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WEI in 2022: A Defining Year Focused on Climate Change and Democracy

“We can have a clean economy that works for everyone, invests in innovation and rewards those who lead on creating a more just and sustainable world. By investing in clean energy, clean transportation, clean manufacturing, and natural carbon solutions while we green our infrastructure and electrify our building stock, we can address climate change and create a more resilient, vibrant, and thriving Wisconsin.”

“Each of us has a role to play to ensure free and fair elections. Anti-democracy efforts that weaken voting rights will only lead to a more extremely partisan and autocratic one-party rule that favors special interests at the expense of local businesses, workers, families, communities, and our environment.”

Here is a recap and highlights of WEI’s work in 2022:

A Defining Moment in the Fight Against Climate Change

WEI Co-founder & Director John Imes attended COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt as an NGO observer and delegate with the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN). COP27 is the biggest climate event of the year and represents a defining moment in the fight against climate change. See John’s blog that was highlighted by WisPolitics/WisOpinion and ASBN.

Climate Fast Forward!

WEI worked with the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and other climate and energy leaders to plan and organize Climate Fast Forward, a statewide event that brought together four hundred stakeholders to create the best solutions for Wisconsin. John and WEI Board member Tom Eggert led the Green Jobs & The New Economy Track that produced a background white paper  and guest column, New Wisconsin Economy Will Create Green Jobs published in The Capital TimesWisconsin, and other media sources. Watch for the full Climate Fast Forward conference report early in 2023!

Climate Tech on The Road to COP 27

WEI attended a great VERGE 22 climate tech event as a follow up to Climate Fast Forward on the road to COP 27. Thousands of leaders — from business, government, NGOs, and startups — came together to address climate solutions across six strategic areas including clean energy, sustainable transportation, carbon removal, regenerative food systems, net-zero buildings, and tech entrepreneurship. See John’s recap.

A Big (Freaking) Green Deal!

This changes everything! The *Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will invest $369 billion in energy security and climate programs over the next ten years! “The time is right for Wisconsin to advance a more sustainable economy that works for all,” said WEI Co-founder & Director John Imes. “This historic climate legislation will make investments in energy security, such as wind, solar, and carbon reduction projects that provide multiple benefits, including clean energy generation/battery storage, emission reductions, plus deficit reduction and thousands of green jobs – the kind of family-supporting jobs that once anchored the American middle class.”

*WEI applauds the American Sustainable Business Network's efforts in support of the historic Inflation Reduction Act and advocacy on behalf of American businesses that support building a more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive economy. WEI Co-founder & Director John Imes serves on the ASBN Climate & Energy Working Group.

Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan!

John attended a great “Evening of Renewable Energy” event for Governor Tony Evers who announced the release of the first State of Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan. The state-wide plan provides a roadmap to transition Wisconsin to a clean energy economy that:

  • Achieves 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050
  • Creates more than 40,000 jobs by 2030
  • Meets the Paris Agreement Goals
  • Protects human and environmental health and ensures environmental justice

Read the Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan. “The Clean Energy Plan will help strengthen the middle class by creating family-supporting jobs in clean energy manufacturing while also reducing burdensome energy costs,” said John Imes, Co-founder and Director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. “We can move beyond our dependence on fossil fuels to reduce the power and influence of global oil markets, address climate change and create a more resilient and sustainable economy that works for all.”

Artful, Urban, Green-Built Community!

John joined Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) CEO Elmer Moore Jr., Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, former Council President Syed Mustajab Abbas, and other community members at the ribbon-cutting for Ella Apartments, a new landmark affordable housing community at the old site of Ella’s Deli in Madison. Congrats to New Year Investments for another great Green Built certified project!

Grun auf Deutsch

WEI co-sponsored a great Madison Freiburg Sister City event at Monona Terrace to welcome the Mayor of Freiburg, Germany, and his delegation to Madison. -- Freiburg is recognized as an international leading green city. In her welcome address, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that "This visit is an opportunity for us to exchange ideas and innovations for the benefit, not just of our cities, but of our planet as well."

As part of a state delegation to Germany in 2004, WEI led a group to Freiburg to see first-hand innovative solar housing developments and green infrastructure projects. See John Imes recap of the trip.

Badger Bounce Back!

John joined Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld, Wisconsin State Representative Shelia Stubbs, leaders from the City of Madison, Wisconsin State Government, and Monroe Street Merchants Association members to hear heartfelt stories from business owners about the challenges they faced during the pandemic and how state Badger Bounce Back grants helped them survive and recover!

Business for Democracy!

John joined business organizations and individuals, including Camille Carter of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Mathias Lemos Castillo of the Latino Professionals Association, Inc., Dan Guerra Jr. of Altus Campus, and others to elevate the issue of democracy and the need to pass voting reforms in Congress to protect both our democracy and economy! See John’s guest column, "Thriving economy, improved environment need well-functioning democracy."

Lake Wingra Watershed Gathering!

WEI helped organize the Lake Wingra Watershed Gathering at Vilas Park featuring watershed presentations, family-friendly activities, and water stewardship practices that all could learn from! Thanks to the WATER Team and all the sponsors for pulling together a great community event!

Clean Energy Infrastructure for the 21st Century!

WEI attended a great Wisconsin Technology Council event highlighting NextGen Highways Coalition's effort to combine electric vehicle charging, broadband, and buried high-voltage DC transmission along highway rights-of-way to advance a 21st-century clean energy economy. Wisconsin is well positioned to lead the way with its regulatory siting and $7 billion in clean energy development planned over the next decade.

Leadership Needed to Expand EV Charging Network

Another Wisconsin Technology Council event featured the electric vehicle industry and related infrastructure. There, John highlighted the Wisconsin opportunity for first-mover, competitive advantage that benefits the state’s green economy, including our Travel Wisconsin "Green" brand, enhanced ability to attract and retain talent, and create jobs and investment within the emerging Wisconsin clean energy supply chain.

