Street Talk

Street Talk: Wege went green before it was cool

We all scream.

July 11, 2014
Print
Text Size:
A A

It’s quite possible that even before anyone knew the South American rainforests were in trouble, Peter Wege already was lending a helping hand.

There are countless stories about Wege — including his insistence as early as the 1970s that the rainforests needed help — but the fact is that without his firm direction and uncommon beneficence to sustainable environmental issues, Grand Rapids likely would not be so green.

It was his mission for Steelcase, co-founded by his father, to become an early leader in sustainable business. And by extension, the rest of West Michigan followed suit. Heck, he was instrumental in founding the West Michigan Environmental Action Council when few people even knew what purpose such an organization would serve.

But Wege did more than talk the talk. It was said by some that he could be seen personally changing light bulbs at Steelcase.

These stories are what will have to suffice when it comes to his physical legacy, however. He steadfastly eschewed the spotlight and few West Michigan buildings bear his name. In fact, when the board at Grand Rapids Art Museum, after accepting millions from him for the new downtown location, sought to affix his name to the structure in some fashion, he politely declined. The fact that the building was awarded LEED Gold certification was enough for him.

John Zwarensteyn, publisher of Gemini Publications, called Wege “an icon of Grand Rapids philanthropy,” saying he was steadfast in his mission to support sustainable areas of the economy and green energy.

“He’s one of the last members of his generation who gained wealth and was able to contribute to the community for community good,” Zwarensteyn said. “He was a true friend to Gemini Publications and our mission in the community. He was always supportive of the Grand Rapids Business Journal, Grand Rapids Magazine and Grand Rapids Family Magazine.”

Zwarensteyn said Wege’s legacy is that of a rock-solid supporter of sustainability, especially his commitment to energy efficiency through his support of LEED-certified building projects.

“It’ll be hard to replace a guy like Peter Wege,” he said.

Wall flowers

Here’s a project that surely would have received the Peter Wege Seal of Sustainability.

People waiting to catch a ride at Rapid Central Station will now enjoy one of the area’s largest outdoor living walls. 

The 500-square-foot wall was completed last week, a joint effort of LiveWall LLC and Summit Landscape Management of Grand Rapids. The green wall took approximately four days to install and plant with a selection of colorful, cold-hardy perennials.

The Rapid is a nationally recognized leader for its sustainability initiatives, including using hybrid buses and having two LEED-certified buildings, both of which feature green roofs.

The living wall also helps to cool the building and restore lost habitat, but unlike a green roof, it is visible to The Rapid’s riders. “We’ve transformed a steel and concrete surface into a public garden, providing a more pleasant and relaxing experience for our customers,” said Jennifer Kalczuk, spokesperson for The Rapid. 

“We worked with a local contractor and a local supplier who uses western Michigan sources of plants, soil, plastics and aluminum, ensuring that this investment benefits the local economy,” said Steve Schipper, The Rapid’s manager of fleet and facilities.

LiveWall president Dave MacKenzie, who also owns LiveRoof LLC, the company that supplied the living roofs atop The Rapid’s buildings, is confident the additional green space will have a positive impact. 

“When it comes to the social and environmental benefits of keeping people connected to nature, the evidence is piling up. From lasting positive impacts on mental health, to reduced vandalism and crime rates, to cooler and cleaner air, reintroducing plants lost to development is a very good move for the community. And, with a living wall, beautiful and functional gardens can thrive where no workable land is available.”

No drama for Daryl

Kent County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio has been elected a regional vice president of the International City/County Management Association, a worldwide organization with more than 9,000 members.

The ICMA has six regions around the world; five are in the U.S., with Michigan being in the Midwest region.

“Daryl is dedicated to doing what is best for Kent County residents and businesses,” said County Board of Commissioners Chair Dan Koorndyk, adding, “His leadership is admired by many.”

Board Vice-Chair Jim Saalfeld said it is “quite an honor for Daryl and a tribute to his leadership among his peers.” He said it “demonstrates something we already knew — that the county is in good hands and well managed.”

Steve Heacock, former Kent County commissioner and former board chair, said it is “remarkable that he and his staff accomplish so much with so little drama.”

Delabbio has worked in local government for 37 years.

Pure … winter?

The gorgeous Michigan summer has helped millions of us forget the awful winter, but now Pure Michigan is capitalizing on that memory.

A new contest at Hudsonville Ice Cream, being promoted by the state government’s marketing arm, will have people start voting today on three potential ice cream recipes: Cabin Fever, Lake Superior Thaw and Winter Campfire.

Last year, fans of Hudsonville Ice Cream voted for Pure Michigan Double Berry Pie and Pure Michigan Caramel Apple as the best new flavors of the summer.

“While we are all enjoying these warm summer months, this contest highlights Michigan’s appeal as a four-season destination,” said Leslie Hornung, senior vice president of marketing and public relations at Pure Michigan. “Partnering with a terrific Pure Michigan company like Hudsonville Ice Cream brings together all the components that demonstrate that Michigan is not only an amazing place to visit, but an ideal location to grow your business.”

The Pure Michigan ice cream contest runs through July 20; information is available at michigan.org.  To vote, go to hudsonvilleicecream.com/puremichigan.

Cabin Fever is blueberry-coated granola clusters and chopped Michigan cherries in Hudsonville’s original vanilla ice cream.

Lake Superior Thaw is “hot chocolate ice cream” with a cool mint chocolate candy.

Winter Campfire is the original vanilla ice cream with a marshmallow swirl, graham cracker pieces and milk chocolate flakes.

The winning flavor will be available in local grocery stores this coming winter. Voters will be entered for a chance to win one of 10 Michigan-inspired prizes ranging from throwing out the first pitch at a Tigers game to tickets for a Pictured Rocks boat cruise.

“Creating a Pure Michigan flavor each year has become a tradition,” said Caryn Beatty of Hudsonville Ice Cream.

The Hudsonville Creamery, a co-op started by local dairy farmers in Hudsonville in 1895, started making ice cream in 1926 in six flavors, including Tootie Fruitie. (And you thought Little Richard made that up.) 

Today it’s based in Holland.

Recent Articles by Business Journal Staff

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus