Category Archives: Sustainability

A Good Year–in fact, Many

A Retrospective

2010-2017 Sustainable Atwood helped to make many good things happen for our neighborhood and planet …

We hope you will find many more ways to create a healthy city and planet in 2017.  Enormous thanks to the many volunteers who make it all possible.

2016 Metro Mavens

Our delightful mother-daughter volunteer team, Mel and Lydia Siegler, keep our SAMCC program stable, affordable and available to a growing ridership of 50 cardholders.
SAMCC is an unlimited ride bus pass program that saves cardholders $.75 per ride–$1.50 every round trip on Madison Metro buses. The SAMCC is for anyone (yes, you) in the Madison area who takes the bus occasionally, or for those who ride it every day. Both types of riders get big savings and lower their carbon footprint!
Thanks to these two Metro Mavins [experts], SAMCC is rolling smoothly on.
If your car has an average MPG and you drive 10 miles each way to work taking the bus will keep over 70 pounds of carbon out of the air every week!

MGE’s Radical Rate Redesign Threatens Solar Market

Summary of MG&Es Rate Proposal for 2015 and 2016

 Overview: MGE is proposing to restructure electric rates, effective January 1, 2015. The restructuring would take the form of sharply higher fixed charges each month and lower rates for energy use.  From the current level of $10/month, MGE proposes increasing monthly fixed charges to $22 in 2015 and $50 in 2016. The per-kilowatt-hour rate would decline during this period. This shift will affect customers positively or negatively based on their usage. This proposal, which surfaced in MGEs current rate case in early June, is on a fast track.  The Public Service Commission will review MGEs proposal and make a decision on it in late fall 2014.

Big picture impacts:  Shifting revenue capture from variable energy rates to fixed charges will increase monthly bills for lower-use customers (<550 kWh/month) while lowering them for higher-use customers (>550 kWh/month). Low and middle income households are predominately lower-use customers and high income households are the heaviest users of electric energy. The lower energy rates will greatly weaken the economic rationale for efficiency measures and on-site solar generation. Moreover, efficiency and on-site solar will have no effect on fixed charges, which will become a larger component of monthly bills for all customers. There appears to be no upside for lower use customers.

Higher use customers will see lower electric bills, and very high use customers will realize significant bill reductions. They too would see little economic benefit from energy-saving measures and/or self-generating with solar should they want to pursue such options.

For residential and small commercial customers, the most significant changes would occur in 2016, when MGE would institute a demand charge that cannot be lowered through behavior changes (e.g. time of use) or more efficient appliances. For the majority of customers, fixed charges would account for more than 50% of their monthly bills.

Impacts on Solar Market: A radically flattened rate structure would likely reduce the Madison-area solar market to near-nonexistence in a very short time. Compared with 2014 rates, the rates in 2016 would cut the economic return from solar energy in half. MGEs offer to grandfather existing systems under the current rate structure is a tacit admission of the suppressing effects that future rates will have on solar self-generation. Moreover, the proposed cut-off date for grandfathered solar systems has passed (June 1, 2014). Installations planned for the second half of 2014 will not be protected from the energy rate reductions proposed for 2015 and 2016.

Conclusions: If adoptedMGEs rate restructuring proposal would:

  • Penalize lower-use customers (ie: solar customers [SA ed])
  • Discourage energy efficiency across the board
  •  Throw Madisons solar market in reverse
Prepared by RENEW Wisconsin

June 2016


Urban Forest Fest | July 26, 2014

urbanForestFestJoin Sustainable Atwood and  Wisconsin Urban Wood as we host the Urban Forest Fest! Its happening during the AtwoodFest in Madison on July 26.

Event details:

Date: July 26, 2014

Time: 10am-4pm

Location: 1904 Winnebago St, Madison WI 53704 – Trinity Lutheran Church parking lot

Questions? Email

Dead trees are wood, not waste.

Map the neighborhood sharing gardens – RipeNearMe

Share your veggies with your neighbor’s with this great website, RipeNearMe!ripeNearMeHomepageScreenshot

As your garden starts to get going this summer and you don’t know how you could possibly eat 20 cucumbers a day, try sharing them with your neighbors with this website. This site started in Australia and folks are just beginning to use it in the US, so right now there aren’t any dots on the map for Madison, WI. Let’s change that!