GreenBiz 22

WEI attended *GreenBiz 22 the premier event for sustainable business leaders, with more than 1,200 professionals, safe protocols, valuable connections, and over 60+ sessions including GreenBiz guru Joel Makower and Paul Polman (Net-Positive strategies), ESG and sustainable finance, climate policy making, regenerative agriculture, diversity, equity and inclusion and more!

*Special thanks to Wisconsin based SC Johnson for hosting and inviting John Imes to join an intimate evening discussion on the evolution of the sustainability agenda, with chief sustainability officers and executives from General Motors, Starbucks, Ocean Conservancy, Tyson Foods, GlobalScan, Persefoni, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and Forum for the Future.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law!

WEI attended the *Infrastructure event featuring Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, DOT Secretary Craig Thompson, Jeff Stone (MMSD) discussing the potential to boost the trades, roads/bridges, water, transit, rail, green infrastructure, and clean energy manufacturing.

*Wisconsin should leverage its industrial heritage and manufacturing might to get a meaningful slice of the $8.6 billion in funding for clean energy manufacturing and workforce development under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law!

Badger Volunteers!

Many thanks to the Morgridge Center for Public Service Badger Volunteers for their great work with WEI in 2022 including a Wingra Boats tour of Lake Mendota shoreland best practices, visiting green infrastructure sites, touring the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Nature and History Trail, Green Built project certification site visits, solar light-string decorating of street lamp posts and learning opportunities along Monroe Street, plus visits to Bayview Foundation Inc., Garver Feed Mill, and Madison College built “right-sized” Tiny Homes.

WEI social media posts reached over 90,000 people in 2022 with 22 posts resulting in over 11,000 link clicks or post engagements. Check out WEI’s Facebook page and be sure to "Like" and leave comments on our social media to let us know how we're doing.

For more on WEI, please visit our website.

Want to support WEI? Please make a fully tax-deductible contribution as an individual donor or join WEI as a sponsor.

Thanks to all our partners and sponsors for another great year!

“Combined with the just-enacted bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Build Back Better Act is milestone legislation that can help move Wisconsin forward and create a more resilient economy that works for all,” said John Imes, Co-Founder & CEO of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. “From strengthening the middle class, addressing climate change, updating our infrastructure, ensuring income equality, and supporting clean water, and regenerative agriculture — all provisions that will help broaden Wisconsin’s prosperity and make an economic recovery for all possible.”

Here is a recap and highlights of WEI’s work in 2021:

Executive Director, John Imes participated with the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) during virtual D.C. fly-in meetings with ten members of Congress including Rep. Mark Pocan (WI) and legislative staff on both sides of the aisleSee John's guest column in support of the bipartisan infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills to address economic, environmental, workplace, and social issues that will broaden Wisconsin’s prosperity. 

WEI sponsored and helped organize the virtual luncheon event 'How Will Bills to Boost Infrastructure Affect Wisconsin's Green Economy?'

The lineup included David Kieve, director of Public Engagement for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Veteran DC journalist Lou Jacobson and two state lawmakers, Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, a member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and vice-chair of the Senate Transportation and Local Government Committee. *WEI is partnering with and on how the state can make the most of possible once-in-a-generation boost to a wide array of programs benefiting the green economy. Watch the event here.

Thanks to and WisBiz Green for also highlighting John’s blog recap of GreenBiz21, the premier annual event for sustainable business that explores market and policy shifts for a more sustainable, just economy.

Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Act Will Deliver for Wisconsin! 
*Thanks to members of the Wisconsin delegation, including Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Gwen Moore, and Senator Tammy Baldwin who voted for once-in-a-generation funding to create good-paying, family-supporting jobs to help build back our state including $6+ billion for roads, bridges, and public transportation, $100+ million for reliable high-speed internet, $79+ million for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, plus $841 million in critical water infrastructure and more! 

From Crisis to Opportunity: Executive Director, John Imes provided testimony for the Joint Committee on Finance.

"...From strengthening the middle class, addressing climate change, updating our infrastructure, ensuring income equality, and supporting clean water, and regenerative agriculture – all actions you can take in this budget to advance a more resilient and sustainable economic recovery..."

Highest-scoring Green Built Certified Affordable Housing Project in Wisconsin! 
Congratulations to West CAP and Gerrard Corporation for their work to develop 1300 Residences, the highest-scoring Green Built Certified affordable housing project in Wisconsin!
Featuring Smartflower solar tracking technology and a 580-rooftop solar panel installation, plus state-of-the-art air-source heat pumps and energy-efficient insulated glass windows, 1300 Residences represents the cutting edge of green-built, solar-based affordable living! By combining innovative energy technologies with conservation measures, 1300 Residences will meaningfully address climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions up to 300 tons per year!

WEI joined Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) Executive Director Joaquin Altoro and other community leaders and partners to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Limerick Senior Apartments and Townhomes in Fitchburg. The 127-unit Northpointe Development affordable housing project will be built to WEI’s Green-Built standards and feature a series of bioswales/bioretention basins to protect a nearby wetland and Nine Springs Conservancy plus over 300 solar panels (PV) electric system.

Executive Director, John Imes visited Sheboygan to tour the “Green Built Certified” Badger State Lofts, a converted former tannery into a mixed-use residential community. *Another example of how we can transform old, underutilized buildings and infrastructure to create jobs and affordable housing while addressing climate change and building a greener Wisconsin economy.

In 2021, the scoring criteria for multifamily projects increased the Green Built Home standard score from 150 to 200 points or more, increasing the positive economic, social, and environmental impact of affordable housing projects statewide!

Thanks to the Monroe Street Merchants Association (MSMA)  for recognizing and celebrating Wisconsin Environmental Initiative‘s volunteer work on Monroe Street, Executive Director, John Imes service on the MSMA board, and the recent sale of Arbor House, a national award-winning inn that John and his wife Cathie owned and operated for more than 27 years! Watch this 2-minute video with highlights of Arbor House over the years and our projects on Monroe Street!

