Mayor Barrett has been a leader on urban sustainability issues since first coming to office. The Mayor was awarded the 2011 Stormwater Leadership Award from the prestigious Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, was named a Top 20 Finalist in the 2012-13 Bloomberg Philanthropies' National Mayors Challenge, and was recognized as a national leader during the 2013 U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection awards.
Shortly after first being elected to office in 2004, Mayor Barrett created a group of sustainability stakeholders – the first Milwaukee Green Team – to advise the City on ways to be more energy efficient and better manage stormwater runoff among other things. The subsequent 2005 Green Team Report made a number of recommendations for a more sustainable and efficient City government and community. The Mayor acted quickly on its main recommendation – creating one of the nation’s first offices of environmental sustainability to work with City departments and community groups to enact smart sustainability programs that improve peoples’ lives, the environment and bottom-lines.
By 2012, Mayor Barrett had implemented more than 85% of the first Green Team’s recommendations including reducing City energy use by over 15% by 2012. In order to build off these successes, the Mayor appointed a new Green Team and tasked them to work with the community to develop a comprehensive sustainability plan for Milwaukee. In 2013, the Mayor and Green Team introduced ReFresh Milwaukee, the City’s first sustainability plan and a vision for neighborhood improvement and greater livability. The plan aims to implement cost-effective sustainable projects like more energy efficient homes and better access to healthy, local foods while encouraging citizens and businesses to engage in solutions that are economically, environmentally and socially smart for our community. The plan can be accessed at www.refreshmke.com and has been officially recognized and adopted by the Milwaukee Common Council.
Since 2006, the Mayor’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) has actively promoted cost-effective environmental sustainability practices that meet Milwaukee’s urgent environmental, economic and social needs while enhancing long-term economic growth. ECO oversees the Mayor’s cross-departmental energy reduction efforts which have reduced the City’s energy bill by over $500,000 annually the last two years. ECO also operates nationally recognized programs like the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program (Me2) for homeowners and commercial building owners, the Milwaukee Shines program for increasing solar installations, the Milwaukee Economy, Energy and Environment program (ME3) for improving the sustainability of small and medium sized businesses and HOME GR/OWN for promoting neighborhood vitality through new opportunities in local food production and distribution.
Because of the Mayor’s leadership in developing these programs, ECO has improved through energy efficiency and other sustainability measures over 1,300 homes and 180 businesses in Milwaukee - putting money back in peoples’ pockets and reducing local pollution to waterways, harmful emissions and waste to landfill. Each of these programs improves Milwaukee’s building stock as well as puts local Milwaukeeans to work by strengthening local businesses and providing new opportunities for product and service expansion.
The Mayor’s pragmatic approach to sustainability that has benefitted our residents and businesses is the same approach Mayor Barrett takes as one of the region’s greatest champions for the Great Lakes. The Mayor currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational organization of mayors that actively works to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. As Chair of the Board of Directors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Mayor was able to advocate for removal of invasive aquatic species in the Great Lakes threatening our fishing industry, develop new management principles for sewerage and water treatment facilities in Canada and the U.S., and grow the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities initiative to over 100 member cities.
Mayor Barrett has an exceptional record of implementing sustainability initiatives that improve Milwaukee’s environment and local businesses, while helping to make all of our neighborhoods great places to live and raise a family. His positive vision for “refreshing” our city lays out a clear path for individuals to work with neighbors, community groups and other organizations in an effort to make Milwaukee a national leader on sustainability and the capital of America’s Fresh Coast!