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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Farm to School Grant Connects Food Service, Vendors

From the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, January 26th, 2015

A business relationship the Wood County Farm to School program set up between county school districts and a south central Wisconsin produce wholesaler will make it easier for area schools to fill students’ lunch trays with fresh food.

Sue Anderson, Wood County Farm to School coordinator, served as a liaison between school districts and food producers to get the program off the ground, but food service directors in each district now are able to order directly from Parrfection Produce and farmers in central Wisconsin. […]

The Wood County Farm to School program will highlight its accomplishments from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 29 during a showcase following the 2015 Wisconsin Farm to School Summit in Wisconsin Rapids.

Food service representatives, teachers, students and farmers who have participated in the program will be on hand to answer questions about their projects, including school gardens and foods made in the schools’ agricultural kitchens.

Read full article.

County’s Biomass Project Provides Economic, Environmental Benefits

From Sustainability City Network, January 2015

Perseverance was the key for Sullivan County’s District Energy biomass project, but officials said it was more than worth the wait since the benefits have been immediate.

Sullivan County, N.H. was interested in utilizing biomass for quite some time in order to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. After much research by Facilities Director John Cressy and his team, the county purchased a Hurst biomass boiler district heating system with a backpressure steam turbine/generator to serve the county’s 166-bed nursing home and 168-bed prison complex, as well as two smaller on-site buildings in Unity, N.H.

Read the full article.

Moves Afoot to Ban Microbeads from Personal Care Products

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 23, 2015.

Tiny plastic beads in personal care products are showing up in the Great Lakes and other water bodies amid growing worries about the danger they pose for humans, fish and other aquatic life. The small bits of plastic, known as microbeads, are washed down sinks and toilets and eventually wend their way to public waterways.

Scientists say fish confuse them for food, since they often resemble fish eggs. Fish consume the tiny pellets, which can absorb toxins, potentially harming shore birds and possibly humans who eat the fish.

Microbeads are increasingly coming under fire, and in Wisconsin, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are introducing separate bills that would ban their manufacture and use in the state. Read the full article.

Wisconsin Has Highest Potential for Combined Heat and Power in the Midwest

From Energy on Wisconsin’s Newsletter, January 2015

Combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration systems are energy efficient, help with resiliency, and could help comply with federal carbon pollution reduction requirements. CHP, the generation of on-site electricity that captures the waste heat (thermal energy) to provide heating and cooling from a single fuel source, is used at more than 4100 U.S. industrial facilities, hospitals, and universities to reduce operating costs and ensure reliability. In Wisconsin, CHP systems are in place statewide from dairies to wastewater treatment plants to paper mills. CHP represents approximately 8% of installed U.S. electric generating capacity and over 12% of total electricity generation (USDOE and USEPA, 2012), but has much greater potential.

Each year, as part of the 
State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks states on policies that encourage deployment of CHP. ACEEE developed a state-by-state CHP favorability index to get a rough look at the degree to which electricity and gas prices influence the CHP market in a given state. In Wisconsin, where electricity costs are among the highest in the nation, onsite energy generation with CHP is favorable. Among twelve Midwest states, Wisconsin ranked highest on the policy favorability index and among seven with an extremely high level of market favorability for CHP deployment.

WI Electric Rate Cases Finalized

From Energy on Wisconsin’s Newsletter, January 2015

The PSC finalized their decisions to increase fixed base electric rates to customers in WPS, We Energies and Madison Gas & Electric territories. Any court challenges to the decisions must be filed by the end of January. For details see Utility Rate Restructuring Decisions in December Energy On Wisconsin news.

To read more WSJ, We Energies

Clean Green Action Develops 2015 Projects

By Joe Ancel, January 20, 2015

Clean GreCleanGreenen Action (formerly known as Citizens for a Clean, Green & Welcoming Community) is beginning its eighth year of working on projects that focus on sustainability and reducing our impact on the environment.  In 2015 we will work on both new and continuing projects in the Wood County area.

