May WMSBF Meeting Happenings

The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (WMSBF) held their May meeting on Monday, May 14. At the meeting the two major topics of discussion were the new Chalk and Wire sustainability tracking initiative and “Exchange,” a new Craislist-like forum for local businesses to buy, sell, exchange, or donate materials, resources, and ideas with one another. Both developments were funded by pollution prevention grants from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The Chalk and Wire presentation immediately followed introductions and new-member greetings. Chalk and Wires is a program utilized mainly by colleges to track student progress and academic records, but it is easily formulated to use in other areas. The WMSBF Tools and Resources committee has been working with the tool to allow member businesses to assess their current level of sustainability as part of the West Michigan Sustainability Tools and Resources Initiative. Eventually the tool will be able to compare companies with similar demographic information (i.e. small business to small business, corporation to corporation) to one another, as well as allow a single business to compare sustainability year-to-year, thereby allowing businesses to see where they are in terms of sustainability both in comparison to other businesses and in comparison to where they were a year ago.

The Chalk and Wire tool will be a great way to assess sustainability initiatives within a given organization and can be used outside of the WMSBF realm so that businesses can create different portfolios and assessments for specific teams and areas within the organization in order to better their practices in other areas as well, while keeping the information shared within the company completely private and away from the prying eyes of others, if that business so chooses.

There were many questions regarding the Chalk and Wire system, but so far the response looks favorable for the new system. The creators are in need to 60 companies to take part in a test run in order to continue grant funding from the state, so if you are reading this and you would like your business to participate, contact Lisa Locke at

The second half of the meeting was dedicated to learning about a program called Exchange, one section of a three-part sustainability initiative headed by Leslee Rohs of Muskegon County and Lisa Sabourin of Employers’ Association of West Michigan in conjunction with WMSBF. Exchange is a forum for business-to-business “recycling”. The system essentially works like Craigslist, except that it is exclusively for businesses. The creators used the iwastenot system, which has worked in numerous markets across the country to allow easy access for businesses to find, sell, donate, or exchange materials, resources, or even ideas with other businesses in the area. The whole idea has a “one man’s trash…” feel to it, and it is already helping businesses to come together to reduce waste.

Currently the site features the resources and materials search, as well as news, and directories, but eventually the creators would like this site to not only be a place for exchanges of products and services, but also a clearinghouse of information on local recycling and disposal services. Currently a LinkedIn forum is in the works to create a space where businesses with a desire for a more long-term relationship with others may go to keep in contact over time.

Very exciting things are happening at the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, and more is sure to come with June and July meetings in Holland and a potentially special guest to attend the June gathering. Thanks to hard working people, and a couple of pollution prevention grants from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, even bigger things are on the horizon.

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