Michigan Study Finds Wooden Cutting Boards Are More Sanitary Than Plastic

In your home, hardwood and bamboo flooring options are popular due to their attractive appearance and overall durability. In fact, Strand bamboo floors are even stronger than traditional hardwoods, with a very high Janka rating of at least 3646 to 3780.

But while we love wooden floors in our living rooms and even in our kitchens, they weren’t always our first choice when cooking in those kitchens. For a long time, plastic cutting boards were thought to be more hygienic than traditional wooden cutting boards, but a study conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that we’re actually much better off with wood and bamboo cutting boards to match those gorgeous hardwood floors.

The popular belief is that porous wooden surfaces allow for more bacterial absorption, making them more hazardous to our health than plastic options. But what this theory doesn’t consider is the fact that when we use plastic cutting boards, our sharp knives will create cuts and grooves in the material where bacteria like to hang out.

It is true that bacteria will be absorbed into wooden surfaces, but they will not multiply and will eventually die off. In addition, manual cleaning tends to be quite effective for wooden cutting boards. However, the study found that “more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.”

Another study out of the University of Wisconsin showed that wooden cutting boards outperformed plastic ones when they came into contact with dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria.

And while a brand new plastic cutting board can easily be disinfected, one that’s covered in knife cuts is practically impossible to disinfect completely, either by hand or with help from a dishwasher. That means that many home cooks are unknowingly using contaminated surfaces over and over again.

The good news is that with an increased focus on sustainability and natural materials, wooden cutting boards are making a comeback. They last longer, keep knives sharper, and are often produced by small, craft-oriented businesses. If you’ve been loyal to the plastic kind, it might be a good time to invest in some high-quality wooden cutting boards to ensure the health of your family.

Lead #LikeAGirl Program Receives Award at Grand Rapids Trade Show

Back in 2015, Canton Leisure Services launched a new program inspired by a popular Super Bowl ad. The ad, produced by Always, was created to turn an old-fashioned gendered insult on its head, making viewers rethink what it really means to do things #LikeAGirl. The phrase “You throw like a girl!” has historically been used to shame both girls and boys, and it’s especially damaging to pubescent young women. The commercial shows how pivotal it is to change the connotation of the phrase “like a girl” and highlights just how strong and amazing girls are.

Encouraged by the cultural importance of the advertisement, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was born. Directed towards at-risk, diverse women between the ages of 11 and 15, Lead #LikeAGirl is meant to change the way both the community and the program participants think about female leadership, relationships, self-confidence, and struggles.

Now, the program has been recognized for its impact with an award. In February 2017, Lead #LikeAGirl received an “Innovative Recreation Programming Award” at the mParks Michigan Recreation and Park Association’s annual Conference and Trade Show.

The expo, which is held in Grand Rapids, covers all kinds of topics, from sustainability and overall health to gender identity and tech. And while the top three goals for trade show exhibitors are brand awareness, lead generation, and relationship building, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was recognized for other achievements: namely, their dedication to informing and inspiring young women throughout their monthly workshops.

The Canton Leisure Services staff worked tirelessly to form collaborations with other local organizations, including the Canton Public Library, Canton Public Safety, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, and even Michigan State Representative Kristy Pagan.

During its first year, 15 young women had graduated from the program as of June 2016. Not only do those ladies now understand what it means to Lead #LikeAGirl, but so do their friends, family, and community members.

Popular Ann Arbor Restaurant Opening New Location in Grand Rapids

palioPalio Ristorante — a longtime Ann Arbor favorite — has announced that it will be expanding to Grand Rapids. The new location is set to open on Medical Mile sometime in the spring.

Mainstreet Ventures owns Palio Ristorante in addition to the Chop House in Ann Arbor and in downtown Grand Rapids. Other restaurants owned by the company include Gratzi, Carson’s, Real Seafood Company, La Dolce Vita, and several others in 12 cities across five different states.

