Milwaukee Edition
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed

The Sustainability Summit and Exposition

The Evolution of a Flourishing Green Idea

(L-R) Ed Begley, Jr., George Stone, Michael E. Mann

(L-R) Ed Begley, Jr., George Stone, Michael E. Mann

Since 2004, Milwaukee’s highly successful Sustainability Summit and Exposition has been attracting participants interested in energy efficiency, social responsibility and green energy practices. A collaborative effort involving university students and professors, as well as business vendors and government entities, the conference is a shining example of how ideas can evolve and grow for the good of a city, region and state. Since its first incarnation in the spring of 2004, its turnout has grown from 60 attendees associated with Wisconsin’s technical colleges to an expected attendance of more than 3,000 at this year’s event, Conserving the Future Together, which takes place March 26 and 27 at the Wisconsin Center, in Milwaukee.

By 2001, Wisconsin’s forward thinking technical colleges were already planning to replace fossil fuels and contemplating a number of other sustainability efforts. Madison College was involved in energy initiatives, Lake Shore had an interest in wind energy, and several schools found renewables appealing; so the first Wisconsin Renewable Energy meeting made a lot of sense.

“The idea of a major initiative in renewable energy was actually conceived in 2001 after an Environmental Protection Agency workshop that we attended in Chicago,” says Summit Chair George Stone, a Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) instructor of natural sciences and one of the summit’s founders.

Sustainability Summit and ExpositionIn 2005, Johnson Controls, one of the state’s largest employers, offered to co-host the summit with MATC; the turnout doubled to 120. The 2006 summit, which was held at the Wisconsin Rapids campus of Mid-State Technical, attracted 180 individuals and six exhibitors. By 2008, the event was being held at the Milwaukee Convention Center, which allowed for more space and fewer logistical challenges. It was renamed the Green Energy Summit and marketed more widely to organizations, schools and institutions of higher education, which resulted in an attendance of 1,250. The 2009 Summit expanded to three days and garnered Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, as a keynote speaker; attendance soared to 1,750. Between 2010 and 2013, the audience grew to 3,400.

“Our base of academic and corporate sponsors includes most of Wisconsin’s major institutions of higher learning as well many major corporations such as A. O. Smith [headquartered in Milwaukee] and SC Johnson [based in Racine]. This level of support has helped to turn the summit into a major conference for our state and region,” advises Stone.

With the support of sponsors, the conference is able to attract a national audience with myriad local, regional and national experts that lead its plenary and breakout sessions. Nationally recognized speakers have included leading climate scientists such as James Hansen and Michael E. Mann and environmental leaders like Ed Begley Jr., actor, author of Living Like Ed and spokesperson for the A. O. Smith Corporation; as well as corporate leaders like Charles Schrock, president, CEO and chairman of Integrys Energy Group, and Will Allen, author and founder of Growing Power.

George StoneStone is especially proud of one particular aspect of the summit. “We determined early on that we would always allow students to register free of charge because the summit addresses trends in energy sustainability, as well as potential careers in everything from energy engineering, environmental health and water quality technology to sustainability and renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal. Of the 3,400 individuals who attended in 2013, 2,000 were students,” he notes.

In addition to its 150 presenters and 68 exhibitors, the 11th annual Sustainability Summit and Exposition is hosting a career fair from 2 to 5 p.m., March 26, following the completion of the first day’s sessions. “It will be a rich mix of colleges and corporations, which is ideal because it puts students and green job seekers in touch with leading industry, government, consumer and academic experts, as well as what could be their college of choice or their potential employer,” remarks Stone.


Location: 400 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. For additional information, visit SustainabilitySummit.US.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Understanding Clothing Insulation

Learning about clothing insulation—the different types, the advantages of each, and their sustainability and affect on animals—helps one consider the important factors before making a decision about what clothing to buy.

Beyond Birth Control

The naturopathic approach to this issue aims to restore normal hormonal rhythm and balance by looking at hormones produced by the ovaries and then by looking at the body as a whole.

Citizens, Restaurateurs Reduce Plastic Pollution Through 
The Last Plastic Straw

According to the California-based nonprofit Plastic Pollution Coalition, over 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the United States. In today’s on-the-go culture, straws are typically used only for a short time and then discarded, ultimately becoming a source of plastic pollution in oceans and waterways.

Dare to Be Aware Fair Celebrates 11 Years of Holistic Networking

This year’s fair takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 14, at Alverno College, in the Sister Joel Read Conference Center.

Give Mother Earth A Fighting Chance

Unless society collectively changes its lifestyle habits that affect the environment, Mother Earth will not have a chance to recover from the abuse inflicted by humans for decades.

Ayurveda Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy and Baby

During pregnancy, Mother Nature has ensured that baby’s needs are more important than the mother’s; hence, optimal self-care during pregnancy is essential.

Connecting Kids to the Earth

These days, connecting to the planet doesn’t happen automatically–but we can change that.

Protecting Bumblebees 
Is a Gardening Must

Bumblebees are in trouble, and that means trouble for our vegetable gardens. Use these proposed tips to help protect these important pollinators!

Yoga Instructor Empowers People to Live Healthier Lives

Founder of Pure Energy Yoga, Shelley Carpenter, has found that yoga not only relieves pain, but can help bring the mind, body and spirit into harmony.

The Smorgasbord 
of Midwestern Laws

The Midwest has a great tradition of home cooking, yet, state laws are sometimes hostile to the home cook that tires to test the market or grow a homemade business.

Launching a Kitchen-
Based Food Business 
from Home

Depending on the relatively new cottage food laws in Wisconsin and other states, home bakers, picklers and jammers can now launch a food business from their home kitchen.

Rocker Neil Young Celebrates Food 
Democracy with New Album Tour

Legendary musician Neil Young and his new band, Promise of the Real, featuring Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah Nelson, on July 5.

Add your comment: