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Small Business Saturday

small business sat

It’s that time of year again. Holiday season is upon us! But while you’re looking for the perfect gift for your loved ones, are you considering where your money is going?

According to UC-San Diego, buying from locally owned stores not only reduces carbon emissions but can benefit the local economy as well. When you spend $100 at a chain store, only $43 goes back into the local community. However, if you spend the same amount at a local store, $68 stays in the community. This means more money is going to people in your neighborhood rather than chains across the country. Other studies have shown that the money spent at local stores is more likely to be spent at other local businesses, which helps to strengthen the economic base of the community. Local businesses are also more likely to hire local residents and support other local businesses as well.

Buying local is also more sustainable and can lower your carbon footprint. Many local stores have products that were made or grown locally, meaning that less fuel was used to bring that product to the store. Many chain stores ship their inventory from large warehouses across the country, which can use large amounts of fuel and release many harmful emissions. Products found in chain stores are typically made in bulk and the creation process can produce a lot of excess material and waste. In addition, typically local stores are more centrally located in a community than chain stores since they usually require less space. This makes it easier to walk or ride your bike to the store, further cutting down your carbon footprint.

Supporting local businesses also keeps the community unique. Where we shop, eat, and spend our free time helps to make our community our home. Frequenting a local business allows you to meet and establish a relationship with the owner and employees. This can lead to better service and assurance of quality products since we are more likely to help those we have relationships with. Local businesses also help create a distinct character in the community and can attract tourists that will help strengthen the local economy as well.

Local businesses are important for keeping our community unique and economically strong. Support your community this holiday season by buying local. Instead of participating in Black Friday shopping this year, participate in Small Business Saturday! For a list of local Madison businesses, go here.


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November 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

10 Fall Activities to Enjoy Before Winter

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Fall is a great time to get outside and enjoy the colors and beauty of Wisconsin.  Before those cold winter months arrive, check out these fall activities with your family and friends!

  1. Go to an apple orchard. Fall is the best time to head over to an orchard for some fresh fruit! Apple picking is a fun activity for the whole family and supports local farms and orchards.  Plus, you can take home baskets full of fresh, healthy fruit!  The Cooking Mom has some great apple recipes to make the most out of your haul.
  2. Go on a hike. Wisconsin has over 2,500 miles of beautiful trails to explore!  Travel Wisconsin has a great list of trails all over the state, from lake shores and forests to prairies.  Looking to stay local?  Head over to the Lakeshore Nature Preserve near UW-Madison for a great view of Lake Mendota.  The UW-Madison Arboretum is also full of gorgeous colors during the fall and has numerous trails for your family to explore.
  3. Make some fall crafts. Stock up on fall leaves, acorns, and other trinkets while you’re on a hike so you can spend those colder fall days indoors making fun crafts with your kids.  Check out our Pinterest page for some ideas!
  4. Go on a bike ride. The League of American Bicyclists has repeatedly ranked Wisconsin as one of the top bicycling destinations in the nation.  Its numerous bike trails are perfect for a sunny fall afternoon with some family or friends.  Get outside and enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin while getting exercise as well!
  5. Visit your local zoo. Fall is a great time to take one last visit to your local zoo before the cold weather settles in.  The cooler fall temperatures are perfect for most animals to be outside and easily viewable for visitors, and the fall leaves will add a little more color to your trip.
  6. Visit a farmer’s market. Support local farmers by purchasing locally grown fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and other products at a farmer’s market.  The Dane County Farmer’s Market occurs every Saturday morning from 6:00 am until 2:00 pm around The Wisconsin State Capitol Square.  After November 8th, the market will move indoors to Monona Terrace.
  7. Play football. We’re in the heart of football season!  Grab your family and friends and head outside for a friendly game of football.  It’s a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with those you love.
  8. Go horseback riding. Fall is the perfect time for horseback riding because the trails are full of color and the temperature is perfect for wearing pants and boots.  Many farms and ranches have kid-friendly options and will teach you everything you need to know for a great experience.  Check out Travel Wisconsin for a list of horseback riding locations.
  9. Take some friends and family on a hayride. Madison Parks offers special event hayrides in November for $2 a person. The hay wagon will take you on a scenic tour of one of Madison’s parks and will even include a view of the holiday lights in November.  For more information, head over to the Madison Parks website.
  10. Spend a night under the stars. Grab some friends, a blanket, some pillows, and snacks and find an open spot in your backyard for some stargazing.  It’s a great way to spend quality time with your friends while viewing constellations that are only viewable in the fall.

What other fun activities do you like to do in the fall?  Leave a comment below!

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October 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

What are your Colors On Game Day?

We’re in the middle of football season, and with that comes football parties! While you’re enjoying the big game, are you considering your environmental footprint? Here are some tips for how to have a great party while still being environmentally friendly.

