Sustainable living- save the environment, your money, your health

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by Jess Wolfe, Sophie Kaminski, Morgan Corey, Lindsey Kamppinen, Emily Podsiadlik, Hannah Garrison, Bryce Gable, Josh Lawrence, and Christian Lubbers

“From my home alone I have prevented 118.9 pounds of food waste from going into a landfill,” Carolyn Peterson said.

It positively impacts the environment. There is no need for worms. It saves you money. You can improve your health. It’s easy and convenient.

“I thought it could be very sustainable and more of a long-term project.”

Carolyn Peterson took on home composting as a method for solving an environmental issue after being inspired by an independent research project in her Environmental Science Class. Continue reading →

“Every Step I’m Running is a Fight”

by Jess Wolfe, Maddie Osterink, and Amaya Berkley

With an optimistic approach, Steven Faulk tells his story of his battle against Parkinson’s Disease. The average person has heard of Parkinson’s, but most people don’t understand the extent of this disease. Listen to Faulk, Grandville High School Human Biology Teacher Mrs. Reiger, and GVSU professor and Parkinson’s Researcher Dr. Merritt Taylor, who all discuss Parkinson’s and the strides taken in research towards finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.

by Jess Wolfe

Students at Grandville High school collected over 200 hats, gloves, and blankets to be handed out in Detroit and Grand Rapids by High Hopes Hammock Co. CEO Connor Moynihan and myself. As a High Hopes Hammock Co. sales rep, I traveled downtown to Degage Ministries. It was an eye-opening experience and my perspective is forever changed.

Degage is a safe place for individuals living without a place to call home. They allow homeless people the opportunity to buy a low-cost meal, no more than two dollars. If an individual can’t afford a meal, they have the option to work a small task at Degage such as sweeping or wiping down tables. This gives them a sense of dignity when purchasing the food because they know they’ve worked for it. This program is a great way to keep individuals off the streets. Degage serves 400-500 people every day.

In addition to the winter gear, I also handed out bracelets donated by Cornerstone Church of Grand Rapids. The bracelets which read ‘Live Grateful’ serve as a constant reminder of the importance of living our lives with an attitude of gratefulness. 

During the time I was handing out winter gear and bracelets, I had the chance to catch some of it on video. Check out what these individuals would like to say to the world…

When Robert saw a new jacket on the pile of winter gear, he was so excited. After putting the new one on he placed his old jacket on the table saying,

“I don’t need this, somebody else can use it. I can only wear one coat.”

Another man by the name of John was walking out when he turned to me and said,

“It’s better to give than it is to receive. It says that in the Bible!”

These interactions were so humbling and changed my perspective on how I perceive homeless individuals.


One woman didn’t want to be on video but allowed me to capture a picture during our conversation about life and what she is going through.

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Regina explained to me that she reads the Bible every day and wants other people to know about the Lord but when she tries to tell people, they never want to listen to the good news she has to offer.

When I asked Regina what she’s most thankful for in life, her answer was simple.

“I’m thankful that I’m livin’.”

Later I asked her what she wanted to tell the world and she responded with a confident answer.

“Praise the Lord.”

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It doesn’t get much more humbling than this.

When a homeless person values faith and hope so highly, it changes your perspective immensely. It was in this moment I realized I needed to break down the barrier of stigma between myself and those who are less fortunate.


“A lot of what life is about is just a balance of how I find the proper perspective on what’s going on, to step back and see a different picture.”

says Cornerstone Pastor Marcus Schmidt in an interview surrounding homelessness and living grateful.

“I think a general stigma with a lot of it is that, they’re lazy, that they have no desire to work hard, to pull themselves up and make something happen and in many cases that’s not true.”

Continual judgment forms stigmas. As a society, we need to break down these barriers built on our judgment and realize that homeless individuals are humans just like the rest of us. They aren’t helpless they just need a little help getting out of their circumstances. It’s not always their fault that they are down in their luck.

“I think in most of our society, we put this divide between those who have and those who have not. Most of us are just thinking we will stay away from those who don’t have what we have because they’re not worthy of our love or not worthy of our attention. I think it’s sad because these people want love, they want attention, they want somebody to care, they want to know that they’re not alone.”

This is a huge issue all throughout society. They’re just trying to make the best of their circumstance and live life to the fullest. Aren’t we all? 

“The housing crisis in this area is a challenge as well because there’s not enough affordable housing. This creates a cliff effect that a family finds themselves homeless because they can’t afford to live where they’re living and they can’t find a job that is going to pay them enough to afford what their needs are. The supplemental help from the government helps them along but if they make too much money they lose the government aid so now they’ve taken five steps backwards and it’s a huge cycle that’s deeper than what we ever realize it could be.”

