Top 10 of Green

Michigan has a legitimate chance to be a leader in building the green future—a place where eco-friendly businesses, green collar jobs and sustainable strategies are the currency of an energy-conscious economy.

Collected here are Capital Gains' Top 10 of Green—an unscientific, unranked rundown of the people, investments and ideas that pushed the Capital region toward sustainable leadership in 2008.

World’s First Double Platinum LEED building

Thanks to Lansing-based Christman Company, the world's first double-platinum certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)  building now stands in Downtown Lansing.

The Christman Company received both certifications—one for Commercial Interiors and one for Core and Shell—for its $12 million restoration of the 1928 Mutual Building. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building held onto its Pewabic tile, steel stair railings, double-hung windows and limestone detailing.

“This building will have a ripple effect,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USBC). “I guarantee you that planes of engineers from Asia will come here and want to see this building.”

Read more here.

Michigan’s Largest Solar Array

The Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) planted 432 shiny new solar panels atop a knoll behind the Stadium District, making Lansing home to the largest solar array in the Michigan.

“We are making energy history in the State of Michigan,” says BWL's general manager Peter Lark. “Not only is the BWL building Michigan’s largest solar project, we are underscoring our state leadership role in acquiring clean, renewable energy.”

As Lark acknowledges, the panels are not so much about energy as imagery: they'll only capture enough energy to bring electricity to about 50 homes.

“This is only the beginning,” Lark says. “The Cedar Street Solar Array is a pilot project. We intend to build other solar arrays in the coming years, and will continue stocking our generation portfolio with various types of renewable energy."

Read more here.

Lansing’s River Trail Connection

Already one of the longest urban trails in the country, the $1.46 million extension of the River Trail connects Downtown directly to some of the city’s most impressive natural areas, including the lake at Hawk Island park. It’s also got more of an "up north" feel as it hugs hillsides, criss-crosses graceful bridges and dives deep into tree-filled Scott Woods.

“Our River Trail is a tremendous asset to the city and we will continue to invest in expanding it,” says Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

Read more here.

CATA’s Successful Transit Millage

In a world rocked by roller-coaster gas prices and climate change concerns, public transit has inherited a renewed, green-gilded reputation.

Lansing's Capital Area Transportation Authority is on board, setting records with 11.3 million rides this year and, in November, securing voter support for a make-or-break millage to keep its award-winning service running.

Green-minded CATA was also the first public transit system in Michigan to include full-size hybrid buses in its fleet, and runs a clean commute program to promote transportation alternatives. 

Read more here.

Gearing Up For Green Jobs

Retooling Lansing's workforce kicked into high gear as the Capital Area Construction Council (CACC) and Lansing Community College (LCC) launched the $1 million Green Advantage workforce training program, offering LEED green building training to construction foreman and supervisors.

"I see that this Green Advantage will give our regional construction industry a competitive advantage over other regions,” says CACC’s Brindley Byrd.

Michigan State University's (MSU) Biorefinery Training program, sponsored by the Mid-Michigan Innovation Team and the U.S. Department of Labor also attracted 179 students. The week-long training sessions prepare workers for jobs in a bio-based economy and are hosted at the Michigan Brewing Company—another good strategy attracting young professionals.

Read more here.

Blooming of Bio-Tech

The big bio-tech firms are clearly cranking: Lansing-based Neogen Corp. is aiming for $200 million in revenue, while Emergent Biosolutions signed a government contract to produce an Anthrax vaccine worth more than $364 million in 2008.

But smaller bio-tech firms are also gaining ground in the region’s emerging bio-economy. East Lansing-based Working Bugs is adding more microbiologists to its team while BoroPharm, an MSU spinoff, secured more than $250,000 in investment from the Capital Community Angels.

“We’re getting orders from Austria, India . . . you name it,” says BoroPharm’s Robert Maleczka.

Read more here.

Ramping Up Recycling

The City of Lansing announced plans for a “single stream” recycling program—a move expected to boost recycling rates by 400 percent in 2009, reduce carbon dioxide by 22,850 tons and conserve 120,000 trees and 51 million gallons of water per year.

MSU also broke ground on a $13.3 million recycling center which should double the recycling rate of five key materials by 2010. 

Read more here.

Lake Lansing Preservation Push

In a passionate crusade to save 120 acres of hiking trails adjacent to Lake Lansing Park North, Friends of Ingham County Parks and the Preserve Lake Lansing Trails group used fundraisers, garage sales and a rocking-chair marathon to raise more than $150,000 that was eventually put toward the acquisition of the park.

Ingham County also got tentative approval for a $1.98 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to help purchase a section of privately owned property that’s been used as a park for more than 20 years.

The purchase would add 120 acres to the existing 410 acres in the popular park located northeast of Lansing.

Local Farms and Food

On the food supply side of sustainability, Ingham County voters approved a millage that will raise about $1 million a year to secure the county's farmland and open space. Eastside Lansing groups also got a new 2,880 square foot Hunter Park community greenhouse up and running.

On the food demand side, there's the new Lansing Localvores, a group “that’s passionate about local foods, supporting local farmers, and keeping our dollars in Lansing,” according to member Diane Thompson.

The group works to support a local food economy, and tries to eat food grown within a 100-mile radius of the city.

Read more here.

Rediscovering the Rivers

Sparks are flying at the future Accident Fund headquarters—a sure sign that the city's forging a new relationship with its rivers.

The building's transformation—from sublime 20th century power plant to 21st century high-tech insurance headquarters—got underway in 2008, and kicked off visions of a truly reborn riverfront.

As evidence, the Lansing City Council approved the sale of the Lansing City Market in 2008, opening the door for developer Pat Gillespie's proposed $30 million, mixed-use Market Place project, with a new city market, outdoor dining on the waterfront and 150 residential units.

The City of Lansing is also developing a $3.2 million enhancement plan for the Grand River in downtown Lansing, and using a state grant to pay for the improvements.

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Brad Garmon is Editor-in-Chief of Capital Gains, and is particularly enthusiastic about number three on this list.

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


BWL builds Michigan's Largest Solar Array

Christman's Double Platinum LEED offices

CATA's Clean Commute Coordinator Cathleen Edgerly

Working Bugs Eric Romein

MSU's recycling program

Hunter Park community greenhouse

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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