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Environmental Leadership Arrives in Milwaukee

by Belle Bergner

Milwaukee’s environmental community has taken an exciting and unprecedented leap into what former Vice President Al Gore has deemed the “century of the environment” with the strategic alliance of several organizations into the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium (MEC). GreenConsortium.jpgThe Consortium’s new office is in the East Side Office Building, 1845 N. Farwell Ave. Just a couple blocks north of Brady Street and minutes from downtown, the Consortium will have access to the city’s revitalizing east side and downtown economy. The move to a centrally-located office will also give the Consortium greater visibility and efficiency, allowing member groups to accomplish more than when they were working in isolation. The office space is warmly decorated; the walls are painted in earthy tones, and the glass-paneled office doors lend a feeling of openness, facilitating collaboration between Consortium members. The atmosphere is professional and inviting, which is an impression that many environmental groups have lacked in the past. Indeed, it is a sign of the times that environmental organizations are moving from the kitchen tables where they began, into the economic mainstream of America. “Many of us were working out of the front rooms of small houses, with barely enough space for our 1-2 person staff,” says Lynn Broaddus, executive director of Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers (FMR). Members of the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium include: • The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin • Citizens for a Better Environment • Friends of Milwaukee County Parks • Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers • Milwaukee Urban Gardens • The Park People • River Revitalization Foundation Groth Design Group, an architectural and interior design company, volunteered to create the Consortium’s eco-friendly space plan and decorate it. Most of the renovation materials were nearly 100% recycled and non-toxic. In addition, a substantial amount of furniture is reused due to donations from New Edge, while Interplan donated its expertise and time to put the furniture together. “We would not have been able to make this happen if it weren’t for the innumerable hours of volunteer time and services donated by these companies,” Broaddus says. Through shared office space and collaborative efforts, the participating organizations of MEC will be able to increase their collective impact upon the citizens and the environment of Milwaukee. “We’ve already been able to quickly mobilize on a project idea due to the proximity of our environmental partners here at the consortium. Whether we’re utilizing another group’s volunteers or pulling together a quick meeting to brainstorm an idea, the Consortium has already proven to be a great success,” says Broaddus. “Our goals are for all groups to complement each other, for citizens, organizations, and businesses to have a one-stop shopping opportunity for environmental information, and to increase the efficiency of all organizations,” says Kimberly Gleffe of River Revitalization Foundation (RRF). Milwaukee Urban Gardens (MUG) director Deb Ridgway echoed the goals of FMR and RRF, adding that the vibrancy of all of these groups together, the ability to share ideas, and support each other, is an “obvious bonus.” MUG helps bring families and communities together by purchasing green space and providing land for public gardens. The Environmental Consortium is looking for two or three more groups doing environmental work in the area who would like to share the new space. Thanks to the Argesy Foundation, which is subsidizing rent for the first five years to hold it at just $500 per group, per year, environmental groups can share the Consortium’s office resources in addition to the benefits of working in what will surely become a hotspot of environmental activity in the future. For more information, drop by or call the consortium at 277-7927.
by Belle Bergner