Madison has a reputation for being the “green capital” of Wisconsin; however, smaller cities and towns around the state are following Madison’s lead by putting many sustainable initiatives into practice. Some communities have started new recycling programs, while others are more interested in creating community gardens, yet all of them have the same goal - to create cleaner, more sustainable communities.
Unfortunately, sometimes getting the resources, financial backing, or even “know-how” to create these sustainable communities can be incredibly difficult. Sure it’s exciting to think of switching to more renewable energy, implementing complete streets, or improving recycling programs. Nevertheless, towns and communities often need help and advice to get these initiatives off the ground and moving, and that is where the Green Tier Legacy Communities (GTLC) come into play.
In December 2010, the Madison-based environmental advocacy organization, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, formed a GTLC Charter that will be in effect until December 1st, 2015. This Charter is a unique collaboration between Wisconsin communities, non-profit organizations, and state agencies to assist communities with developing and putting into practice sustainable measures. It was signed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Municipal Environmental Group Wastewater Division, Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp, the Federal Agencies of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The official mission of GTLC is to help communities across Wisconsin move constantly toward a sustainable future through initiatives that advance environmental stewardship, economic growth, public health, and social equity. Currently, there are eleven cities and villages participating in the program, and they all have direct access to a Wisconsin DNR resource team that assists them with any goals they have set. Many of the communities have created Smart Growth plans to build up from.
While the Charter provides the “best management” strategies for energy usage, land use, transportation, water, and water usage, it is the city or village that ultimately decides what sustainable initiatives they want to implement and will find most useful. For example, over the past few years, the city of Middleton converted traffic signals and downtown streetlights to LED lighting. More recently, the town launched Clean & Green events twice a year for the collection of large and special collection waste that can be recycled or re-used instead of being taken to the landfill. Not to mention, the town of 17,000 has established its own community gardens and even added a permanent collection spot at the local Police Department for unwanted pharmaceuticals so residents don’t flush them down the drain.
So although Madison is continually voted as one of the greenest, most sustainable cities in the country, many of Wisconsin’s smaller cities are working hard to improve the quality of life for their respective communities through sustainable practices.
Is your city or town implementing any interesting sustainable initiatives?
Credits: Images by Kaylie Duffy. Data linked to sources.