This is the cycle which often pushes homeless individuals down a path of depression and anxiety which is why it’s so hard to break this cycle of homelessness. 

“I have become friends with a lot of people who were homeless and I wanted to fix all of them and you can’t, you can’t just do that because if I want it more than they want it, then it’s not gonna work.”

The best option is to help someone along the way, not to push them or to pull them, but to walk side by side supporting the homeless individual. This is what Degage and several other organizations around Grand Rapids are working to do. The homeless individuals have very little yet in the midst of their circumstances they are thankful for so much.

“Every time I’ve sat down to pray with them, the things that they pray for were like “God I just thank you for the air that I get to breathe today. I thank you for the fact that I had a meal.” And those are some of the things that I hardly ever pray for. The little things that I take for granted are very important to them.”

With a mindset of thankfulness, positivity moves to the forefront of your life, overpowering and outweighing adversity. Often times the things we take for granted in life are the most important things in which we should be most thankful for.

“God is working in every moment of every day in small ways that we just take for granted because of how blessed we are. This is something I’ve learned from my friends who are in poverty, that they don’t take things for granted that I do, so it’s helped me to change that perspective.”

Life is what you make of it. It’s not about the circumstance in which you’re living in. It’s about the way in which you’re living in the circumstance you’re given. Perspective can be altered. Sometimes you just have to see what it’s like to live in some else’s shoes.

Live Grateful.

“Sowing Seeds Daily”

by Jess Wolfe

“The idea of bringing the production of fresh wholesome food hyperlocal to communities is really the mission,” Brian Harris said. 


Esmee Arugula – Brian’s favorite leafy green


Retiree Brian Harris has been growing two acres worth of crops inside a shipping container in downtown Grand Rapids ever since June of 2017. His aspiration to grow using hydroponics stemmed from a curiosity about indoor urban agriculture.

“I had to self-educate myself . I’m not a farmer, I come from the steel industry and furniture industry.”

Brian started experimenting in his basement, learning different ways to grow hydroponically, and aeroponically.

“I got hooked because there are so many interesting aspects of both biology, and science, and technology associated with it.”

Brian came across a producer of a container farm out of Boston, Massachusetts called Freight Farms. This company produces customized container farms suitable for all climates, even extreme environments, such as Alaska and Saudi Arabia where fresh, nutritious vegetables never used to be accessible.


“I thought it would be a good way to introduce Grand Rapids to what the idea of indoor urban agriculture is all about.” 

Soil-free, pesticide-free, low waste, low cost, and using only 5% of the water that traditional soil farming uses.

There is no need to use herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides because of the controlled environment with no pests or weeds. The solution given to the plants includes the basic minerals that plants normally find in soil. These nutrient elements are water soluble with zero chemicals or synthetics.

“I think it’s important to grow food that is organic. Everything stems from what you eat. When you eat healthy, everything is generally better,” Grandville High School Environmental Science student Madison Humphry said. 



Plant nutrient system


Plants don’t see light the same way humans see light. They only see the blue and red end of the spectrum.


“We don’t waste any energy producing light for them that is not useful.”

LED technology has changed the industry dramatically because they are cool to the touch and don’t generate a lot of heat, meaning they can hang close to the plants without putting heat stress on them. It is also 65% more efficient than typical lighting. Brian runs the LED lighting throughout the night. Electricity is cheaper at night, thus saving money.


Everything is controlled through Brian’s phone. The LED lights and cooling system can be turned on and off. The nutrient levels can be adjusted. The only thing Brian cannot do from his phone is transplant seedlings and harvest.

“I think that what Brian is doing is pretty cutting edge and really new. I think in general there’s an understanding that urban agriculture is beneficial for our community. We want easily accessible, local food options that are healthy for us and create job opportunities and all the sorts of things Brian is looking to develop through his project,” Leison of the Urban Agriculture Committee Catherine Zietse said.

Food waste is an emerging problem in society right now. Traditionally in a field harvest, plants are cut at the stem.

“And at that instant they are on the dying end of life as opposed to the thriving end of life.”

This means shelf life for a field grown crop is very short and much of it ends up getting thrown out because it is not consumed quick enough. To reduce or potentially eliminate the issue of food waste, Brian is able to harvest his plants with the roots still attached, meaning it is still alive. The shelf life of hydroponically grown plants is much longer than field grown crops. Another aspect of reducing food waste, comes from the controlled environment, allowing all crops to ‘look good’ and appear consistently uniform. This means the consumer is less likely to throw out oddly shaped produce.

“An ugly carrot is an ugly carrot, but it still tastes the same.”


“Our motto here is ‘sowing seeds daily,’ and so it’s not literally just sowing seeds, it’s sowing seeds of knowledge, education, and health. Our mission is not just to run this as a business but to actually impact the community and create jobs.”

