Local nonprofits help keep Wisconsin clean and teach conservation practices to the community, keeping neighborhoods green.
Written by Tricia Carzoli
Photos Courtesy of Milwaukee Riverkeepers & Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
As the Wisconsin snows melt, unveiling the beauty of spring and nature is on the forefront of everyone’s minds, several area nonprofits and organizations work year round to ensure that we keep our state clean.
Milwaukee River Cleanup
With Earth Day comes a renewed appreciation for the environment, and Menomonee Falls takes Earth Day seriously. In conjunction with the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring Cleanup, residents will be participating in river cleanups at over 30 locations in the Milwaukee area. The community regularly comes together each year to ensure the river banks get a sparkly clean makeover.
The Menomonee Falls Public Works says the yearly event draws a large crowd–usually meeting at Rotary Park to gather supplies such as gloves, water, and garbage bags before dispersing with a mission to restore the area to its unpolluted natural state.
For years, the Milwaukee Riverkeepers have been leading the charge to assist with both riverside aesthetics as well as water safety and nature preservation to protect the cleanliness of the Milwaukee River Basin for visitors and residents alike. The cleanup is part of ongoing educational efforts throughout the year.
To be a part of the Earth Day cleanup through Milwaukee Riverkeepers, visit milwaukeeriverkeeper.org to learn more.
Rocking to a Greener Planet
One of the premier event planning organizations in Milwaukee, Rock the Green, is focused on green efforts to keep Wisconsin eco-friendly. Rock The Green was founded on the principals of zero-waste, no plastics, and a sustainable ecosystem that collides with music and community.
For years, the 501(c)(3) has been rocking the sustainable living platform, organizing events and hosting a sustainability festival each year.
As an organization committed to “creating a sustainable ecosystem in concert with each other,” when you hire Rock the Green to assist in putting on your event, the team will help your company or business work toward leaving a mere featherlight footprint. Their commitment includes utilizing paperless ticketing though Eventbrite as well as compostable servingware.
During its Rock The Green Sustainability Festival, the nonprofit includes refillable aluminum water bottles with its ticket price to reduce plastics as well as employs B20 biodiesel generators, solar power and bicycle power to minimize energy consumption. LED lighting and flashlights are relied upon for both ambient lighting and security. Rock the Green also encourages carpooling, public transportation and bicycling as well as usage of the Milwaukee County Transit System and ride-share programs such as ZimRide.com
The 501(c)(3) works to eliminate printed material through reducing, reusing, and recycling. The practices employed by Rock the Green have earned the company a Travel Green Wisconsin Certification for both sustainability practices and as a green destination.
Hire Rock the Green for your next event. Visit rockthegreen.com to learn more, donate, or volunteer–and keep the community both rocking and green.
Conservation with The Schlitz
Also committed to education throughout the year is the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee.
The center boasts five decades of environmental education on land with a history of its own. Once inhabited by indigenous peoples, specifically the Menomonee, and later by European immigrants for lumber and firewood as well as agriculture, the land was eventually acquired by the Uihlein Schlitz family and used as a rest pasture for draft horses pulling beer wagons to and from the nearby brewery.
After being deeded to the Schlitz Foundation in 1952 to be used as a recreational area, the property was in danger of being reduced to condominiums or parking lots. In an effort to avoid this, a group of women advocated for educational use of the land and, in 1971, the property was donated to the National Audubon Society. The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center remains locally funded but works with the National Audubon Society to advance land and bird conservation.
While the on-grounds preschool–Wisconsin’s first nature preschool–teaches children from an early age that nature is one of the best educators, it is just one of the many foundational programs that help the community connect with the natural world.
Six miles of trails throughout the 185 acres of forest, wetlands, and restored prairie are a huge draw for visitors. Nature hikes range from first-time visitor trails to a trail along Lake Michigan to birding hikes and even hikes of solitude. Also available is a wheelchair accessible trail that leads to a first-hand viewing of native plants, vegetation, wildlife, and Mystery Lake.
Executive Director Helen Boomsma said there is a 60-foot observation tower on the property that offers visitors a unique vantage point from which to view the lake and surrounding area .
In addition, the Raptor Program educates the public about Wisconsin’s birds of prey, including hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons as well as turkey vultures and American crows and the growing concern about their habitats.
“Our Raptor Program is home to 15 non-releasable birds of prey, including eagles, owls, and hawks,” Boomsma said. “All year long we offer programs where visitors can meet these birds up-close and learn about their behaviors and the importance of habitat conservation.”
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center also helps guide residents about how to foster conservation in their own backyards.
Make your own Green Scene
*Utilize areas in your yard for small gardens–hard-to-mow corners or edges are great spaces
*Plant milkweed to attract caterpillars that turn into monarch butterflies, one of the many endangered species on our planet
*Consider reducing or avoiding insecticides in your recreational areas
*Plant bushes that attract native insects which local birds eat
*Cherry, Dogwood, Serviceberry, and Chokecherry provide food for birds
*Viburnum and juniper shrubs provide locations for nesting as well as materials for building nests.
Visit schlitzaudubon.org for more tips.
To support the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, consider becoming a member or volunteering.
This spring, get out and make a difference. Help with a community clean-up day, look for ways to make your own home and yard more eco-friendly, take a hike and make time to appreciate the natural beauty around you, hire a pro-sustainability company, visit a nature center, or volunteer to help promote environmental awareness or recycling programs. There are so many ways to Go Green–find one that is uniquely you!