The Greener Side of Milwaukee
From sustainable hotels to freshwater sciences and everything in between: it's easy to go green in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is a city blessed with an abundance of natural resources. These range from the radiant shoreline of Lake Michigan to an emerald necklace of parkland where residents and visitors alike are inspired and renewed by nature. The city is making strides toward sustainability, embracing progress and enhancing features that improve quality of life, attract visitors and grow the economy. From convenient hotels and transportation to world-class attractions, the “greener side” of Milwaukee is growing every day.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Metro was well ahead of the “green” initiative when they opened their doors in 1998. Guests enjoy environmentally-friendly stays with guest room carpeting made from recycled fibers, all-cotton sheets and architectural features made from reconstituted forest products and recycled glass. Hotel Metro’s green initiative is not only focused on the building, but its guests’ and employees’ daily operations, offering guests use of their six Hampton Malibu Cruiser bicycles and eco-friendly amenities.
The Iron Horse Hotel is part of an urban revitalization that mixes unique historic architecture with modern amenities, technology and environmental sustainability, including the re-use of the building and reclaimed materials for design elements. Occupant-sensing systems in each guest room control and power down heat, electricity and air conditioning. Additional “green operations” include in-house recycling.
Milwaukee is a walker’s paradise, organized into quaint neighborhoods with great bars, trendy restaurants and other entertainment hotspots.
The award-winning Milwaukee RiverWalk runs north-south for more than two miles, linking the city’s Old World Third Street and downtown entertainment district with the Historic Third Ward. Eyecatching public art gives the RiverWalk the feel of an outdoor gallery and colorful, user-friendly directional signs elaborate on the city’s history. There are 16 bridges of three varieties (standard, bascule and vertical) across the Milwaukee River along the RiverWalk.
The summer Milwaukee Trolley service offers an easy connector for shopping, grabbing a bite or heading to a show or an attraction for only $1.00 a ride.
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is a 185-acre stretch of untouched land along the shore of Lake Michigan. Escape from the world of concrete to hike six miles of trails, walk along the beach and enjoy the spectacular view from a 60-foot observation tower. Attend workshops, see nature exhibits, meet resident raptors or go hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or geocaching.
Located 10 minutes north of downtown on the east bank of the Milwaukee River, the Urban Ecology Center is known internationally for its ecology programs, educational outreach and river stewardship. An award-winning green building on 15 wooded acres, this beautiful environmental community center draws residents and visitors alike. New in 2013: the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, a 40-acre Arboretum created along the Milwaukee River, including 6 acres of formerly industrial land which is undergoing a dramatic transformation into an Oak Savannah.
Urban Ecology Center’s Menomonee Valley branch was once a vacant tavern at 37th and Pierce Streets and is now a model of “green” building options. This environmental community center currently serves eight schools and aims to expand its program to serve 22 additional south side schools which will participate in the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project.
Opened in 2013, the 24-acre Three Bridges Park marks the continued transformation of the former, long-abandoned rail yard in the Menomonee Valley into an asset for families, children, fishers, hikers, bikers, boaters, businesses and employees of the area. The park features two miles of trails, river access and three new bike/pedestrian bridges providing access to residents and workers to the new park and jobs in the Valley.
Ranked on the Top 10 Green Building list of the American Institute of Architects in 2013, the Clock Shadow Building is new construction that consumes 50 percent less energy, uses 60 percent less water, diverts 100 percent of storm water from the sewer system and uses recycled material for over 50 percent of the building. The Clock Shadow building is home to Clock Shadow Creamery, as well as social justice organizations and a community clinic.
Built in 1888, the historic Milwaukee River Flushing Station is now home to Milwaukee coffee roaster Colectivo on the Lake. The redesigned site captures 100 percent of its storm water on-site through a recycled granite porous pavement parking lot, a rain garden, and a grit separator. Captured runoff is reused to irrigate landscaping.
BROWN FIELDS TO GREEN FIELDS
Once the center of heavy industry in the city, Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley is now a national model in economic development and environmental sustainability. Three hundred acres of former brown fields have been converted to mixed use and natural green areas, now featuring more than one million square feet of green buildings, housing more than 35 companies and resulting in more than 4,700 family-supporting jobs. Seven miles of riverside trails have been constructed and 45 acres of native plants installed, leading to improved wildlife habitat and water quality.
MILWAUKEE'S GREEN WATER INDUSTRY
The only organization of its kind in the United States, the Water Council is a coalition of water-based industries and university research centers that has resulted in the city becoming recognized as a world hub for water research, education and economic development. Through the efforts of the Water Council, Milwaukee was awarded United Nations Global Compact City status, one of only 17 cities worldwide and the second in the U.S. to achieve this designation.
The Water Council created a water research and business accelerator center in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood which opened in 2013. The Global Water Center, a 6-story converted warehouse, is now home to the Water Council, as well as university research facilities, existing water-related companies and accelerator space for new, emerging companies with a water emphasis. This building’s redevelopment also served as a catalyst for the development of the Reed Street Yards, which has been designated by the city of Milwaukee as a water technology research park and will serve as a global showcase for water management.
