‘Green Task Force’ to target Milwaukee’s sustainability problems

In order to support continued efforts to go green, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett recently proposed a “Green Task Force” to make Milwaukee government and businesses more sustainable and energy efficient.
According to Matt Howard, Environmental Sustainability Director for the City of Milwaukee, the group intends to create a formalized plan to solve the city’s sustainability problems. This plan will be based on recommendations made by a similar preliminary group, called the “Green Team,” in 2005.
Recommendations from the first group included creating new ways to manage storm water runoff, smarter usage of the city’s energy and promoting a “green” economy.

Howard said because the group is in the early stages of development, specifics about its size and structure have not yet been determined. However, he added that the group will have members of Milwaukee’s academic and business communities like the Green Team did.

“While we don’t yet know exactly what the group will look like, we would like to get things moving by the first of the year,” Howard said.

Milwaukee’s push toward sustainability began in 2005 when Barrett implemented the Green Team, which was comprised of approximately 75 individuals from Milwaukee academic institutions, the private sector and local businesses.

This first group researched sustainability and energy issues in Milwaukee and came up with a list of about 30 recommendations for how the city could improve.

Barrett called the original group together 5 years later in 2010 to discuss its findings and how the city had improved on the 2005 recommendations. At that time, Milwaukee had made progress on about 85 percent of the issues.

The new Green Task Force will create strategic plans for how the city can improve on the rest of those recommendations and continue to improve Milwaukee’s sustainability.

“This is different from the first task force because this group will be finding more concrete solutions to sustainability problems in Milwaukee,” Howard said. “The first group was created more to identify problems and goals.”

Rana Altenburg, vice president of public affairs at Marquette, said she approached those leading the project to express Marquette’s interest in the sustainability effort.

Altenburg said the university is optimistic about the mayor’s efforts and wants to be involved in the Green Task Force’s plans to make Milwaukee more energy efficient.

“We know students and the university as a whole are very interested in issues surrounding sustainability,” she said. “We thought that this was a great step for Milwaukee and we hope that students will want to get involved.”

Howard assured students in Milwaukee will be encouraged to participate in the initiative.

“We definitely hope to have students and Marquette involved in the process,” he said. “We just aren’t sure how yet.”

Mike Whittow, assistant to the vice president in the Office of Administration, has worked on several sustainability initiatives at Marquette. Whittow said because the structure of the group is still unclear, the way Marquette will contribute is yet to be determined.

“We’ll definitely keep up on what’s going on with the task force,” he said. “It’s too early to tell yet how exactly Marquette will get involved.”