The number one way to reduce environmental impact begins at the store. When stocking up for that party or tailgate, try to reduce waste by purchasing drinks and snacks in bulk without excess packaging. Make sure that most or all of the packaging material can be recycled, like the cardboard casing and plastic film on soda containers. Items bought in bulk are often cheaper than smaller packages, meaning you’re helping your wallet as well.

It wouldn’t be a party without a cookout! However, grills often emit air pollutants that can be harmful to the environment. To cut back on these emissions, use a chimney starter and lump coal, all-natural briquettes, or an electric grill. Make sure you are disposing of these materials in the right location after using them so that nearby ecosystems are not affected. Many stadiums have bins to place hot coals to prevent fires and contamination of the environment.

Food is one of the best parts of a football party, but what are you serving the food on? Instead of using paper or Styrofoam plates, try using dishware that can be washed after the party is over. Many thrift stores sell plastic or ceramic dishware for under $0.75 a piece so it won’t be a problem if they get broken at the tailgate or during an exciting play. Also, try to avoid plastic silverware if possible. When you’re at the thrift store picking out your plates, check if they have any silverware as well. Using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins is also a great idea to reduce waste and save money.

You can also promote recycling at your tailgate or party by having separate bags for recyclables and trash. While many stadiums have trash bins nearby, having your own bags makes it easier for your group to put items in the right place. You could even make this into a competition by having friends and other fans vote for their favorite team by tossing recyclables in labeled bags. See which team fans think will win!

Tailgaters can further reduce their carbon footprint by carpooling to a game. Not only does this reduce your emissions, but it is often easier to find places to park and keep your group together when you have fewer cars. Having friends over to your place for the game? Ask them if they would be willing to carpool, walk, or bike there. You could even provide guests with an incentive for “green” transportation, such as free entry into a raffle or a free drink.

No matter what colors you root for, we can all make sure football celebrations are green!

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October 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Our Online and Electronic Footprint- Part Two

Keeping Electronics Out of Landfills

In our modern society, we are surrounded by technology. When things break, our first thought is to throw them out. However, all of these electronics fill up our landfills and can be harmful to both humans and the environment through run-off. According to the StEP (Solving the E-waste Problem) Initiative, 48.9 million tons of gadgets and electronics were thrown out worldwide in 2012. Most of these electronics could have been repurposed or harvested for parts, which reduces our resource consumption and keeps electronics out of landfills. Many electronics stores are now offering recycling programs where you can bring in your old TV’s, computers, and other electronics for repurposing. Some places even offer store rewards for bringing in materials, such as gift cards or discounts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a great list of places that accept mobile devices, TV’s, and computers.

Other stores and organizations will accept unwanted parts such as ink cartridges, digital cameras, and MP3 players. Headphones can often be hard to find places to recycle them, but ThinkSound provides discounts on new purchases for every pair of headphones turned in. Office Max also offers rewards for turning in old ink cartridges. A quick search on the internet for the item you are looking to recycle will bring up plenty of options other than simply throwing it away. E-cycling Central also has a great list of companies and organizations by state that recycle a variety of electronic devices and materials.

Before You Buy That New Smartphone…
We are always being bombarded with the latest version or new model of cell phone and many times millions of people are running to their phone carrier to get what ever that might be. But what happens to all of those “outdated” models? Instead of throwing your phone in the trash, consider donating it to a charity that will repurpose them for those in need. There are many local and national organizations that will take donations, such as Cell Phones For Soldiers. This non-profit takes old cell phones, refurbishes them, and sends them to troops overseas so they can call home. Other organizations include National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Hyla. Some of these organizations will even buy your old phone from you.

Many wireless providers also have trade-in plans where you can turn in your old phone and receive a discount or money towards your new phone. This includes AT&T, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and other major providers. Check your provider’s website or ask an employee what your options are before you buy something new.

Reducing our electronic and online footprint is easier than you think. By reducing the amount of time you spend online and recycling any old, unwanted, and broken technology, you can lower your carbon footprint, be more engaged in your life, and even help those in need. While we can’t solve climate change in one day, every little actions makes a big impact. So unplug those devices, turn in those old electronics, and help make a difference!

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October 9, 2014 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

Our Online and Electronic Footprint -Part One

While the internet has been praised for helping reduce carbon emissions worldwide, it still has some drawbacks. Here are some tips (courtesy of and MEG) for helping to reduce both your electronic and online carbon footprint. 

Think Before You Send!
Did you know that sending one email uses 4 grams of carbon? While this may not seem like much, a year’s worth of emails uses almost 300 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of driving a car 200 miles! Emails that contain large amounts of text, many recipients, or large attachments use even more carbon.

So before you send that email, think about if it’s really necessary. Could you talk to the recipient in person? Visiting someone in their part of the office not only reduces your carbon emissions, but gives you exercise as well. Before you hit “reply all” on that email, think about whether or not every person on the list needs to receive your reply. This will save carbon while keeping your coworkers’ inboxes less cluttered. Furthermore, take some time to unsubscribe from newsletters and websites that you no longer read or visit anymore. Not only will this reduce the amount of emails you receive, but your online carbon footprint will decrease as well. 

To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet?
Most of us also use social media for our businesses and personal lives. However, these sites can have just as much of an impact on our carbon footprint. On average, 500 million tweets are sent daily worldwide. This produces 10 metric tons of CO2 a day, the same as the emissions from driving a car 24,000 miles!

Browsing your Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter feeds can all produce CO2, so the longer you’re on the site, the larger your footprint. Instead of looking at your phone when you’re out with friends or family, live in the moment. Its okay to miss something every once in a while. Many people have a “fear of missing out,” which has been strongly influenced by social media. Connecting with those you haven’t seen in a while is a great benefit of social media, but if you’re constantly checking for your friends’ updates and pictures, you may be missing out on things happening in your own life. Put down your phone or computer and interact with those you’re with instead of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. This can help reduce the amount of time you spend online, which lowers your carbon footprint and makes you more present in your relationships and your own life.

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October 8, 2014 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Madison’s Bus System: Easy, Green, and Healthy for You!

city bus

Are you looking to change the way you commute to work, classes, or other places in Madison? Try the bus! Taking the bus can help reduce car emissions that contribute to climate change and many respiratory issues. Furthermore, individuals who use public transportation tend to get over 3 times the amount of physical activity per day than those who drive. Changing your commute can help you stay active and lower your environmental impact.

Madison’s bus system has options for everyone, no matter where you live. With over 60 different routes that cover the entire city of Madison and its suburbs, commuting to work by bus can be easy and convenient.

Madison Metro even has 4 free buses that cover the UW-Madison campus and can be used by anyone, without a bus pass. To use this free service, simply hop on any bus with a number in the 80′s (80, 81, 82, 84). Route 80 is the most popular for students and employees of UW-Madison, since its route takes riders by all of the main campus buildings and Eagle Heights residential area. Route 81 covers more of the northern part of campus, including the Lakeshore residence halls, Observatory Drive, and north of the Capital. The southern part of campus is covered by Route 82, and Route 84 and will take passengers from the top of Bascom Hill to Eagle Heights. All of these routes are easy and inexpensive ways to commute to your job, classes, or events, and each route offers many options for times.

Bus fare for other routes is $2.00 per ride, per person for adults, with prices being less for children and senior citizens. This fare can be paid on the bus when you board. Daily passes can also be purchased on the bus for $4.50 a day. For those looking for more long-term commutes, Madison Metro offers a variety of passes, including 31-day passes, semester-long and summer passes for youth, and 10-ride passes. Passes can be bought online at the Madison metro website. Some employees and students are also eligible for free unlimited ride passes, including UW-Madison students and employees, City of Madison employees, and UW Hospital, Meriter Hospital, and St. Mary’s Hospital employees. For a full list of eligible businesses for the free unlimited ride pass, please visit the Madison Metro website.

Planning your route is easy with the help of Google Maps. Simply type in your starting location and where you want to go, click the “get directions” button, and click on the bus icon. All of the available routes will appear, including how often the bus departs and how long your total commute will take. Madison Metro also has a “Transit Tracker” that allows you to see live time when the next bus will be at the stop. For those with smartphones, an app is available called “Transit App.”

If you’re looking to change the way you commute, head over to the Madison Metro website to find routes, stop times, helpful tips, and a variety of other useful information.

Overall, the bus is an easy, healthy, and environmentally friendly option for your commute. Next time you’re traveling in and around Madison, consider your other set of wheels!

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September 24, 2014 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Dane County TimeBank

“The Dane County TimeBank (DCTB), established in 2005, is a network of over 2000 individuals and organizations who exchange services and skills to build community, build capacity, and come together to help each other to build a better world.” As explained on their website, with timebanking, “everyone’s time is valued equally – one hour equals one hour – and services exchanged include helping neighbors cover basis needs, skilled services and skill building, and other creative connections.”

Dane County Timebank works to uphold five core values of “assets, reciprocity, social networks, respect, and redefining work.” Assets require viewing every human being as having something to offer within a collaborative environment that only works through reciprocity and understanding that “helping works better as a two way street”.  Social networking and respect are important values because they reaffirm that members of our community can and should be able to rely on each other for certain things and that all of us matter equally. Redefining work as whatever it takes to make the community as a whole better by supporting its members is also crucial to building strong families, neighborhoods, and ultimately the entire world.

The main goal of the Dane County TimeBank is to provide “a mechanism to facilitate the sharing and exchange of resources among organizations that are often put in a position of competing for limited resources” within our county.  This approach to community building helps reduce some strain on municipal budgets and human service providers and offers a chance for partnerships with local organizations to meet local needs.

Joining the TimeBank is open to individuals and organizations in Dane County and some of the current projects include “The Wellness Project,” “Neighborhood Care Teams,” and “Inclusive Community,” just to name a few. All of these projects along with the many others which Dane County Timebank helps facilitate really are making our community stronger and thereby enhancing the lives of citizens of Dane County.  For more information, please visit


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June 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

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