My name is Isak Drangstveit, I’m a senior at Waunakee Community High School and a co-leader of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee (DCYEC).
As I reflect on my time with the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), I can’t help but think about my first physical day on the job; I dressed in outdoor attire and wore gardening gloves at a tree planting event
This last Saturday more than 120 high school students, college students, and even a few eighth graders gathered to talk about the climate crisis.
Almost eighteen months ago we awarded the contract for Dane County’s Comprehensive Energy Assessment to HGA, a national engineering and design firm with offices in Middleton.
The Office of Energy & Climate Change had the opportunity to join some of our friends and allies to celebrate the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of local bankers about climate action. I talked about Dane County’s ambitious Climate Action Plan and the federal funding that can help individuals, businesses, local governments and nonprofits pursue clean energy solutions. And I suggested some ways that banks and credit unions could help us address climate change.
As residents of a place with long, bitter, winters, the summertime months typically gleam in the back of our minds and get us through March blizzards and April flurries. But, is that sparkle of excitement leaving our “how to get through Wisconsin winter” tool pack?
I couldn't picture a better way for me to begin my journey with the Office of Energy & Climate Change (OECC) than how I spent my morning on May 26th at Crestwood Elementary School. In partnership with The Urban Tree Alliance, I was able to spend time as a volunteer for a tree planting project at the school, and I met some of the inspiring individuals I will be working closely with throughout the rest of my internship.
When I accepted an internship at the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Well, now that the semester has flown by and my internship comes to a close, I am thankful to say I was able to contribute to many different projects in the Office, learn more about the field of energy, and experience an exciting time for energy policy nationally and in Dane County!
There’s nothing more exhilarating than being in a room where you can feel change happening. I had that experience on May 3 when our office partnered with HVAC industry partners to host almost 100 HVAC contractors for a conversation about air source heat pumps in Dane County.
The Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change’s enthusiasm for the Inflation Reduction Act is well known. We have created a webpage to help locals access the various IRA benefits (e.g., Tax credits for home energy upgrades! Tax credits for EVs! Tax credits for solar and geothermal on homes, businesses AND nonprofits!)
Curious about what happens behind the scenes at the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change? One important initiative is tracking and reporting on Dane County's energy, water, and fuel usage. These reports help guide the OECC to most efficiently achieve the goals set forth by the Climate Action Plan. Sara Pabich, a current UW-Madison graduate student, is behind this work; hear from her about the scope and impact of her work in Dane County and beyond.
Most people are used to their cooking routine— gather the ingredients, prep the food, and hear the gas stove start to click as they light it. I myself am used to this convention, usually fiddling with the gas stove until my food suddenly turns out burnt and I have to turn down the heat.
I have been driving an electric vehicle (EV) for more than five years now, which means part of my winter ritual is offering advice to newer EV drivers who anxious to know whether driving in cold weather will affect their vehicle’s range.
If you have spoken with me lately, it is likely that I mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) at least four (or seven) times in our conversation. If that was annoying, buckle up because you can expect that I will be talking about the IRA a lot more going forward.
“This is our time. This is our space,” asserted Stephanie Janeth Salgado Altamirano during the opening plenary at the 2022 high school climate conference which was titled Gen Z: Meeting the Challenge of Our Changing Environment.
Anyone who knows me will attest that I am not likely to be sitting quietly in the corner, especially when people are talking about energy and climate issues.
It’s sad to be saying goodbye to the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change. Over the last five months, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of incredible projects and meet really amazing people
It was an incredible experience to meet with our current and past Climate Champions and celebrate everything they’ve done to make Dane County more sustainable.
Dan Williams has always been interested in sustainability. His older home was heated by a fossil gas-fueled boiler and cooled with traditional central air conditioning. In order to reduce his future reliance on fossil fuels, he decided he wanted to transition to an air-source heat pump to heat and cool his house.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then surely it also takes a community to accelerate sustainability and climate action. I saw that in action at the “Sustainability Community Dialogue” in Stoughton.
How can you reduce your carbon emissions if you’re not sure what you’re using right now? That’s the premise behind Culture Over Carbon, a research study currently in progress that’s aiming to collect and analyze energy use data from over one hundred museums and cultural institutions across the country - including right here in Dane County.
Atop Willy Street Grocery Co-op East are 80 solar panels producing up to 25.6 kW of energy. The story of how they got there is a unique one, and serves as a model for over forty other projects around the state, with more to come.
This month the US Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which represents the largest investment in climate action in US history. The IRA commits about $369 billion to climate action.
At a climate protest last week, I saw a sign that said, “Only everyone can save us now.” It’s a powerful reminder that climate action isn’t individual, but instead requires all of us to work together.
On June 22 Dane County Executive Joe Parisi stood with partners from Alliant Energy and SunVest to announce Yahara Solar, a 17 MW solar project that will enable Dane County to achieve a big goal, the goal of getting all of the electricity used in Dane County’s facilities from renewable sources.
