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Sustainability : Featured Stories

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Powering the Mitten: As coal plants shut down, where will our electricity come from?

Michigan's aging coal-fired power plants are reaching the end of their life, and new regulations are accelerating timelines for their retirement. So how will Michiganders power their laptops, devices, homes and businesses in the future?

Rummaging through Metro Detroit: 5 great places to upcycle

Throw a stone in the air and you're bound to hit a resale, recycling, reuse or junk shop. But which places offer the best trash-to-treasure odds? Metromode takes you on the nickel tour of the region's top upcycling destinations.

OpEd: Getting renewable energy policy in Michigan right

The pending Energy Freedom bill package is a market-based approach that empowers individual property-owners to make choices about renewable energy generation rather than leaving it to the utility companies. James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, weighs in on how we should turn small-scale renewable energy into a large-scale pursuit. 

OpEd: Grab a Friend and Get On the Bus

Yes, it's very possible to travel daily around Detroit without touching a steering wheel. Year-round bike/bus commuters Melissa Damaschke and Julie Funke share their experience and opinions on the better integration of Detroit's bus systems, People Mover, and the future M-1 Rail.

OpEd: Closing the Gap Between Food Producers and Consumers

The biggest barrier to consumer access to fresh, locally-grown food is the distance between food providers and suppliers, says Rachel Leemis, founder of Monty's Beef Company, a Piedmontese beef retailer that keeps its own herd of cattle. But new state support for rural development is planting the way for the state's 52,000 farms to meet this growing trend. 

Motor City Free Geek Reclaims Yesterday's Technology

There's an awful lot of discarded technology out there. There's got to be a better place for it than the trash, right? The Royal Oak non-profit Motor City Free Geeks marshals hundreds of tech volunteers to refurbish computers and laptops, outfitting them with free software and selling them to the public for hugely discounted prices. It's like the Circle of Life for technology.

Can Southgate Become an Anchor for Regional Sustainability and Affordability?

The Michigan Suburbs Alliance is piloting Green Anchors, an innovative program that takes a holistic approach to affordable housing, green building and community engagment. The plan is to turn the tenants of newly renovated Southgate homes into neighborhood evangelists for energy efficiency. Think of it as a 'Domino Effect' of sustainability. 

A Tern for the Better: The Detroit River Comeback

Oh, the difference a couple of tern chicks make. For decades the Detroit River was a repository for industrial pollution and waste. Now, through both international cooperation and private-public partnerships the health of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is slowly but steadily rebounding.

Guest Bloggers: Lucas Morrison, Ji Yoon Gook, Mackenzie Carlsen

It's said history repeats itself, but our legacy of burning fossil fuels for energy isn't renewable. A team of U-M students working with SolarYpsi, a volunteer-based solar power organization gaining national prominence, gets at the root of our conservation issues.

A Local Response to Climate Change

Talking about climate change and doing something about it are two very different things. But for Southgate, Ypsilanti, and Hazel Park, community organizations and city leaders are turning such discussions into a joint committment to shrink their carbon footprint.

Wyandotte Gives A Watt!

Unlike most Michigan municipalities, Wyandotte provides power to its residents. You'd think in this age of ever-climbing energy costs that'd be a liability. Think again. Instead the community-owned utility has found creative ways to increase sustainability with both its businesses and homeowners.

Better Living Through Better Buildings

Unless you've been living in a cave you've probably heard the many green-minded arguments for why you should make your home more energy efficient. But what you might not realize is that there are compelling reasons beyond reducing the size of your carbon footprint. How about comfort? Better living has inspired one Ferndale resident to become an envangelist for Michigan's BetterBuildings program.

The Blue Oval Goes Green: A Q & A with Ford's David Berdish

David Berdish has been called the sustainability guru of the Ford Motor Company and, no, that's not an oxymoronic title. The car company's green advocate discusses why better public transportation leadership is needed in Metro Detroit and how a member of the Big Three can promote sustainable practices, champion mass transit, and still hold true to its business mission.

Metro Detroit's Institutes Of Greener Learning

New and better ideas. Innovation. These are the things we associate with our institutes of higher learning. So, now that green technology and practices are becoming a way of life, how do Metro Detroit's universities and colleges fare when it comes to sustainability? Metromode's Kim North Shine checks out who's doing what to reduce their collective carbon footprint.