The new Palio location will be where El Barrio Mexican Grill on Michigan Street NE was operating previously. Before opening their new location, Mainstreet will completely renovate the old space.

The company has put forth a budget of $400,000 for a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel of the building’s interior. Some of the new additions will include a pizza oven in full view of the restaurant and a brand new bar. Mainstreet prides itself on creating venues in which patrons can watch their food being made, and that’s their goal in the new location as well.

The menu will be filled with Tuscan-inspired dishes such as fettuccine, carbonara, pizza, and lasagna. For the 10% of U.S. adults who largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, this might not be a go-to dining establishment. But in addition to all of those dishes, the menu will offer craft beer, cocktails, and an extensive wine list.

The original Palio location in Ann Arbor opened in 1991 and was named for the famous horse race that occurs in Italy twice annually. The original location actually features a wall covered in pictures of the race’s victors over the years.

The new Grand Rapids location will be open for lunch and dinner, seating approximately 150 people indoors and another 50 on an outdoor patio during warmer months. The new location will begin accepting applications on March 19.

The new restaurant is certainly a welcome change for many residents in Grand Rapids, as well as something to look forward to in the coming spring.

West Michigan Home and Garden Show Offers Focus on Smart Veggie Gardening

It may be February, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate a garden or have to wait to improve your green thumb. The annual West Michigan Home and Garden Show will be back next month for its 37th season, and this year, there’s a big focus on vegetables.

Among the 350 exhibitors at this year’s show is an entire series on smart vegetable gardening. Whether you’re a total gardening novice, want to determine whether your soil is healthy, or would like information on how to start a garden in a small space, these sessions — hosted by The Michigan State University Extension’s Smart Gardening team — will tell you everything you need to know.

Other seminars offered on March 2 and 3 will focus on community gardens, beekeeping, and selecting the right type of vegetables that provide the biggest boost to your health.

While gardening may be thought of as a niche hobby, it’s become extremely popular. In spring of 2014, 113.5 million people said they gardened within the last 12 months. But it’s also been shown to have a wide variety of surprising health benefits — and not just due to the types of fresh veggies gardeners grow.

Studies have shown that gardeners tend to have a lower BMI and a decreased likelihood of being overweight or obese. Those who garden often find it easier to lose weight because it’s an enjoyable activity that allows you to accomplish more than just a good workout. In addition, gardening may reduce your risk of heart disease, help you develop better coordination and strength, and even boost your immune system.

Gardening may provide physical advantages, but it can also help with your mental and emotional state, too. NASA researchers found that working with plants in space provided stress relief and positive mental stimulation. And other studies have shown that being surrounded by nature can have amazing effects on our emotional well-being.

No matter your reasons for wanting to garden, the seminars at the Home and Garden Show can help you get started on a fulfilling and healthy hobby. Those who register by February 16 can receive a 20% discount, and all registrants will receive a free pass to the Home and Garden Show. More information about the smart veggie gardening sessions is available on the show’s website. You’ll learn how to improve your health with a vegetable garden at home or in your community just in time for spring planting.

Kent Country Recycling Fees to Increase in 2017

Environmentally responsible practices may be trendier than ever, but they’re generally worth the effort. If just 20% of American households switched to electronic billing in lieu of paper invoices, we’d save 151 million pounds of paper every year. But for households that still utilize paper products, recycling programs are often a great option to offset the waste.

Most citizens know that recycling regularly can help protect the planet. After all, recycling one ton of cardboard saves over nine cubic yards of landfill space. However, ecological sustainability doesn’t automatically translate to financial sustainability. One recycling plant in Kent County has found that its practices are no longer economically viable, resulting in an increase of their recycling rates. If Kent County businesses want to go green, they may have to fork over more green to do so.

When the county first opened the recycling facility in 2010, it was able to actually turn a profit by selling the commodities it produced, such as plastic, aluminum, and tin. Profits continued to rise until 2011, when the prices of those commodities started to drop due to changes in the marketplace, like the lowered price of oil. In 2011, Kent County was able to get around $152 a ton for those commodities, but by 2015, they could fetch only about half that price. Last year, their losses totaled $1.6 million.

