From “Help the world: Earth Day activities scheduled in Racine, Kenosha counties” — Racine and Kenosha counties offer plenty of opportunities to actively observe Earth Day again this year today and through next weekend.

And while most of these events are specific to Earth Day and the surrounding weeks, eco-friendly volunteer and learning opportunities abound at other times of the year — such as the May and June projects at Wheatland’s Woodland Education Center noted below.

Earth Day has a special place in Wisconsin history, as it was Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson who came up with the idea for a day — April 22 — for a “national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, according to

Want to do some good for the local environment or learn more about how to care for the Earth? Here are some options for you:

Today — Medicine Collection Day for Households, 6200 21st St. (west of Highway 31), Racine, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Prescription medication and over the counter medication, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, vials and pet medications are acceptable. Keep all medications in original bottles (cross out name but leave medication name visible). Put all medications in a sealed bag. Do not bring needles, sharps, biohazardous materials or personal care products.

Today — Cleanup and Ladybug Unveiling, 1-3 p.m. Volunteers are needed to fan out over streets surrounding the Wadewitz COP House, 1750 Mead St., Racine, to pick up litter and waste during a spring cleanup effort. A new art project will be unveiled at Hamilton Park. Youth-painted ladybug rocks will be scattered about the park for those to find. Ladybugs can be brought home and kept as a token of appreciation for the volunteer’s work. All ladybugs will be number and presented additional awards.

Today — The Racine Wastewater Utility household hazardous waste collection program will hold its collection from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the waste collection site, 6200 21st St., Racine. The program is open to residents of Racine, Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant, Wind Point, North Bay and Elmwood Park. Residents are encouraged to bring harmful chemicals from around their home to the permanent collection site. Collections occur every third Saturday through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, go to

April 22 — Party for the Planet, Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St., Racine, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Informational tables in the Vanishing Kingdom building letting people know what things they can do to help the planet and craft stations where children can create special crafts related to the theme.

April 24 — Drive up-drop off medication collection at Raymond Town Hall, 2255 S. 76th St., Raymond, 6-8 p.m. Racine County residents should bring medication in original bottles with patient names crossed out. The name of the medication should still be visible. Do not bring needles, syringes or any biohazardous materials. For more information, call 262-930-6380, or 262-763-4930.

April 26 — Reuse-A-Shoe, Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave., and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Racine, 9 a.m.-noon. People can donate used athletic shoes. All brands of used, dry, mud-free athletic shoes are acceptable. The following items will not be accepted: Shoes containing metal parts; cleats, spikes, thongs, sandals, pumps, dress shoes and boots; shoes in plastic bags or tied together. The shoes will then be donated to the Nike recycling center.

April 26 — Raking leaves and spreading mulch at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 1015 4 Mile Road, Caledonia, 10 a.m. Bring gloves and rakes. Children welcome if accompanied by an adult. Register by calling Mark Trinklein at 414-217-3043.

April 26 — Garlic Mustard Pull-A-Thon, 9 a.m.-noon, Colonial Park. Meet at West High Street parking lot, Racine. Contact Drew Ballantyne at; or Melissa Warner at

April 26 — People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the sixth annual Work Play Earth Day from 9 a.m. to noon at Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, Bristol. Volunteers can help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties. Activities include planting trees and shrubs, installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves.

Refreshments will be provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers. When the work is done, volunteers can stay to enjoy hiking or biking park trails, visiting the nature center or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties.

To sign up, call Bong State Recreation Area at 262-878-5600. People should check in at the Visitor Center where they will be split into work crews for the morning. No state park vehicle stickers are required while volunteering.

April 26 — Gateway Technical College has expanded its Celebrate Earth Day activities and demonstrations for 2014 to include even more hands-on demonstrations, family-friendly activities and ways community members can be gentle on the environment at work and home.

The event will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at its Kenosha and Elkhorn campuses, featuring a number of Earth-friendly activities, informational booths and children’s crafts. For the entire event listing — including campus-specific activities — go to

Visitors at each campus will receive a reusable grocery bag, courtesy of event sponsor, Snap-on Inc., as well as a variety of other “green” focused items. The event is free and open to the public.

