Going Green While Traveling Around West Michigan

Your efforts to help the planet don’t have to take a vacation just because you are traveling.  Many West Michigan destinations, businesses, and organizations are making sure to do their part to promote eco-friendly and sustainable practices to conserve energy and minimize environmental impact.

Eco Friendly Lodging 

Crystal Mountain’s village in Thompsonville has been built iteratively, piece-by-piece, over time and the same approach has been applied to make meaningful strides toward a more sustainable future, such as:

  • Designing the resort as a pedestrian- and bike-friendly village, reducing use of carbon-emitting transportation
  • Being the first resort in Michigan to invest in wind energy credits, offsetting the carbon footprint of the Crystal Clipper high-speed quad chairlift to help supply the grid with more clean, renewable energy sources – reducing CO2 emissions by 174,000 pounds annually
  • Building the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) spa in the Midwest – one of only four in the nation in 2009 – that uses 28% less energy than a baseline structure
  • Becoming the first northern Michigan resort to provide complimentary electric vehicle charging stations, later adding a Chevy Volt as the resort’s primary security vehicle
  • Including a closed-loop, geo-thermal heating and cooling system as part of a $12 million expansion to the Inn at the Mountain (2018), reducing CO2 emissions by 150,000 pounds per year
  • Setting aside a 30-acre wooded preserve leased to Michigan Legacy Art Park for $1 per year
  • Utilizing LED lighting in accommodations and public spaces, including the resort’s 33,000 square-foot conference facility
  • Other thoughtful practices like in-room recycling, electric golf carts, re-fillable bath amenities, efficiency sensors for irrigation and snowmaking to name a few

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s Green Committee is dedicated to creating a sustainable vacation experience. Here are just

 a few of the ways Grand Traverse Resort, located in Williamsburg, works to improve their carbon footprint:

  • Partnership with TerraCycle, which recycles partially used and empty toiletry bottles. TerraCycle provides the Resort with a penny for each bottle, which is then saved up to donate to local green nonprofits. Past recipients include the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, Bay Area Recycling for Charities, the TART Trail, and Grass River Natural Area in nearby Bellaire.
  • Partnership with Eminence Organics, which plants a tree for each product sold. To date, Spa Grand Traverse has helped plant over 3,500 trees.
  • A composting program with Bay Area Recycling for Charities that directs roughly 100 tons of food waste from the Resort’s dining outlets away from landfills.
  • In 2016, the Resort replaced an aging boiler with a Micro CHP (Combined Heat and Power) unit, which has an engine that runs on natural gas to generate electricity with useful heat—clean hot water—as a by-product of cooling the engine. The Micro CHP is estimated to save up to $20,000 in electric energy each year, and received an EPA certificate of approval for commercial emission standards.
  • The Golf & Grounds team has won numerous awards for their eco-friendly approach, including getting the Resort certified as a Michigan Turf-grass Environmental Steward. They are continually adding space to the no-mow natural zones on the 900-acre property.
  • The Resort is also in the process of eliminating single-use plastic products from the property—a work in progress!

In Mecosta County, being eco-friendly is something that hospitality businesses are familiar with-most of the hotels have a detailed Green program as part of hotel policy.

The Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Big Rapids is a great example of a company with an eco-friendly initiative known as the “Green Engage” system in which they do their best to provide a sustainable environment. This particular hotel achieves these policies through the maintenance of the building as well as housekeeping. Maintenance ensures that there is energy efficient output on all room units, light bulbs, furnaces, etc., whereas housekeeping offers guests opportunities to re-use personal items such as towels and toiletries. Since the hotel located in Big Rapids is an older model, the staff does their best to maintain sustainable measures in the ways that are possible for both the hotel and its guests. 

Be sure to check out CityFlats Hotel in Holland, the First LEED Gold certified hotel in the Midwest.


Green Activities and Events 

Your headquarters for Upper Peninsula outdoor adventures in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale National Park, the Keweenaw Adventure Company hosts Lake Superior sea kayaking and world-renowned Copper Harbor mountain biking. Environmentally conscious and community players, the Keweenaw Adventure Company is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this season, and are proud to be “ultimately contributing to the region’s well-being through education, stewardship, conservation and sustainable tourism.” Click here to learn more about their Sustainable Tourism initiatives. Use promocode WMTA$25 to save $25-off any Day Sea Kayaking Tour!

For over 30 years, Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay has been teaching people about protecting the Great Lakes through their programs on tall ship schooners. Participants engage in hands-on activities as they collect lake samples and analyze them to determine the health of the Great Lakes. Some of the programs also collect microplastics. Individuals also get a chance to raise the sails and steer the ship. Click through to find more information about ISEA public programs.