If you follow climate news (and it’s obvious you do – because you are reading our blog!) then you may have seen references to electrification and you might have questions.
Sometimes the easiest actions we can take to better our neighborhoods, communities, and natural ecosystems is doing less, not more. This spring, consider doing less by participating in No Mow May, an initiative with the best interests of pollinators in mind.
Often I feel a little ambivalent about Earth Day. I appreciate the efforts of millions of regular folks- adults as well as children- who mark the day by taking action on local environmental issues.
Last week we had the opportunity to take a closer look at the top 2021 Climate Champions, the entities that earned 3 or 4 Stars in one or more categories.
Because climate change is an environmental and economic and public health issue, we need to leverage voices and active participation from all parts of our community.
The cold days of early January spur all of us to take stock of what was accomplished during the last year and look ahead to the challenges of the new year. We – and I’m including here all of the folks committed to climate action across Dane County – had some substantial wins in 2021.
CMC is a local social services agency providing educational services as well as spiritual and cultural activities to the public.
When I first heard about a Communications Internship with the Office of Energy & Climate Change I knew I had to apply. I felt a sense of clarity and knew this opportunity was meant for me.
As a climate data assistant at the Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), my responsibilities are to make sure the utility data such as electricity, natural gas, and water are correctly and successfully uploaded to our energy tracking software (EnergyCAP). These tasks involve data collection from a variety of utility vendors, data processing in excel, and software deployment to keep track of the county statistics.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2021 Sustain Dane Summit. This annual gathering, hosted by Sustain Dane and co-sponsored by the Office of Energy and Climate Change, was a clear call to climate action, providing me and the rest of the attendees with an actionable framework to reduce my carbon footprint and inspiring me to make changes to my everyday life.
Re-wear It is a UW Madison club focused on promoting conscious consumerism by encouraging ethical, sustainable lifestyles and purchasing habits. Yvett Sanchez started Re-wear It in 2020, fueled by her passion for fashion and climate change mitigation. The purpose of the club is to provide education about the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry. I heard about the club at a Sustain Dane event and knew that I wanted to learn more. On October 30th they hosted their first clothing swap.
The “Glasgow to Dane County: A Youth Climate Summit,” a local climate event in Oregon, Wisconsin was held in parallel to the COP26 proceedings last weekend. This one-day climate summit for local high school students at the Oregon High School showcased more than 50 local high school students, a handful of school green team advisors, and about a dozen volunteers.
Susan Millar has been concerned with the impending effects of climate change since she was a teenager. Over the last few decades her sense of urgency about climate change has steadily increased. With this frame of mind, she has become a trailblazer when it comes to energy efficiency.
On September 28, 2020 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the 2021 Green Power Leadership Awards. There were just five winners – Boston University, the University of California system, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Dane County, Wisconsin.
It’s been a pleasure to serve as a Climate Action Intern for these past three months. As a lifelong resident of Dane County, the work I’ve done has felt additionally rewarding as I am actively able to help the community that I call home transition towards a climate friendly future.
I’m really glad I got to spend my summer working with the Office of Energy & Climate Change (OECC). This internship has been fulfilling and it has taught me a lot about environmental work.
The vast majority of Dane County residents understand that climate change is happening. So what does it take to move folks to action? Local Girl Scouts are hoping that they can spur action by showcasing an issue we do not talk about a lot, the carbon embedded in our buildings.
As our nation emerges from the pandemic, some folks are asserting that governments at all levels should get back to addressing the climate emergency. I hope local stakeholders understand that here in Dane County we never paused in our efforts to address the climate crisis. Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dane County was making progress on its ambitious countywide climate agenda.
We spent a week and a half showing my sister from California around Wisconsin via a delightful pre-pandemic-style road trip (1,319 miles) in our electric vehicle (EV).
I have been thinking a lot lately about the pace of change. I think about how quickly the world shifted to wearing face masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19, about the speed at which a clever meme travels the internet.
There is a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’ as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. That “new normal” terminology is deliberate, recognizing that whatever happens next will be different from the pre-pandemic normal, the “old normal”.
Creating a science-based county-wide, economy-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP) that can get us on a path to deep decarbonization is a big task. Really. It's the sort of thing that can keep you up at night--trust me, I know. Luckily I didn't have to do this task alone. One of the great things about Dane County is the people and A LOT of people contributed to our soon-to-be-released CAP. In so many ways the CAP already belongs to the people of Dane County because so many people helped to create the CAP
If every day is Earth Day then every day is an EV (electric vehicle) day in Dane County. Indeed, Dane County is home to more EVs than any other county in Wisconsin. And the local array of EVs were on full display at the Second Annual Earth Day EV Parade in Madison on April 22, 2021.
This Earth Day let’s embrace the numerous tools and activities available to address climate change. Yes, numerous. I’ve been thinking a lot about how some climate advocates are one-solution advocates.
