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City of Milwaukee

Sustainability Newsletter

Spring 2022

Message from the Director 

Spring of 2022 is a time of renewal for ECO and for the City of Milwaukee. Congratulations to Mayor Cavalier Johnson on his election! We are excited about new possibilities and a renewed focus on economic development and environmental stewardship in all of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. We were thrilled to join Mayor Johnson in naming Sherman Park as Milwaukee’s second Eco-Neighborhood after a year of hard work, education, and collaboration between ECO, the Sherman Park Community Association, and other city environmental non-profits, churches, and active residents. We have also welcomed new staff to ECO who are excited to leave their positive mark on this City, just as their predecessors have. 

In March, the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity presented its recommendations to the Milwaukee Common Council. In 2022, we will turn these community recommendations into a draft report, with an eye toward formal adoption of the City’s first Climate and Equity Plan by the end of the year. Meanwhile, we are already working to implement parts of the plan. In January, Mayor Johnson and the City of Milwaukee joined the National Building Performance Standards Coalition, a White House led initiative in support of state and local policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in commercial buildings. This is fully consistent with the recommendations of the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity. We are also working with the Milwaukee Health Department to coordinate their home lead abatement programs with ECO’s energy efficiency project funding. We will issue a competitive request for proposals to select a consultant to support this work.

We are effectively advocating for coordinated climate action with partners in State agencies through the Wisconsin Local Government Coalition. As one example of our advocacy, the statewide Focus on Energy program is now hiring a Community Liaison Manager so that we can better coordinate local climate initiatives with the statewide energy efficiency program. We are also excited to support new efforts by the State of Wisconsin to bring environmental sustainability into the review of building codes. The State is currently seeking members to serve on the Sustainable Building Council. I encourage qualified Milwaukeeans to explore these opportunities.

Although we are making positive progress on the environment, we will not be the world class eco-city we envision unless we are a city built on love for our neighbor and love for our community. Let us see and support the good in others. Let us reject violence, fear, and aggression. Gun violence is no way to solve disputes and cannot be tolerated. Littering and reckless driving in our community are unacceptable. Living with other people in a community requires thinking and feeling with love in our hearts, reflecting before acting, and working for the common good. 

THANK YOU to all of the members of the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity, as well as the many people who contributed their time and ideas to the Task Force working groups. We can all be proud of what has been accomplished so far, but this is just the beginning. We look forward to continued collaboration with all of the many people and organizations that contributed as we work to finalize and implement the plan. Together, we can make Milwaukee a world class eco-City on America’s Fresh Coast!

Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Wisconsin native Governor Gaylor Nelson to raise awareness about air and water pollution. Today, Earth Day is observed around the world through community activities that support the environment, like cleanups, plantings, or educational programs. 

How did you celebrate Earth Day this year?

HOME GR/OWN Organized Cleanups


In celebration of Earth Day, Marquette University students volunteered their time to clean up waste at several HOME GR/OWN green spaces. Clean up sites included Adams Park, Nigella Community Orchard, Nigella Community Garden, Victory Over Violence Park, Sunshine Park, 15th and North Ave. Vacant Lot, and the Harambee Tot Lot. Community volunteers help keep Milwaukee's parks and outdoor spaces beautiful and prepare these areas for summer activities.

Rock the Green at the Harley-Davidson Museum

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ECO also took part in the 11th Annual Rock the Green Earth Day Celebration featuring music by Bendigo Fletcher and V FUNK on the pedal-powered stage, food and drinks, and environmental education by community organizations. We were thrilled to support Rock the Green's return this year at the Harley-Davidson Museum alongside Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is located along the Menomonee River bank, offering the perfect opportunity for us to inform the community of ECO's leadership in protecting our waterways as part of our Water Centric City Initiative.

Every year, 22 million pounds of plastic pollution enters the Great Lakes, half of which flows into Lake Michigan alone. Plastic waste breaks down into microplastics, which eventually end up in our water, our food, and in our bodies. 

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In partnership with the Plastic-Free MKE Movement, ECO encourages residents to reduce the use of items like plastic bags, utensils, and straws to help make Milwaukee a Lake Friendly City. The Milwaukee Common Council supported these efforts by passing legislation in 2020 prohibiting food establishments from providing customers with single-use, plastic straws. Reasonable exceptions do apply. 

As part of this effort, the public received reusable bamboo straws for stopping by the ECO table. These biodegrable alternates can be reused and composted at the end of their life cycle. Consider bringing a reusable straw out with you if you know you will be consuming beverages at bar or restaurant.

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To round out a great day, Rock the Green presented its second annual Earth Day Rockstar Award to Elizabeth Hittman for her career in environmental stewardship. Elizabeth worked for ECO for seven years, leading the Milwaukee Shines solar program and Water Centric City Initiative. Her many accomplishments with ECO include operating six solar group buys in partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, installing solar projects at three City buildings and many other community locations, and improving the City’s solar permitting processes. ECO extends a fond farewell to Elizabeth as she begins a new position as Senior Manager of the Illinois Solar for All program.

Take a Listen: Wisconsin Drunken History Podcast's 11th Annual Rock the Green "Earth Day Celebration" episode featuring music by Bendigo Fletcher and V FUNK and interviews with ECO Director Erick Shambarger, Milwaukee Riverkeeper Executive Director Jennifer Bolger, and Rock the Green Founder & Executive Director Lindsay Stevens.

Listen on Soundcloud

Milwaukee Climate and Equity Plan Progress 

In March, the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity completed its recommendations for the Climate and Equity Plan. Task Force members presented 10 Big Ideas to the Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee, where all were well received.