Holiday Glow on Monroe!
Executive Director, John Imes joined Morgridge Center for Public Service Badger Volunteers on Monroe Street to decorate streetlamps with holiday garlands, plus solar light strings donated by WEI: A reminder to shop local every holiday season!

Thanks to the UW Public Interest Law Foundation for inviting Executive Director John Imes to present at their Community Justice Week event. Great opportunity to highlight Green-Built affordable housing projects, green building trends, and policy opportunities at the state, local, and national levels.

Model rain garden project spurs stormwater education
John also joined fellow volunteers to plant two rain gardens located behind Wingra School in the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood. The rain gardens will mitigate and infiltrate runoff from the school's playground to help protect the Lake Wingra watershed and provide educational activities for students.

Thanks to the Morgridge Center for Public Service for inviting Executive Director, John Imes to present and share his experiences with Badger Volunteers including policy priorities and actions we can take to advance a more resilient and sustainable future that works for all. John also spoke with students from the UW–Madison Ethical and Responsible Business Network – ERBN about Triple Bottom Line strategies and the need for a sense of urgency to change “business as usual” and “politics as usual”.

Thanks to PLATO — Participatory Learning & Teaching Organization for inviting John to speak about the many ways we can advance a more sustainable Wisconsin economy. Special emphasis on the once-in-a-generation funding ($500 billion for climate!) from the proposed bi-partisan infrastructure package and Build Back Better Act!

Wisconsin Environmental Initiative is a proud member of the American Sustainable Business Network and attended the ASBN Business for a Just & Sustainable Economy event featuring Climate & Energy Policy and Business for Democracy Policy Working Group meetings; Climate Resilience, Economic Justice and Building the NEXT Economy; plus an event at Ocean View Growing Grounds,  an established community garden, food forest and learning center with local neighborhood residents.

John also attended a great Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council annual conference featuring remarks by Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and presentations for business leaders and sustainability professionals working to advance sustainable principles and best practices.

WEI social media posts reached over 150,000 people in 2021 with 50 posts resulting in over 12,000 link clicks or post engagements. Check out WEI’s Facebook page and be sure to "Like" and leave comments on our social media to let us know how we're doing.

For more on WEI, please visit our website.

Want to support WEI? Please make a fully tax-deductible contribution as an individual donor or join WEI as a sponsor.

Thanks to all our partners and sponsors for another great year!


Staying Resilient in 2020

"We can recover from these challenging times, but only if we bridge the divide in our politics and work together to lay a foundation of high-road progressive policies and practices that take better care of our local businesses, workers, families and communities. Indeed, isn’t that what making the economy work for all is all about?" — John Imes

Here is a recap and highlights of WEI’s work in 2020:

Executive Director John Imes guest column: Making the Economy Work for All highlights WEI's work with the American Sustainable Business Council national working group to address COVID-19 and lay the groundwork for a stronger, more sustainable and resilient recovery. *See the group's report: From Crisis to Opportunity: Recommendations for State & Local Governments

WEI sponsored and helped organize the "Earth Day: The Next 50 Years" virtual event that featured remarks by Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, and state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, and a member of the task force. Executive Director John Imes joined the panel discussion focused on environmental, conservation, transportation, and business trends over the next 50 years. Watch the event.

WEI attended Green Biz 20, the premier annual event for sustainability leaders with 1,500 professionals representing leading companies, government, and NGOs to explore new directions, make connections, share successes and find more effective ways to advance policymaking and climate solutions. WisPolitics/WisBusiness highlighted John’s blog about the event for readers statewide.

"These are extraordinary times, the defining decade where we finally show a sense of urgency that “business as usual” is no longer an option. The world is demanding solutions to the climate crisis; our young people are demanding bold action...what will our answer be? Each of us has a role to play and a responsibility to act. What will your role be?" — John Imes

Executive Director John Imes spoke with students from the UW–Madison Ethical and Responsible Business Network – ERBN about Triple Bottom Line strategies and the need for a sense of urgency to change “business as usual” and “politics as usual”.

John is also a member of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) Climate & Energy Working Group and attended the ASBC– Social Venture Circle Virtual Conference “Remaking & Revitalizing the Economy”. ASBC led a year-long effort to outline the major crises the nation now faces, from racism to climate meltdown, and prepared a 100-page blueprint (Creating an Economic System That Works For All) for business leaders and elected officials at all levels to learn from and implement.

“As we look to build back better in the wake of COVID-19, our racial reckoning and the need for solutions to address climate change, we have the opportunity and responsibility to advance public policies and find better ways to work together to create a more just, equitable, sustainable, inclusive and resilient future that works for all”. — John Imes

WEI Is Still All In: In the 5 years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, over 4,000 U.S. cities, states, tribal nations, businesses, and others have stepped up to keep our country advancing towards “Americas Pledge on Climate.” Now, it’s time to go all in.

“As we continue to deal with a public health crisis, a struggling economy and racial injustice, we must also look to the looming threat of the climate crisis,” said John Imes, Executive Director of WEI. “In our commitment to addressing climate, WEI is Still All In and we look forward to doing our part to push for bold action that includes supporting the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change Report and working to create an economy that works for all.”

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) new scoring criteria for multifamily projects will increase the Green Built Home standard score from 150 to 200 points or more, increasing the positive economic, social and environmental impact of affordable housing projects statewide. Certified projects in 2020 totaled over 2,500 homes and WHEDA low-income housing units built or remodeled to WEI’s Green Built Home standards.

Our work with the UW Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service Badger Volunteers was limited in 2020 due to COVID-19, but we still managed to get out and volunteer for Monroe Street Green initiatives including the holiday decoration of over three dozen lamp posts along Monroe Street with evergreens, bows and festive solar light strings donated by WEI. Executive Director John Imes also serves on the Monroe Street Merchants Association Board.

