Sustainability Spotlight: A Community Endeavor

Beacon Hill residents gather to explore opportunities in sustainability

In a remarkable display of community spirit and environmental consciousness, Beacon Hill residents recently came together for two Sustainability Discovery Meetings to learn about sustainability and to discuss what we can do together to reduce our impact on the environment.

These meetings served as a vital and energetic part in the ongoing Beacon Hill Community Sustainability Initiative (BHCSI), initiated in August 2023. The BHCSI is building on the grassroots efforts that sprouted in 2019 by a self-organized group of Beacon Hill residents dedicated to ecological stewardship, the Environmental Action Group.

“The group’s initiative has played an important role in moving sustainability and resource conservation into a priority position amongst the organization’s work objectives. Our resident members have always been a vital source of inspiration and information for Beacon Hill in its efforts in providing the finest possible residential and clinical care services. I look forward to supporting the exciting efforts of the BHCSI and discovering how its work will shape current and future operations and planning for our community.”
– Jeff Huegli, Beacon Hill at Eastgate President and CEO

Sustainability at Beacon Hill – Day One: What is Sustainability?

The Discovery Meetings consisted of two separate sessions over two days, October 3rd and 4th. The first session introduced the topic of sustainability to participants. The meeting was led by Joe Rinkevich, an expert in sustainability planning with over 25 years of experience in the field.

Speakers included Matt Zimmerman, Beacon Hill at Eastgate Board Trustee, Sarah Johnson, Beacon Hill’s Service and Events Manager, as well as two special guests: Kendra Wills and Gabe Wing.

The first guest, Kendra Wills, described a recent project she led with a group of Aquinas College students to evaluate sustainability opportunities at Beacon Hill. Our second guest, Gabe Wing, Vice President of Sustainability at MillerKnoll, described work he and his colleagues have been doing for many years to improve the company’s sustainability profile as well as the sustainability profile of the office furniture industry overall.

Joe Rinkevich presented a summary of the basic principles of sustainability using example categories of Energy, Water, and Materials. Joe also provided an overview of the BHCSI Phase 1 goals, steps, and timeline. The session concluded with Q&A and panel discussion with presenters and meeting participants.

During the Q&A session, one participant asked, “How can one person have an impact on such a huge, global challenge?” Gabe Wing offered an illuminating response, sharing a metaphorical anecdote likening a single football fan’s attempt to make noise in a stadium to the seismic impact created when an entire stadium of fans stomps their feet in unison—an inspiring analogy that resonated with all present.

One resident aptly articulated this sentiment, saying, “There are very tangible actions we can take as a community and as individuals to improve the environment. We can’t do it alone, but together, we can make a difference.”

Sustainability at Beacon Hill – Day Two: Collaboration at Work

The second day of the Discovery Meetings transformed into a dynamic workshop, with participants organizing themselves around three vital themes: Energy, Water, and Materials. The goal was to deliberate and prioritize specific actions that both Beacon Hill as an organization and individual households could undertake to reduce their environmental footprint.

Participants brainstormed and documented each potential action, ranging from adopting LED lighting for energy conservation to optimizing landscaping practices for water conservation and selecting compostable or reusable containers for takeout food, among others. Each action was self-assessed for feasibility and impact. The outcomes of this workshop will provide as the BHCSI project team continues to shape a comprehensive Sustainability Plan for Beacon Hill.

Residents who took part in these meetings left with an uplifting perspective, reinvigorated by the awareness that the community, working in unison, can exert a positive influence on the environment.

“There’s interest in not only trying to make our community at Beacon Hill better, but also doing what’s right for our local environment. What we do here affects our neighbors.” – Beacon Hill Resident

Charting the Course for Progress

Next steps include engagement with the surrounding Eastgate community as well as utilities, service providers, and suppliers to benchmark current practices and make recommendations for opportunities that can bring economic benefit as well as reduce environmental impact. 

The current phase of the project is scheduled for completion in early December with a promising outlook to launch Beacon Hill’s inaugural Sustainability Plan in 2024, marking a significant step towards a more sustainable future for our community.

“Our emphasis is not just for today. We’re thinking about creating a better world for our grandchildren – and all of the children. That’s what we are really striving for.” – Beacon Hill Resident

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Beacon Hill at Eastgate is a distinctive, not-for-profit retirement community located in Grand Rapids’ desirable Eastgate neighborhood.

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