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

More than 3 in 4 Dane County residents recognize that climate change is real. Increasingly, people want to see action--from government, from businesses, and even from their neighbors. Dane County folk understand that when we reduce emissions we create a stronger, more prosperous Dane County.

And action is happening. Local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations are all doing important work to reduce emissions. Trouble is, modest Midwesterners don’t always talk up their own accomplishments.

Our Office of Energy & Climate Change, by contrast, is delighted to celebrate the leadership of various entities across Dane County. That’s why we created the Climate Champions program.

The Climate Champions program recognizes local entities that are leading on climate action. Our aim is to celebrate that local leadership.

Being recognized is easy. Simply fill out a short application form. Man holding up arms in triumph

In 2020 we’re recognizing Climate Champions in seven categories:

Plus there’s an “Other” category if your efforts do not fit into one of our seven main categories.

Recognition is based on your organization's performance over 12 months (we accept January-December 2019 or a more recent 12 month period if that is more convenient for you).

Applications are due Monday, November 9th at 5 pm.

Each of the award categories is described below with a link to the appropriate application form. 

Additional award guidelines are here.

Net Building Energy Use

This Climate Champions 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 or 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 while 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.

Chart of various star levelsWe 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. But don't worry about that - 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 (RECs) or Carbon Offsets (you can claim credit for those efforts in the Net Emissions category). 

To compete in this category you need to provide:

  • Type of facility
  • Square footage
  • Annual electric usage (measured in kwh) 
  • Annual therms of natural gas
  • Annual usage of any other on-site fuel (e.g., propane)

The application is set up to apply for recognition of one building at a time.

Apply for recognition as a Climate Champion for your facility's energy use here.


Fleet Operations

If your organization owns one or more vehicles, you can get 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 (RNG) and biodiesel because all of those options reduce emissions.

chart of star levels

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

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

To apply for the Fleet category you’ll need to provide the total number of vehicles in your fleet and the number of clean energy fuel vehicles by type.

Apply here to be recognized as a Climate Champion for your fleet.


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. 

In this category we have two ways to earn recognition. 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.
chart detailing star levels

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. Entities indicate if they:

  • 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.

To apply for the Employee Commuting category an entity needs to report on the number of employees and their commuting patterns as well as the amenities offered to employees.

Apply for a Climate Champions award in the Commuting category here.


Water Saving Practices

Sustainably managing water resources is critical in mitigating and adapting climate change impacts: Moving water around Dane County and treating it requires a lot of 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 sustainable water actions. 

chart of star levels

Sustainable water actions are: 

Water is something that all people, all businesses touch in some way, and therefore everyone plays a role and has a responsibility to conserve it, protect it, and reflect the value of it in their actions. 

To apply for recognition in this category an entity must report whether or not it does each of the activities listed above.

Apply for Climate Champion recognition based on your water practices here.


Agricultural Practices

We will recognize farmers and land owners for climate-friendly practices associated with both dairy and crop farming.  Our focus in 2020 is on dairy operations that are transferring manure to digesters (which has a substantial impact on methane emissions as well as groundwater) and on croplands that are converted to continuous cover crops or grasslands.

chart detailing star levels

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

To apply for recognition based on agricultural practices, use this form.




Net Carbon Emissions

We encourage all kinds of entities to think about their total greenhouse gas emissions. And 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. To do that we use 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 that typical.

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 US. Essentially a business can enter its 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. That becomes the custom benchmark for that business. 

If your organization purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offsets you will be able to document that in the calculator. 

Click here to apply for recognition based on your organization's emission reductions.


Other Efforts

It is possible that your organization has achieved significant climate success in an area not covered by the six 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

Click here to apply to be a Climate Champion in the Other Actions category.




Award Guidelines

The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, November 9 at 5 pm. (Deadline was extended!)

The Office of Energy & Climate Change will review all submitted applications and notify applicants of their status by mid-November. We anticipate announcing the champions in early December. 

The Office of Energy & Climate Change may contact applicants to verify data submitted. In some cases we might ask applicants to supply documentation for the data submitted.

Climate Champions will receive official recognition for their efforts, including signage they can post in their facility. We will also recognize 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 

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