WEI served on the planning committee for Wisconsin Business Leadership Roundtable 2020 — A visionary virtual conference to kickstart a dialogue about business leading on climate change in today’s transformative times. The event featured keynotes by Tom Boldt, CEO of the Boldt Company and Jeff Thompson, CEO Emeritus of Gundersen Health Systems, plus panel experts on navigating the way forward.

WEI social media posts reached over 220,000 people in 2020 with 26 posts resulting in over 20,000 link clicks or post engagements. Check out WEI’s Facebook page and be sure to "Like" and leave comments on our social media to let us know how we're doing.

Need a plug? Who doesn't these days? Pass along your news and updates here, so WEI can spread the word about your successes to our followers.

For more on WEI, please visit our website.

Want to support WEI? Please make a fully tax-deductible contribution as an individual donor or join WEI as a sponsor.

Thanks to all our partners and sponsors for another great year!

Verge 18


Wisconsin has become a low-road state with policymaking that favors well connected interests over the environment, workers and our communities. This week I’m attending the VERGE18 conference and expo in Oakland, California. The three-conference event will be packed with over 2500 attendees including leaders from companies and utilities, city and regional governments, policymakers, NGOs, solution providers, and startups – all focused on finding ways to accelerate the clean economy through technology and sustainability. I plan to post a recap of each day on my blog at

Some highlights from the first day:

A half-day deep dive on understanding the circular economy by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that reimagines the traditional “take-make-waste” linear industrial model in favor of a system that designs out waste and pollution, decouples economic growth from natural resource consumption, increases resource productivity and regenerates natural systems:

Among the case studies highlighted include Tesla’s interest in creating autonomous vehicle mobility services so cars can be make available to multiple users (rather than sitting idle as many cars do 92% of the time) while generating a financial return for owners. Y Closet, a start-up in China that charges a monthly fee to rent high-end clothing and accessories could help reduce the significant waste and environmental impacts of the fashion industry. Grover, a high-end technology rental business for cameras, Apple products, and other devices encourages their customers to Buy Less, Experience More. Fat Lama, is another company where you can borrow almost anything.

Rather than manufacturing and shipping new furniture, Open Desk provides unique digital files so their furniture can be produced locally with reclaimed materials and local labor. Tool Libraries that use unused book shelf space are starting to pop up to encourage community tool rental.

Another company called Spacious matches up underutilized space like restaurant dining rooms that don’t serve lunch as drop-in work spaces. British Sugar captures their carbon dioxide for use by a carbonated drink maker and installed one of the region’s largest greenhouses to use excess carbon dioxide and waste heat for tomato and salad green production and reportedly, medical marijuana. 

To help address food waste, Toast Ale makes a very popular beer brand from leftover stale bread and a new software tracking system helps restaurants reduce food waste 40-70%.

Replenish creates reusable packaging that includes concentrated solutions to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of transporting large quantities of water-based products. Ohoo created biodegradable and edible water blobs made of seaweed extract to reduce water bottle plastic waste generated by races and other large sporting events.

Local government plays a key leadership role in fostering clean business and the circular economy with policy making that includes the creative use of public buildings and infrastructure for start-ups, supports business certification and creates effective partnerships. For example, the Mayor of Oakland proclaimed this week as Clean Economy Week “ recognize the role that the East Bay can play in furthering a more resilient and equitable economy — both locally and globally..."

A backdrop to the event is the labor strike by Marriott hotel workers including housekeepers, front desk attendants, restaurant employees, bellhops and most anyone else not in a management position. To their credit, the VERGE18 organizers are supporting the workers in an open letter and call “for a labor contract that allows their employees to be paid a living wage and doesn’t require them to work more than one job to make ends meet.”

It’s simple. Providing a livable fair wage, family friendly benefits, work-life balance, education and training opportunities and community engagement are all ways companies can pledge to operate as responsible, high-road employers in the emerging clean economy.

Day two will focus on transportation and mobility solutions and ways we can advance clean technologies under today’s contentious political climate, plus lessons and successes tying together transportation electrification, clean energy, public health and economic justice.

To see a few photos from the first day, please visit here.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.

VERGE18 — Day 2


Day two of #VERGE18 explored emerging technologies and partnerships with an emphasis on clean, efficient transportation and ways we can advance clean technologies under today’s contentious political climate. Some highlights from the second day:

  • Inspiring and informative sessions on vehicle electrification, autonomous technologies, sharing systems and connected infrastructure.
  • Displays of sustainable transportation options - including an electrically-powered City bus, semi-truck and cars. Plus a solar-powered charging station and EV test drives.
  • Progress despite politics — a session with a Red State PSC Chairman on ways to advance grid modernization that would allow for more distributed energy generation on the grid, including wind, solar, and combined heat and power.
  • A discussion on purchasing electricity from offshore wind farms including the financial, technological, environmental and social benefits/challenges. Experts predict that the global offshore wind market will grow sixfold by 2030. Offshore wind has good potential for Wisconsin and the Great Lakes, particularly at locations near former nuclear and coal power plants that have robust transmission systems already in place, but are underutilized.
  • A series of fast-pitch competitions for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to the many business leaders, government officials and investors attending on ways to accelerate energy, transportation and circular economy innovations.
  • A discussion with Steve Kerr, head coach of the world champion Golden State Warriors about the importance of collaboration, freedom and self-expression in our politics, community service and social issues.
  • Ways a clean economy including the emerging technologies and policy changes can work better to help underrepresented communities through transportation electrification, clean energy, public health and economic justice.

To see a few photos from the second day, please visit here.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.

