Part of the Facilities Management Division, the Milwaukee County Office of Sustainability supports and leads initiatives to improve Milwaukee County government's operational efficiency and effectiveness, protect and restore natural resources, and enhance racial and health equity.
We work to integrate environmental stewardship in Milwaukee County operations, infrastructure, and services, and are responsible for coordinating the Countywide sustainability program.
Have a question or suggestion for how Milwaukee County government can operate more sustainably, or support sustainability efforts in our community? We want to hear from you!
Energy & Climate Action
The Office of Sustainability is actively working to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions in Milwaukee County government operations and in the community. Saving energy and using renewable energy supports the County’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement and achieving zero net community emissions by 2050. In 2020, we completed the first-ever inventories of Milwaukee County government emissions and community-wide emissions, and we launched a retro-commissioning program to improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort in County buildings. During 2021, we coordinated the development of a carbon neutrality planning framework for County operations.
The 2020 Sustainability Scorecard provides a high-level summary of Milwaukee County's progress with reducing energy and emissions. Although much work remains, building energy use and emissions from County operations have steadily decreased this century due to conservation, efficiency, and fuel switching (e.g., converting County buildings from steam to gas heating and choosing cleaner-burning fuels for transit and fleet vehicles). These efforts have helped to reduce the County's annual energy expenditures by over $4 million per year since 2014. Thus, energy management and climate action are not only environmentally responsible – they're good business practices.
In 2018, Milwaukee County joined PACE Wisconsin, a statewide program that helps commercial property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term, private loans for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements. Administered through the Wisconsin PACE Commission, the voluntary program helps boost the efficiency and sustainability of commercial buildings at no cost to taxpayers. As of June 2022, the program has provided $13,745,347 in private financing to four development projects in Milwaukee County. In addition to boosting property values, these projects have created over 200 jobs and provide an environmental benefit equivalent to growing 18,536 tree seedlings for 10 years.
The Office of Sustainability strives to reduce, reuse or recycle solid waste generated from Milwaukee County operations. Observing these "3Rs" helps the County reduce its landfill disposal costs and earn revenues from the sale of recycled materials. Moreover, waste diversion conserves natural resources and supports approximately 97,000 jobs in Wisconsin (source: Recycle More Wisconsin). Construction and demolition (C&D) debris, such as wood, shingles and brick or concrete, comprises more than 25 percent of landfill waste in Wisconsin (source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). To reduce C&D waste from Milwaukee County operations, Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Services (AE&ES) has established a 50 percent waste-diversion goal for the County’s new construction and major renovation projects. Our office works with AE&ES staff and contractors to ensure compliance with this goal and to identify opportunities for additional waste diversion. During 2019, we coordinated development of a waste minimization plan for Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.
The Office of Sustainability supports and promotes efficient and safe alternatives to automobile travel, including carpooling, taking public transit, bicycling and walking. Since 2014, we have hosted an annual Bike to Work Day for Milwaukee County employees. During 2015 to 2017, we hosted a workplace bicycling challenge with UWM, MMSD, Marquette University, Alverno College, MATC and Froedtert Health that grew to over 250 participants. In 2017, from May to September, bike challenge participants pedaled a total of 164,670 miles and accrued the third-most points of any National Bike Challenge league. During 2019, we helped Milwaukee Transport Services study facility improvements and/or modifications that will be necessary to support a fleet of battery-electric buses.
The Office of Sustainability collaborates with Milwaukee County departments to incorporate economic, social and environmental sustainability into their planning. In 2016, we helped the Milwaukee County Zoo develop a Clean Energy Plan. The plan sets goals and provides actions the Zoo can take to reduce its energy and water use while increasing its use of renewable energy. We serve as a resource to Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport as it implements a Sustainability Management Plan for airport operations. The plan supports the "quadruple-bottom line" of the airport: economic viability, operational efficiency, natural resource conservation and social responsibility.