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Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator Visits Madison

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Posted: 5:22PM September 30th, 2013 | Comments

Last Friday, I had the distinct honor of welcoming Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator to Madison to hear from local business leaders who are advancing sustainability in our region through Sustain Dane’s MPower Champions program. It was a moment to celebrate success – something we encourage to champions to do, yet often forget do to ourselves. It was also an important moment to shine a national spotlight on the Greater Madison Region and our proven commitment to sustainability.

As I told Administrator McCarthy and guests, at Sustain Dane, we believe that the Greater Madison Region can be a national model for sustainability and sustainability innovation. We want our region to be a destination where people flock to in order to learn what we're doing in the way of sustainability and to learn how they can replicate our success in their own cities, companies, schools, and neighborhoods.

Administrator McCarthy gave a nod to our vision, placing it in a larger, national context.

“We know that the climate is changing, we frankly have to work together to address that issue, and that’s what the President’s climate change plan is all about – to address carbon pollution in exactly the same thoughtful, sustainable ways that this community, MPower, and Sustain Dane have brought to the table,” McCarthy said.

She added, “The EPA would like to be a partner with every one of the communities who do exactly what you do to embrace these ideas and turn them into opportunities to have more sustainable, healthy, rich communities.”

I was inspired by Administrator McCarthy’s remarks – concrete yet hopeful, action-oriented. I was even more inspired to see a room full of MPower Champions and supporters, from current and past participants to resources and program partners at MGE and the City of Madison. The event, while celebratory, was also a snapshot of the tremendous collaboration by our local public, private, and academic sectors that makes the MPower Champions program such a far-reaching success. It is exactly this type of collaboration that Sustain Dane works to create because we recognize the need for a systematic and embedded approach to sustainability across all sectors of our society.

“One of the great parts of the MPower program is that it's not just one sector, but you reach so many different types of sectors, and in many ways, you’re reducing tremendous amounts of carbon pollution,” McCarthy said, adding, “We are not talking about small efforts; we are talking about small steps to a great effort.”

I couldn't have said it better. The MPower Champions program is not about ticking boxes on a checklist with one-off projects that make us feel good or look good. It’s about cultivating a lasting culture of sustainability within an organization, and that’s what makes it so successful. MPower Champions work within their own spheres of influence to make a business case for sustainability, to help colleagues and customers understand its value, and to measure their efforts to get to proven results.

MPower Champions know that sustainable business is not only the right thing to do; it’s also good business. Administrator McCarthy echoed this sentiment.

“I can't tell you how important it is right now that people understand what you already get, and that is, if you're going to look at a sustainable world, you look at integrating environmental considerations into your business practices,” Administrator McCarthy said. “When you do that in a whole-hearted, innovative, creative, open way, you will find tremendous opportunities to save money, to grow your business, and to become a much more vital part of the community.”

To date, the 70 MPower Business Champions have produced annual collective savings of over 21,500 tons of CO2 emissions and over $916,000 in costs. And that’s just the direct impact of the program participants, not its lasting benefits.

Watch the full press conference at the Madison City Channel's website

For example, on Friday, Kate Schachter of Union Cab Cooperative talked about the co-op’s purchase of a single hybrid vehicle during the 2010 MPower Champions program. As of March 2012, Union Cab has replaced all of its sedan fleet with hybrid electric vehicles, realizing fuels savings over $500,000 and reducing its carbon footprint by over 1,100 tons of CO2. Still, what I found most impressive is what Kate said next.

“Last year we added a 5kWh photovoltaic solar array system, which is providing a financial return at three times our initial conservative estimates. For our members, we promote healthy living through community supported agriculture deliveries onsite, bike barns, bus passes, ridesharing, and our Live Smarter Challenge, a workplace fair to keep the personal actions top of mind,” she said.

As with Union Cab, the MPower Champions program serves as a launch pad for creating a school or workplace that values sustainable practices and behaviors long after the program year ends. I am so proud and honored to work with such exemplary organizations that are working to make the Madison Region a nationally recognized community that thrives environmentally, socially, and economically.

What’s Next for the MPower Champions Program -

In the past year, I've been asked this question many times. Since 2009, the MPower Champions Program has been fully funded by an EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant, Madison Gas & Electric and the City of Madison. This has allowed Sustain Dane to offer the program to businesses free of charge.

In 2014, that non-renewable, multi-year EPA grant will expire, which we have been expecting and planning for. The City and MGE will continue to provide funds that enable us to offer the program at a low cost to participating businesses. There will also be extended sponsorship opportunities to help offset the program costs.

There are other exciting advancements in the program that I will be able to announce later in the year, during the Badger Bioneers 2013 Conference.

If you are interested in the MPower Champions program would like to receive more information about participation or sponsorship opportunities as it becomes available, please contact Annemarie Kalson, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), (608) 819 – 0689 

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