VERGE18 — Day 3

The #VERGE18 conference finished up with a focus on energy and the emerging technologies and partnerships we need to decarbonize our energy with renewables, buildings and efficiency, distributed energy and micro-grids and resilience. Some highlights from the last day:

  • Perspectives from utilities, policy makers, city leaders and corporate directors on ways to combine 100 percent renewable energy goals with other low-carbon options including nuclear power, natural gas and hydrogen.
  • Examples of transformational design thinking for affordable housing, office buildings, factories and other facilities that achieve a triple bottom line approach to meet social, ecological and financial goals.
  • A 100% renewably-powered on-site microgrid to help power the event including a renewable energy controller, innovative battery storage, and solar EV charging stations.
  • A discussion on implementing an inclusive clean energy financing strategy for all including ways to engage disadvantaged communities using market-based, utility and government-led options.
  • A panel on the challenges and opportunities to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure across states and the nation.

Proverb: When the wind blows, some build walls while others build windmills.

Wisconsin needs a solid, new direction. We need an economy that works for everyone, invests in innovative policies, technologies and infrastructure and takes the high-road to protect workers and attract and retain talent. The VERGE conference shows us that a a more vibrant and sustainable economy for all is possible, but only if we collaborate and act responsibly to advance what we cannot achieve alone. Together!

WEI 20th Anniversary Video


GreenBiz 21


It’s a new day and once again I enjoyed attending #GreenBiz21, the premier annual event for sustainable business leaders with more than 1,200 professionals. This invitation-only online event featured more than 80 sessions to move beyond business as usual and transition to a more sustainable and just economy. Some highlights:

  • Trees as a pathway to social equity through the newly launched U.S. Chapter of  a community of people committed to conserving, restoring, and growing 1 trillion trees globally by 2030. Gov. Tony Evers serves on the U.S. Stakeholder Council.

*Watch GreenBiz 21 keynote videos on vimeo.

*For more, please visit the GreenBiz 21 feature page.

Thanks to Joel Makower and the great GreenBiz team for pulling together another remarkable event that educates and engages companies, organizations, and stakeholders to advance the market and policy shifts we need to achieve a more just, equitable, sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future that works for all!

GreenBiz 20


These are extraordinary times, the defining decade where we finally show a sense of urgency that “business as usual” is no longer an option. So I looked forward to attending GreenBiz20, the premier annual event for sustainability leaders with 1,500 professionals representing leading companies, government, and NGOs to explore new directions, make connections, share successes and find more effective ways to advance policymaking and climate solutions.

Here are some highlights from an extraordinary two and a half-day event:

A half-day tutorial on the art and science of sustainability storytelling, including how a company can leverage sustainability to set science-based goals, build its brand, attract and retain employees, engage customers and increase investment to drive sales and business success.

A report on the State of Green Business, including key business trends and the current state of the sustainability profession during these turbulent times. — A key success factor? Collaboration.

A talk on how climate change is detrimental to our economic system and what new disclosure legislation could mean for companies, investors, and government with respect to environmental, social and governance issues.  

"Ten years ago, when we talked about sustainability in a boardroom, it was a sidebar," Mindy Lubber, CEO, and president of Ceres. "Now nobody’s rolling their eyes when we say we’re there to talk about sustainability."

Several speakers highlighted the significance of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s letter to CEOs and clients as a “wake-up call” that could reshape how corporate America does business.  As the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, BlackRock will now make investment decisions with environmental sustainability and climate as a core goal.

A talk with yogurt maker Chobani President, Peter McGuinness, on the crisis in the dairy industry that has resulted in the closing of 20,000 dairy farms and the importance of comprehensive fair trade standards to address labor, environmental and animal welfare concerns, increase producer transparency and worker well-being while providing a fair milk price for farmers.

“Sustainability, profitability, and productivity are not mutually exclusive... it’s damn good for business. Today’s consumers, particularly young consumers, demand it.” — Peter McGuinness 

Other sessions highlighting sustainability challenges in the food and farming sectors include the latest innovations to transform farms from carbon sources into carbon sinks, empowering women farmers globally, slashing food waste to combat hunger, creating alternative proteins, and working with farmers to invest in regenerative agriculture practices by using cover crops, and avoiding chemicals, soil tilling, and mono-cropping that negatively impacts the soil and land.

Zero Waste Program: Waste Management's work with TerraCycle event boxes and other partners diverted 100% of the waste generated at GreenBiz by donating leftover food, composting and recycling.

“If food waste were a country it would be the 3rd highest emitter of methane.” Komal Ahmad, Copia Founder & CEO

One of the most important topics introduced at GreenBiz showed why climate public advocacy by companies will be essential to deliver the pace and scale of greenhouse gas emission reductions we need while providing numerous business benefits. The framework that was introduced will help businesses execute a science-based climate policy agenda that 1) advocates for policies consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050; 2) align trade associations with emission reduction goals and 3) allocate spending to advance climate policies, not obstruct them. For more information.

A City of the Future display and an original skit performed by three middle schoolers from Tucson showcased sustainable design, biomimicry, green infrastructure, and multi-use buildings featuring sustainable usage of water. The students were also recognized at the Sustainability Solutions Celebration, an event that brings together the business and academic worlds to celebrate young innovators who have reimagined global challenges to make the world a better place.

A talk with Brian Mecinas, a first-generation Latino-American, first-generation college student, and youth climate activist on the frontlines calling for bold action on climate solutions.

“My generation understands the climate crisis because we don’t have a choice to not understand it. We don’t have time to waste with political niceties. Businesses can, and must, be doing so much more. — Brian Mecinas

That sentiment was captured by CDP President Bruno Sarda who helped set the tone for GreenBiz20: "The clock is ticking. We cannot afford to lose. We have 10 years to make things right and companies are quickly running out of excuses to avoid disclosing their impact and acting on climate."

"We need scale. We’re talking trillions of dollars in opportunities. And we need every single business to step up and show the appetite for transformational change — because incremental is not going to cut it anymore.” — Bruno Sarda 

This will be the defining decade for climate action. The world is demanding solutions to the climate crisis; our young people are demanding bold action...what will our answer be? Each of us has a role to play and a responsibility to act. What will your role be?

