Business leaders, department heads and government officials gather in Northeast Wisconsin to learn more about sustainability.
What exactly is sustainability?
"Sustainability is meeting our needs today without sacrificing the needs of future generations."
Fred Schnook is the lead planner at Foth — an engineering and planning firm which is hosting the sustainability conference in Appleton. Schnook says sustainability affects all of us — the private and the public sector, especially in this weakening economy. He says we need to reduce inputs while increasing outputs.
"So the real question comes down to 'How do we reduce the cost of energy? How do we reduce the cost of water? How do we reduce the cost of waste in organizations?' And that can be garbage waste. That can be recycling. That can be packaging. If you can reduce those three elements – energy, water and waste – you can make a heck of a lot of money."
Schnook says a park in Ashland, where he served as mayor from 2002 until 2006, is a great example of sustainability. They replaced the grass with native plant species. "It cost money up front to make that change, but the cost savings are huge. And especially over time because you no longer need staff to go out there and cut the grass; you no longer need to put down fertilizers and do other stuff to maintain the grass."
Many of us already use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances in our homes. Schnook says it's about saving money and being more productive without sacrificing quality of life.
The half-day Foth Conference on Sustainability: Balancing People, Planet and Profit is on Thursday, June 19, 2008 in Appleton at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center .