Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Man holding up arms in triumph

Whatever climate action you are taking and whether you are a business, nonprofit, or local government, we want to applaud your efforts! We recognize local entities leading on climate and clean energy through ten recognition categories. 

Recognition is based on your organization's performance over a recent twelve month period of your choosing. Prospective Climate Champions can submit for recognition in one or more categories. If your organization has already been awarded Climate Champion status in a previous round, only apply again if you have implemented enhanced practices in your award category or have a new category submission.

The 2022 Climate Champions application deadline has been extended until Friday August 5, 2022 at 5pm. To apply for a category, click on the details below. Additional award guidelines are here.

Climate Champion recognition categories

Building Energy Use

For entities with very energy
efficient buildings.

Building Design

For new building design
or retrofit projects.

Fleet Operations

For entities with a fleet powered
by clean fuels.

Employee Commuting

For entities where the workforce commutes via bike, walking, transit or telecommuting.

Water Saving Practices

For entities that have implemented practices to reduce water usage.

Waste Diversion Practices

For entities that have strong waste diversion practices.

Sustainable Land Use

For entities with sustainable
land use practices.


For entities who help others
take climate actions.

GHG Emissions

For entities that have reduced
their carbon footprint.


For entities who have taken actions
that don't fit into other categories.




Net Building Energy Use

This category recognizes buildings that use less energy per square foot than a typical building. This metric, energy use per square foot, is often called energy use intensity (EUI). Because different kinds of buildings have different levels of energy use intensity, we base the recognition level on the type of building. To earn 4 stars a building must be net zero energy, and a building that is at least 25% more efficient than typical building of that type can earn 1 star. The chart below provides energy use intensity data for various building types.

Building Energy Use RatingWe measure the EUI metric in kbtu/square foot where kbtu stands for thousands of British thermal units of energy; kbtu is total energy used--combining electric consumption with natural gas or other fuels. When you provide us with the building energy usage we calculate the kbtu.

Note that this category is net building energy usage, which means that if a facility has on-site solar, the calculation takes that into account, reducing the total electric consumption. This category does not recognize Renewable Energy Credits or carbon offsets, though you can claim credit for those efforts in the Net Emissions category. 

Download a copy of the Energy Use Climate Champions application form for details about how to apply for recogniton in this category.  Note that the application is set up to apply for recognition of one building at a time.




Building Design

This category recognizes buildings that are still in the design phase--either new construction or major retrofits that are in theBuilding Design Rating design or construction phase and do not yet have 12 months of energy data to qualify for the Net Building Energy Use category. In the design category we recognize both the design team and the building owner. As with the Net Building Energy Use category, the primary metric is energy use per square foot, or energy use intensity (EUI). We use the same table of standards from the Net Building Energy Use category with one caveat: all electric buildings are moved up one star. So, for example, an office building that was designed to be 30% more efficient than typical, would qualify as a Climate Champion with 1 Star; if the facility was all-electric it would be 2 Star. The chart provides energy use intensity data for various building types.

For the design category, we ask the owner or design team to submit the modeled EUI for the facility.  

Note that if a facility has on-site solar, the energy model will take that into account, reducing the total electric consumption. 

Download a copy of the Building Design Climate Champions application form for details about how to apply for recogniton in this category.  Note that the application is set up to apply for recognition of one building at a time.



Fleet Operations

If your organization owns one or more vehicles you can receive recognition for having a clean energy fleet. Right now the typical fleet is 100% gas and diesel. We want to recognize entities converting to electricity, renewable natural gas, and biodiesel because each of those alternatives reduce emissions.

     Fleet Vehicle Rating

For these awards we are defining clean energy vehicles to include:

  • Battery Electric Vehicles
  • Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles
  • Natural Gas Vehicles
  • Biodiesel vehicles

Download a copy of the Fleet Climate Champions application form.




Employee Commuting

Organizations can have a big role in influencing how their employees get to and from work.  At present, in Dane County about 73% of people drive alone to work. We are recognizing entities that have successfully encouraged employees to shift to cleaner commuting options and we are recognizing entities that are making it easier for their employees to shift to clean and active modes of transit. The chart details the two ways you can earn recognition in this category.
    Employee Commuting Rating

Here we are measuring the typical way an employee commutes. Acceptable alternatives to driving alone include:

  • Carpooling
  • Mass transit
  • Biking
  • Walking
  • Telecommuting

Entities also earn credit for offering amenities that encourage fewer single-occupancy vehicle miles, such as:

  • Provide employees with free or discounted bus passes
  • Offer emergency rides to employees who took bus/biked and have an issue at home
  • Offer on-site showers to make it easier for employees to bike or walk to work
  • Offer covered storage area for employees' bikes
  • Facilitate carpool arrangements
  • Encourage regular telecommuting for all feasible positions (at least one day per week)*
  • Other 

*If your organization started allowing employees to telecommute during COVID-19 and you intend to continue that practice after the pandemic ends, you can consider this amenity met.

Download a copy of the Employee Commuting Climate Champions application form.