The facility has been in the red for the last four years. Darwin Baas, the director of Kent County Public Works, says that the losses simply weren’t sustainable. As of January 1, 2017, the county implemented a new fee schedule with a goal of making recycling a sustainable undertaking once more.

For local waste haulers, the recycling fees will come to $35 a ton. If you’re bringing loads from outside Kent County, those fees increase to $40 a ton. “That allows us to operate at a break-even point, which is what we need,” said Baas.

Last year, the county put a $10/ton fee in place as an attempt to replace lost revenue, but that clearly wasn’t enough to bridge the gap. Annual operating expenses total around $4 million, so the facility needed much more than the anticipated revenue of less than $2.5 million in 2015. These new increased fees will provide nearly 38% of the facility’s overall budget; the remainder still comes from the sales of commodities.

Adding to the financial crisis are the costs tied to contamination of the materials they receive at the facility. Baas estimates that around 15% of the materials they get can be labeled as non-recyclables or contamination. They regularly receive Styrofoam, tarps, and brake rotors at the facility, all of which have to be removed and disposed of. The county budgets $150,000 a year for this sole purpose.

One incident was even more catastrophic. A partially full cylinder of propane was unknowingly brought to the facility and caused an explosion, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

And while businesses are expected to bear the burden of these increased costs, the Director of Public Services, James Hurt, noted that individual residents shouldn’t be concerned about increasing bills.

“We are not intending to pass that cost on to our residents, to our customers as an additional cost,” he said. “Our community recycles enormously; it’s a very strong recycling community. We certainly don’t want to deter recycling from occurring.”

Hurt went on to say that the increased fees are built into the city’s current budget, and that he anticipates the city will continue to absorb those fees throughout the year.

“Recycling is important,” he said. “It’s one of our core values. We want to continue to promote that.”

Grand Rapids Parks Department Plans Major Upgrades for 2017

The new calendar year promises to be a big one for Grand Rapids City Parks, with new upgrades, renovations, and additional features planned for more than half a dozen of the area’s green spaces.

Construction plans for 2017 are in the works for Bike Park and Clemente Park in the southwest; Alexander Park in the southeast; and Huff Park, Aberdeen Park, and Ball Perkins Park in the northeast.

The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department has also announced plans to bring four concrete ping-pong tables to area parks, though their locations are being largely left up to the public to decide.

Earlier this month, the department put up a call for comments on its Facebook page, asking users where they would like to see an outdoor ping-pong table installed. So far, the post has received hundreds of suggestions, with Cherry Park, Riverside, and Wilcox Park leading the pack so far. The top six suggestions will become finalists for a full public vote.

“As a part of the master plan we’ve been floating ideas like this,” said David Marquardt, director of the parks and recreation department. “The feedback we’ve been getting has been positive, and we see this as a ‘quick win’ as a part of the master plan process.”

The park plans for 2017 come in the wake of a highly successful year for park renovations in Grand Rapids. A recent poll of urban residents around the globe found that 52% of people chose green spaces as the feature they’d most like to see more of in their cities. To that end, more than $2.5 million of federal grant money was spent in 2016 upgrading community parks, including a new walking path in Camelot Park and a picnic shelter at Mary Waters Park. A new playground, splash pad, and picnic area with restroom facilities is set to open at Campau Park at Delaware and Commons in spring 2017.

Many of the proposed upgrades for 2017 will be discussed in neighborhood meetings this month and next, to hear community input on the projects and developments.

East Grand Rapids Aims to Make Leaf Pickup a Breeze

Autumn’s changing foliage may be beautiful, but those falling leaves can wreak havoc come winter. If you fail to take care of the leaves in your yard, the resulting build-up can lead to flooded streets when precipitation falls from the sky. What’s more, if leaves clog up your drain gutters, your home could sustain significant damage. Destruction from water and ice is more common than you might think. In fact, 20% of all insurance claims are related to some kind of water damage. Fortunately, residents in East Grand Rapids won’t have to worry as much about these damages, as they’re getting some much-needed help with their leaf cleanup duties.