365 days a year, every seven weeks marks a new harvest. 

“We can grow specialty crops that most farmers don’t want to get involved with because they’re trying to grow large volumes of highly consumed product, like romaine, iceberg, and those common things. The idea here is that the world is full of great tasting lettuce and greens that we just don’t get the chance to get because no one is growing them.”



Exotic Rosie Pac Choi



Current zoning ordinances prevent putting a farm next to a school, grocery store, or in a vacant neighborhood lot. With a struggle to get a permit for the shipping container in downtown Grand Rapids and battle to convince the city of what he is doing, Brian recently testified at city hall, before the Urban Agriculture Committee. Many people are unsure about what hydroponics really is.


Brian explains the exceptional flavor of his Butterhead Lettuce

“Grand Rapids will be in a learning curve and I’m hoping to help them learn.”

Brian explained we’re going to have to work with Grand Rapids on bridging the understanding that as a footprint this is not incompatible with neighborhoods. There’s not a lot of light, noise, or biomass pollution.

“On behalf of the Urban Agriculture Committee, we are completely for what Brian is doing in terms of bringing agriculture to the hyperlocal area,” Catherine Zietse said.

As of right now, no one else is growing hydroponic food in Grand Rapids. This is a big reason why the city is hesitant to adopt this new way of growing.



Restaurants and chefs have come to the farm and have tasted the products and seen the process. They are all interested in having the produce in their restaurants and grocery stores. His first delivery to restaurants around Grand Rapids will occur at the end of November.


Looking further into the future, 

Brian will only be operating out of his current shipping container for about two years because the ultimate goal is not to run this as a business out of a container but to actually scale up to a larger ten thousand square foot facility. The ten thousand square foot facility will yield the equivalent of about 60-65 acres of crop.

“At that scale, we’re talking real jobs and intentionally hyperlocal jobs in the inner-city and the intent is that it has an impact on the economics and the opportunities in that neighborhood from an employment standpoint.”

Hydroponic farming not only has the potential to scale up but also to scale down, where it can be put into a biology lab or into a classroom, creating a curriculum around the biology of plants, the science of chemistry, or even engineering and innovation. The opportunities for new learning are endless.

Senior Madison Humphrey from Grandville High School’s Environmental Science class is working on a scaled-down hydroponic farming project. Her goal is to provide 5 families with low-cost organic food. If the trend of student-led hydroponic farming continues, it has the power to transform many communities for the better.






Hydroponic indoor farming is emerging all over the world, with the controlled environment solving many environmental, health, and inner-city problems.

“There’s a value on local, there’s a value on fresh, there’s a value on organics.”

Brian Harris is starting an innovative, eye-opening movement in Grand Rapids with a lot of potential to grow and transform our city to an even more sustainable place.

“The main thing it’s really doing is bringing consumable leafy greens and vegetables hyperlocal for the benefit of health, wellness, and general happiness. “


High Hopes and School, Community Drive

by Jess Wolfe

Every purchase fights poverty. For every hammock sold, High Hopes Hammock Company donates another hammock or survival kit to a homeless person in need.

“I was inspired to start High Hopes when I was hiking on the Appalachian trail in 2015. I slept in a hammock every night for nine days and it made me realize that a hammock could be used as an emergency shelter and place to sleep for someone in a homeless situation.”  

Founder, Connor Moynihan, took this inspiration and turned it into a motivation for helping homeless individuals sustain a better quality of life.


“One place I have donated that was very eye-opening, was to the homeless on streets of San Deigo, this trip taught me a lot about the homeless and how to approach them and the best ways to help them.”


High Hopes Hammock company partners with churches who travel on international donation trips, donating hammocks all over the world, places like Kenya, Honduras, Guatemala, India, and the Dominican. High Hopes offers the only hammock on the market with an all in one innovative velcro cocoon design. The hammocks are equipped with velcro sides allowing users to wrap themselves up like a cocoon. This unique feature provides wind and bug protection, along with warmth and privacy. These qualities are especially important for homeless individuals living in areas with deadly viruses spread thru bugs as well as homeless people living in cold climates.

“My favorite part about this company is seeing the ways it has helped people.”

Handing out survival kits is another generous effort the High Hopes family is committed to. Connor has witnessed first hand, the happiness, survival kits bring to people.

“In one situation right here in GR there was a mom and her four children sitting at a picnic table in Heartside Park. The mother was splitting one single bag of Cheetos on to four plates for her children. It was so sad to see, but the children and their mom were so happy when we were able to give each of them a sandwich, protein bar, peanut butter crackers, and water.”

High Hopes has many outstanding plans to grow their generosity to an even broader spectrum. As far as third world countries, High Hopes will continue to hang hammocks in the homes of people in need of safe and sanitary places to sleep. Connor plans to do more than that like handout meals, clothing and do clean water projects. He also hopes to make a lasting impact on the refugees of the refugee crisis.

