requires companies to quantify their environmental, social and economic impact.

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Nationwide, there are about 1,000 B Corporation companies, and four in West Michigan. The other local companies are Grand Rapids-based sports retailer Gazelle Sports, Zeeland-based wholesale distributor of imported goods Better Way Imports and Cascade Township manufacturer Cascade Engineering.

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“We would like to see that increase because we believe that business has the power to create positive change in the community. So the more we can measure the impact and help businesses improve, the better our community will be,” said Elissa Hillary, Local First’s executive director.

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Local First will try raise those numbers with expanded social entrepreneurship programming over the next three years, underwritten with a $200,000 grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

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Chris Lampen-Crowell, Gazelle Sports co-owner, believes the programming will provide a venue for sharing innovative best practices. He knows it works because he picked up two new approaches from fellow West Michigan B Corp businesses.

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“We have implemented an employee incentive program that supports individual change toward sustainability that was shared from Brewery Vivant, and an employee training on diversity and culture from Cascade Engineering,” Lampen-Crowell said.

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Local First plans to provide a forum for entrepreneurs and business leaders to discuss best business practices related to B Corporation implementation.

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This kind of collaboration could have a big impact on the community, which is why the Grand Rapids Community Foundation provided the grant, said Laurie Craft, the foundation’s program director.

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“By adopting best practices around social equity and the environment within their business structures, B Corporations are leading significant change in our community,” Craft said. “In addition to the social impact of B Corporations, we also look forward to the possibilities that await our community as B Corporations collaborate with the nonprofit sector. There is great potential for expanding local social enterprise.”

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As part of a national pilot program, Local First recently launched a shortened assessment tool in conjunction with B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corporation, which allows businesses to assess their practices and compare themselves to other businesses across the nation. The free tool is a modified version of the assessment that businesses can take to become certified B Corps.

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Spaulding has found that her brewery’s commitment to sustainability not only inspires other companies, as motivates her employees to focus on that mission in their personal lives.

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“It feels good to a be an active member of the community,” Spaulding said. “It’s also really good for staff morale. When you work together, I think it makes our staff a tighter family, and we see less turnover.”

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Kate Avery, Vivant’s abbess of beer who is responsible for marketing the brewery, appreciates the company’s efforts to bring employees together beyond the work day to ride bikes or paint houses for a nonprofit.

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“It’s cool when you go to the things and there are other Brewery Vivant coworkers, and they want to do good for the community,” Avery said.

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For original article, click here.

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Photo courtesy Brewery Vivant.

Coppercraft: Lakeshore Spirits

When we think about local food, we don’t always think of local spirits. But Walter Catton, owner of Coppercraft Distillery, is helping shape the conversation about local food systems and sourcing on the Lakeshore. He opened Coppercraft last November in Holland.

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I talked to him about his craft distillery.

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Elissa Hillary: Tell me about your business.

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Walter Catton: With a background in finance and an entrepreneur spirit, I was attracted to the process of craft distilling. Being able to locally source most of our ingredients and actually create the product right here in the distillery is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career, and being able to share it with people – and hear the great positive feedback we’ve been receiving – is extremely gratifying.

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EH: The craft distillery movement is fairly new in West Michigan – can you speak to how it’s part of the local food movement?

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WC: The fresh ingredients in our spirits are sourced locally, grain-to-glass. The spirits are all 100 percent distilled and bottled on-site. You can come into the distillery and surround yourself and learn how the spirits are made.  We also use a small-batch method of distilling spirits, which provides a unique taste and character to each spirit. These are truly local, handcrafted products.

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EH: Talk about some of your partnerships with other local businesses?

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WC: We have been able to establish some great relationships with local businesses both on the supply side and on the retail side of the business. We started off in a partnership with local farmer Don Boerson to supply us with our corn and rye. As we’ve scaled up production, he has set aside several acres for our whiskey products.  We also source goods and materials from local businesses. We also source goods and materials from local businesses, such as tasting room supplies from Central Park Market and Brewer’s Edge, and botanicals from A Seasoned Home.

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We have also been very well received by many of the restaurants we’ve approached. For example, we were featured in 18 restaurants in Holland during Tulip Time, many of which continue to stock Coppercraft spirits. While we do have plans to sell our products in other markets outside of West Michigan, our ongoing goal is to serve the local market as thoroughly as possible. This is our home, and it’s going to always be our first priority to meet demand here.

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EH: This venture might not have been possible a decade ago. How has the local movement helped foster the opportunity for you to create a business?

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WC: People are very keyed in to where the products they consume are being made. In this age of mass production, there is a growing number of people who have begun actively seeking out authentically local products. It’s not just because it’s generally a better and more sustainable way to consume, but also because it can offer a unique and more distinguished product than what’s available from mass marketed goods. That’s what we set out to do with Coppercraft. Of course, we have the mission of sustainability in every aspect of business, but we also have spent thousands of hours perfecting our recipes, making sure our spirits are distinctively unique with a local flavor that can’t be found in any other spirit.

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EH: You make some amazing cocktails. Do you have a signature cocktail or featured seasonal drink?

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WC: Our tasting room focuses on celebrating ingredients in our cocktails that highlight the complexities of our spirits. Having sourced local grains for our spirits, it only makes sense that we use local agriculture to craft our libations. Our tasting room menu changes with the seasons, and every week we visit the Farmer’s Market in Holland to source the freshest ingredients for our featured cocktail list.

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This fall we are looking forward to celebrating the Michigan Apple Harvest with the release of our Applejack. Our Applejack is a collaboration with Virtue Cider out of Fennville where we distilled their cider and then aged it in used bourbon barrels. The acidity of this spirit will be paired with the flavors of fall, maple syrup and heart herbs. 

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This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine.