“There's an old African proverb that says ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We have to go far — quickly.”
- Al Gore, March 23, 2016
Communities across Dane County aim to address climate change—they aim to go far and they aim to go fast.
It is good, then, that we are all working together.
In 2019 Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced the Sustainability Leadership Collaborative (SLC), a partnership of cities, towns and villages across the county focused on climate change. The idea was for communities to work together on efforts to reduce emissions as well as resiliency initiatives.
Since forming in 2019 SLC members have shared thoughts and ideas on topics ranging from renewable energy to stormwater strategies.
In July fleet personnel from multiple communities came together to talk about low and zero-emission vehicles.
The event, dubbed Mechanics Talk Shop, was an opportunity for fleet personnel to learn about hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicles from other fleet personnel. This was an outdoor event where everyone kept a distance and wore a face mask.
City of Madison staff talked about the hybrids and electric vehicles in their fleet while Dane County staff talked about their RNG vehicles, including snowplows and dual fuel vehicles.
The event enabled mechanics to talk to mechanics about these next generation vehicles. It was also a terrific opportunity for sustainability staff like me to hear those discussions and better understand both the enthusiasm and the wariness of fleet personnel.
Change can be hard. It feels risky to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It was helpful, then, for attendees to see how enthusiastic Madison and Dane County staff were about the transitions they have made. Beyond cost savings, lower maintenance and environmental benefits, both Dane County and Madison fleet staff reported that drivers are happy with the new vehicles.
For me the event was a great example of how we can move forward together. I overheard folks talking about the potential for joint trainings, for example, and I know that some attendees followed up with phone calls to get into more detail on specific topics. Making those calls is easier now because these people know each other and they know that the personnel at Madison and Dane County are willing to be a resource for others.
We have big ambitious climate goals in Dane County. Sometimes those goals can feel a little daunting. As I left this event, though, I felt optimistic. I was encouraged by all the people who found time to participate in the event and I was dazzled by all the information and insights provided by Dane County and Madison personnel.
Yes, we have big goals but, together, we can get there.
Kathy is the Acting Director in the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
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