“Further into the future, it has always been my plan to create jobs and a better life for people living in poverty.” 

High Hopes Hammock Company is also working on their clothing line and would like to create their own manufacturing here in Michigan where hammocks, clothing, and other camping products will be made.

“With this manufacturing, we will hire the homeless to create and package our products. I would like to team up with substance abuse programs, therapists, and affordable housing programs so we can give our employees everything they need to have a better life.”

Throughout the month of December, High Hopes will be doing a hat, glove, blanket and meal donation to homeless individuals across Detroit and Grand Rapids.

“We are hoping to hand out blankets to 150-200 homeless individuals.”

Please consider helping Connor and the rest of High Hopes Hammock Company meet or even, succeed their goal by donating, gently used or new hats, gloves, and blankets at Grandville High School on Monday, November 13th through Tuesday, November 21st.

IMG_6397Interested in purchasing a hammock or some High Hopes apparel? Get 20% off when you use coupon code: JESS20  at checkout on our website:

Inner beauty shines through at ArtPrize

“The word henna means to bring out the inner light that’s inside of you onto the skin, that inner beauty coming out. It reminds them that they are beautiful.”

2017 top 20 ArtPrize artist Amanda Gilbert says henna is an art form she will take with her anywhere as a theraputic coping outlet for anxiety. When she started applying henna on other women, Amanda came to the realization that it can be just as therapeutic for others as it is for herself.

Amanda had the vision to use henna as a ministry.

“It wasn’t neccesarily the goal was ArtPrize it was more this movement for creating this ministry.”

She started on this journey by volunteering her time at a salon in Comstock Park called Beautiful You. This salon gives free services to cancer patients once a month, which was very fitting for Amanda’s ministry.

Conversations with cancer patients began to get deeper and these women started opening up to Amanda.

“This art breaks all cultural boundaries and all religious boundaries. Women from all over the world do it for the same purpose of bringing beauty on the skin.”

It is a blessing for Amanda to know that what she and the team are doing reminds cancer patients to speak love of their body instead of hating their body because they are sick. These women decide to choose joy over fear.FullSizeR-4

“You don’t always hear the stories, and a lot of the time, cancer is fought behind closed doors. I was able to be blessed enough to be in these women’s lives.”

This art is bringing positivity to the process of losing hair. It is hard for women to let go of something that society says makes you beautiful. These women would go to Amanda telling her it is scary for them to look in the mirror because they wouldn’t know who they were. These women are losing more than just their hair, they are losing a part of their identity.


“It is temporary so it reminds you that everything in life is temporary, and what you’re going through right now will soon fade just like this tattoo, and your hair will also come back.” 

These women inspired Amanda to crown them with beauty and crown them with courage so they could let go of their hair and not be afraid to take control by choosing joy and love over fear.

“The psychology of it is crucial for the healing process and a lot of times people focus on the diagnosis instead of the person. It’s not just a physical battle, it’s a spiritual and emotional battle. It’s one you have to choose that you’re already winning.”

With the help of boyfriend Steven Stone, photographer David Burgess, and make up artists Jessica Renusson and Tara Pennington all in collaboration, Amanda has created a FullSizeR-7ministry for so many amazing women.

The photoshoot provided by David Burgess is a timecapsule for these women to look back on and remember that they are beautiful.

The confidence of these women has grown immensley while Amanda’s perspective has changed so much. She is beyond thankful for the women she has crowned with courage because they have helped her just as much as she has helped them.

Amanda says these women have become family to her and that is a big reason why they have a goal to make Crowns Of Courage in to a non-profit and continue to crown women with courage.

“I want to make them warrior princesses.”

Please consider donating to Crowns Of Courage so that Amanda and her amazing team can reach their goal of turning this ministry into a non-profit. Visit their website to read more about each woman’s individual story.


GHS Top 5 Fall Activities

Based on a school wide survey at Grandville High School, students determined these fall activities as the most popular to get involved in. As the fall season quickly approaches, don’t miss out on the best events!

1. Football 

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MSU Football Schedule-

Michigan Football Schedule-

2. Apple Orchards

Robinettes- U-pick apples, Corn maze, Hayrides, and a 5 mile bike & hike nature trail.

3. Pumpkins

Post Family Farms- Hayrides to a U-pick pumpkin patch, Famous homemade Pumpkin donuts, and a beautiful nature trail.

4. Fall Leaves 

Hager Park- Photography spot & nature trails

Provin Trails- Photography spot & running/biking trails

5. Halloween 

The Haunt- A Haunted House experience open September through November

Ghosts of Grand Rapids- A tour of Haunted GR