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On this blog, we post recent sustainability news to help people learn about initiatives and events related to sustainability in Central Wisconsin.

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Special Report: The War on Big Food.

Consumers Want Their Food as Pure as PossibleFrom Fortune on May 21, 2015

Major packaged-food companies lost $4 billion in market share alone last year, as shoppers swerved to fresh and organic alternatives. Can the supermarket giants win you back?

Try this simple test. Say the following out loud: Artificial colors and flavors. Pesticides. Preservatives. High-fructose corn syrup. Growth hormones. Antibiotics. Gluten. Genetically modified organisms.

If any one of these terms raised a hair on the back of your neck, left a sour taste in your mouth, or made your lips purse with disdain, you are part of Big Food’s multibillion-dollar problem. In fact, you may even belong to a growing consumer class that has some of the world’s biggest and best-known companies scrambling to change their business.

Read full article.

ThedaCare’s Sustainability Effort Making an Impact

Going green — we hear this often, but what does it really mean? For ThedaCare, it means changing the way we think about how we use resources, and making small changes that have a big impact on the health of the community and on our bottom line. As a business with seven hospitals, 35 clinics and almost 7,000 employees, we see a lot of value in getting on board the sustainability train.

Just two years ago, ThedaCare established a department on sustainability. We are already on track to recoup a $1.9 million energy efficiency investment this year. Our effort is led by Paul Linzmeyer, and his department’s mission is linked to ThedaCare’s mission — to improve the health of our communities. Paul often reminds me that we have an obligation to greatly reduce or eliminate our energy, waste and water footprint. As a part of our emphasis, we’ve expanded the department to include a newly created position of sustainability coordinator (our new coordinator, Maggie Hintz-Polzin, also is a nurse with expertise in sustainability), and each of our major facilities will soon have a Green Team. The teams will be responsible for making corporate sustainability goals local.

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Stevens Point considers going green: Measure would intend to improve safety and Franklin and Division streets

From the Stevens Point Journal, May 21, 2015

The city is considering going green — literally.

Stevens Point staff have been taking steps since the start of the year to improve pedestrian safety by Franklin and Division streets, an intersection traveled heavily on foot by University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students. The city has turned off the electronic message board outside the fire station and has cleared out unnecessary visuals from the area that could distract drivers.

A possible next step: painting the crosswalks across Division Street lime green to provide drivers a visual reminder people may be walking across the four lanes off traffic.

Read full article.

White House issues plan to save bees, other crop pollinators

From Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2015

The federal government will boost research and preserve 7 million acres of habitat for bees, monarch butterflies and other insects as part of a wide-ranging strategy to bolster the population of pollinators that are vital to the nation’s food crops.

The long-anticipated national strategy from a White House task force aims to bring annual bee losses to 15%, down from more than 40% last year. Managed honeybee colonies provide pollination services to the nation’s crops that are valued at $15 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tesla CEO Plugs into New Market With Home Battery System

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 1, 2015

Never lacking daring ideas, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is determined to jolt the electricity market.

The CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors hopes to park hundreds of millions of large, solar panel-connected batteries in homes and businesses so the world can disconnect from power plants – and he can profit. On Thursday night, before an adoring crowd and a party-like atmosphere, Musk unveiled how he intends to do it.

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Harvard Study: Cutting Carbon Dioxide Saves 3,500 US Lives a Year

From the Business Insider, May 5, 2015

The Obama Administration’s hotly debated plan to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the nation’s power plants will save about 3,500 lives a year by cutting back on other types of pollution as well, a new independent study concludes.

A study from Harvard and Syracuse University calculates the decline in heart attacks and lung disease when soot and smog are reduced — an anticipated byproduct of the president’s proposed power plant rule, which aims to fight global warming by limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

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Eco Fair Organizations Engage Community

From The Pointer, May 1, 2015

The 2015 Eco Fair, sponsored by the Environmental Educators and Naturalists Association, brought together ecologically-minded groups from the university and Stevens Point community in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.

“The fair is a good way for people to get the word out about certain environmental issues they are involved with,” said Anna Radske, junior environmental education major.

The theme this year was “Bee Aware Eco Fair.” Several booths highlighted the implications of a declining bee population. One booth also allowed visitors to make beeswax candles, and another displayed bee-friendly plants.

A concert finished off the event, featuring local bands Red Tide and Bill.

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Trees, Shrubs, Fruit Planted in Honor of Earth Week

From The Pointer, May 1, 2015

Volunteers and members of Students For Sustainability planted approximately 600 plants across the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus during its annual Earth Day event.

The planting took place on April 24, and volunteers finished in about three hours. Tom Girolamo, owner of Eco-Building and Forestry company, provided the plants that the club payed for. The total cost of the event was just over $10,000, most of which came from a Green Fund award.

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Choose to Re-Use- Town of Rome

May-September 2015

Benefit the environment and our landfills by allowing items in good condition to be reused by another family. Anyone can shop and take items home, but only Town of Rome citizens may drop items off. Slightly used items in good working condition may be brought to the Rome Transfer Site. Transfer Site hours are from 9-5, but we ask that all drop offs be made before 3:30 p.m. Treasures are found throughout the day. Check often as treasures change frequently.

View Facebook page to learn more.

View choose to reuse PDF for more information.

Growing Power Founder, Incoming Harley CEO HOnored by Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council

From the Journal Sentinel, April 29, 2015

The founder of Growing Power and the incoming chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson Inc. will be honored Wednesday for their leadership in sustainability.

Will Allen, author of the “Good Food Revolution” whose urban farming initiatives have spread from Milwaukee and Chicago to New Orleans and Haiti, will receive an Earth Day leadership award from the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

Matt Levatich of Harley is being saluted for his push to have Harley product designers and factories consider what he called an “environmental profit and loss statement” in their work.

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Wisconsin Energy Deal for Integrys Approved

From the Journal Sentinel, April 30, 2015

State regulators in Madison gave Wisconsin Energy Corp. the go-ahead Thursday to acquire Chicago-based Integrys Energy Group Inc.

The state Public Service Commission decided in favor of We Energies’ parent company on most of the issues in the case — concluding that the deal is in the public interest — but attached several conditions in response to concerns that ratepayers weren’t being offered enough protections.

The $9.1 billion deal, if approved by regulators in Minnesota and Illinois, is slated to be completed as soon as July.

The deal would create one of the largest natural gas utilities in the country, expanding the Wisconsin-focused utility’s presence in Michigan and allowing it to enter Illinois and Minnesota. In Wisconsin, half of the ratepayers in the state would be in the company’s fold, although the utilities We Energies and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. would not be merged.

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Eau Claire Utility Proposes Community Solar Program

From the Journal Sentinel, April 27, 2015

Xcel Energy Inc.’s Eau Claire utility would buy up to 3 megawatts of electricity from community solar projects built in western and northern Wisconsin under a plan announced Monday.

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What Tyson’s Pledge to Stop Using Human Antibiotics in Chicken Means for the Future of Superbugs

From the Washington Post, April 28, 2015

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are killing thousands of Americans a year. And the meat industry, a major breeding ground for these antibiotic resistance, is taking major steps to doing something about the growing public health issue.

On Tuesday, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods became the latest chicken producer to eliminate the use of “human antibiotics” for raising chickens in its U.S. operations. The company has pledged to phase out the antibiotics by September 2017. It said it will also develop a plan for doing the same in its turkeys, cows and pigs, as well as the chicken it produces abroad.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the Tyson news a “tipping point for getting the chicken industry off antibiotics.” Yet when it comes to protecting against antibiotic resistance, critics say the change may be too little and too late.

Voluntary measures like Tyson’s leave open questions and loopholes. Namely, the company promised to phase out “human antibiotics,” and it’s still not clear exactly what that means. Even if the same antibiotic isn’t used in humans and animals, using antibiotics in the same class may still spur development of cross-resistance, the NDRC points out.

Tyson’s announcement is a step toward protecting human antibiotics, to be sure. But while our chickens may be slightly less drugged, they are nowhere near drug and bug-free.

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Tyson to End Use of Human Antibiotics in Its Chickens by 2017

From The New York Times, April 28, 2015

Tyson Foods, one of the country’s largest meat producers, said on Tuesday that it planned to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chicken production by 2017.

The company had been working toward that goal for some time, ceasing the use of antibiotics in its hatcheries last year and adopting feed free of antibiotics this year.

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Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children?

From Scientific America, April 27, 2015

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese—that favorite food of kids, packaged in the nostalgic blue box—will soon be free of yellow dye. Kraft announced Monday that it will remove artificial food coloring, notably Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 dyes, from its iconic product by January 2016. Instead, the pasta will maintain its bright yellow color by using natural ingredients: paprika, turmeric and annatto (the latter of which is derived from achiote tree seeds).

The company said it decided to pull the dyes in response to growing consumer pressure for more natural foods. But claims that the dyes may be linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children have also risen recently, as they did years ago, putting food dyes under sharp focus once again.

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