Continuing projects include the following:

  • Choose to Reuse – This event, which is organized by different area townships (e.g. Rome, Grant, Grand Rapids, Saratoga, Seneca), allows people to drop off useful items for others to have for free. Check with your local township for dates.
  • Recycling Rangers – This activity will continue to provide recycling containers and volunteers at local community events.
  • Sustainable Wisconsin Rapids – This involves working with Wisconsin Rapids officials to move the city towards becoming a sustainable community. Look for opportunities in the near future to get involved with the Mayor’s Sustainability Council.
  • Green Map – Sustainable businesses, parks/green spaces, and other organizations can be found on the Central Wisconsin Green Map, a web-based interactive map that uses the universal Green Map icons to highlight the ecological, social, cultural, and sustainable resources of central Wisconsin. This mapping system helps central Wisconsin visitors and residents to discover and locate the area’s sustainable assets.  Check it out at this link and support your local sustainable businesses.
  • Earth Care Booklet – This booklet contains information on items to recycle, energy saving tips, buying locally, and money saving options with respect to food and transportation.  To review the electronic version of this booklet, go to the Clean Green Wisconsin Rapids Area Facebook page.
  • Bird City – The Bird City designation for Wisconsin Rapids was renewed with a June event at Lake Wazeecha in conjuntion with the Kiwanis Youth Outdoor Day. More events are planned for 2015.
  • Highway Pickup – Our adopted stretch of highway is cleaned up twice each year so our group can walk the talk in a public and noticeable way.
  • Chicken Ordinance – We were successful in 2014 in getting the City of Wisconsin Rapids to approve an ordinance that allows city residents to raise chickens.  If you live in the city and wish to raise chickens, contact the city for details.
  • Nonpartisan legislative committee – This committee keeps the group abreast of pending legislation and policies that impact the environment.
  • Booth at local/area fairs – Look for us at events like the Grand Affair to learn more about our group.
  • Event Reycling Ordinance –  We continue to advocate for the adoption of ordinances that would require event recycling as part of an event permit.

We are also involved in projects for which other agencies have the lead. For example, in 2014 we advocated for a Clean Sweep program for residential and agricultural hazardous waste.  UW-Extension was successful in obtaining a state grant, and a Clean Sweep event will be held on October 3 at the Town of Saratoga garage. Our members are also assisting on a Bike Share program. Wood County Health Department is leading this effort which will be rolled out in spring 2015. Clean Green Action members also help out at the Growing Friends Community Garden which has completed two successful growing seasons.

New projects for 2015 involve working with other organizations.  Our members will help

  • with the processing of EBT at the Wisconsin Rapids farmers market.
  • expand gleaning by collecting food donations from the vendors at the farmers market.
  • plan a one-day Tire Pressure Day during which customers at a local gas station will learn about the benefits of keeping tires inflated at the proper pressure.

The success of our on-going and new projects depends upon our selfless volunteers. With more help, our chances of success will improve. Clean Green Action is a local grassroots, citizen-led group working to create a sustainable community through education, recycling and conservation efforts in the south Wood County area. If you are interested in joining our group and helping out on one or more of these projects, we invite you to attend our meetings which occur at 4 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month (except for June, July and August) at McMillan Library.


‘Living Green’ Focus of Library Exhibit

From Waupaca County Post, January 14, 2015

What does it mean to live green or sustainably? To people in Waupaca County, it means many things, from sustainable farming and beekeeping to solar energy. These ideas of sustainable living are what make up the current exhibit at the Waupaca Area Public Library called “Living Green.”

Today, local farms, businesses and individuals are working to spread the word on the importance of buying locally and living in a sustainable way. Businesses are using solar and renewable energy, while people are reusing materials and finding ways to make their homes more efficient. Raising chickens, gardening and canning are all ways Waupaca residents are “living green.”

The exhibit features local farms and families, tips for living sustainably at home and in ones backyard and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. Come generate power on an exercise bike and see how to make a light bulb glow or power a cellphone.

The Waupaca Area Public Library will host a program at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19 with author Bob Ramlow. The program will take place in the lower-level meeting rooms. Ramlow has been involved in renewable energy for more than 40 years and is a founding member of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. He has taught workshops and classes throughout the United States and has co-authored the book “Solar Water Heating: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water and Space Heating Systems.” He lives with his family in a zero-energy home near Amherst.

The exhibit is open during library hours and is free to the public. For more information, contact Tracy Behrendt, exhibit room coordinator, at 715-258-4417. Read the full article.

Power to the Pupils!