Add your spring and summer veggies to the map as they ripen, and then share or sell your local, organic food with your neighbors.

Here is a screen shot of the website listing all the locations around the US that are currently using this website:






The Birth of a new floor in McFarland – from dead trees from S Wisconsin

Here is the latest newsletter from Jim Birkemeier  of Spring Green Timbergrowers with a great photo story of a local urban wood project in his area. Check it out!


Written by Jim Birkemeier

May 4, 2014

A referral from Alex Greene began the process of creating a new wood floor, stairway, and baby crib project months ago for a growing young family in McFarland.

Jenna has been the most enthusiastic customer I have had in years – her husband Jim is also, but has a job and only had limited time to share on this.

Jenna asked to help within a few minutes, so I trained her to handle the power nailer and 3 pound hammer, then the chop saw.

It takes about 15 minutes for me to teach someone the basic skills of nailing down our hardwood flooring.  We have lots of tricks to add to the lessons, so all of us are learning more all the time.

We agreed that Jenna could install a unique section, designed by Jim the night before – as a transition between the living room and dining room.  She loved to pick out the perfect piece and she nailed them into place.

Did I mention she is due to deliver a baby girl in a few weeks?   Jenna and Jim own a Gym business and are personal trainers and coaches, so I trusted she was up for the task.

When Jim got home the first day, he too learned the basics of installing hardwood flooring and the couple helped install the first rows of the dining room, again enjoying the process of picking out the prettiest board to go next in the puzzle pattern of mixed species flooring.

Another new beginning was inviting a young employee who works in the laser cutting and shipping divisions of Spring Green Timber Growers – Tyler – to assist for a day.

Tylers official job title back in Spring Green is “Laser Ninja”, though he has assisted with skidding logs, sawmilling, kiln drying, resawing, planing and sanding to prepare the thin lumber for the laser cutting operation.   We like to hire really smart people and then teach them the simple basics of wood working – Tyler fits right into this practice.   Within a few minutes he was nailing in the Ash, Maple, Locust, Walnut, Oak, Elm, Hickory and Hackberry in the dining room.

Within the hour Tyler was also operating the chop saw to trim the planks to fit the location in the floor pattern.  I believe it is super important for our workers to get the full experience of growing trees, harvesting dead trees, sawmilling, kiln drying, manufacturing, installing, and seeing the huge smiles and hearing the prolific thank-yous of happy customers.

As I began to sand the living room floor, Tyler and Jenna worked together to finish the dining room.  Jenna also did most of the work to carry the ton of wood strips up two flights of stairs to the main floor of their home.  She is quite an enthusiastic helper!

Tyler will make custom  laser-cut wooden air vents that will be flush mounted into the floor during the finishing process.  We will install matching hardwood baseboards also.  image006Another project is to spruce up the stairways leading to the living room with our salvaged wood – Kathy worked to manufacture and finish the stair parts last week and I will install them Monday.

Here is the living room, now rough sanded.  “I cant wait to see it finished with all our furniture moved in, it will be amazing” said Jenna.

On the drive back home, Tyler said “That was not as hard as I expected.”  Indeed, installing is pretty simple – and the rewards of seeing your own wood installed in a familys home and hearing their enthusiastic praise over and over is pretty priceless!  When the homeowner helps in the process, even just picking some of the boards from the trailer..   their satisfaction and pride goes through the roof!

When the flooring project is completed, Jenna has asked me to build a wood crib for their baby.   After getting to know Jenna and Jim, making this piece will be very special!  I bet this baby will love wood and be able to swing a hammer too.

More to come on this one!

Local Solar | House Party and Information – April 29th

Waiting for the energy company to invest in more solar? Could be a while; theyve fulfilled their quota, so they don’t have much incentive. We do. We wont stop investing in solar until every home, business and organization in our neighborhood that wants to be, is solar powered.

We’re working to make solar accessible to everyone, on any budget. With each of us doing a little bit–or a lot–over time we can make a huge difference. Come find out how you can be part of our solar powered neighborhood.

SolarSAlogoLocal Solar | House Party & Informational
April 29th, 2014
2018 Helena St | Madison 53704
RSVP: Email


Yours for a sustainable neighborhood,

~ Sustainable Atwood

Read more about how Sustainable Atwood is helping to solar power the neighborhood