by Soumya Gokuli
Since 2003, Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) has had the pleasure of hosting the Sustainability Summit, a widely anticipated event for the environmentally–concerned crowd. The 12th annual, 2015 Sustainability Summit and Exposition will be held March 4th-6th at the Wisconsin Center, conveniently located on downtown Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue.
The Summit aims to encourage organizations to invest in developing sustainable, ecologically friendly business practices. It intends to educate firms, government, academics/students, and community members alike on newly made progress in the field in hopes of creating a greener workforce. George Stone, Chairman of the event, says the primary aim of the Summit and Exposition is education.
Formerly referred to as the Green Energy Summit, Ginny Gnadt, Senior Public Relations Specialist at MATC, says, “The name was changed to incorporate more issues.” All systems and practices that can help promote sustainable economies parallel with the goal of maintaining the earth for future generations are welcome to be presented at the Summit. Stone expands, “Apart from environmental issues, business trends and employment opportunities, this is for public concern like the basic necessities of food, water, health, transportation and other things of public interest.” Gnadt continues nostalgically, “It was actually held on the MATC campus when it started with just 60 people. We’ve had to switch venues throughout the years because the number keeps growing. Last year, it was around 3,000 people.” Stone informs that today it is, “really a collaboration between all the educational institutes in the area, private and public universities.”
The theme for the 2015 conference is “Sovereignty and Survival: Climate, Energy, Water, Food, Health”.
March 4th through the 6th at the Wisconsin Center
The first day, Wednesday the 4th, of the Summit will focus on the Economics of Sustainability; the second day, Thursday the 5th, will emphasize the Necessities of Sustainability in regards to water, food, health, and education. Each day has four plenary sessions in the morning with two, 60-75 minute, “breakout” sessions after noon for each topic. Friday, March 6th, is reserved for workshops and tours.
The three-day summit will host speakers ranging from local to international experts. Registered guests can participate in discussions, listen to seminars, browse about 70 exhibits, or use the Summit as a tool to network with industry giants. The Summit also provides a platform to connect sponsors with green job seekers through the Sustainability Careers Pathways Fair part of the Summit held on Wednesday, March 4th, from 2PMto 5PM Immediately afterwards, from 5PM to 6PM, an opening night reception will be held for the public
This year, the Summit is anticipating over 4,000 attendees, about half of which are expected to be students.
Underlying this grand, business-academic conference is a call for corporate social responsibility towards its community’s environment and people. Folks, mostly from Wisconsin and other bordering Midwestern states, have been gathering every year to address how to sustain our planet while ensuring a higher quality of life for its people.
The aforementioned plenary sessions will focus on these two issues. Wednesday March 4th will hold talks about how to better energy usage by innovation then transition and application, growing development in the regional Tri-State Alliance, sustainable manufacturing, and lowering carbon emissions to help decelerate climate change. Thursday March 5th sessions will pertain to being vigilant of freshwater requirements, scarcity in food supply, discerning public health through a global lens, and improving education. All these topics intend to improve quality of life.
Want to Get in on the Action?
You can even participate in this year’s Summit and Exposition if you are working on your own sustainable, ecologically focused project. A call for posters has been displayed on their website, allowing another opportunity to showcase community members’ grassroots innovations. “We’re having more and more high-school interest,” states Stone, “People on every level are encouraged to submit related projects.”
To attend, you must register in advance on their website sustainabilitysummit.us.
If you’re fortunate enough to be a student–this can range anywhere from high school to graduate school–you may register free of charge, made possible by the Summit’s many sponsors (a list of which can also be found on their website).
General Admission is $150 per day. Educators and senior citizens can buy tickets for as low as $50. Discounted rates are also offered to veterans, not-for-profit organizations, and those who wish to attend both days. “Our rates are cheaper than most conferences,” says Stone, “We want to be as accessible as possible.”
Can’t Afford it and Still want to Go?
Not willing to pay such a hefty amount, but still interested? Then volunteer! Volunteers receive free entrance on any day they work more than two  hours. You can sign up on the Sustainability Summit’s website (sustainabilitysummit.us/Volunteer/WhyVolunteer.aspx). Volunteer opportunities include registration help, greeters, room monitors, and luncheon helpers just to name a few.
No Volunteer will be turned away
Since the size and complexity of the Summit has been gradually increasing over a decade, it expects to have a record number of volunteers this year. This is a great way to get some first-hand experience working with a notable organization with a worthy cause, and to educate yourself on current sustainability issues in the process.
Wisconsin citizens are encouraged to try and use public transport, carpool, or Rideshare programs (rideshare.wi.gov). The Rideshare program extends throughout the whole state and adjacent counties in neighboring states. Taking a bus from Riverwest takes about 30-40 minutes and riding your bicycle takes about 20 minutes.
The 2015 Sustainability Summit and Exposition is also a great personal tool for accessing research-based, factual information on sustainable activities, problems, and proposed solutions. More information can be the found as their website, (sustainabilitysummit.us), gets updated as March draws nearer.
“The philosophy is that Earth provides us all resources, for all we need. So, we need to be good stewards of those resources. We want to be prepared for the future,” concludes Sustainability Summit and Exposition Chairman George Stone.
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