From Incourage Community Foundation newsletter, December 2014

Incourage3Knowledge is power. In this case, solar power. A $45,000 grant from Constellation Energy provided renewable energy curriculum and continuing education for area high school teachers. A partnership between Mid-State Technical College’s Renewable Energy Program and Assumption, Lincoln, Port Edwards and Nekoosa high schools put the power in students’ hands as they helped install solar panels for hands-on learning. They’ll continue learning as they monitor the solar panels’ energy production.  It’s due, in part, to Incourage’s Business/Education partnership which links businesses and educational systems to create better understanding and more opportunities between our schools and businesses.

Watch the video here. Read the full newsletter.

Whick Food Companies Don’t Use BPA-Lined Cans?

From Mother Nature Network, January 6, 2015

BPAThere are many reasons to be concerned about the chemical bisphenol-A or BPA. The Food and Drug Administration says BPA is safe low levels, but other countries take a more cautious approach: Austria, Denmark, Belgium, France and China limit the chemical’s contact with food. The FDA continues to study the issue.
Studies have shown that BPA, a plastic-stiffening chemical and synthetic female hormone, can be a contributing factor to asthma, sexual dysfunction, breast cancer, obesity and other health issues. The material is so widely used in in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins that it’s difficult to avoid. The resin is commonly used as a lining in many canned foods, even though BPA can seep out if it comes in contact with heat or acid.
In response, several companies have removed BPA from their cans, and others have moved away from using it in the cans of specific foods. Here’s a list of national brands that produce canned foods that do no have BPA in the lining.

Read the full article.

To Save Power, Appeal to Health Benefits

From Daily Climate, January 12, 2015

Conventional wisdom holds that the most effective way to get people to save energy is to show them how much money they’ll save. Turns out there’s a more efficient approach. The amount of money consumers could save by cutting energy just wasn’t high enough to be motivating.

Reminders of the environmental health benefits of cutting electricity use are far more powerful motivation, scientists found in research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Smart meters and appliance-level monitoring technology were installed in the homes of about 120 young Los Angeles couples and families in the randomized, controlled experiment by UCLA researchers. The households were sent weekly e-mails to test the power of different motivational messages.

The group that received reminders of how much money they could save by cutting back on electricity showed no net energy savings over the four-month trial. But a similar group cut energy use 8 percent after receiving e-mails about the amount of pollution they were producing, and how it has been shown to cause childhood asthma and cancer. The health message was most effective in the subset of households with children at home; they slashed power use a whopping 19 percent.

Read the full article.

Local Food Fundraiser Supports Schools and Local Farmers

From Hoopla, January 2015

During Farmshed’s recent “Local Food Tastes Great!” school fundraiser, students at nine local schools sold winter veggie sampler and squash mixes, certified organic fresh cranberries, Wisconsin fruit jams, locally roasted coffee, honey, maple syrup, dried cranberries, beef sticks, cheese, certified organic summer sausage, potatoes, onions, Wisconsin based cookbooks, holiday wreathes, and gift certificates to local farms and businesses. The Local Food Fundraiser is part of Farmshed’s Farm to School Program in Central Wisconsin which also includes food system and nutrition education lessons as well as school garden support.

Read the full article.


Pigeon River Farm: USDA Certified Organic

From Hoopla, January 2015

In 2003 something exciting began for the Braun Family. They bought a farm. Pigeon River Farm is a 50-acres USDA Certfied Organic parcel owned and operated by the entire Braun family. On the southern branch of the Pigeon River near Clintonville, in Waupaca County, you will find it.

As parents and grantparents Robert and Kim Braun understand the importance of nutrional food and the role they play as caretakers of their children and to the land.

Read the full article.

At Incourage, Knowing Better Means Doing Better

By Rick Merdan, Incourage Community Foundation, January 2015

We all have that picture in our head: 4th of July fireworks, parades, picnics, and the resulting mess left after these events that blows in the wind or drops into the river for turtles, ducks, or fish to consume and suffer. They leave bags upon bags of garbage, at least the stuff that made it into the overflowing garbage cans.

That was the unplanned scene from Incourage Community Foundation’s first community picnic in 2012. We had planned for up to 500 people and 1,000 showed up! We struggled to keep up with the overflowing garbage cans and recycling containers. Guesstimates put the total per participant generation at 0.8 pounds. That included plates, utensils, corn cobs and many other recycleable or compostable materials.

“When you knew better, you did better.”