The UWM School of Freshwater Sciences (SFS) is the first graduate school in the nation dedicated solely to the study of freshwater. Established in 2009, SFS expands a tradition of freshwater studies at UWM that began in 1966 with the Center for Great Lakes Studies and continued with the Great Lakes WATER Institute in 1973.
Discovery World offers a Great Lakes Future Program, which engages guests in investigations of water resources, especially the Great Lakes, the largest system of freshwater on our planet. Activities examine human impacts on freshwater systems, highlighting water quality and quantity, availability and distribution, uses and history. Programs help visitors build a strong understanding of the dynamic role of water in
their lives and the life of their community.
The S/V Denis Sullivan, “Wisconsin’s Official Flagship,” is a 137-foot recreation of a three-masted, 19th century Great Lakes schooner. Owned and operated by Discovery World as an educational platform and scientific research vessel, the schooner offers three-hour sailing excursions three times per day when in port. Featuring interactive exhibits and aquariums, visitors can explore the Great Lakes in even greater depth.
Milwaukee Public Library – 33,000 sq. ft. roof garden planted with chives, Karl Forester Reed Grass and 12 varieties of sedum that reduces polluted storm water runoff and improves air quality.
Milwaukee Public Museum - 4,100 sq. ft., housing more than 1,000 biotrays planted with sedum.
Rockwell Automation – at 48,500 sq. ft., the largest private-sector roof in Wisconsin. The roof garden helps reduce the energy required to heat and cool the building and annually retains 1.2 million gallons of rainwater that otherwise would runoff into the city sewer system and eventually into Lake Michigan.
Clock Shadow Building – roof garden can hold up to 40,000 gallons of rainwater, reducing runoff and heating and cooling costs.
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District Green Roof Project – the city provides incentive funding to government agencies, private property owners and non-profit organizations to increase green roof implementation within the Milwaukee area.
GREEN BUSINESS INITIATIVES
In 2013, the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino opened an $18 million power plant which converts food waste to gas that will power the hotel and casino on West Canal Street. The plant is part of a broader push by the Potawatomi to convert to renewable energy sources.
The country’s oldest certified organic brewery, Lakefront Brewery uses 100 percent organic malts and hops and clean/reclaimed energy. Lakefront Brewery’s rich history includes partnerships with Growing Power, local taverns and businesses like Great Lakes Distillery. They were the first brewery to receive the Travel Green Wisconsin certification, recognizing businesses that reduce their environmental impact through operational and other improvements.
Milwaukee Brewing Co. has installed 28 rooftop solar panels, which pre-heat the water used in the brewing process. The brewery purchases ingredients and equipment locally to reduce pollution, supplies spent grain to Milwaukee urban farm Growing Power for composting and reuses water from cooling fermentation tanks in the hot water system. A Wisconsin “Green Tier” member, the company also utilizes nearby restaurants’ used cooking grease in its boiler, which supplies about 30 percent of its energy needs.
LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (LEED) CERTIFICATION
LEED is the nation’s pre-eminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings and is administered by the US Green Building Council.
In 2013, Rockwell Automation earned LEED certification for significantly reducing the overall environmental impact of its landmark, 2.1 million square-foot corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. The recognition is the culmination of a comprehensive, 12-year sustainability program, which includes combined office, laboratory and former manufacturing space.
The Brewery development, formerly the home of the Pabst Brewing Company, was awarded the prestigious LEED Platinum level for Neighborhood Development in 2013 and has become Milwaukee’s newest sustainable, historic neighborhood. The development comprises two major university centers, offices, apartments, the Brewhouse Inn & Suites, Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub and more prospective tenants. Sustainable strategies include comprehensive guidelines covering brownfield redevelopment, historic preservation of former brewery buildings, stormwater management, construction waste management and green building methodology.
In 2012, Milwaukee’s baseball stadium, Miller Park, was certified in the LEED Existing Building rating system, due to the nature of the facility, the sheer volume of people, materials, vendors, the operable roof, and overall complexity of the building operations. Only two other Major League Baseball stadiums have achieved LEED for Existing Buildings (AT&T Park in San Francisco and Target Field in Minneapolis), and both of them are open-air facilities.
Former NBA star and one of Time Magazine’s “World’s Most Influential People” Will Allen began a national nonprofit organization in 1993, supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environments in which they live. Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a “living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, elderly, farmers, producers and other professionals. Training areas include urban agriculture, small and large scale composting, food distribution, youth development and community engagement.
TRAVEL GREEN WISCONSIN
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism initiated Travel Green Wisconsin in 2006 to promote smart, environmentally friendly business practices. Travel Green is the first state-sponsored sustainable travel certification program
in the nation and has become a model for sustainable travel efforts both nationally and internationally.
Great Lakes Distillery
Havenwoods State Forest
Lake Express Ferry
MillerCoors Brewery Tour
The Pfister Hotel
WELL Spa and Janice Salon (in the Pfister Hotel)
Milwaukee continues to go for the gold – in Green!