April 26-27 — To celebrate Earth Week and Arbor Day, Apple Holler, 5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville, is inviting the public to visit the orchard and farm park, including the baby animals, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at no charge. Visitors will learn more about Apple Holler and their farm. Apple Holler will be planting 2,000 new fruit trees this year. Call 262-886-8500 for more information.

May and June — Seno Woodland Education Center, 3606 Dyer Lake Road, Wheatland, needs volunteers with many projects including pulling garlic mustard, cutting young box elder trees, cutting thistles in the prairie, tree planting, trim pea bushes and white pine branches, clear around trail signs, buckthorn and honey suckle cutting and spraying, rendezvous projects, public events, replacing barn entry doors, and repairing pavilion overhang and adding vents. Call 262-539-3222, or go to

From “Online voting begins for Gateway in video contest” — RACINE — Gateway Technical College is one of 30 colleges from across the United States named as a finalist for an award recognizing leadership and innovation in the area of environmentalism and sustainability in higher education.

In addition to the Climate Leadership Award, Gateway Technical College is also competing against 29 college finalists in a national video voting competition. Individuals can vote for a video once a day, every day, now through April 15 at

The 2014 Climate Leadership Award is issued by Second Nature, a national nonprofit that works to create a healthy, just and sustainable society by transforming higher education. The awards, now in the fifth year, are an annual, national competition for colleges and universities that are signatories of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Gateway Technical College is one of five technical colleges nationwide to be a finalist for this award, and the only college in Wisconsin.

From “Masters of Green” — by Robin Bruecker – Being a good corporate citizen and natural-resources steward is something any responsible business should strive for, and that in itself is its own reward.

A yardstick by which to compare one’s progress among other companies can be useful, however, and a little kudos for a job well done is always welcome.

Enter the Green Masters, a program of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, an entity established through the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.

The no-cost program allows businesses an opportunity to earn credentials for its sustainability practices in regard to energy and water conservation, waste management and outreach efforts.

“Businesses from every corner of the state, of every size and from almost every sector” have taken part in Green Masters, noted Thomas Eggert, executive director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. The program doesn’t provide training or guidance and instead gives rewards and recognition, although, Eggert said, “we have heard from many companies that our application is frequently downloaded as a template for what companies could be doing in the sustainability area.”

That application is about to be re-opened with a few tweaks for the 2014 year. Eggert noted that Green Masters has grown by 50 percent annually, with the current number of participants at 167.

Why should businesses be interested in adopting sustainability practices and enrolling in Green Masters?

“First, I’d tell them that interest in the program should come from within the business,” said Eggert. “My bet is that they have customers, investors, employees, future employees or their supply chain that is interested in what they are doing from a sustainability perspective.

“Second, I’d tell them that virtually every business gets into sustainability because of the cost savings opportunities,” he went on. “Cutting energy use certainly reduces the environmental footprint of an organization, but it also reduces their energy bill. Reducing the percent of raw materials that becomes waste and is sent to a landfill saves on the cost of landfilling material, but also ensures a greater percentage of raw materials are turned into finished product.”

Among those businesses who apply to participate in the Green Masters program each year, the top 20 percent are awarded the designation of Green Masters. Participating companies are assessed on an objective point system which evaluates sustainability efforts.

Why sustainability matters

A handful of northeast Wisconsin employers are among those designated Green Masters by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Appleton-based ThedaCare acknowledges sustainability as one of its core values, said Paul Linzmeyer, sustainability leader for the health care provider.

“Businesses and organizations must begin to understand the compelling business case for triple bottom line sustainable practices, and the Green Masters program helps make that case more visible by recognizing successful work and outcomes,” said Linzmeyer.

Another Green Master, contract furniture manufacturer KI in Green Bay, recognizes the value of incorporating sustainability practices into manufacturing and doing business.

“Sustainability principles are an integral part of our core business strategy, products and services, and brand propositions, and, as such, all of our employees are engaged in sustainability,” explained Lisa Evenson, sustainability manager for KI.

Sustainability practices also make a favorable impression with customers, as such practices demonstrate innovation – such as material choice and product redesign – social responsibility, and environmental stewardship, Evenson noted.

Appvion Inc. – formerly known to many as Appleton Papers – was among the businesses that expressed interest in developing sustainability criteria back in 2008. The company’s chief environmental and regulatory counsel, Pam Barker, serves on the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Advisory Board.