At this past summer’s community picnic, we took a more strategic approach, planning to use local foods and dramatically lower our environmental footprint. All picnic supIncourage1plies were reviewed to maximize recyclable or compostable elements. We increased the number of waste stations with specific receptacles for recyclables, compostables, and true waste. Each of the receptacles had examples of the specific picnic wastes being generated and where each should go: water bottles in recycling, corn cobs in composting, potato chip bags in the waste. (In the photo at right, Waste Steward Richard Breen and fellow volunteer explain to picnic goers where each item goes.) Using the 0.8 lb. rate from the first picnic, with 3,500 attendees, the potential impact would have been 1.4 tons of garbage. Instead, with most materials recycled or composted, the garbage total was around 300 pounds. This was less than half the amount generated the first year even though we had three times as many people.

We learned a valuable lesson. IF we choose to, we can make a significant difference by the choices we make.


CPS Cafe, Farmshed Partnership Benefits Students, Community

From Stevens Point Journal, January 1, 2015

A partnership involving CPS Cafe, Central Rivers Farmshed and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will give students a broader food management experience while meeting a community need and reducing food waste.

Farmshed’s new community kitchen at the former Sorenson’s greenhouse on Briggs Court will be a site for community members to learn how to preserve locally grown food. Fresh fruits and vegetables unsold at farmers markets will be purchased and processed, and then they will be available at local food pantries or for sale.

This partnership will provide UWSP students hands-on experience in local food processing and distribution, said Annie Wetter, Health Promotion-Human Development Department chairwoman. “They will see how organizations can partner to synergize resources. They’ll see how a need in the community can be addressed creatively through collaboration and market economics.”

Read the full article.

2014 Wisconsin State of the Birds Report Highlights Effective Conservation Measures

From Wisconsin DNR, December 2014

The Wisconsin State of the Birds Report contains excerpts from the State of the Birds Report, which is a national overview of the conservation status of birds in the United States issued by the U.S. committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. It estimates population trends for birds grouped by broad habitat categories and shows how the trends have changed in recent years.

Read full article. Read full report.

Congress to Nutritionists: Don’t Talk about the Environment

From NPR, December 15, 2014

A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.

Congress now has slapped them down.

Lawmakers attached a list of “congressional directives” to a massive spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate in recent days. One of those directives expresses “concern” that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors” into their recommendations, and directs the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines, which is due out next year.

Read full article.

This Week’s Vote Secures Minneapolis’ Title as Climate Champion

From Renewable Energy World, December 12, 2014

In August 2013, Minneapolis (MN) was in the news for considering a take-over of its energy utilities. Today, they’re back in the news for supporting a first-in-the-nation clean energy partnership with those same utilities and a pioneering effort to bring more local input into the city’s energy future. It’s been a whirlwind week.

Read full article.

Switching to Vehicles Powered by Electricity from Renewables Could Save Lives

From University of Minnesota, December 15, 2014

Driving vehicles that use electricity from renewable energy instead of gasoline could reduce the resulting deaths due to air pollution by 70 percent. This finding comes from a new life cycle analysis of conventional and alternative vehicles and their air pollution-related public health impacts, published Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read full article.

Road Salt Use Gets Weighed Against Saving Money

From Star Tribune, December 19, 2014

In a new economic analysis, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says that just a 10 percent reduction in application would save metro area cities and counties at least 35,000 tons of salt and $8 million a year in winter maintenance — along with one or two lakes.

That doesn’t include the tens of millions of dollars spent to fix salt damage to roads, bridges, cars and lawns.

Read full article.

USDA Releases 2013 Annual Summary for Pesticide Data Program

From The United States Department of Agriculture, December 19, 2014

The 2013 PDP Annual Summary shows that over 99 percent of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.23 percent of the samples tested. The PDP pesticide residue results are reported to FDA and EPA through monthly reports. In instances where a PDP finding is extraordinary and may pose a safety risk, FDA and EPA are immediately notified. EPA has determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2013, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, infant formula, butter, salmon, groundwater, and drinking water. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide chemical residue levels on selected foods. The EPA uses data from PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

Read full News Release.

New GAO Report Scrutinizes Pesticide Monitoring in Food by FDA and USDA

From Food Safety Magazine, December 5, 2014

The monitoring of pesticide residue by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been criticized by a new report from the General Accounting Office (GAO). In “Food Safety––FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Limitations”, the GAO suggests the following:

The FDA and USDA should enforce major changes in their pesticide monitoring programs––including increasing the number of food samples tested, paying special attention to pesticides that have Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established tolerances instead of those that do not, and display more transparency in annual reports about not testing for pesticides in all foods.

