25 N. Pinckney St., Suite 320, P.O. Box 1603, Madison, WI 53701, 608-2040000, www.communitycar.com
Amanda White says Community Car helps people save money while serving a lofty ideal: "The staff feels it's a way to address this mounting global crisis we're facing."
Founded in 2003 by Madison Environmental Group president Sonya Newenhouse, the group started with only three cars and 20 charter members. It now has 15 cars (mostly Prius hybrids) and 850 occasional drivers.
The model is simple. Members reserve a vehicle near them online or over the phone, then punch in a code at a lock-box near the car to get the key. The cars are parked downtown and on campus, with a new location at Hilldale.
White, the group's vice president, says members only rarely run into scheduling difficulties; half of all reservations are made within five hours of when the car is needed. Members pay a flat rate based on hours and miles.
Community Car has raised its rates only once in nearly five years of operation, an impressive feat given the rocketing price of gas, but White says adjustments may need to be made due to inflation and oil costs. Based on last year's customer invoices, Community Car members average about $36 per month - far less than most car payments.
White says thinking about car usage in terms of an hourly rate encourages people to be more frugal: "Many people just drive less when they join."
Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC)
P.O. Box 7814, Madison, WI 53707, 608-226-0300, www.macsac.org
The Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition began, says Erin Schneider, with a just a handful of people. But as more packaged produce from distant locales appears on supermarket shelves - amid growing food safety concerns - more folks are wanting "to put a face to their food."
Schneider, the coalition's director, says "It's really all about direct relationships and trust." Community-supported agriculture is "good for your health, good for the earth and good for the economy."
The coalition links consumers to local CSA farms. Members pick a farm and pay an annual fee that entitles them to a share of the season's harvest; this ensures that farmers will make enough to cover costs. Once the harvest starts, members receive a weekly box of fresh foods, usually delivered to a drop location. Local farms offer everything from Angus beef to coffee to organic fruit - and, of course, vegetables galore.
Currently, 34 farms are involved with MACSAC. Many are certified organic, and sustainable principles are important to all. Says Schneider, "Environmental stewardship is at the forefront of what they do."
The cost of being a member varies depending on the farm. Some health insurance companies - including Physicians Plus, Dean Health Care and Group Health Cooperative - provide rebates of up to $200 to CSA members. There are also payment plans available to help low-income families become member households.
222 S. Hamilton St., #1, Madison, WI 53703, 608-819-0689, www.sustaindane.org
Bryant Moroder, executive director of Sustain Dane, says the group's goal is to "help people and communities help themselves and other people to live more sustainable lives."
Take its rain barrel project. The barrels - which capture rainwater from a downspout for later re-use - can be installed by volunteers. Moroder says more than 100 installations were done last year, and almost 1,400 barrels have been distributed since the project began in 2006.
The simple devices conserve water from the aquifer, and reduce the amount of salt, oil and other runoff flowing into the lakes.
Founded in 1998 and inspired by the Swedish eco-municipality movement, Sustain Dane has also partnered on projects with the city of Madison, including the coordination of the "Mpowering Madison" campaign. Mpowering seeks to support individuals, businesses and other local organizations seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
"On the practical level we've chosen to work more closely with the municipality," says Moroder, "That's the best way to get the community involved, because it's sort of leading by example."
Sustain Dane also facilitates community study sessions, like "Changing Co2urse," which teaches small groups of friends or co-workers how personal habits relate to global warming and how they can be altered.
Prairie Fire Biofuels
1894 E. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53704, 608-441-5454, www.prairiefirebiofuels.org
Mike Clark thinks people will pay more for alternative fuels "because it's the right thing to do." But he envisions a time when driving green also means saving cash, and when filling up the tank with canola oil will be as convenient as pulling up to a pump at Shell.
"It shouldn't cost a customer more to be green," he says. "But right now the economics are hugely skewed towards petroleum fuels, bigger cars and all that sort of stuff."
That's why Clark, a volunteer and former president at the Madison-based Prairie Fire Biofuels Co-op, is working hard to push renewable energy. He was one of a handful of co-op members back in 2005, when it operated out of houses and borrowed shop space. It has since opened its own garage on East Washington Avenue, and membership has swelled to around 200.
Prairie Fire has installed about 100 kits on diesel cars from around the U.S. to enable them to run on vegetable oil. It's also given scores of locals easy access to biodiesel, which requires no engine modification to use.
Even so, says Clark, "education is still really key for us because there's so many people who haven't even thought about this as an option. We've done probably close to a hundred appearances at renewable energy fairs, at Earth Day events and many schools."
He thinks politicians will eventually take up the issue - once the public leads the way.
25 N. Pinckney St., Suite 310, P.O. Box 1607, Madison, WI 53703, 608-204-2888, 866-953-6288, www.enactwi.org
The group EnAct gets its name from what it does - create Environmental Action teams that seek to influence personal behavior on a local and, eventually, statewide level.
EnAct is an outreach program created by Madison Environmental Group Inc. It works with groups of six to 12 neighbors, co-workers or others looking to take real measures to make their lives more sustainable.
Over the last five years, these teams have made small life adjustments that have translated into big results: Individual households have reduced their carbon output in the tons, and reduced water usage by tens of thousands of gallons.
"We've had people join EnAct teams who initially feared that they'd be asked to live in a cave and grow all of their own food to live more sustainably. That's not what EnAct is about," says program manager Nicole Craig. "At the end of the program, participants are living very full, rich, happy lives, and are more connected to their community."
At any one time, says Craig, there are 15 to 20 teams rotating through the EnAct program. Each team meets a total of eight times, usually at a member's house, to discuss potential lifestyle changes - whether it be disposing of hazardous household materials via Dane County Clean Sweep, or carrying reusable bags to the grocery store.
"I always think of EnAct as a positive form of peer pressure," Craig says, "because you've expressed in front of a group this action you'd like to take, and they're going to be remembering and checking in on you, but also helping you succeed."
The EnAct Participant Guide has ideas for both beginners and seasoned environmentalists. As Craig puts it, "Change is most effective if people are equipped with all the information that they need."