Ready, set, water! During Muskegon’s Water Week, happening Friday, August 9th – Sunday, August 18th, you’ll enjoy what we in Michigan call the “Lake Effect,” embracing nature’s blessings and celebrating another great season on Muskegon’s lakes! From great events on and along the shores, great eats, music and beverages, to maritime history and tours, everybody can enjoy. Invite your friends and family to Muskegon and enjoy a slice of Pure Michigan! 

A hidden gem tucked behind tall dune hills, Lost Lake at Muskegon State Park is a botanical treasure with plants found in both bog and coastal plain marsh habitats. A three mile, unpaved trail leads around Lost Lake, easily accessed from the Snug Harbor parking lot. A wheelchair-accessible trail from the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex leads to an accessible overlook and viewing scope on the wetland’s north side. 

Grand Rapids Mini Maker Faire will be returning to the Grand Rapids Public Museum August 24th, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. It’s a place where people show what they are making and share what they are learning. Maker Faire combines the traditional science fair with innovation and engineering. Including both established and emerging local makers, the Grand Rapids Mini Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration featuring rockets and robots, DIY science and technology, urban farming and sustainability, alternative energy, unique hand-made crafts, local food, and more.  Entry to Mini Maker Faire is included with general museum admission, and free for members. 

BioBlitz Hike: Michigan Shrubs will be held Thursday, August 29th 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings. Shrubs are not tall enough to be trees but bigger than the herbaceous stuff under your feet. From dogwoods to honeysuckles, shrubs are a common sight across the Michigan landscape. Come learn how to identify both small and large shrubs and how they are different from trees. Members free, non-member adults $6 and children $3.

Grow your knowledge of native and non-native plants by taking a six-week Field Botany course at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta. Meet from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm August 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, and September 4th and 11th to learn basic botanical taxonomy and ecology and develop skills in using family features and a botanical key to identify plants. The W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary’s Aquatic Plant Identification course will meet for two full days, August 7th-8th. Students will take a hands-on look at lake and pond species at field sites in the greater Kalamazoo and Barry County areas, receive instruction in identifying plants at the species level, and will have the opportunity to examine specimens in a laboratory setting. 

John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is committed to conserving resources and in doing so strives to make all of their operations as green as possible. The Zoo stays green by diverting 80% of waste from landfills through compost and recycling. They offer compostable straws and other plastics at the concession stands and have a variety of sustainable gift options in the gift shop. The Zoo is also committed to conserving endangered species around the world and right here in West Michigan. Every year John Ball Zoo sends zookeepers out into the field to help native species like the Kirtland’s warbler, Massasauga rattlesnakes, piping plovers, and wood turtles. 


Sustainable Eating and Shopping 

Going Green in Ludington is made easier with a number of restaurants using compostable containers, utensils, bags, and straws, or implementing a no-straw policy. Stores use biodegradable paper bags, eco-friendly cleaning practices, and some businesses have promotions in place with donations going to local eco-minded organizations. 

When visiting Mt Pleasant, grab a snack and refreshments and know you are helping local businesses with their sustainability practices. Visit the Mt. Pleasant Convention & Visitors Bureau site to learn more.  

Visitors looking to minimize their impact on the planet can feel good about visiting the BarFly Ventures restaurant family, which includes HopCat locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, East Lansing, and Holland, as well as Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Brewing Co. The businesses recycle all metal, plastic, cardboard, and glass while locally composting all food scraps, napkins, straws, and any other organic materials, diverting up to 90 percent of their waste from landfills and incinerators and helping to create soil instead of trash. Serving some of the best beer in Michigan has inspired HopCat and its sibling restaurants to generate awareness and funds for water advocacy across the Great Lakes region. BarFly has helped raise more than $50,000 for local clean-water nonprofits. Great food comes from healthy soil and great beer comes from clean water, so when you eat at a BarFly restaurant, you help support both.

Visit the Holland Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays 8:00 am-2:00 pm, as well as on Monday evenings in the 

summer 5:00 pm-8:00 pm, and support local agriculture. By purchasing locally grown produce, shoppers and vendors are cutting back on packaging and emissions that would otherwise be used to transport goods to grocery stores from across the country. As an added bonus, every Saturday at 10:00 am, a local chef does cooking demonstrations using market produce.

Crane’s Pie Pantry in Fennville has gone strawless! While they used to hand out plastic straws in wrappers, they’ve gone strawless, an easy first step in helping keep our planet green. Paper straws are on hand if a guest wants/needs one, but they’re only available on request. Crane’s has also started a special promo – if you refuse a bag in the bakery or bring your own reusable bag, you leave with a free donut!