Wisconsin Green Growth: A Call to Action

Photo by WEI

Today, it’s even more important for stakeholders across Wisconsin to collaborate and establish a solid new direction for the state—one that integrates a green growth strategy to create more prosperous, secure, and sustainable communities; address climate change; and respect our heritage and tradition of environmental stewardship.

Since 1995, the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative (WEI) has worked to bring together state and local government, businesses, and environmental groups to find common values and take cooperative approaches to improve the state’s environment and economy. We call that concept “doing well by doing good.”

Business as usual and politics as usual today is no longer an option. We need new partners and a new generation who see quality of life and sustainability as the organizing principle for Wisconsin’s future. Join us as we work to accelerate the innovative strategies and policies we need.

Photograph provided by WEI

100% Clean Energy
Other Midwest states are eating our lunch when it comes to clean-energy investment, jobs, and production. WEI supports the innovative policies, technologies, and infrastructure to meet a 100 percent renewable-energy goal by using solar, wind, biomass, and energy efficiency while creating thousands of clean-energy jobs and bringing billions in clean manufacturing and economic activity back into the state.

Over the years, WEI’s Energy Forum served as a valuable resource for meeting Wisconsin’s energy needs while positively impacting the environment and economy. WEI’s work on Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force, Consortium on Biobased Industry, and as a member of several state delegations to Germany provided valuable opportunities to learn from and share successes in applying sustainable technology to our energy challenges.

More recently, WEI serves on the Climate and Energy Leadership Network of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. This committee produced Climate Forward: A New Road Map for Wisconsin’s Climate and Energy Future . WEI is a proud supporter of the Academy, including their Climate Fast Forward conference, to be held November 8 at Monona Terrace.

“If you believe in climate change and you believe in science, well then it’s reasonable to expect that we can accelerate the solutions that are in front of us and create a green economy for the state. The science is demanding that we be bold. So let’s be bold.”
– John Imes

Green Building
WEI supports innovative green building solutions, including efforts to green retrofit existing buildings and leverage the permit approval process and building codes to accelerate high-performance building, energy and water efficiency, and green infrastructure applications.

WEI’s Green Built Home program offers comprehensive checklists and credible third-party verification to certify homes and recognize builders who commit to superior environmental performance. More than 20,000 homes and affordable housing units have been built to the Wisconsin Green Built Home standard, and the program was previously recognized as a National Green Building Program of the Year.

Photograph provided by WEI

Clean Clear Waters
Madison area lakes are the jewels of our community. A key challenge to protecting and enhancing our waters is better management of stormwater runoff. Runoff causes soil erosion that can contain contaminants, like motor oils and grease, pesticides, fertilizers, and de-icing salt that is harmful to waterways. WEI publishes articles and op-eds on clean-water strategies, including the use of green infrastructure and green urbanism to reduce flooding.

WEI also organized shoreland development roundtables that brought together conservationists; developers; lake associations; and local, county, and state government officials to find ways to balance development with environmental protection. The ideas, suggestions, and case studies led to an owning waterfront property checklist and, later, a Clean Clear Waters checklist for builders and developers to implement best practices in erosion control, landscape conservation, and stormwater management to protect our waters.

Sustainable Economic Development
WEI supports the greening of business to achieve higher levels of performance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supports targeting of incentives, including tax credits, loan guarantees, and preference on purchasing contracts to firms that achieve superior environmental results and institute high-road practices that protect workers.

WEI has organized a dozen forums on sustainability topics for Wisconsin businesses over the years and developed nationally recognized certification programs that give businesses the opportunity to learn about sustainable strategies. For example, the Travel Green Wisconsin and Main Street Green certification checklists serve as stewardship tools to give businesses credible market distinction while helping to evaluate operations, set goals, and take specific actions to achieve environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Photograph provided by WEI

Regenerative Agriculture
WEI supports the need for regenerative agriculture practices to increase farmers’ profits, rebuild soils, clean our waterways, and expand renewable energy. Whether its organic farming or other responsibly grown methods, Wisconsin farmers and food processors can harness innovation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve crop yields while reducing nutrient runoff into our drinking water.

Over the years, WEI has convened statewide events on agriculture and land-use issues focused on agricultural systems that are both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. More recently, our attention turned to supporting urban agriculture and a transformative project to restore the landmark Garver Feed Mill behind Olbrich Gardens on Madison’s East Side as an artisan food production facility and high-profile visitor destination. The vibrant mix of uses includes an event venue, restaurants and café, production space for food-related businesses, and studio space for health and wellness practitioners, plus a microlodging showcase of up to 50 tiny (right-sized) homes. Complementing the project will be a full array of public and educational uses, including urban agriculture, outdoor conservation, and sustainable building technologies.

“We can empower more food entrepreneurship, particularly for women, immigrants, and people of color, to help reduce social/economic disparities and provide well-paying, accessible jobs in regional and local food production and urban agriculture.”
– John Imes

Wisconsin needs an economy that works for everyone, invests in innovative policies, and takes care of workers. Join us to showcase the state again as an innovator—one that invests in clean energy, clean manufacturing, water stewardship, and regenerative agriculture while we green our buildings and infrastructure and electrify our transportation to address climate change and create a more resilient, vibrant, and thriving Wisconsin.

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

John Imes is a co-founder and executive director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. For more information, please visit weigogreener.org .