Through a competitive process, the City has selected a consulting firm to turn task force recommendations into a cohesive draft Climate and Equity Plan. ECO is also pleased to bring on Deneine Powell, a FUSE executive fellow who will support the next round of public outreach with the support of members of the Education and Outreach Working Group. 

ECO will support public outreach to create informed, connected, and engaged residents inspired for climate action by offering general climate education and information on the plan's recommendations. We are committed to working with task force members to ensure the final document reflects the intent of the working groups and incorporates new feedback and insights from the community. 

Follow us on social media to stay tuned to our progress. Again, a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the task force and who continue to be active advocates for equitable climate change in Milwaukee.

Thank you to journalist Virginia Small for reporting on the the City's Climate and Equity Plan in this Shepherd Express story

   Learn More:

Mayor Johnson Proclaimed Sherman Park Milwaukee's Second Eco-Neighborhood

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On Arbor Day, April 29, Mayor Cavalier Johnson proclaimed the day "Sherman Park Eco-Neighborhood Day" throughout the City of Milwaukee, recognizing Sherman Park Community Association, Milwaukee Water Commons, Bethel-Bethany United Church of Christ, The Middle Ground, Inc., Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, Grasslyn Manor, the Uptown Crossing Neighborhood, the City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office, and the City of Milwaukee Forestry Division for coming together to engage residents around a shared vision of environmental and neighborhood stewardship.

Sherman Park Community Association has taken inspiration form the ECO-Neighborhood Toolkit and provided members of the neighborhood with information on the topics of energy efficiency and housing rehabilitation, lead-safe homes, beautification projects, urban gardening and food security, litter cleanups and waste reduction, street safety, climate education, and green jobs. Sherman Park is Milwaukee's second Eco-Neighborhood. The first neighborhood to be recognized was Lindsay Heights in 2019.

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Is Your Community the City's Next Eco-Neighborhood?

Milwaukee is a city full of neighborhoods. The benefits of being an Eco-Neighborhood include a deeper level of engagement with your neighbors and the space, more community resources and support available to you, and a greater awareness of everyday actions that build to system-wide environmental change.

If you are interested in transforming your community into an Eco-Neighborhood, contact the ECO office and take the following steps within the span of one year: 

  • Assemble a team of four community members committed to being Sustainability Ambassadors.
  • Complete three neighborhood beautification projects with your neighborhood community (examples include: community garden installation, rain garden installation, tree planting day, rain barrel painting and installation event, etc.).
  • Host two Me2 information sessions and two Me2 house parties in your neighborhood.
  • Host three sustainable community events (refer to Eco-Neighborhoods Toolkit for ideas).
Become an Eco-Neighborhood

ECO Welcomes New Staff Members


Pamela Ritger de la Rosa, 

Environmental Sustainability Program Manager

Pam leads efforts to reduce energy use in City of Milwaukee-owned buildings, administers the PACE program, and supports the Better Building Challenge, among other efforts to advance building energy efficiency and sustainability. She also works on expanding the electric vehicle charging network in the City of Milwaukee and advancing the transition of municipal fleets to electric and other low emissions vehicles.

As a member of the City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity since 2019, Pam looks forward to helping implement many recommendations of the Milwaukee Climate and Equity Plan in this role. Pam is joining ECO after more than 8 years with Clean Wisconsin, the state’s oldest and largest environmental non-profit advocacy organization, where she held the title of Milwaukee Program Director and Staff Attorney. Pam is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School and the La Follette School of Public Affairs, and completed a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Pam is also on the Advisory Board of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and is an active member of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association.

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Alexis Laverdiere, 

Environmental Sustainability Program Coordinator

Alexis Laverdiere coordinates the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency Program and oversees ECO's communication efforts. Previously, she served as Communication Coordinator for Mayor Cavalier Johnson and former Mayor Tom Barrett where she coordinated daily virtual and in-person media events, press materials, social media, web content, and community outreach. 

Alexis earned her master's degree in Corporate Communication and bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Marquette University. She is currently working toward a master's degree in Sustainability Leadership from Arizona State University. Alexis serves on the Marketing Committee for Lakeshore State Park and as Marketing & Communications Chair for the City of Milwaukee's Career Development Employee Resource Group.

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Deneine Powell, 

FUSE Corps Executive Fellow

Deneine Powell is engaging the public on the forthcoming Climate and Equity Plan and supporting its adoption through the City's Common Council and County Board. Working with local partners, she will conduct community engagement and implement priority recommendations from the Climate and Equity Plan. Deneine believes that communities need to adopt a human-centered approach to safeguard the rights of vulnerable people and to share the benefits and burdens of the climate crisis equitably. 

Prior to joining FUSE, Deneine was the National Director of Path to Positive Communities—a program of ecoAmerica. In this capacity, she provided training, capacity building, program support, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for local and regional leaders to elevate the benefits that climate solutions bring people and their communities. She inspires civic leaders and residents to support solutions at local, regional, and national levels. Deneine also served as the Executive Director for Groundwork Milwaukee, an organization devoted to transforming the natural and built environment of low-resource communities—working at the intersection of the environment, equity, and civic engagement. Deneine holds a MS in Organizational Leadership from Marian University, and a BA from the University of Minnesota. 

Let's Get Social!

ECO has consolidated its social media channels and will no longer be monitoring program-specific pages. Make sure to follow the Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Search using @ecocitymke.

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City of Milwaukee

Environmental Collaboration Office

200 E. Wells St., Room 603

Milwaukee, WI 53202