How to Save the Planet in Your Own Backyard

If you’re worried about the future health of our planet, you’re not alone. But worry is not a strategy for progress and neither is waiting for answers or action from Washington. A group of west Michigan residents grabbed the reins of change long ago. They regularly share their healthy planet insights with each other and the public based on back-yard experience.  The group gathers from 11:15am until noon every Sunday from Feb 8 through May 3 (except Easter) at Hope Reformed Church at Burton St. and 2210 Kalamazoo Ave in Grand Rapids.

Inspired by Vern Hoffman, one of the founders of The Micah Center (, which is dedicated to furthering social justice, hosts the series. He attributes the idea to a book he urges everyone to read, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” by Naomi Kline.

L to R: Frank Lynn,  Jim Muller, Vern Hoffman, Lou Haveman, Martie Jager
L to R: Frank Lynn, Jim Muller, Vern Hoffman, Lou Haveman, Martie Jager

Hoffman, former pastor of the Hope Church, is a sprightly 80 year old known for his passion and tireless work on behalf of sustainable and just social initiatives. He titled the Sunday series Our Changing Climate and Positive Earthkeeping Response and gathered a number of friends, colleagues, and experts from the region to present simple 7 minute long “show and tells” on topics close to their hearts: Lou Haveman on going solar, Martie Jager doing her best to divest from companies indifferent to climate change, Frank Lynn sharing the benefits of a home garden, and Jim Muller on cleaning up Plaster Creek, one of the most polluted in Michigan, and creating your own personal watershed.

The series reflects the intersection of spiritual stewardship and climate change initiatives that some refer to as “Creation Care.” Vern says he wanted the series to start with a focus on individual efforts before broadening to a regional and then global view. Topics for the rest of the series include:

Part I: Living Green

Sunday, February 15                       Home Insulation – Phil Boogaart & John Kuiper

Sunday, February 22                       (Living Your) Concern for the Environment – various presenters

Part II: The Church

Sunday, March 1                              The Greening of American Congregations – Cybelle Shattack

Sunday, March 8                              Caretakers of the Earth – Steve Bouma-Prediger

Sunday, March 15                            What’s Happened at Hope Church, Holland?  Peter Boogaart

Part III:  Local/Regional Issues & Efforts

Sunday, March 22                            Grand Rapids and its Environment – GR Mayor George Heartwell

Sunday, March 29                            The Restoration of Plaster Creek – David Warners

Sunday, April 5                                  Easter Sunday – No Presentation

Sunday, April 12                                Urban Transportation – Dave Bulkowski & Andy DeBraber

Part IV: Global Concerns

Sunday, April 19                                The Groaning Creation – Steve Bouma-Prediger

Sunday, April 26                                Environmental Stewardship in the Third World – Kyle Schaap

Sunday, May 3                                  Employment Opportunities in Green Technology – Lou Haveman