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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Need more green in the mainstream

From an article by Jeff Starck in the Wausau Daily Herald:

Central Wisconsin environmentalists say "green" is not as mainstream as it should be, but the movement has evolved from a rallying cry on the first Earth Day 39 years ago to a common practice today.

It's hard to miss the push for green and environmentally friendly practices in the Wausau area. Downtown Grocery opened in July 2006, focusing on locally grown, organic foods. Virtually every grocery store and many other shops promote the use of cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Wausau residents recycled 1,959 tons of glass, plastic, aluminum and other items in 2008, an amount barely imagined in 1970 -- two decades before the state enacted a mandatory recycling law.

Local government bodies have looked at ways to be more eco-friendly and explore alternative energy and conservation techniques. In November, Wausau School Board members voted in favor of installing two wind turbines on Wausau East High School property.

Much has changed in the decades since the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, but longtime activists are concerned that some people still don't take environmental concerns seriously.

"Many people are 'green' on the surface, and do things that make them look good," said Wausau business owner and resident Kari Bender-Burke. "They need 'greenness' throughout."

Bender-Burke, 50, who owns The Needle Workshop and The Quilting Workshop, replaced 40traditional light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs when she moved the stores several years ago to the present location on First Avenue. The switch has saved her about $40a month on her electric bill. At home, Bender-Burke prides herself on collecting rainwater in a barrel for her large garden and compost pile.

Stevens Point architect Tom Brown, who specializes in environmentally sensitive and energy-conserving designs, said the green building boom in recent years is a direct response to consumer demand. As energy prices increased, businesses and homeowners wanted to find ways to reduce their energy use.

"It's nothing new. These are old, basic design concepts and rediscovering basic principles that work," said Brown, who participated in the first Earth Day. "This is more of a reaction to poor design than a new design concept."

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