New 'Businesses for Clean Water' campaign launches at Brewery Vivant


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

What more fitting place to launch an environmental campaign about the benefits of clean water than the well-known Brewery Vivant, which relies on the purity of the largest ingredient in its beers?

“Clean Water is crucial to our business,” states Kris Spaulding, co-owner with husband Jason of both Brewery Vivant and the new Broad Leaf Local Beer in Kentwood. “That’s why we support smart policies that work to protect the Great Lakes and our drinking water.”

On May 15, the Spauldings opened the doors of Brewery Vivant, which produces “farmhouse” ales, focuses on rustic European food, and occupies a beautifully redone funeral home in the East Hills neighborhood, for the launch of Businesses for Clean Water.

A project of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) Midwest, Businesses for Clean Water will make the business case for sound policy that addresses problems with the water in a state that is defined by water.

“This campaign is very much part of E2’s overall efforts to advocate for smart policies that are good for the environment and good for the economy,” says E2 Director of Member Engagement Gail Parson. “Our business members care about clean, affordable, and reliable water not only for their business, but for the communities in which they live and work.”

Parson was one of the speakers at the May 15 launch at Brewery Vivant. Others included:

–E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe, who oversees the nationwide work of E2 and speaks and writes regularly about the clean energy economy and the benefits of environmental policy. A long-time journalist for a variety of outlets before starting at E2, Keefe has also written and edited several business-related books. He was a fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

–State Senator Winnie Brinks.  The first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the Michigan Senate since the 1920s,  Brinks is a former caseworker at The Source, where she helped businesses and nonprofits improve workplaces to grow and retain employees. As Grand Rapids Legal News readers may recall, Brinks has been a leader in promoting policy that addresses the increasingly alarming PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) situation in the state.

–Garret Ellison, the reporter at MLive Media Group who has specialized in PFAS reporting and other environmental issues. Based on such reporting as well as articles on Nestle and the Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, Ellison was named the 2017 Journalist of the Year by the Michigan Press Association Foundation. As also previously reported in the Legal News, Ellison was awarded the Public Resource Center’s Public Notice Journalism Award, given at the National Press Club, for his alertness in breaking the story about Nestle’s request to pump more groundwater for its bottling process.

–The above-mentioned Kris and Jason Spaulding, who are also featured (along with Sen. Brinks) in ads that ran in local media in support of the Businesses for Clean Water launch.

E2 is a non-profit, non-partisan group of  business leaders, investors, and professionals. It has nine chapters across the country; Michigan is part of the Chicago-based Midwest Chapter. This chapter “has strongly advocated in support of the Clean Power Plan to Governors’ administrations and the government agencies charged with implementation in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio,” according to the organization’s website, (specifically at

The national business network sponsored by E2 has a membership of over 5,000 business people, with almost 400 in Michigan. These members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.

E2, which is partnering closely with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on this campaign, believes it is possible for policies to be “good for the economy and good for the environment.” The group’s main issues are climate change, energy, water, and national security, supporting reduction of the military’s dependence on fossil fuels to increase resource independence.

E2 hired local consultant Autumn Sands to reach out to business leaders, legislators, scientists and other potentially concerned parties in West Michigan. Though Sands says that the early focus on aging infrastructure such as that which resulted in the Flint water crisis continues, the campaign has expanded to include PFAS concerns. “PFAS seems to be everywhere, and that situation is ever-evolving,” she says. “We wanted to gather business leaders and other different sectors to talk about how this campaign could be beneficial in moving the needle forward legislatively, particularly around PFAS.”

Sands, the former sustainability manager of Barfly Ventures (parent company of the widely-expanding HopCat), is currently a sustainability consultant with Sustainable Research Group along with  supporting the launch of the clean water campaign.

Participating in it has changed her life and her career plans. “This whole experience, working with this organization and doing the amount of research that I’ve done in the last six months to a year... it’s changed my thinking. I kind of have tunnel vision now,” she says. “If we don’t have clean drinking water and we can’t truly trust what’s coming out of our tap, it’s hard to think about anything else.

“We talk a lot about what the problems are, but I need to wrap my head around, how are we going to fix these issues and how can we prevent them?”

Sands, who discontinued her college education for work, has enrolled in Western Michigan University’s Freshwater Science program.

The leadership at E2 shares her concerns about contaminant-free drinking water, and sees policy change as the road to prevention.

To that end, the campaign will raise awareness about water’s role in economic activity through, for example, the ads taken out in such outlets as and the Grand Rapids Business Journal; continue to enlist businesses including its own members, to create a supportive voice for policy change; and produce meticulously-researched reports.

They are expecting to release a report in the next month or two about how many jobs could be created through improving the state’s water infrastructure.

And they will continue to expand the participation in Businesses for Clean Water. “We just launched the campaign last week, but dozens of new business voices have indicated their interest in getting more involved,” says Gail Parson. “E2 also will be reaching out to our existing list of businesses in Michigan when there is an opportunity for them to share their voice with policymakers in the state.”

“The overarching goal really is to encourage these business leaders to voice their support for policies that will protect drinking water in Michigan,”
says Sands.