Thomas Content , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Onalaska — The greenest companies in Wisconsin this year are a varied mix, from large manufacturers and multinationals to small consulting firms and even a laser tag and game center on Milwaukee's south side.
Thirty-five companies have been honored as "Green Masters" by scoring in the top tier among Wisconsin companies participating in a green certification program.
The companies represent those scoring in the top 20% among the more than more than 160 companies that applied to the program, coordinated by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.
A total of 10 companies are new to the list, and 30 companies submitted applications to the program for the first time, according to the council, which is honoring the winners at a conference Thursday at Empire Screen Printing in Onalaska.
Empire hosted the conference for about 250 people as part of its efforts to showcase its energy-saving and pollution-eliminating screen printing technology. Its presses use ultraviolet LED technology that eliminates emissions of pollutants while slashing energy costs by more than 50%.
The effort was launched to reduce employees' exposure to solvent-based inks and chemicals used in screen printing, said Empire president John Freismuth. Since 2009, the company has invested millions in new technologies that save money and gave Empire a competitive edge.
However, starting this year, the company is sharing its technological advancements with its competitors because it's important for the entire industry to reduce its footprint, he said.
"Here was an industry that when I started pretty much polluted," Freismuth said. "Now you can do the same process with very low impact on the environment."
In the green masters program competition, companies are scored on a variety of sustainability metrics, from energy and water use to carbon emissions and employee engagement.
The average scores of companies have risen every year as companies strive each year for improvement, said Tom Eggert, executive director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.
"Everybody's continuing to push each other, and it's really refreshing that we don't have the same group all the time," said Eggert, whose University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students help coordinate the program.
Longtime participants in the program continue to excel. That includes Green Bay Packaging and Lands' End, which have been certified as "green masters" for seven years.
"It takes vision, commitment and work to make business-wide changes to improve overall sustainability," said Kevin Banas, green masters program coordinator.
The list of winners this year includes five organizations from Milwaukee County, including Rockwell Automation Inc., Transwestern Sustainability Services, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative, the Wauwatosa law firm Hurtado Zimmerman and Bounce Milwaukee.
Bounce, the family game center, aims to get 80% of its energy from solar panels next year and offers charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles for its guests.
Outpost said it purchased renewable energy credits for 10% of its energy use and installed solar panels at its newest store in Mequon — the largest solar array for any natural foods coop in the nation.
One-fourth of the winners come from the manufacturing sector, but green masters also come from a variety of other fields, from professional and construction to health care, hospitality and printing.
Among those appearing on the list for the first time is Alliant Energy Corp., which this year adopted a climate change commitment to reduce carbon emissions from its power plants by 40% between 2005 and 2030. Madison's smaller utility, Madison Gas & Electric Co., has a similar pledge and also made the list.
Green Masters companies honored Thursday include:
- ABB, New Berlin
- Alliant Energy Corp., Madison
- American Family Insurance, Madison
- Appleton Coated, Combined Locks,
- Appvion, Appleton
- Bounce Milwaukee, Milwaukee
- CNH Industrial, Burr Ridge
- Didion Milling, Johnson Creek
- Evolution Marketing, Oconomowoc
- Fairmount Santrol, Menomonie
- Frito-Lay Inc., Beloit
- Green Bay Packaging, Green Bay
- Homburg Contractors, Monona
- Hudson Hospital and Clinics, Hudson
- Hurtado Zimmerman, Wauwatosa
- Inpro Corp., Muskego
- KI (Krueger International), Green Bay
- Kohl's, Menomonee Falls
- Lands' End, Dodgeville
- Laser Pros International, Rhinelander
- Madison Gas and Electric, Madison
- Masters Gallery Foods Inc., Plymouth
- Menasha Corp., Neenah
- Mercury Marine, Fond du Lac
- Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh
- Outpost Natural Foods Coop, Milwaukee
- Phillips-Medisize, Eau Claire
- Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee
- SCA Tissue, Neenah
- ThedaCare, Appleton
- Transwestern Sustainability Services, Milwaukee
- Trek Bicycles Corp., Waterloo
- UW Health, Middleton
- Waste Management of Wisconsin, Germantown
- Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., Madison