To view the plenary sessions, please visit the virtual live stream of the event.

Thanks again to GreenBiz chairman and executive editor Joel Makower and all the great staff and volunteers for making GreenBiz such a globally significant event.  For interviews and a full wrap-up on GreenBiz20, please listen to the GreenBiz Podcast

Verge 19


VERGE 19 — Day 1

Greetings from Oakland, California where I had the privilege of attending the VERGE 19 conference and expo along with 3,000 leaders from companies and utilities, city and state government, policymakers, NGOs and startups -- for three days of inspirational plenary sessions, breakouts and networking opportunities focused on finding ways to accelerate the clean economy.

Here are some highlights from the first day:

A conversation with Governor Gavin Newsom as chief executive of the world’s fifth-largest economy about climate change, innovation and the future of California.

“...I am very proud to live in the most un-Trump state. There is too much at stake. California moves markets and the private sector gets it. We must be audacious and hold ourselves accountable to take action on climate change…” — Gov. Gavin Newsom

A talk on the opportunities for humanity to leverage technology to achieve ecological regeneration by a founding member of Google. 

Lessons learned for decarbonizing our transportation system by the head of the California Air Resources Board.

A rapid-fire VERGE Accelerate pitch competition by the next generation of ecopreneurs working to advance the clean economy.

A pioneer of the environmental equity movement shared lessons on creating prosperity and progress for all. “...The future of our nation depends on the very people we have been leaving behind. Equity means just and fair inclusion into a society where all can participate, prosper and reach their full potential…” — Angela Glover Blackwell

Announcing the City’s official Clean Economy Week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spoke about the many ways in which cities are critical to accelerating the clean economy. Here’s a related story on Oakland’s clean energy economy strategy.

To view the plenary sessions, please visit the virtual live stream of the event

A half-day interactive tutorial on the Future Cities Carbon Action Challenge. With cities creating up to 70% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in transportation, industry and buildings, there are lots of opportunities to rapidly decarbonize our urban areas while we take the time necessary to research and implement more difficult and costly emission reduction options.

To better understand emission reduction opportunities in cities, experts highlighted key issues followed by collaborative discussions among diverse participants to determine the best solutions to implement over a 12-month period. Among the most popular proposals include:

  • Establishing Clean Development Zones that integrate housing and transportation policy, build regional and state support for land use and tax reform, green built energy efficient building codes and incentives.
  • Survey opportunities to incorporate micro-grids, live-work units, zero carbon initiatives, and behavioral education on a neighborhood scale; plus create a stakeholder consortium to help guide and pilot the concept using investment and grant support. 
  • A Housing / Mobility Community Policy XPrize competition on ways to create more equitable cities and leverage climate mitigation as an economic development opportunity using government procurement, workforce development and connect the dots between mitigation, community prosperity and clean energy jobs.

An afternoon breakout panel on Regenerative Agriculture, Carbon Drawdown and the Future of Food highlighted the many ways farmers and ranchers use regenerative agriculture practices to boost their bottom line, improve soil fertility and water quality while pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. The panel included a 4th generation Marin County rancher who highlighted his Stemple Creek Ranch, the nation’s first carbon farm. To incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health, Ecosystems Services Market enables them to voluntarily adjust crop and livestock production systems in ways that increase soil carbon sequestration and retention, improve water quality, and conserve water use.


Day two will feature more plenaries and breakouts on carbon strategies, clean energy leadership, scaling electric transportation systems, the enormous opportunity of the Green New Deal, and scaling (and financing) clean energy for all.

VERGE19 — Days 2 & 3

The final two days of VERGE19 featured more inspirational plenaries and breakouts on the new carbon economy, circularity in the built environment, scaling electric transit, the enormous potential of the Green New Deal, plus energy resilience and how data and technology are advancing sustainability and more...

Some highlights from the last two days:

A conversation between Michigan’s former governor Jennifer Granholm and the CEO of electric bus company Proterra on accelerating the clean economy and workforce development and the role of leadership amid the climate crisis.  

Transit buses are much more suitable to bringing vehicle electrification to scale. Buses are heavy and start and stop up to 500 times per day — it’s one of our best opportunities to reduce diesel and carbon emissions from the transportation sector.  (*For example: China currently has over 95% of the electric bus market with 400,000 buses that save over 270,000 barrels of diesel every day!) Other applications include school buses, municipal fleet vehicles, port and delivery trucks.

Significant job impacts are expected for electric vehicles that only have about 20 moving parts compared to traditional vehicles with up to 2,000 moving parts. How do we transition workers currently maintaining 50,000 diesel buses to complex software fixes for electric vehicles? Technical schools have an important role but we need more “earn and learn” apprenticeship models and a workforce that better reflects the country’s diversity. Employers also need to step up and partner on advanced job training by co-investing with government as a shared responsibility.

California is a model state with 512,000 clean energy jobs. Young people are marching and demanding climate action and bold leadership in red states and blue states. People need to be engaged and fight politics as usual.  

"When I stand at last before the face of God, God will say to me, “Show Me your wounds." And if I say I have no wounds, God will ask, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?" — Jennifer Granholm 

Check out a great presentation on why a Green New Deal is bold, timely and necessary for complete decarbonization.

A roundtable discussion on government incentives highlighted the need for tax cuts, model policies, procurement and specialized programs to grow thriving green industries.

A microgrid interactive tour included Wisconsin’s own Schneider Electric and Faith Technologies equipment with control functionality, battery storage and solar PV to run a 100% renewable microgrid that provides resilient backup power.

A talk by energy efficiency guru and influencer Amory Lovins and how we can optimize buildings, vehicles, industrial processes and factories to save many times more energy than we previously thought, at a lower cost.

