From an article by Joe Knight in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

A national expert on sustainability who has met with Eau Claire city officials, UW-Eau Claire staff and Luther Midelfort staff says Eau Claire is taking the first steps toward being more efficient and environmentally friendly.

“I think there’s a real interest and excitement in Eau Claire … the hospital has been doing some great things, and the city and university,” Gips said.

Gips, president of Minnesota-based Sustainability Associates, will speak Monday at UW-Eau Claire to kick off a series of events the university and community groups are planning to commemorate Earth Day (April 22), which they have expanded to Earth Month.

“I’m going to share about this very exciting movement going on around the country, actually around the world, but especially in Wisconsin,” he said.

Wisconsin has more cities designated as “eco-municipalities”, which have agreed to use sustainable principals, he said. Washburn and Ashland were the first two. Madison, La Crosse, Menomonie, Dunn County and the city of Eau Claire are among more than 20 communities in the state that are either “eco-municipalities” already or are taking steps in that direction.

Gips advocates what he calls the “natural-step framework” for making companies, cities – even churches – more efficient and sustainable. The framework was developed in Sweden. IKEA was the first business to use it, but now many U.S. companies have adopted it, he said. The U.S. Army and Navy are also using the “natural-step framework.”

Over the past year, various Eau Claire city departments have been assessing sustainability, said city manager Mike Huggins.

“Specifically, they’re looking at energy, reducing waste streams and looking at the concept of sustainability through the ‘natural step’ process,” Huggins said.