Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kettunen Center: teaching and practicing green

Kettunen Center has offered environmental education programs, such as 4-H TRACKERS, for more than 20 years. These programs, taught by Kettunen Center staff members, are designed to meet the Michigan Curriculum Framework for science standards and benchmarks.

But, what isn’t so well known is that Kettunen Center staff members not only teach environmental stewardship – they practice environmental stewardship as well.

“Kettunen Center has had a strong environmental ethic as one of its core values for many years. It’s a part of our mission,” said John Grix, Kettunen Center director.

Because of this strong commitment to the environment, Kettunen Center is a certified Green Lodging Michigan Partner with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Green Lodging Michigan encourages facilities to implement environmental initiatives and costsaving green practices to conserve energy, reduce water consumption and reduce waste.

“There was very little we needed to do to get certified because it’s something we had already been doing for years,” said Jamie Mielke-Mitchell, Kettunen Center operations coordinator.

Since its beginning, Kettunen Center has had a focus on environmental stewardship and preservation. When Kettunen Center opened in 1961 as the first 4-H volunteer and youth training center in the nation, the buildings were constructed to minimize the building imprint on the land.

The center has been through two major renovations, and each time there has been a focus on environmental conservation.

The Kettunen Center Improvement Project resulted in the construction of the Kettunen Center director’s residence in 1980, an earth-sheltered house built into a hillside. This allows for natural heating and cooling, protection from the elements and, therefore, energy saving.

In 1998, as a result of the Vision 2021 Campaign, Kettunen Center installed a geothermal heating and cooling system for long-term energy efficiency and underwent a major development of the forest and wetland trails and arboretum.

Currently, Kettunen Center is applying for the next level of certification to become a Green Lodging Steward by increasing the number of green practices implemented. Kettunen Center currently has a number of green measures in place.

To conserve and maximize energy, Kettunen Center has LED exit signs, light sensors, and ENERGY STAR-qualified light bulbs, dehumidifiers and dishwashers. Additionally, all computers and small appliances are turned off when not in use.

To reduce waste, the center has a comprehensive recycling program that all departments participate in. The center also uses recycled paper products for marketing materials, avoids single-use items and purchases products in bulk.

For water conservation, low-flow faucets, showerheads and fixtures are used, and guests are offered a towel and linen reuse program. The property is also landscaped with native plants and trees, and watering is done in the early morning or evening to reduce water consumption.

The Kettunen Center staff members established a Green Team made up of one staff member from each department. Each team member is responsible for reviewing and implementing green practices within his/her department. The staff newsletter also has a regular column dedicated to green practices.

“It’s not just a matter of an energy savings program. It’s a policy shared with all staff members on becoming aware of how we can decrease dependence on nonrenewable resources,” Grix said.

Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue of Vantage.

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