In February Dane County and the City of Madison hosted a virtual meeting of the Sustainability Leadership Collaborative (SLC). Created in 2019 the SLC brings together local governments from across Dane County.
Of the various chores that come with adulthood, I like shoveling snow. I appreciate the sense of accomplishment I get when I look back at a clean sidewalk. Shoveling is a good form of exercise. I also appreciate that I can think about other stuff while I shovel without jeopardizing the quality of my efforts; whereas cooking means I have to be attentive, nobody complains if I daydream while I shovel the driveway.
Dane County’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) is enormously ambitious and profoundly practical. As a private citizen, I was delighted to play a small role in helping to create some of the recommendations in the CAP and I was proud of Dane County’s outstanding leadership on climate action. Today I am even more delighted to be the Dane County staff person leading efforts to implement the CAP.
Amid all of the election news this week, it is plausible that you might have missed the important climate milestone. On November 4, 2020 the United States officially withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Adaptation and Resiliency” is one of the six guiding principles of the Dane County Climate Action Plan. But what do these words really mean? From an ecological perspective, adaptation and resilience are a natural system’s ability to adjust to change and bounce back from a disturbance.
Climate change is already impacting organic vegetable farmers in our area according to Claire Strader, Organic Vegetable Educator for Dane County Extension. Strader should know. A former organic farmer herself, she currently works with organic vegetable farmers across Dane County.
Deep into a summer during which multiple of our society’s wicked problems seem to be coming to a head, I sought inspiration in a webinar... The message that we need to move away from framing environmental issues as fatalistic problems resonated with me.
The County cannot reduce all emissions unless all stakeholders—businesses, nonprofits, farms, individuals—are part of the solution. So engagement is an important part of our strategy. Indeed, we are hosting a virtual meeting on August 20, 2020 to engage one really important set of stakeholders—the people who are part of green teams at their workplaces.
“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.
It has been a long and fun journey to Madison and my work at Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC). I grew up in a city in South Korea and I traveled around the world thanks to my uncle and aunt who lived in Australia and France. This wonderful opportunity gave me a chance to experience different kinds of nature compared to South Korea, including this interaction with a baby kangaroo. I think my kangaroo encounter was the start of my interest in the environment.
The murder of George Floyd has prompted thousands of protests around the US and the world as well as millions of conversations about racism. Everywhere I look I see conversations about policing and community justice. I am hopeful this is the beginning of a long-overdue discussion about racism in the US. And I’m hopeful that we’ll address a comprehensive set of issues affected by racism, that we’ll address everything—including climate change.
It’s a challenge to mark milestones amid the pandemic. Our office has had some significant milestones of late. Not only did we issue a groundbreaking economy-wide Climate Action Plan in April but, in May, our founding director, Keith Reopelle retired.
I cycled through the Ozarks last fall with a friend who is a fisheries biologist from Washington state. We camped out on mountain peaks and refueled in small towns. Overall, our dietary preferences were extremely compatible. Motivated by hunger, we efficiently re-stocked our panniers off the shelves of mom-and-pop gas stations and Super Walmarts - we were in rural Arkansas - without much debate. Our joint mission ground to a halt, however, the first time we encountered seafood.
COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, has quickly become a global health crisis, a pandemic. It deserves everyone’s full attention, collaboration and cooperation. I truly hope that you, your family, friends and co-workers are exercising extreme caution, are supporting one another, and are safe and healthy over the coming days and months.
Without overlooking the devastating impacts of coronavirus, perhaps we can embrace the opportunities afforded by a slower rhythm of life to better care for ourselves and our planet. In the past several weeks, our worlds have shrunk dramatically while impressing upon us the fragility and resiliency of life.
When I moved into my house four years ago, catalogs and junk mail flooded my mail stream. Most of this mail wasn’t even for me! The bulk of it arrived addressed to members of the previous household, and even the owner prior to them. The average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail a year.
As our office shifts into engagement mode, I am spending more and more time talking with different groups about our work here at the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change. I am privileged to talk about Dane County’s leadership and the hundreds of people that contributed to our Climate Action Plan, for example, and I also get to see the momentum that’s building around our efforts to take action to reduce emissions. In these conversations it’s common for someone to ask me whether our efforts will be jeopardized by climate deniers.
Climate change can often feel overwhelming. In the face of a global crisis, our individual actions may seem inconsequential. Maybe rinsing out a can of refried beans before placing it in the recycling isn’t going to “Save the World,” but our consumer choices are significant. The impact of any given action is additive when it becomes a habit, and multiplies when we share our climate hacks with friends and family. To that end, I hope that this blog will provide actionable steps that support your journey toward living more lightly on our planet and that you, in turn, will share them with others.
We are in the process of identifying Climate Champions across Dane County. These are folks leading on energy and water efficiency, on clean fuels, on sustainable farm practices and on climate more broadly.