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Global Warming: What Is Winona Doing About It?

ANNE MORSE
Winona County Sustainability Cdtr.

Environmental change is coming to the historic Mississippi River town of Winona, and that change is coming fast. The summer of 2007 saw the development of a groundbreaking collaboration to integrate sustainable behaviors into the institutional fabric of the community. Demonstrating genuine leadership, all of Winona’s major public institutions-the City, the County, Winona State University and the Winona Public Schools, agreed to work together to seek joint certification as an ISO 14001 community.

Impetus for the pioneering collaboration was the signing this spring of Climate Protection Proclamations by leaders of the institutions-Winona Mayor Jerry Miller, Winona State University President Dr. Judith Ramaley, and the Winona County Board of Commissioners. A presentation by Will Steger and J. Drake Hamilton at Winona’s Frozen River Film Festival in February helped galvanize the attention of the community on the importance of local action to address climate change.

Also key to the calculus of the community leaders was the understanding that taxpayer dollars can be saved when energy efficiency, green purchasing, renewable energy development and other sustainability practices are incorporated into an organization’s day-to-day operations.

Pursuit of ISO 14001 certification is the community of Winona’s attempt to put real muscle behind their climate commitments. Each project partner has an employee team tasked with bringing sustainable ideas forward, as well as ensuring that the collaboration’s goals are successfully implemented within their institutions. For the group to receive joint ISO certification, each of the partners must meet its goals, and thus, the success of one determines the success of all. This level of interdependence among institutions led immediately to unprecedented levels of communication and support between the institutions.

Winona’s collaborative approach to sustainability is receiving enthusiastic support across the community. The collaboration’s website sustainwinona.org serves as an umbrella for communicating all of the sustainable activities and events being pursued. Winona residents will be inspired fall of 2007 by visits from noted sustainability advocates David W. Orr, (author of Nature by Design and Design on the Edge), and Ellen Sandbeck, (author of Organic Housekeeping).

Building on previous workshops on wind development that were enthusiastically received, these workshops on solar thermal and PV systems will further inform residents as to how to lead the way on local renewable energy. The creation of local, organic food systems has also been high on residents’ priority list. If current activities are any indication of future success, Winona is enthusiastically embracing a more sustainable future.

An internationally-recognized system for ensuring improved environmental protection and pollution prevention, the ISO 14001 certification process will unfold through a series of four community meetings. Facilitated by Purdue University’s Center for the Environment, the meetings will assist community members in establishing a structure and process for continual environmental improvement. Gap analyses and review processes will follow, to ensure that objective measures demonstrate improved overall performance. The Winona community is excited to be able to approach sustainability using this type of structured and measurable approach, so that successful outcomes are the primary focus.

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To learn more about Sustain Winona visit the web sites below.

Sustain Winona
sustainwinona.org

FAQ’s on ISO 14001
epa.gov/owm/iso14001/isofaq.htm

Sustain Winona Collaboration

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