City of Milwaukee: A World-Class Eco-City


The City of Milwaukee has been a supporter and partner of Rock the Green since our inaugural Sustainability Festival in 2011 and annual Earth Day Celebration that kicked off in 2012. Rock the Green's mission of creating a sustainable ecosystem in concert with each other, is very much in sync with the City of Milwaukee's impressive sustainability efforts and achievements.

"Milwaukee is a world-class eco-city and Rock the Green’s relentless commitment to demonstrating practical solutions that work for everyone in ways that are both creative and entertaining is a big part of that. The groundswell of support for Rock the Green from the public and private sectors is further indication that Milwaukee is a national leader in a variety of sustainability areas.” -Mayor Tom Barrett

We thank you Mayor Barrett and the City of Milwaukee's Environmental Collaboration Office.

-Lindsay Stevens, Founder & Executive Director, Rock the Green

This blog is penned by Erick Shambarger, the Sustainability Director for the City of Milwaukee.

Happy Earth Day! The City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) works to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city every day. And Earth Day is a special day to celebrate the beauty of our natural world while recognizing our collective responsibility to protect it.

Milwaukee is here because of our rivers and Lake Michigan. We are a coastal city that uses water for drinking, commerce, and recreation. We are a water-centric city. Water is key to our identity, and protecting it is critical for our future. The City is working closely with Plastic Free Milwaukee to keep plastic pollution out of rivers and our Lake. We adopted a Green Infrastructure Plan to help manage our storm-water and reduce the risk of sewer overflows. We’ve banned toxic coal tar sealants on parking lots. We’re also working with local, state, and federal partners to remove decades-old pollution from the Milwaukee River system.

We’re also tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime: climate change. Climate change threatens Milwaukee and Wisconsin by increasing the risk of extreme storms and flooding that can damage urban property as well as the Wisconsin’s agriculture. Climate change is driven by our society’s over-use of fossil fuels. So we need to scale back on traditional sources of energy through investments in energy efficiency, while quickly transitioning to large scale renewable energy.

On March 3rd, Mayor Barrett announced that the City would partner with We Energies to build a 2.25 megawatts solar energy system on eight acres of a City-owned landfill next to General Mitchell Airport. The project will cost the City nothing to build and supports grid resilience at the Air National Guard’s 128th Air Refueling Wing. It also provides us with documented progress towards our goal of getting 25% of the City’s power from renewable energy by the year 2025. As a bonus, it also generates about $96,000 in revenue for the City. These funds will be used to support additional climate action work.

This solar energy project is just the start. We’ve developed a plan for making our City buildings and fleet more energy efficient, and the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity just completed its preliminary report. Over the next two years, we will be working with community stakeholders to formalize a climate action plan. This plan will be designed to not only reduce our use of fossil fuels, but will also be intentional about social equity and creating jobs for those neighborhoods that need them most.

Finally, one of the most exciting projects is our partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools to transform concrete schoolyards into healthy, green, and vibrant recreation areas. Many partners came together to make this happen including the Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and local and national funders. You’ll be amazed to see the transformation at these schools.

So Happy Earth Day, everyone! Let’s celebrate the wonders of our Earth, and work every day to protect it for generations to come.

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