The Public Works crews of East Grand Rapids work every week day to clear the streets of seemingly endless leaf piles. They often work overtime to ensure that all the piles are picked up. Not only does the service help homeowners keep their lawns looking clean, but it ensures that the streets remain traversable. Crew leader Jeff Stults says that the leaf removal helps to keep catch basins clean.

“If we don’t pick them up and they stay on the street, rain will plug the catch basin which will in turn lead to flooded streets,” says Stults.

Unlike those in neighboring cities who have to put their leaves in lawn bags, all East Grand Rapids residents have to do is rake their leaf piles to the curb. Understandably, it’s an immensely popular service. Space in the leaf program fills up quickly.

Not only does leaf removal help in the fall, but removing the leaves is vital when the first flakes of snow fall. If leaves are left under the snow, it makes for a much bigger mess come spring. By cleaning leaves out of their gutters on a regular basis, residents can prevent lawn mess, foundation damage, and ice dam formation. Although Public Works does not cover gutter cleaning, the program is a good reminder for homeowners not to put off leaf removal at their residence.

Public Works is also performing a conservatory service with their leaf pickup program. Nearly half of the 30,000 cubic yards of lawn waste material Public Works hauls out every year is just from defined leaf collection. All the leaves are brought to a landfill contractor who then recycles them to make fertilizer. Assistant City Manager Doug La Fave emphasizes that residents who participate in the program may see their leaves again in a different format: “They may end up coming back to their property depending on what product they buy and where they buy it from.”

East Grand Rapids will continue to make a giant pile of leaves behind the public works building until December 9th. After that, the leaves will be hauled off and be made into new materials that will give back to the earth.

Santa Parade Returns to Grand Rapids This Weekend

Image: Bailiwick Studios

Image: Bailiwick Studios

The annual Art Van Santa Parade will return to Grand Rapids on Saturday, November 19, with lots of familiar fun and some new twists.

This year’s theme is “Christmas Fun for Everyone,” which will be woven throughout the many costumes and decorations that will make their way through downtown. Over 100 entries are expected to participate in the parade, including a capstone appearance from Santa Claus himself.

“Downtown Grand Rapids will be filled with the sweet sounds of local marching bands, carolers, and local performers,” reads the event’s web page. “Entrants for the 2016 event will create unique entries around the theme, including costumes, music and floats based on popular and classic holiday songs.”

The parade will begin at 9 a.m., and will run along Monroe Avenue NW beginning at Michigan Street. The ceremonies will pass by DeVos Place, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, and the Rosa Parks Circle before ending near Charley’s Crab at Fulton Street.

The Santa Parade is a time-honored tradition in Grand Rapids, dating back to the late 1800s; it began as a way to encourage residents to start their holiday shopping in the downtown area. This year, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss will serve as Grand Marshal, and Nashville singer-songwriter Jacob Davis will also provide entertainment.

One of the highlights every year, for marchers and viewers alike, is the participation of dogs in the parade. Around 46.3 million American households have dogs, and an estimated 63% of them buy Christmas presents for their pups, too. This year, some 70 corgis and their owners will march in the parade, helping to raise awareness for Paws with a Cause, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit that trains service dogs for people with disabilities.

The entire parade is organized by the Grand Rapids Jaycees and sponsored by ArtVan, as well as several other community organizations. The iconic Santa sleigh provided by the Jaycees last year, with a full team of reindeer riding over a snow-covered replica of the Blue Bridge, will make a return appearance. After the parade, families can get complimentary photos taken with Santa Claus in Rosa Parks Circle.

Holland Man Killed By Crane Tipping Accident

A recent accident at a Holland, MI construction company site proved fatal for one worker.