Water Saving Practices

Sustainably managing water resources is critical in mitigating and adapting climate change impacts. Distributing and treating water across Dane County requires significant energy, and protecting it as a basic right for all residents is a top priority. Entities are recognized in this category by completing two or more of the following sustainable water actions:

Water Rating

Download a copy of the Water Saving Practices Climate Champions application form. Applicants must include photos of at least two of the activities they report.




Waste Diversion Practices

For this Climate Champions category, we’re recognizing organizations that divert waste from landfills or incinerators and focus on waste reduction, reuse, composting, and recycling. In this Climate Champions category we recognize entities that strive for Zero Waste as defined by “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health” (Zero Waste International Alliance).

Manufacturing and distributing products and materials used in our everyday lives and in the workplace take substantial energy and natural resources. Understanding an organization's waste stream provides valuable insight into operations and potential areasEquation for waste diversion for efficiency.  

Entries to this category will be evaluated based on Waste Diversion Rate (WDR). WDR represents how much waste is diverted from traditional disposal methods (incinerators or landfills). To the right is the equation and ranking system for evaluation.

Each organization must, at a minimum, establish baseline waste generation and diversion rates through waste tracking to be eligible for this Climate Champions category.  Although WDR is the easiest and most efficienWaste Ratingt way of assessing your organization’s efforts to minimize waste disposal, it does not always capture efforts in waste reduction and reuse. Organizations who focus on waste minimization and reuse will be assessed favorably, regardless of waste diversion percentage.

Resources referenced in the application for this category include:

  • Definition of Zero Waste, from the Zero Waste International Alliance
  • Waste Audit Tool Kit
  • Contacts to arrange a tour of an area waste facility:
    • Dane County Landfill Site No. 2, 7102 US Highway 12 & 18, Madison, WI 53718. Call 608.509.6681 or email staff to arrange a tour.
    • Pellitteri Waste Systems, 7035 Raywood Road, Madison, WI 53713. Call 608.257.4285 or email staff to arrange a tour.
    • Purple Cow Organics, 3395 Meier Road, Madison, WI 53718. Call 608.831.0349 or email staff to arrange a tour.
  • TRUE Certification for your facility

Download a copy of the Waste Diversion Practices Climate Champions application form.




Sustainable Land Use Practices

Land use practices can have a large effect on carbon emissions and storage. For this category, we are recognizing farm and land managers who are actively taking steps to increase the amount of carbon sequestered on their land.

  Land Use scoring table                                                                                        

As is the case with other categories, we expect the practices recognized in this category to expand over time. If you have ideas for additional practices we should recognize, please email usDownload a copy of the Sustainable Land Use Practices application form.





A variety of vendors and advocacy groups help individuals and businesses choose climate-friendly options. We created the Catalyst Climate Champion category to recognize the various partners helping individuals achieve a clean energy future. Our aim is to recognize the entities that help customers choose:

  • Energy efficient solutions that save energy and reduce emissions
  • Efficient electric solutions that replace fossil fuel systems (e.g., vehicles, building systems)
  • Renewable-natural gas vehicles
  • Solar energy systems

In this new category in 2021 we are going to measure both the level of effort entities put into promoting clean energy options and their level of success.

Download a copy of the Catalyst Climate Champions application form.

As is the case with other categories, we expect the practices recognized in this category to expand over time. If you have ideas for additional practices we should recognize, please email us




Net Carbon Emissions

We want to recognize entities that are making progress reducing their total greenhouse gas emissions. For this category we again compare entities to peer organizations using the Cool Carbon Network business calculator. When you enter basic information about your organization into the calculator it generates a ‘typical’ emission profile and enables you to compare your specifics--energy usage, fleet, employee commuting, supplies--against a typical similar organization.

In this category we’ll recognize entities that have lower emissions than their peers, either based on the Cool Climate Calculator or based on other sustainability reporting.
chart detailing star levels

The Cool Carbon tools are the most peer-reviewed carbon calculators in the United States. Businesses can enter their location, kind of business (e.g., bakery or insurance company), annual revenues, and number of employees to see a ‘typical’ carbon footprint for that business. And if your organization purchases renewable energy credits or carbon offsets you will be able to document that in the calculator. 

Download a copy of the Net Carbon Emissions Climate Champions application form.




Other Efforts

Possibly your organization has achieved significant climate success in an area not covered by the categories listed above. If that’s the case we invite you to describe what you’ve accomplished here. In your description be sure to include:

  • What actions were taken
  • The estimated impact of the actions
  • When it happened
  • Any other details you think are relevant
Download a copy of the Other Efforts Climate Champions application form.



Award Guidelines

We are accepting applications now through Friday, August 5, 2022 at 5 pm. 

The Office of Energy & Climate Change will review all submitted applications and notify applicants of their status on an ongoing basis.Typically you will hear from us within 2-3 weeks of your submission. The Office of Energy & Climate Change may contact applicants to verify data submitted or submit additional documentation.

Climate Champions will receive official recognition for their efforts, including signage they can post in their facility. Three and four star Champions will receive a plaque. We will recognize all Climate Champions on a map of successes in Dane County.

Entities that are out of compliance with Dane County regulations may be ineligible to receive the Climate Champion designation.

If you have questions, email