“Appvion takes seriously its responsibility to use water, energy, fiber and chemicals wisely, which includes continuously seeking ways to reduce consumption and recycle,” said Bill Van Den Brandt, senior manager of corporate communications. “Although our company has a long tradition of environmental stewardship, our efforts became more focused and strategic since we developed a detailed sustainability plan in mid-2008.”

Schneider National of Green Bay regularly submits its sustainability efforts to Green Masters. In the heavy fuel consumption industry of transportation and logistics, Schneider has been committed to energy efficiency for three decades.

“We are very proud to call Wisconsin home. We are equally proud to be one of the most energy-efficient fleets in the transportation industry. The chance to earn a sustainability distinction honoring Wisconsin companies was extremely appealing to our company,” said Steve Matheys, Schneider’s chief administrative officer, who oversees the sustainability team.

Green practices & the bottom line

ThedaCare has numerous sustainability projects taking place at its facilities. Linzmeyer gave a few examples.

“We have been re-purposing single-use medical devices, which saved us almost $800,000 in 2013. We have been diverting almost 100 tons of operating-room waste from the landfill through our recycling efforts. The last several construction projects have diverted almost 70 percent of waste from landfills to recycling.”

The recycling means lower tipping fees for ThedaCare, while the energy-conservation projects have a one- to three-year return on investment, Linzmeyer noted.

Another sustainability project involves increasing the use of locally grown food at ThedaCare facilities. ThedaCare donated funds to Riverview Gardens in Appleton for the construction of five hoop houses, with the intent for the gardens to be one of the food suppliers for ThedaCare hospitals.

“We feel that if we can build a local food hub with an innovative, high-technology information and distribution system, that we can bring down the cost of the local food options and make them competitive with more traditional options,” explained Linzmeyer. “Our mission is to build healthy communities and if we are going to succeed, we must include building healthy, accessible, nutritious and affordable food systems.”

In 2012 alone, KI had 35 material-reduction and recycled-content improvement projects.

Examples included re-designing a table-folding mechanism to reduce the amount of material used; switching from paper-based MSDS, drawings, price lists and work instructions to digital versions; recycling scrap wood for boiler fuel instead of landfilling it; and reclaiming black powder used in powder coating.

The company also incorporates recycled, recyclable and renewable materials into its products, such as bio-based foam or recycled aluminum and steel, Evenson noted. Additionally, KI also has set reduction goals for greenhouse-gas emissions, water use and energy use at all of its North American facilities.

“In 2012, KI Wisconsin facilities saw a 6.2 percent reduction in materials, diverted 500,179 pounds from landfills, and achieved a cost savings equating to $507,201,” Evenson said.

In the paper industry, Appvion was among the first to measure and work to reduce its carbon footprint.

“We have introduced new or redesigned products and design platforms that help make product development ‘greener’ by streamlining product designs to use fewer chemicals, increasing design efficiency to use smaller quantities of chemicals, and substituting ingredients that reduce the impact on the environment,” said Van Den Brandt. For its efforts, Appvion was among the first Wisconsin firms in 2010 to receive the Green Masters designation. It’s earned the Green Masters credential each year since.

Making a case for sustainability

In 2013, marine engine manufacturer Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac also earned a Green Master designation. Since 2011, the company’s Fond du Lac operations have conserved energy in the form of 14 billion British thermal units (BTUs) of building heat. Water conservation equaled 250,000 gallons.

Its products are greener, too. Emissions from Mercury’s outboard engines have been reduced and fuel economy has been improved over the years. A new paint system installed in the Fond du Lac plant in 2011 resulted in a 50 percent reduction in volatile organic compound air emissions and a 50 percent reduction in paint-related hazardous wastes. Almost all of the aluminum used to make engines comes from recycled material.

“We have historically made sustainable activities an integral part of our core business practices, and we began formulizing them under company-wide policies in 2011 to ensure measurement and achievement,” said Mark Schwabero, Mercury president.

Schneider National’s ongoing efforts in fuel efficiency conserve more than 26 million gallons of fuel and reduce more than 300,000 tons of carbon byproducts annually, Matheys noted. For example, Schneider spent $19.8 million in 2012 on incentives that reward drivers for practicing fuel management techniques. The company has been testing natural gas-fueled tractors within its fleet and plans to expand the number of trucks this year.