Read full article.

US Energy Policy Review Reveals US Doesn’t Have an Energy Policy

From The Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2014

US oil and gas production have boomed, but the country still lacks a coherent energy strategy, according to an International Energy Agency review. The report credits the US for reducing greenhouse emissions, and encourages further investment in electricity infrastructure.

Read full article.

Despite Cheaper Gas, Public Transit Ridership is Up, Trade Group Reports

From The New York Times, December 21, 2014

Mr. Needham rides the 11-mile Green Line, which since opening in June has attracted around 36,000 riders on a typical weekday, a number that is already approaching the 41,000 projected for the line by 2030, said Drew Kerr, a spokesman for Metro Transit, the city’s transportation agency. The line cost $957 million to build, half of which was funded by the federal government, Mr. Kerr said.

Riders like Mr. Needham get a lot of value from public transportation, as do people in many other cities where investment in transit is leading to record-high ridership rates and persuading more people to leave their cars at home despite the latest plunge in gasoline prices.

The American Public Transportation Association said Wednesday that about 2.7 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems in the third quarter of 2014 — an increase of 1.8 percent, or about 48 million trips, over the year-ago period — the highest third-quarter number since the trade group’s records began in 1974.

Read full article.

Growing Styrofoam Out of Mushrooms

From Marketplace, December 12, 2014

In a college dorm room, under a twin XL bed, a company was born. Ecovative, a biodesign company based in Albany, N.Y,, began as a science project for Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer –they grew oyster mushrooms under their beds, in the hopes of using them to recycle farm waste, and eventually, create an alternative to soft plastics like Styrofoam.

View full article and podcast.

Icy Roads Prescribed a Low-Sodium Diet

From Living on Earth, December 12, 2014

Road salt helps to melt ice and keep travelers safe but too much can harm the environment and wildlife. Living on Earth’s Jenni Doering reports that scientists are testing unusual salt alternatives including waste products from sugar beets, barley and cheese to cut the salt and keep roads clear.

View full podcast.

Fish Farming Finding Home in the Midwest

From Associated Press, December 13, 2014

With global consumption of seafood outpacing wild fish populations, many have turned from roving the world’s waters to aquaculture, using coastal net pens or ponds to raise freshwater and saltwater species. But the emerging trend of indoor aquaculture is bringing the surf to America’s turf.

Video by Chris Hartleb of UWSP, “Blue Revolution: Farming Water to Grow Food”

Read full article.

Lawsuit Hits Wisconsin DNR for Dragging Feet on 2010 Air Quality Rules

By Wisconsin State Journal, December 12, 2014

Nearly five years after the federal government set new standards designed to protect public health from short, sharp spikes in air pollution levels, Wisconsin hasn’t made the rules mandatory for all polluters.

The state Department of Natural Resources hasn’t had enough time to consult with businesses about the economic impact of change, the agency’s top air-quality regulator said Thursday.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, two Madison-based environmental groups asked a Dane County judge to force the DNR to implement limits on emissions linked to acid rain, climate change and potentially life-threatening respiratory ills.

Read full article.

Farmers Find New Cash Crop: Renewable Energy

From ClimateWire, November 26, 2014

Conservative Iowans make cash from wind turbines and solar power on their land.

Yoder, whose Mennonite traditions generally eschew many energy-consuming home comforts, takes pride in his farm’s energy self-sufficiency and clean energy credentials. But the economics of renewable energy, and particularly solar power, bring the most satisfaction to the tall, 50-year-old farmer.

“I do like renewable energy,” he says. “And if I can make it pay, I’ll do it.”

Yoder makes it pay to the tune of $500 to $700 each month in avoided energy costs, or roughly half what his electricity bill totaled before he installed the turbine and solar panels and began selling power to the Kalona co-op under a unique feed-in tariff program that is tailored to the locals’ strong sense of self-reliance and energy independence.

More than bringing solar power to a traditional farming area, the Kalona co-op’s initiatives have helped spur Iowa’s nascent solar industry, which between 2012 and 2014 added more than 600 projects with a value of nearly $25 million, according to state tax credit data reported by the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Read full article.