February 2014

Madison leads the way in meetings sustainability

by Kelsey Farabee

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Madison, Wis., is as passionate about sustainability as it is about beer, which is saying something, as the city of 240,000 people consistently ranks in the top 10 on nationwide “breweries per capita” lists. Madison has also long set the state standard for green buildings, locally sourced catering and outdoor public spaces. Occasionally, the two passions intersect, like at the new Wisconsin Brewing Company, which opened in the suburb of Verona in late 2013.

The craft brewery was designed with details meant to minimize waste and energy usage. Founded by three proud Wisconsin natives, the brewery offers several event spaces, including a 75-person taproom, an indoor tasting room and a large outdoor patio, plus customizable tours for groups.

The technologically advanced brewery is one of the latest iterations in Madison’s long history of sustainable creations, from beverages to buildings. The city’s venues reflect this dedication to the environment, offering LEED-certified conference centers, farm-to-table dining and CSR programs that give back to nature.

Sustainable practices are woven into the fabric of Madison, and the city has a long list of environmental pioneers like Aldo Leopold, an environmentalist and professor at the University of Wisconsin who helped create the modern concept of wildlife management. Leopold studied forestry at Yale, founded the Wilderness Society and advocated for the scientific preservation of wildlife by both public and private landowners.

Nowadays, Dane County is home to 6,000 acres of parkland, 150 miles of bike trails and more than 26,000 acres of local lakes. Madison itself has 260 parks and five lakes, with scenery and green spaces helping to inspire the dedication to sustainability.

Located just outside the city limits in Monona, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center is a beautiful off-site venue for conference groups, offering tours, interactive exhibits and guided hikes. It is a major draw for some planners, says Janine Wachter, director of convention and event services for the Greater Madison CVB, “It helps us bring in environmental groups.”

West of Madison, the Leopold Center’s Black Earth Campus offers overnight lodging, team-building exercises and naturalist programs perfect for green retreats.

Another environmentally friendly venue is the waterfront Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, which just completed a renovation. One of Madison’s marquee conference facilities, Monona Terrace is a LEED Silver-certified building with a Travel Green Wisconsin Score of 92 points.

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