About Sustain Dane

Sustain Dane is the sustainability organization of Dane County and Madison, WI. We provide the resources and inspiration for individuals, businesses, and organizations to generate change.

Vision and Mission

Sustain Dane’s vision is a thriving and inclusive community with a sustainable environment and economy we are proud to pass on to future generations. Our mission is to inspire, connect, and support people to accelerate equity and sustainable actions for community well-being.
Sustainability diagram, with healthy environment encompassing equity and just economy.
Sustain Dane’s holistic definition of sustainability includes a healthy environment, a just economy, and equity & social well-being.

Defining Sustainability

The definition of sustainability is broad and evolving. In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustain Dane’s holistic definition of sustainability includes a healthy environment, a just economy, and equity and well-being for all.

We base our definition on The Natural Step Framework’s system conditions. A sustainable society recognizes that the earth’s natural resources are limited and exist in an ecological balance. A sustainable society will only take from and add to the earth at a rate that the earth can replenish its resources. And finally, in a sustainable society, people have the capacity to meet their basic needs to achieve well-being.

Statement of Solidarity for Racial Justice

Sustain Dane cares deeply about equity and anti-racism in all areas, including environmental justice. Our vision and mission require us to support inclusive communities because all must have well-being to achieve sustainable communities. It is everyone’s social responsibility to ensure the Madison region is inclusive, fair, and just for all. Sustain Dane works to bring this forward in our holistic approach to sustainability, the operation of the organization, our collaborations, and programs.


Sustain Dane was founded in 1999 by a group of Madison community members including Brian Joiner, Niki McGlathery, Jennifer Olsen, and Per Kielland-Lund to create a more sustainable future for Dane County. They used the internationally recognized science-based sustainability framework called The Natural Step as their guide. In 2003, Sustain Dane received 501(c)(3) status and was officially recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit. Since its inception, Sustain Dane has informed and inspired people to take action. Early efforts included neighborhood and workplace study circles, residential rain barrels, and training City of Madison staff in the Natural Step. Sustain Dane programs and the actions they inspire have evolved over the years, positively impacting Dane County sustainability and well-being.
Rain Barrels

Annual Impacts Videos

Annual Reports

Learn more about our work in past years. Sustain Dane’s annual reports summarize our impact and partnerships with innovative organizations and individuals.