Michigan's Next Step: A Conversation with Bruce Katz

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute has strong opinions about what will help to push Michigan forward. Our colleagues at Lansing's Capital Gains chat with him about cities, transportation, and the strengths of manufacturing in the new economy.

Purpose Driven: A Q&A with Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb

Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb is an unabashed entrepreneur, a true believer that business is the ultimate engine for change. He also believes that corporations must have a deeper purpose than just profit. Metromode's Jeff Meyers chats with Robb about the way those seemingly disconnected impulses come together and why the next generation of business leaders should embrace them.

Service And Sustenance

April Meyers is from here, wanted to stay here, and wanted to make a difference. But that's harder than it sounds when you're a recent college grad in search of work. Luckily, VISTA offered her an opportunity to do good and do it in Metro Detroit. Now, Meyers is helping establish a food pantry and community garden program at Schoolcraft College.

Beer Is Fun! Q&A with entrepreneur Mike Plesz

Beer here now! If anyone knows the meaning of those word it's Mike Plesz. The serial brewpreneur has been launching local microbrew pubs since 1994. His latest endeavor --Rochester's Mind Body & Spirits-- is a successful sustainability-oriented restaurant. Plesz talks with Metromode about beer, local food production, green practices, and more beer. Bottoms up!

Macomb Innovates Too!

Let's spread the love and deliver the good word: Macomb County is no slouch when it comes to embracing new economy initiatives. From trade missions to China to the Education City Initiative to the Anton Art Center, the county that too often lives in Oakland and Wayne's economic shadow is no stranger to innovation.

Danotek Knows Which Way The Wind Blows

If you want to know which way the alternative energy market is blowing consider this: wind power installations grew 40% last year. Canton-based Danotek is certainly paying attention. The clean tech company recently recruited a new CEO from Chicago and is aggressively developing, producing, and marketing its cutting edge turbine technology.

Hacking Metro Detroit

It's about innovation and invention, not stealing your credit card info. With a trio of open-source, boundary-pushing hackerspaces opening in the last year, Metro Detroit has joined the international ranks of hackerdom. More than gadget-obsessed misfits, these make-geeks are out to make our world a little bit better... and more interesting.

Burning With Inspiration

Burning Man. Maker Faire. The Ford Rouge Factory. You might be saying to yourself, "One of those things is not like the others." Not if you're Cynthia Jones. Whether it's her job as manager for The Henry Ford factory tour or her role as a regional contact for the famed desert festival, Jones is one of Metro Detroit's more impassioned creatives.

Turning Metro Green

With all the talk of going green and clean, just how sustainable is Metro Detroit becoming? Over the last year Metromode has run across a growing number of businesses, leaders, and initiatives that are nudging Michigan's economy and lifestyle toward the green end of the spectrum. This week we round up evidence that our region is putting its money where its mouth is.

Frontier Spirit, Urban Ideas

Splitting her time between the Motor City suburbs and the Mile High City, Metromode's Tanya Muzumdar sees ideas and innovations ripe for importation. Maybe instead of going it alone, Metro Detroit should consider going West for some urban inspiration.

The State Of Metro Recycling

Curbside recycling is not a new fangled idea. Communities across the nation have commited themselves to the practice. So, why is most of Metro Detroit lagging behind? Metromode looks at where we are, where we're going and who's on board.

The Rail Thing, Is Metro Detroit On Track?

If you've never heard of transit-oriented development, it really needs a spot on your hot list. With a transit center planned for Birmingham and Troy, Metro Detroit is back to workin' on the railroad. But maybe the new D Train could take a lesson from the Santa Fe Express.

Metro Detroit Goes Slow And Tastes The Difference

Largely citified Metro Detroit has been lauded for its soul food, and lately, for its slow food. Rooted in locally grown, sustainable, healthy foodstuffs, the national leader in urban gardening is fertile grounds for the slow food supporters cropping up around the region.

Green Up Top

It's the urban trend all the kids are talking about! Green roofs are taking root in cities across America, reducing pollution and creating energy efficiency. Metromode looks at how Metro Detroit can emulate the success of the Ford Rouge Plant and move up from the back of the pack.

John Fetterman's Rust Belt Revival

John Fetterman is a large, tattooed, Harvard-educated mayor of a tiny town, and his tough brand of civic responsibility may have important lessons for Metro Detroit.

Smart Cars in Metro Detroit: Still Smart?