The insurance industry can go through a lot of office products like paper, electronics and furniture. Appleton-based Secura Insurance, which is new to Green Masters, set up a green committee in 2010 to manage resources and reduce environmental impact.

Numerous recycling efforts at Secura include paper and cardboard, batteries, office electronics, and even employees’ electronics from home, as well as food composting. Printer and copier use is monitored and minimized, with printers on the duplex setting.

Green Bay-based Northeast Wisconsin Technical College created a sustainability team this past year involving faculty and students. Onsite changes to its campus include water filling stations, low-energy restroom remodels, and a building addition that uses advanced energy monitoring software, light tubes and a green roof, according to Amy Kox, associate dean for the energy and sustainability programs.

“The instructor and students in the Energy Management program have completed numerous energy audits for the college and local businesses as part of service learning,” said Kox. “The Solar Energy (program) students submitted grant applications to Focus on Energy for three solar installations on the Green Bay campus and were awarded these grants.”

Sustainable Food & Agriculture Systems program students have a campus organic garden and raised money for a student scholarship by selling community-supported agriculture shares and produce.

“We believe that these programs will provide the educated graduates ready to work, manage and operate green businesses of the future,” said Kox. “We believe we, as an organization, need to live what we teach.”

The right thing to do

For some businesses, sustainability efforts may be made even when they create costs instead of savings.

“Our sustainability plan has a triple bottom line to balance our environmental, economic and social impacts,” said Appvion’s Van Den Brandt. “We consider sustainability in everything we do. In many cases being a good environmental steward provides economic benefits; in some instances sustainability may create additional costs for our company.”

NWTC’s Energy Management team measures the amount of time required to pay back the initial investment in an energy savings project, Kox said, but “payback is not all that is considered.”

“There are some projects that we have done that have a longer payback. We do these projects because they are important to us in terms of how we live our sustainability values and how the project may be useful for our students in terms of exposure to new technologies.”

As KI CEO Dick Resch put it, “Sustainability is about striving for continual improvement every step of the way. To us, sustainability isn’t just about ‘going green.’ It’s a fundamental way of doing business – one that conserves natural resources and reduces waste, consumption and operating costs.”

From “College Facilities As Living Laboratories for Sustainability” — College campuses across the country have been expanding their focus on sustainable practices with facilities, operations, and curriculum. These efforts have been bolstered by the efforts of several high-profile national associations such as the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and Sustainability, Education and Economic Development (SEED).

One of the most prominent elements of this trend is that sustainable facilities not only reduce operating costs, but also serve as learning spaces for students … a concept referred to as living laboratories. Sustainable practices can be incorporated into a wide range of programs, from technician training to managing sustainable systems.

In Wisconsin, Western Technical College is extending the concept of facilities as living laboratories with two new initiatives: Passive House Construction and Applied Hydro Technology.

Passive House Construction
Western Technical College has existing associate degree and diploma programs in Building Systems Technology, Wood Technics, Architecture Technician, Landscape and Horticulture Technology and Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technician. These programs provide a stream of graduates with excellent job placement rates in their respective areas. Though there has been some coordination in curriculum and projects, these programs for the most part are stand alone. That is changing with the faculty-led initiative to develop Passive Houses.

Passive House technology has an established presence in Europe and emerging presence in the United States. Passive houses use ultra insulation and air circulation techniques to reduce energy consumption by at least 80 percent. By adding alternative energy elements such as solar panels, a passive house can exceed 90 percent reduced energy consumption.

In order to provide instruction in passive house technology, the five programs involved in the initiative must integrate their curriculum. And, the ability to construct real homes would be ideal.

The college entered into a community partnership with Hillview Urban Agriculture Center (HUAC) … an organization that promotes locally grown food and healthy eating. HUAC was located in a century old greenhouse located in a residential neighborhood in La Crosse, Wis. The building inefficiency placed a real burden on the operational viability of the organization. Western Technical College partnered with HUAC to relocate the greenhouse to the college campus. In turn, HUAC donated the land (three city lots) from the old greenhouse site to be developed into passive houses. Once the homes are constructed, they will be sold to private owners.

