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Rainbarrel Workshop is a Hit

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Pictured here, rainwater is diverted from a spout into rain barrels.

Pictured here, rainwater is diverted from a spout into rain barrels. /fireballsedai


The unmistakable, sugary smell of Coca-Cola effervesces from twenty white-plastic barrels scattered about a room in an activity center on West Fulton Street. Saturday, “The Other Way” Ministries hosted a rain-barrel workshop in conjunction with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) and GRCC.

Patricia Pannell, the representative from WMEAC, welcomed the participants and gave a brief introduction. They watched a short video and, without further ado, she said, “Ok. You can start.” People looked around, reluctant to begin. But within a minute, the room erupted with action. Laughter mixed with the smell of silicone caulk. Children raced around the barrels. Who knew a plastic tub and a few bits of pipe could be so exciting? If you do not believe it, you can build one yourself. The step by step instructions for building your own barrel can be found on the WMEAC website, or watch the video above.

The main reservations people have about rainwater collection systems are the construction time and the cost of materials. If you attend a workshop, like the one put on by “The Other Way” Ministries, you can assemble your own barrel in as little as half an hour. Mine took a little longer because I didn’t bring my own wrench and had to wait in line to share the one provided by WMEAC.

As for cost, it was free (see other articles on free things in Grand Rapids)! The caveat: you can only get barrel if you attend a workshop. “You can’t just call me and get one.” says Patricia Pennell who frequently answers calls from people wanting a free barrel. She was once called by a man from flint wanting 100 of the free barrels for his horses. The good news is there is a way to get one without waiting for the next workshop: host an event yourself. It could be for a few friends and neighbors or an entire community organization. Contact Kristi with WMEAC for more information about hosting an event.

WMEAC and the City of Grand Rapids are using this program to help area residents conserve water and battle storm runoff. The success of the workshops is due, in part, to Coca-Cola for donating the barrels (about 350 since the start of the program). But the real reasons the workshops are so popular are the community interest, the time and resources of local organizations like “The Other Way”, and volunteers like the GRCC students.

Although the idea is only in the planning stage, WMEAC is hoping to create a contest to reward the communities that are actively collecting the most rainwater. Saturday, the Westside neighborhoods got a boost thanks to the planning and effort of “The Other Way” Ministries. “We like to encourage environmental sustainability,” says Kyle Van Strien of “The Other Way”, “and cutting down the cost of utilities can really make a big difference in the budgets of the neighbors we serve.”


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I attended the workshop on Saturday - it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  We're excited to start saving rain water!  Now it just needs to rain... 

Looks like you got what you wished for, Kyle. How's that rain barrel working out for you?

What a great "green" idea!  Thanks to The Other Way Ministries and WMEAC for hosting this event.  Collecting rain water is just another little way we can help the sustainability of our environment.   I'll be on the look-out to attend the next workshop!