Eighteen months ago Metromode checked out the newly arrived Smart Car as one of several new cool commuter options. So how has this sporty new 'wee'-hicle done in the land of hulking Hummers and SUVs? And more importantly, what do Metro Detroiters think of their micro-mini (but ever-so green) purchase?

Metromode Radio: Sustainable Energy In Michigan

The Michigan Sustainable Energy Coalition brought international experts to the state's capital this week to discuss the changing energy landscape. Only a couple of lawmakers attended and Michigan Now's Chris McCarus was the only reporter there. The event showed how hard it is to shift the focus from the old economy to the new one.

Preservation vs Demolition

Dilapidated eyesore or historic keystone to downtown redevelopment? It's an argument that's repeated over and over in Metro Detroit communities. Lincoln Park's Mellus Newspapers building is only the latest flashpoint. Jon Zemke gives you the lay of the land and gets some insight from downtowns that have fought this fight and won.

It's Not Easy Being Green

The economy is struggling. Real estate is in a spiral. How do you make the case for green building when businesses are just trying to survive? And what about those who want to go green but can't quite reach LEED standards? Is there any consideration for their eco-friendly choices? Metromode looks at how the future of sustainability is coping with the challenges of today.

Light From Above: Divinity Meets Sustainability

Father Charles of St. Elizabeth's in Wyandotte is on a mission.... er... another mission: To not only lower his own carbon footprint, but that of his church and congregation's. It's part of his belief that we are all stewards of God's green Earth. Metromode says "Amen."

Share The Road

Piles of snow. Narrow streets. While cyclists brave subzero winds, motorists grudgingly share the road. Metro Detroit's "car is king" sentiment needs to be dethroned if alternative transportation is to become a reality. Jon Zemke takes a street level view of what local cyclists have to face and why they remain committed to a car-less commute.

Detroiters Want to Recycle Here

The nonprofit Recycle Here! center is slammed with Detroiters unloading their unwanted paper, plastic and glass, but soon many Detroiters will have a curbside option, too. Green could be very "in" in Detroit in '09. 

Metromode Radio: Making Electricity Underwater

In the race to produce cheaper renewable energy, one U-M professor is looking to harness electricity from the Detroit River using experimental cylinders. Chris McCarus has the story on Metromode Radio's latest podcast.

Michigan Green Jobs

Everything's gone green around here. Architects, retailers, entrepreneurs, big buys, little guys -- they are all starting to look like Kermit. But it's no wonder. Companies that embrace green-thinking, make green products and offer green services are bringing in bucks and building jobs in Michigan.

Mind, Body & Spirits: A Green Brew Pub

From its LEED construction to its geothermal heating to its all local, all organic menu, Mike Plesz is a man with a mission: to turn a historic building in downtown Rochester into the greenest brewpub in Michigan. Drinking beer never felt so responsible.

How Historic Preservation Can Help SE Michigan

Everything old is new again. And profitable. Historic preservation is more than just a longing for the old ways. It can be an economic driver for those SE Michigan communities that know how to leverage what they've got with where they're going.

Regaining our Competitive Edge: A National Blueprint for Prosperity

It's a different world today and yet our federal government is still stuck in the 80's, says Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution. But what if Washington did things smarter? What if they actually planned for our urban future? Katz's national Blueprint for American Prosperity is a call to action for those who care about their cities.

A Growing Concern

Toss that bag of Funyuns. Instead, grow some real onions! Area agriculture gurus offer up some sage advice on how and why Michigan's second largest industry should get its fair share of attention.

SE Michigan Wind Power

"The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind..." Kelli B. Kavanaugh takes an in-depth look at how Michigan can leverage its engineering and manufacturing assets to become a world leader in wind power technology.

Local Alternative Energy Initiatives

Some SE Michigan communities are determined to drop their rustbelt in favor of something a bit more au natural. But it's not trendiness that inspires cities like Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Wyandotte to implement the holy trinity of sustainability --wind, solar, conservation-- but rather the greenbacks they'll save by doing so.

Model D Speaker Series: Building Green

The Model D Speaker Series is going green. "Building a Green City: Sustainable Urbanism in Detroit" will be the topic of the next event to be held March 19 at the Detroit Yacht Club. It's free, but you must RSVP.

Got LEED?

After years of lagging behind the west coast of the state, SE Michigan is turning green in leaps and bounds. Climb aboard for a discussion of what the green building standard LEED actually means, and check out some prime examples of its application here in Metro Detroit.

