Searching for Green in the Concrete Jungle

When you think of environmentally friendly travel in Wisconsin, it’s a good bet the first images that come to mind are of pastoral parks, farmers’ markets with organic produce and unspoiled lakes and streams. Time to expand your horizons and think urban, as in the concrete jungle. A nice range of city center businesses are Travel Green Wisconsin certified. Here are some of our favorite finds.

Two Breweries and Two Coffee Shops Serve Up Great Libations and Green Practices In downtown Milwaukee you’ll find the country’s first certified-organic brewery, the Lakefront Brewery. Not only do they use organic malt and hops to make their award-winning small-batch brews, but they send the spent grains and hops to local urban farmer Will Allen to turn into compost. You may have heard of Allen – he’s gained national attention for his work in producing healthy foods for underserved, urban populations. Lakefront Brewery owner and founder Russ Klisch also put in a plug for their environmental brewery tours that happen every Friday at 4:00 p.m.

In Wisconsin Dells, that mecca of waterparks, stands Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Company. While guests are munching on their piping-hot deep-dish pizza and washing it down with one of the establishment’s 10 handcrafted beers, they can feel good about the fact that the brewing equipment is on sensors to conserve energy, that the used grains from the brewing process end up as feed for a local riding stable, and that the delivery vehicles – VW bugs nicknamed “bio-bugs” – are run on oil recycled from the restaurant’s popular fish fry dinners. “Guests want to know about our bio-diesel bugs and we’re happy to tell them what an easy process it is,” said Jillian Murphy, marketing director. “They get 45 miles to the gallon too.”

In downtown Green Bay, a funky coffeehouse called Kavarna is located in an historic Egyptian Revival Art Deco building. It’s co-owned by the husband/wife team of Alex and Linda Galt. They serve up organic and fair trade coffee and vegetarian entrées, along with a hearty commitment to recycling. Click the Events link on their web site to see when they’ll be hosting their next arts market featuring the work of local artists.

In Appleton, the owner of the local Breadsmith franchise uses Wisconsin ingredients in the bakery, like Door County cherries in the cherry pie bread, and composts the coffee grinds. The manager there is an avid gardener and takes care of curb appeal with an ornamental vegetable garden right out front.

Urban Accommodations Find a Way to Be Green

Seems an environmentally friendly place to stay need not always be a cabin in the woods. Case in point is the Pfister Hotel, a historic landmark hotel in downtown Milwaukee within walking distance of theaters, museums, shopping and sporting events. While more than 100 years old, the property has modern green practices in place, like energy-efficient lighting, windows and appliances.

If your travels take you to Wausau, check out the Jefferson Street Inn in the city’s downtown arts district. This fancy boutique hotel is as urban as it gets, yet they do their part to tread lightly on the earth with a recycling program, Energy Star-rated windows, and use of biodegradable laundry detergent.

Big Centers in Madison Also Big on Green Travel

If you’ve been to Madison for a meeting or convention or event, there’s a good chance you’ve been at one of these two locations, all of which are Travel Green Wisconsin certified. First, the iconic Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the downtown Terrace, with its use of passive solar heating, earned a Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. Travelers can enjoy sprawling views of Lake Monona and the downtown cityscape at the Lake Vista Café, which serves hand-tossed salads and seasonal specialties al fresco on the terrace.

Also downtown is the artfully designed Overture Center, home to the community’s performing arts groups and host of nationally acclaimed entertainers and shows. Along with energy efficient lights, windows and timing sensors, patrons also appreciate free access to Saturday kids programs and changing exhibits in the Overture’s art galleries.

Green Oasis in the Concrete Jungle

If you want some green landscape in your city tour, Olbrich Botanical Gardens features 16 acres of award-winning outdoor specialty gardens including the exotic Thai Pavilion and Garden, which is the only one in the nation. This Travel Green Wisconsin-certified business practices sustainable gardening and employs sustainable design in its historic architecture. Olbrich staff makes education a consumer education a priority with education programs focusing on native plants and green landscaping. The Gardens and the indoor Bolz Conservatory are open year round.

Escape from the urban forest of high-rises and freeways to a real forest; Havenwoods State Forest offers 237 acres of grasslands, woods and wetlands in the heart of Milwaukee. Trails for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bicycling, free nature programs for kids and weekly bird walks make this destination a respite from the bustle of city life.

Plan a green getaway using our Travel Green Wisconsin section.

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