A panel on how and why microgrids make sense for companies that need flexible and reliable energy. The panel was led by research director and author Peter Asmus, who served as a keynote speaker at WEI’s Energy Forum many years ago. Read Peter’s recent column on how microgrids can help improve grid resilience given utility PG&E’s power shut-offs and California’s wildfire threat.

A presentation on the incredible developments in high-resolution satellite imagery, machine learning and artificial intelligence to manage in real time land use impacts and leverage technology to further sustainable development goals. 

A session featuring experts from leading companies about the importance of clean energy and climate action to take better care of customers, employees, communities and our world — Indeed, isn’t that what business is all about? Read the column by the former Sustainability Director for Facebook on why it’s time for companies to make the leap.

A youth leadership panel including those on the frontlines demanding climate action and environmental justice. Includes how they are working to create that change and the need for mentorship from business and sustainability leaders.

"People’s power is a lot more powerful than people in power.” — Marlow Baines from Earth Guardians 

To view the plenary sessions, please visit the virtual live stream of the event.

Thanks to GreenBiz chairman and executive editor Joel Makower and all the great staff and volunteers at GreenBiz for making VERGE such a globally significant event.  For interviews and a full wrap-up on VERGE19, listen to the GreenBiz 350 podcast.

Circularity 19


From June 18-20, I attended #Circularity19 by GreenBiz Group, the first major Circular Economy event in North America that brought together over 850 thought leaders from leading companies, government and NGOs on ways to accelerate more sustainable commerce. 

Attendees include representatives from Apple, Google, Cisco, GM, Waste Management, 3M, Timberland, Kohls, Target, Land O’Lakes, UL and Anderson Windows, plus the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, Cradle to Cradle, SFI and the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.

Program tracks emphasized Business Strategy & Innovation, Design & Materials, Logistics & Infrastructure and Food & Water Systems. Some highlights:

  • A half-day tutorial, designed for attendees from all sectors and backgrounds and presented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, provided a foundational understanding of the circular economy — a model that reimagines the traditional “take-make-waste” linear industrial model in favor of a system that designs out waste and pollution, decouples economic growth from natural resource consumption, increase resource productivity and regenerates natural systems.
  • A session on how city leaders are using the transition to a circular economy to create jobs for their communities, providing safe and affordable places to live and improving people’s lives. “Circular Charlotte” is the first US effort to incorporate circular economy principles on a meaningful scale including initiatives for textiles, food and plastic waste, materials innovation and concrete recycling that significantly reduces waste to landfill and CO2 emissions while boosting revenue and creating hundreds of jobs.
  • Cradle to Cradle Jeans: A session with personal hero and influencer Bill McDonough on ways to achieve apparel that is 100% non toxic and biodegradable, 100% designed for its next life, 100% produced with renewable energy, 100% produced with recycled water or water discharges that meet drinking water standards and 100% social fairness.
  • A session on regenerative agriculture and how companies like General Mills, PepsiCo and Land O’Lakes are encouraging farmers and other suppliers to harness innovative practices to rebuild soils, clean our waterways, and draw down carbon dioxide emissions. *Wisconsin could lead the nation by accelerating regenerative agriculture practices to increase farmer’s profits, improve crop yields and reduce nutrient runoff into our drinking water.
  • A session on the innovative food waste reduction and up-cycling system at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas that diverted over 200,000 tons of food waste over 10 years.
  • A keynote on Apple’s “ambition to end mining” by using only recycled or renewable materials in its products and packaging. Apple’s “make, but not take” strategy includes durable design, “Trade-in” pathways to recycling and re-engineering material recovery, including robots that disassemble up to 200 IPhones per hour.  Apple’s recycled tin solder will avoid 29,000 tons of new tin mining in 2019.
  • A session by Google’s Sustainability Officer on ways the company is becoming a circular business to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, promote safe chemistry and healthy materials, refurbished and remanufactured products and perpetual cycling of finite resources. Read Google’s Circular Economy Sustainability Report.
  • Accelerate, a fast-pitch competition on the main stage featured entrepreneurs with innovative technologies, products and services advancing a circular economy.
  • A session on the policy and regulatory tools (including the Netherlands Green Deal) to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Successful policies have incentive mechanisms built in to jump start measures and overcome initial hurdles; plus public/private partnerships and collaboration to build experience and knowledge. Successful policymakers organize platforms for stakeholders and enable flexible and responsive policy design to ensure desired outcomes.
  • A session on how governments, companies and communities can create circular economies to ensure business as usual is no longer an option and can effectively address social justice and equity issues through new policies, better products and innovation.

Creating a circular economy will be an enormous challenge, but one that serves as an opportunity for wealth creation where everyone prospers, including people of color and more vulnerable, marginalized communities. In short, an economy that works for everyone and addresses climate change, social justice and equity outcomes while taking better care of workers. Now all we need is a Green New Deal to bring these solutions to scale and create a more resilient, vibrant and thriving USA.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.

GreenBiz 19

GreenBiz19 pic

It’s a new day in Wisconsin and with new leadership comes the opportunity and responsibility to create an economy that works for everyone and invests in innovative policies, including clean energy, clean manufacturing, water stewardship and regenerative agriculture while we “green” our infrastructure and restore natural systems.

This week I’m fortunate to be in Phoenix to attend #GreenBiz19, the premier annual event for sustainability leaders with more than 1200 influential professionals from leading companies, government and NGOs to connect and explore successful new directions, technologies, systems and policies to accelerate more sustainable economic development. Attendees include representatives from Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Disney along with Wisconsin companies, including: SC Johnson, Kohler Co., Organic Valley and Miller/Coors. Leading NGOs include the Environmental Defense Fund, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Nature Conservancy, and Business for Social Responsibility. Some highlights from the first day:

GreenBiz19: Day 1 — Tuesday, Feb. 26

A half-day working session on Green Finance to address the disconnect between publicly held companies and investors regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and ways we can ensure greater disclosure and transparency for stakeholders. Currently one out of every four dollars invested falls under ESG criteria.  ESGs are also becoming an important credit rating criteria to further demonstrate how sustainability drives business value. 