MODErn Living

Basho said, "Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." Some Metro Detroiters are taking those words to heart and making their house the adventure.

Why Cranbrook Matters

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable." For 75 years, Cranbrook Art Acedemy has been erasing the line between science and artistic expression, importing and exporting talent, innovation and academic excellence. And making the world a little more bearable.

Drilling Deep: Geothermal Heat

If the thought of plummeting temps and skyrocketing heating costs make you want to bury your head in the sand, maybe you should dig a little deeper and start drilling for energy. Geothermal heating systems have long been touted for their "green" benefits. Who knew its supporters were referring to cold hard cash?

Q&A with Robert F Kennedy Jr.

An outspoken and resolute defender of the environment, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has used his legal prowess to champion the health of waterways the world over. Given Michigan's unique access to four of the five Great Lakes, Kennedy had much to say to metromode about the importance of water in our state's future.

City Vs. State

Some say the same top-down mentality that has stymied Michigan's ability to expand and diversify its economy is also preventing local governments from initiating bold new policies, putting the breaks on everything from smoke-free spaces to cable access to green building incentives. How does Michigan encourage its cities to think outside the box if the Capitol keeps a firm hand on the lid?

From Plot To Plate: SE Michigan's Urban Gardens

From fresh veggies to healthier neighborhoods; SE Michigan's communities are learning that when it comes to the benefits of community gardens, food is just the beginning.

Restoration = Evolution

They're building up but not knocking down area developers are choosing to redevelop and retrofit Southeast Michigan's historic buildings, and there are more than just tax incentives behind the trend. A look at why the hottest real estate in metro Detroit involves recycling old spaces and what that means for local communities.

Beyond Growth: Sustainability And Economic Development

Common sense would suggest that ecology and industry make pretty unlikely bedfellows. But where others see conflict, Portland, OR sees opportunity. Metromode chats with Tom Osdoba, coordinator of sustainable economic development in Portland's groundbreaking Office of Sustainable Development. 

Corporate Wetlands

Power planting at power plants! Chris Lehr does more than create attractive landscapes for his corporate clients, he makes things environmentally right where nature has been wronged.

Discipline Five: Get on Base

United Way president Michael Brennan examines the importance of continued success over time in the fifth installment of his series on a Community of Progress.

Green Urbanism

Green and urban. More than a contradiction in terms, they're now a movement. Local architects and developers are starting to adopt 'bioregional' philosophy that asks: What does it take to build a sustainable city?

Eco Endings

Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.-Genesis 3:19 Not only can't you take it with you but maybe you should start thinking about what you'll leave behind. Non-degradable coffins and toxic embalming fluids have inspired a growing green movement in the funeral industry. Could an Oakland County farm help lead the way with natural burial grounds?

Corporate Green

ECD Ovonics challenges the notion that Michigan is the corroded buckle of the rust belt. On the cutting edge of solar-cell technology, hybrid car batteries and hydrogen energy development, this greener than green hi-tech pioneer should be the face of Michign's future.

Fuelish Thoughts

As the buzz for biofuel grows, Michigan has the opportunity to capitalize on its rural and auto-based communities and emerge as a true innovator. Can a state historically dependent on mineral-based energy play a leading role in the national movement toward alternative fuels?  

Three Big Ideas For Michigan

The time has come for Michigan to make bold choices about how to transform its economy, communities and culture. metromode offers up a trio of initiatives and ideas that challenge conventional thinking and dare the state to think big.

Home Grown

Food that travels 1500 miles to reach your table defies anyone's notion of "fresh." Isn't it time we traded in McDonald's for Old MacDonald?

Guest Blogger: Jacob Corvidae

Jacob Corvidae is our guest blogger this week. He is is the Green Programs Manager for WARM Training Center and co-founder of Sustainable Detroit. Not one to mince words, Jacob offers his thoughts on the challenges our region faces now and in the future.Check back here every weekday for Jacob's thoughts.

Want to join the conversation? Please send your comments to: feedback@metromodemedia.com


ReCellular Rings Green

Recycle your newspaper, plastic tubs, soup cans and ... your Blackberry? Dexter-based ReCellular recycles cell phones. The growing company has found a niche that's made profits and has people taking notice of its green ways.

From Rust Belt to Green Belt

Metro Detroit has a rep for being more rusty than green around the middle, but sustainable initiatives are taking hold. The real question is not if S.E. Michigan can go green, but just how green it will go.
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