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Thursday, April 22, 2010

GreenBiz: Businesses join in on 'Earth Month' in La Crosse


By Gregg Hoffmann
LA CROSSE -- Earth Day has been expanded to Earth Month in this river town and the surrounding area.

The La Crosse Earth Week Coalition and other businesses and organizations have come together to stage a variety of "green" events. Mayor Matt Harter and County Board member Jai Johnson issued a proclamation at the start of the month proclaiming April "Earth Month."

Events have been held throughout the community, in schools and elsewhere. Several entertainment and education events are scheduled for Earth Day today.

Businesses also have been part of the month long celebration. A Green Expo, set for this Saturday at Western Tech's Lunda Center, will feature business vendors involved in "Green Homes" and "Green Transportation."

Topics ranging from Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) cars to geothermal heating and energy efficient bathrooms are among the featured green offerings at the Expo.

"We have a real variety of topics at the Expo," said Rebecca Brown, co-chair of the La Crosse Earth Week Coalition. "A core of 18 individuals has been meeting for months on planning the whole month, but it's become a real community event. We have 32 partners, which are non-profits, and 30 sponsors, which come primarily from the business community."

Honda Motorwerks is one of those sponsors. Chris Schneider, the owner, will speak about green transportation and also has donated one month free use of a Honda CNG auto as a door prize.

Schneider, who bills himself as the "Hybrid Guru," conducts CNG and hybrid clinics on a regular basis. "We have been talking about alternative energy vehicles here for over 10 years and over that period of time we have been able to double our employment," Schneider said.

Roald Gundersen, a builder of whole tree homes, will present a workshop. On Sunday, a tour of Driftless Farm, where Gundersen has built his own home using all of the trees with virtually no waste, will be conducted.

Another tour of a home, owned by Guy and Joan Wolf, which uses geothermal energy also is planned. A workshop on that topic is set for the Expo.

Earlier in the month, tours were conducted of area farms that are involved in the Community Supported Agriculture movement. Organic Valley, the dairy cooperative based in La Farge, is one of the sponsors of the Expo.

The Driftless Regional Bicycle Coalition will present a workshop on bicycle commuting and have a booth at the Expo. The city of La Crosse police department will display a propane-powered squad car.

Driftless Solar LLC, based in Spring Green; Enercept, a West Salem provider of structured insulated panels; First Supply, a La Crosse supplier of solar panels, and Fowler & Hammer, a La Crosse company specializing in environmentally-certified construction and renovation, are just some of the alternative construction companies that will have spaces at the Expo.

Green efforts of Gundersen Lutheran Hospital have been documented in the GreenBiz feature before. Gundersen is a major sponsor of Earth Month and will have a booth at the Expo.

The Green Expo is being held in conjunction with an Earth Fair at the Three Rivers Waldorf School. A shuttle bus will transport people between the two events.

La Crosse decided to make an extra effort to expand the traditional Earth Day last year, when it went to a week-long celebration. This year's full month celebration is being done in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

"There have been things going on almost daily throughout the month and they will continue for the rest of the month," Brown said.

On Earth Day itself, three-time Grammy Award winner Bill Miller will join with regional musician Dan Sebranek in a concert that has sold out. Miller also will present "Sacred Ground" -- an inspirational presentation from a Native American perspective -- during the day at Viterbo Fine Arts Center.

After the weekend, children's singer Hans Mayer will perform two concerts at Myrick Hixon EcoPark on Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1. Mayer has recorded "It's Our World: The Green Album" for children.

More information on all events for Earth Month can be found at www.greenlacrosse.com.

Brown said it has been very impressive how the business, governmental, non-profit, educational and other sectors of the La Crosse area have come together. "There truly has been a commitment made here," she said.

"I hope that the (attendees) can learn something about sustainable and how much the community is behind us," Brown added. "I know personally I was doing stuff at home and felt kind of isolated and alone, and then I found these people and though, 'Well, I'm not the only one'."

-- Hoffmann has written many columns and features for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com over the years. He will write the GreenBiz column monthly.

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