Just over 50 years ago, the first Earth Day Celebration took place right here in Wisconsin. The holiday’s origin might surprise some, but those of us who’ve enjoyed a summer on the shores of Lake Michigan or even a snowy winter hike through one of our pristine State Parks have absolutely no doubt how this region inspired the modern environmental movement.
Our team at the City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office takes pride in continuing that cherished local legacy of stewardship-- not just on April 22nd but every single day of the year. At the confluence of three great rivers pouring into the largest freshwater resource on the planet, we’re constantly inspired by the people and places we see outside our windows, and thus committed to their long term success.
What we now know of as Milwaukee is traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homeland. These First Nations were stewards of the region’s resources and waterways for centuries. As a Water Centric City, we’re working to now rehabilitate these crucial resources from decades of industrial pollution and habitat degradation. As part of the Waterway Restoration Partnership, the City is helping coordinate a record-breaking $400 million effort to restore the Milwaukee Estuary and remove it from the list of infamous EPA areas of concern.
And as we work to restore the natural spaces that make Milwaukee great, we also strive to empower the next generation of environmental leaders to carry the torch. We’re proud to be a part of the Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee, which transforms schoolyards into vibrant outdoor oases for students to play, grow, and learn about their natural environment, all while sustainably managing stormwater where it falls through green infrastructure. And these newfound greenspaces are mirrored in their communities through ECO’s Home Gr/own initiative, transforming vacant lots into pocket parks and community gardens, creating beautiful, resilient ECO Neighborhoods like Lindsay Heights and Sherman Park!
And in fostering the next era of environmental action, we must also ensure that those future leaders have a fighting chance by taking strong and immediate action to reduce global climate change. The City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity is creating a plan to reduce our carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality soon after, all while creating the maximum number of permanent, living-wage green jobs. From our Better Buildings Challenge to vehicle electrification, we are already taking large steps to reach these goals The largest solar array in Milwaukee’s history is now live, producing 2.25 megawatts of clean energy, complemented by new installations on the roofs of three Milwaukee Public Libraries, and countless home installations through our Milwaukee Shines program.
In addition to pursuing solar, community members around the City are doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. ECO recently relaunched the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program to help homeowners lower their energy bills. Local businesses are reducing their plastic waste through Plastic-Free MKE’s Lake Friendly Certification Program. And, last but not least, individuals are grabbing their masks, getting outside, and working together to clean up our neighborhood all month long -- to those volunteers and to every partner we are privileged to collaborate with, thank you for your continued service and Happy Earth Day!