By developing these houses, the five programs will be adding a new dimension … an integrated curriculum in passive house technology. Over the years, the college built more than two dozen traditional homes as part of a neighborhood revitalization program for the City of La Crosse. Now the college looks forward to building energy-efficient, passive-rated homes.

Hydro Technology and the Angelo Dam
Prior to 2013, Western Technical College did not offer a hydro technology program. But as a signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, the college was seeking opportunities for alternative energy sources. One presented itself when Monroe County decided to sell a dam on the La Crosse River, approximately one-third mile from Western’s public safety facility. The County no longer wished to maintain the dam and in 2011, offered to sell it to the college for $1. An engineering analysis determined that the structure was in excellent shape and could easily accommodate new hydro technology equipment. In September 2013, the college received Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) approval and the hydro equipment is currently being installed. The dam will be powered and generating electricity in December 2013.

The newly powered dam will allow the college to offer a five-course certificate in hydro technology in 2014 … a certificate that is unique in the upper Midwest. The college will also offer a technical seminar on How to Power a Dam. And, since there are more than 600 non-energy producing dams in the state of Wisconsin, there is great potential for influencing increased use of hydro technology as a viable alternative energy source in the upper Midwest.

Back to the Concept of Living Laboratories
So, these are interesting program initiatives in sustainability, but how do they serve as unique examples for living laboratories? First of all, both initiatives literally pay for themselves. The passive houses will be sold one at a time, with the proceeds of the sale being used to build the next house. The Angelo Dam will generate 1.2 million kwh per year with the energy sold to a regional utility. The annual revenue will cover the annual borrowing payments for the hydro equipment. Ultimately, once the equipment is paid for, the energy generated will be equivalent to removing the college’s six satellite locations from the grid. Even a LEED Platinum building has to assume the cost of construction as part of the overall cost.

Western is pleased to see these two new initiatives launched. But beyond their program impact, we also realize that a new door is being opened. On the other side, lies community-based facilities as living laboratories and new educational opportunities for colleges and universities.


From “Partnership allows Western students to build “green” — La Crosse – Imagine saving up to 90% off your utility bill. Students at Western Technical College will build a home that efficient thanks to a new partnership.

Western, Mayo Clinic Health System, The Hillview Urban Ag Center, and the La Crosse Community Foundation are working together to deconstruct the old Hillview green houses and build in their place 3 energy efficient homes.

Organizers broke ground on the first home Thursday morning. The homes feature “passive” technology; a construction model that focuses on sustainability.

Western students from multiple programs will help build the homes. The first of which is expected to be finished early next year.

Video from


From “Gateway offers sustainability camp” — KENOSHA — Gateway Technical College is offering hands-on sustainability camp for students who have this year completed sixth through eighth grades. Camp will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 22-25 at the Center for Sustainable Living on the Gateway Technical College Kenosha Campus, 3520 30th Ave.

The Youth Leaders in Sustainability summer camp is a four-day event which provides students a way to engage in the “green” issues of the day. Experienced Gateway Technical College instructors and other local experts lead exploratory, hands-on activities in areas of water and resource conservation, forestry, bird ecology, urban farming, horticulture, environmental technologies and hands-on service learning projects.

Campers will build a solar car, learn how to plant and care for vegetables and build a freshwater filtration system, among many other activities. In addition to activities at the center, field trips are also planned.

Cost to attend is $99. Registration includes lunches, snacks and a T-shirt. To register, go to and select Professional Development, and then Youth Leaders in Sustainability. For more information, contact Stephanie Sklba at or (262) 564-2662.

From “MATC hosting sustainability summit” — Business and education leaders and sustainability experts from the Milwaukee area and around the world are gathering in downtown Milwaukee to trade ideas on systems and practices that sustain the economy and planet for future generations.

Milwaukee Area Technical College is hosting the 10th annual “Sustainability Summit and Exposition” at the Delta Center. The theme of this year’s summit is “Sustainability – An Economic & Ecological Imperative.”

It used to be called the Green Energy Summit but the name changed to reflect the broadened scope of the conference, a collaboration of people from business, education and government.

The summit runs March 6-8 at the Delta Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. The public is invited and registration is $250 for the full conference or $150 for one day. Students get in free of charge.


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