The Center for the Small City organization held a four-part workshop seminar Wednesday open for the public to learn what is being done and what can be done individually to work towards a more sustainable future.
This year’s event, titled Sustainability in a Small City, focused on sustainability on a small scale in an individual to community capacity.
“The Center for the Small City has been doing community outreach education programs for nearly 35 years, we are an educational outreach unit,” said Co-Director Dr. Robert Wolensky,
Wolensky said that their mission is to teach people what they can do to help out in their communities, inform them what others have been doing to help out, and finally give examples of how things have been getting done around the nation.
The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) has funded the program’s much larger national level conferences as well as the smaller bi-annual workshops, which are much more tailored to the community and its inhabitants.
“This is that smaller one, more intimate, more applied, and more practical,” Wolensky said.
This year, the four sessions held in the DUC were more geared to sustainability practices in everyday life.
The opening seminar, titled Renewable Energy Policy in Wisconsin, focused primarily on wind and solar power at the individual level. Guest speakers Jenny Heinzen, Nick Korth, and Douge Stingle, all members of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, talked about the practicalities and policies behind these renewable energy sources.
Korth said that it is a prudent investment for people to invest in a solar panel system soon after someone buys their first home. The idea being that it will pay for itself in how much you save on energy bills sooner, giving the owner more payback in the long run. Stingle also talked about how there are state laws forcing the power companies to pay the owner back money if they produce more energy than they use.In another session members of the Stevens Point municipal government spoke about the things the city has been working on and planning to enhance sustainability locally. Mayor Andrew Halverson talked about his push for a new and better water waste treatment plant.
“It may not be the sexiest thing to talk about, but it could not be more important,” Halverson said.
The City of Stevens Point officials stressed their value of sustainability, citing example projects like the Conservation Subdivisions project that reduces urban sprawl and increases public responsibility in protecting each area’s natural resources. Natural resources like the Plover River.
“What we need to think about is what our connections are to the river and what we want them to be,” said Director of Community Development Michael Ostrowski.
Owstrowski argued that it is important to design a community’s developments around its natural environment. When loggers founded Stevens Point on the logging river their homes, shops and establishments were made out of logs, a reflection of their surrounding in their architecture.
Owstrowski called this Organic Architecture, integrating the world the community is built on with its culture.
To tie the whole day together, Wolensky and co-diector Edward Miller invited Professor Michael Kraft, a nationally recognized Professor of Political Science at UW-Green Bay, as the featured speaker on sustainability.
“Sustainability means being able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Kraft said.
In his speech Kraft gave specific examples of what other cities around the nation have been doing to make their cities more self-sustainable, like the “Seattle City Lights” energy conservation and education programs or the Chicago Green Group’s efforts to reduce carbon footprint.
He also shared the examples of the struggles other cities have had to face to implement greener policies; not everybody likes the idea of spending tax dollars on programs, renovations, and new equipment. Some even believe that implementing new projects cuts jobs out of the market.
“The most important thing is to educate people that sustainability and reusable energy actually creates jobs and boosts economies,” Kraft said. “Bettering your communities will raise property values and increase tourism while cutting energy costs.”