When a crane tipped over at Holland Equipment Services/A and B Farms on Tuesday, November 1st, the man operating the crane was killed. Allegan County Sheriff’s Captain Chris Kuhn reported to local media outlets that there were no direct witnesses to the incident. Though they know that the victim was operating the crane at the time, how the crane tipped over is a mystery.

In 2013, there were an estimated 4,405 fatal work injuries. Conditions on construction sites can be particularly hazardous due to the nature of the work. Because cranes are typically the largest piece of equipment on industrial work sites, they cause the majority of construction injuries. Although crane accidents can be caused by poor weather and falling debris, most are attributed to human error. They can easily be prevented by following safety regulations like enforcing the proper operational capacity, choosing the right crane for a given job, or simply setting it up correctly.

Although the most recent statistics for crane-related fatalities are from 2006, this type of accident has been fairly prevalent in the news within the past few years. As of 10 years ago, a total of 72 fatal crane-related injuries occurred in one year. Of those 72 fatal accidents, 30 were caused by being struck by falling objects, while only nine were a result of being struck by a crane. The remaining fatalities occurred when an object being carried by the crane fell onto workers below.

In the decade between 1997 and 2006, over 800 workplace fatalities could be attributed to crane accidents. Construction workers tend to be the most prone to these types of accidents, but electricians and welders also have an increased risk.

That’s why it’s so important for employers to follow OSHA standards. Not only will they keep their workers safe and on the job, but it can also save them a lot of money. Reducing the number of accidents even by 10% can result in nearly $60,000 in annual savings. That can make a big difference for small, privately owned construction companies.

The victim has not been identified in this case, and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be conducting a separate investigation regarding the incident.

Recalled Frozen Strawberries in Grand Rapids Linked to Hepatitis A Outbreak

Consumers in Grand Rapids and around the country are being urged to get a hepatitis A vaccine after a recent recall of potentially contaminated frozen strawberries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have determined that the recent outbreak of hepatitis A in several states across the nation is likely due to a shipment of contaminated frozen strawberries imported from a producer in Egypt. The berries were distributed to several food chains and local restaurants, and could pose a potential health hazard to anyone who consumed them.

One of the affected chains is Tropical Smoothie Café, which has three locations around the Grand Rapids area. So far, no cases of hepatitis A have been reported in Michigan, though there have been over 100 cases confirmed in Virginia, Maryland, New York, and West Virginia.

Local restaurants may also have received the contaminated frozen strawberries, including Biggby Coffee, Salvino’s, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. An updated list of known and possible locations where the strawberries may have been served in Michigan can be found at the State Department of Health and Human Services website.

Every year, about 48 million people in the U.S. are infected with a foodborne illness, with approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. So far, the CDC has reported 52 hospitalizations from the outbreak. Although it is extremely rare, hepatitis A can sometimes be fatal.

Hepatitis A is a contagious disease that causes inflammation of the liver. Symptoms typically begin to appear 15 to 50 days after infection and include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine and pale stool, according to the State Health Department.

Thankfully, vaccinations are available that can prevent the onset of the disease, even after ingesting contaminated foods. However, there is only a two-week window in which the vaccination will be effective, so consumers who have consumed strawberry-containing foods or beverages like smoothies, shakes, and sauces, at any of the possibly affected locations since October 22 should seek medical care immediately.

“The immunization is only effective up to 14 days after exposure, so it is important to contact your health care provider while you are in the 14 day window,” said Adam London, Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer. “If it has been longer than 14 days, you should be aware of the symptoms of Hepatitis A and if you become ill, contact your health care provider.”

Nearly 120 people in Kent County have already received hep A vaccinations as state and federal officials continue to purge the contaminated frozen strawberries from restaurant shelves. The shot is also part of a routine immunization schedule for many children. Adults over age 40 have the option of a hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin (IG) in lieu of a vaccination.

Vaccines are capable of preventing more than 2.5 million deaths every year.