Sustainability Summit Aims to Engage More Businesses

Apr 12, 2016

The 13th annual Sustainability Summit begins Wednesday in Milwaukee.  It's taking place, for the first time, at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in the Menomonee Valley.

This year’s theme is engaging community, business & academia in sustainable action.

The summit, which brings local, regional and national leaders to address a variety of sustainability-related topics, has a new director, Mark Felsheim.

The vice president of MATC's Oak Creek campus is taking over for founding sustainability summit director George Stone. 

“We’ve got some big companies and some smaller companies. And they’ll be talking what they’re doing to be more sustainable and what other companies are doing to break into the sustainability market,” Felsheim says.

High school entrepreneur Cole Compton's business got a boost at the 2014 summit.
Credit Susan Bence

He says while previous summits encouraged high school student involvement, organizers made the conscious decision to zero in on college students and the business community.

“We’re welcoming and open but we really wanted to focus on the adult college students and the business community and community activists,” Felsheim says.

Jeff Anthony works with the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium, or M-WERC.  Anthony says the summit strategically folds in networking time.

He put together a panel that will focus on distributed energy and micro grids.

“They are two very hot topics and we move away from – not entirely – but somewhat from the central generating station business model for how we get electricity,” Anthony adds, “so companies are going to hear the latest and greatest of what’s happening not only in Wisconsin, but outside the state are doing and hopefully opening up some eyes.”

During the summit, Anthony will give a sneak preview of an energy water nexus road map.  M-WERC worked on the project in partnership with The Water Council.

“The road map is a deep dive into the technology and market opportunities for a given technology that our business and academic members focus on. This one looks at the overlap of energy technologies and water technologies,” Anthony adds, “ a lot of people don’t realize how much energy goes into producing clean water and even fewer realize how much water is used in large generating stations to produce electricity.”

Erick Shambarger says organizers are taking a creative approach to sustainability.

Shambarger heads the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office and helped craft the 2016 summit.

“For example we have a workshop panel on sustainable neighborhoods. So how do we bring together various efforts that maybe going on around the community but coordinate them more closely to have a bigger impact on a neighborhood level,” Shambarger says.

He says one workshop will explore sustainable neighborhood and sustainable health nexus.

“Something we haven’t done in the past at the summit – bringing professionals in the health care world and finding the intersection with sustainability professionals who are interested in improving the environment; because as we know there’s lots of intersections between environmental health and human health,” Shambarger says.

He hopes the summit “will help forge new coalitions to make sustainability and healthy change for southeast Wisconsin.”