Grand Rapids' aims for a greener city by engaging, rewarding residents

The City of Grand Rapids, CEOs for Cities and Local First bet a new points/rewards program will entice more residents to recycle and engage with their neighborhoods and city. The program, mygrcitypoints, launches during Earth Week.

Phase 1 focuses on rewarding residents who already recycle and on increasing the number of recycling households above the city's current 40 percent. Recyclers will receive points they can redeem at locally owned businesses for goods and services.

When the system goes live in April, residents will earn points by registering the serial number on their blue and yellow single-stream recycle bins on Each time the city picks up the recycling, a bar code on the bin records it.

"You'll get points for the average rate of recycling in your neighborhood," says Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary. "You'll be able to redeem the points through an online marketplace. For instance, you might be able to redeem points for free coffee at a coffee shop, free theater tickets or a free night at a local hotel."

Participating businesses customize their rewards, the corresponding points values, and can even cap the number of rewards available, Hillary says. Phase 1 is open to only those businesses that are Local First members. As of Tuesday, March 8, those businesses can register free.

"If we can shift one in ten dollars to locally owned businesses in Kent County, that will create $140 million in economic impact and 1,600 new jobs," Hillary says, quoting the results of a 2008 study of Kent County businesses by Civic Economics, commissioned by Local First.

"Hopefully this will benefit the businesses by getting new customers to walk in their doors," she says.

Phase II will allow residents to post or sign up for neighborhood projects such as flower planting or snow shoveling to earn points.

Phase III engages the broader community in volunteering for things like city festivals or working on a city board or commission to earn points.

Both phases are expected to launch in 2011.

Source: Elissa Hillary, Executive Director, Local First
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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