A tutorial on the ethical circular economy and the systemic ways we can spur innovative product and service development, urban infrastructure and economic development to maximize resources.

A report on The State of Green Business in the context of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress and the sense of urgency and national conversation we’re starting to have that can serve as a call to action — This is our moment!  (See related column: Green New Deal: Wisconsin’s Call to Action)

A panel describing how collaboration between corporate, NGO and investment entities was key to creating a $100 million fund that will implement creative solutions at the scale needed to effectively stop the flow of plastics and other marine debris into our oceans by 2030.  Currently, it’s estimated that over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans each year.  

An inspiring talk by former NFL fullback Ovie Mughelli's about his mission to educate and empower disadvantaged youth through environmental stewardship and helping lay the foundation for career paths available for kids to make a positive impact in their communities.

To see a few photos from the first day, please visit here.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.

Day 2 will feature a plenary with H. Fisk Johnson, CEO and Chairman of SC Johnson on the company’s actions to combat ocean plastics;  The importance of land management and open space, including preserving our forests and other critical habitat as an effective solution to mitigate the effects of climate change; GreenBiz Guru sessions covering 25 different topics; and innovative approaches to water stewardship.


GreenBiz19: Day 2 — Wednesday, Feb. 27

Day two of #GreenBiz19 featured more inspiring sessions exploring the most pressing challenges, emerging trends and promising opportunities to accelerate a sustainable economy. Some highlights from the second day:

Circular Economy: A panel discussion to address the crisis of plastic in our world’s oceans featured Wisconsin based SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson. Johnson highlighted the many ways the company is combating the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, including committing to make 100 percent of its plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. During the panel, he announced SC Johnson will launch in April 2019 the first-ever 100% recycled ocean plastic bottle.

To see the video highlighting SC Johnson’s commitment please visit here.

Johnson was joined by Plastic Bank CEO David Katz. Together, they highlighted the companies’ partnership in Indonesia, where SC Johnson and Plastic Bank have opened eight plastic recycling collection centers to help increase recycling rates in impoverished communities while addressing the challenges of poverty. #SJCRecycles #SocialPlastic

A session on the different ways Certified B Corps can serve as a force for good.  Benefit corporations are a type of corporation that considers its impact on society and the environment in addition to earning a profit. Wisconsin became the 34th state to pass benefit corporation legislation.  On issues from worker's rights to women’s rights and voters rights, clean energy and clean water, Wisconsin businesses have the opportunity to consider social and environmental impacts as B Corps.

A session on natural climate solutions, including how we manage land, forests and critical habitat to build resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change. Examples included case studies on collaborative approaches between government, NGOs and the private sector to advance more climate friendly forest practices.

A session on how sustainable procurement practices can drive innovation and responsible sourcing of forestry products. States can also target incentives, including tax credits, loan guarantees and purchasing preferences for firms with more sustainable practices.

A session on innovative approaches to water stewardship including how some corporations are setting goals to restore 100% of global water use by 2025 and how the Nature Conservancy and National Forest Foundation are implementing successful water stewardship initiatives to replenish water and support the natural resilience of our water environment.

During the evening, the sixth annual Arizona State University (ASU) Sustainability Solutions Celebration was held and brought together business and academia to celebrate young innovators, thinkers and designers who reimagine global challenges.

To see a few photos from the first day, please visit here.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.


GreenBiz19: Day 2 — Thursday, Feb. 28


The final act of #GreenBiz19 was a great half-day session of breakouts and plenaries on accelerating sustainability and engagement in companies and organizations. Highlights include:

The Role of the Private Sector in Advancing Environmental Justice: Dream Corps President Vien Truong shared what it takes for corporations to be part of the solution to advance equity and social justice. She challenged attendees to step up and step out of their silos and engage with community organizations, understand their challenges, and partner to solve problems.

According to Truong, the Green New Deal should be considered a clarion call to action; a long term aspirational vision for the future that will lift all boats, create jobs, spur innovation, grow the economy and effectively address social justice and equity outcomes. Businesses must step up to help shape the Green New Deal like they did to successfully advance the Paris Climate Accords.

A Zero Waste Tour by Waste Management highlighted the process of diverting 100% of the waste generated by the GreenBiz19 conference with 1,500 attendees. At GreenBiz18, over 98% of waste was diverted from landfills, by composting, recycling, donating and reusing.

Plug-in electric vehicle (EV) test drives were also available, plus an exhibition area for business and NGO sustainability initiatives.

Mobilizing a Movement to Advance Climate Solutions: Project Drawdown

Executive Director *Jon Foley — a world-leading environmental scientist, author, and speaker — provided a recap on the progress and the potential applications for some of the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. (*Foley was formerly a longtime professor and Director for the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the UW-Madison.)

Project Drawdown released its plan of global solutions in 2017, bringing together researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most effective ways to address climate change. Now, Version 2.0 will broaden the approach to reach over a billion people around the globe and look at ways we can deploy solutions at scale to “Drawdown” an entire company for example, or its supply chain, or even a city or a state, to reverse carbon emissions.

To see a few photos from the first day, please visit here.

To view the virtual event, please visit here.

The spirit of collaboration at GreenBiz this year, particularly the efforts by leading companies, NGOs and investors to tackle massive environmental problems like ocean plastic were amazing.  Over 1,500 practitioners (20% more this year) were engaged at a high level on sustainability topics and you could sense that people understand the urgency of what we’re facing and the need for us to make headway now so we have an economy that works for everyone, reverse climate change and create a more resilient, vibrant and thriving country.

What do we want? Reverse Climate Change!

When do we want it? Now!

This is our moment…

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