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.

Green Activities

Turtle populations are declining worldwide with over 50% of all species threatened or endangered. In Michigan, eastern box turtles are protected under state law as a species of special concern. Learn what researchers at the institute are doing to assist eastern box turtles in this documentary based on a real-life, headstarting research project in collaboration with Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, John Ball Zoo, and researchers from Grand Valley State University.

John Ball Zoo is committed to conserving resources and in doing so, they strive to make all of their operations as green as possible. They stay green through a number of initiatives: waste management, vegetated walls, green roofs, paper straws and compostable food and beverage containers, heating and cooling solutions, energy conservation, water conservation, and other sustainability efforts!

At the Grand Rapids Public Museum, you can enjoy a number of exhibits about our natural world. Check out West Michigan Habitats, where you can learn about the natural environments of West Michigan in this life-like exhibit of mounted animals and plants in their natural settings. Or visit Grand River, Grand Fish, which explores how the Great Lakes region’s largest and oldest fish, the Lake Sturgeon, once found in great abundance, is now a threatened species in our watersheds. You’ll even get to see two live sturgeon at the museum! Finally, don’t miss out on Amazing Pollinators, where museum guests can participate in this game-based experience, traveling through immersive environments and visiting diverse flowering plants. You’re sure to have a blast while learning about ecosystems, adaptations, and the importance of biodiversity and nature conservation.

You don’t have to choose between high thrills and being green! At High Caliber Karting and Entertainment in Okemos, you can do both, racing around the track in their electric race karts. They also partner with local recycling centers for all of their Rage Room supplies. What’s a Rage Room, you may ask? You’ll suit up head-to-toe in safety gear, select your very own rage music, choose your “tools” and swing/smash away at a variety of bottles, jars, vases, plates, and more to release any pent up “rage”!

For over 30 years, Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay has sought to provide people with the information they need to become stewards of the Great Lakes. They continue this mission by 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. When you visit, you’ll also get a chance to raise the sails and steer the ship.

Keweenaw Adventure Company is your headquarters for Upper Peninsula outdoor adventures in the Keweenaw Peninsula – and they’re green too! While leading a variety of sea kayaking and mountain biking adventures, they have also been enacting ethical business practices that today are being defined on an international scale as sustainable and responsible tourism. They truly value, respect, and support their area’s pristine natural areas, culturally rich history, and local community. They understand their role in facilitating meaningful experiences, while striving to maintain the area’s character and sense of place.

Green Restaurants and Shopping

River Saint Joe Farmstead Brewery takes great care when it comes to the environment. Not only are they located on a Certified Organic farm, called Flatwater Farms, but the brews are also Certified Organic. The hops utilized in the beers come from on-site, with many of the grains having been grown by other organic, local farms nearby. The water used for brewing comes from a ground aquifer located on the property and is run through a carbon filtration system to ensure the right starting profile. The fare served in the brewery is often sourced from Flatwater Farms, just steps from the beer garden. Composting and recycling programs are in effect. Solar panels adorn the roof and the building is designed for energy efficiency. River Saint Joe’s mission and plant-to-pint philosophy is sure to make you feel good about drinking beer!

Bonobo Winery, on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula, takes their role as a steward of the land seriously. The winery’s picturesque view of Grand Traverse Bay is a constant reminder of the importance of fresh water, and how vital it is to our whole state. Bonobo does not use irrigation, which depletes the water table, but instead relies on rainfall and Mother Nature to keep its vines watered. Bonobo also steers clear of any pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard, using natural methods like beneficial bugs and strategic mowing to control pests instead.

When visiting Mt. Pleasant, you can grab a snack at their local co-op grocery store and know you are helping local businesses with their sustainability practices. Visit the Mt. Pleasant Convention & Visitors Bureau site to learn more.

Downtown Kalamazoo is home to a zero waste and refill shop with many sustainable products.

Visit the Holland Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays 8:00 am-2:00 pm and support local agriculture. The Holland Farmers Market is a producers market, which means the large majority of items sold at the market are locally grown right here in West Michigan. By purchasing these local items, 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. Visit their many local vendors and enjoy so many treats like farm fresh cheese, eggs and meats, baked goods, produce, flowers, gourmet specialty foods, and much more!

Enjoy the eco-friendly ambiance of a farm in Saugatuck where a resident artist makes handmade art and functional pottery. The studio is green energy-powered with a 17.94 kWh solar array, which fuels the studio pottery kilns. The studio and accompanying fine graft gallery, which features the work of over 30 different Michigan artists, are located in a restored historic barn as well.

Green Accommodations

You can help save the planet while you are on vacation in Ludington by visiting Ludington’s green businesses. Stay in one of their sustainable hotels, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn, or Best Western. All three hotels are locally owned and operated and have invested in renewable energy by installing solar panels on the roof to generate electrical power for the hotel. All three also use smart thermostats to reduce energy costs in all guest rooms. They even sanitize the pools with a saltwater system instead of using harsh chemicals.

While in Ludington, you can also visit one of their other local entrepreneurs who have committed to sustainable practices.

CityFlats Hotels in both Holland and Grand Rapids are proudly LEED gold certified accommodations, which feature stunning views of both cities. The Holland location was actually the first Midwest hotel to achieve the gold status in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Their rooms also feature cork flooring, hypoallergenic linens, and luxurious, eco-friendly products.

The Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Big Rapids participates in the IHG Green Engage program, which seeks 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.