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Main Street businesses define our culture, no matter the size of the town. They are staples of each community serving as leaders, whether for responsible business practices, fair prices or customer service. We want these businesses to do well because of their connection to the community and to each of us.

Main Street businesses are also beginning to make a commitment to more sustainable business practices. “Main Street Green” is a new program focused on cultivating, educating, and supporting those businesses and commercial districts that will serve as models for more sustainable development.

Monroe Street is the state’s first business district to utilize stewardship tools and innovative best practices developed by WEI (Wisconsin Environmental Initiative). The Monroe Street Green program is being implemented in cooperation with the Monroe Street Merchants Association and 26 businesses representing retail, food and beverage, and service establishments. These leading “ecopreneurs” are implementing innovative best practices to benefit the community and environment in many ways.

Businesses participating are Alvarado Real Estate Group, Arbor House, Art Gecko, Bluephies, Brasserie V, Full Circle Natural Medicine, HAIR, HotelRED, J. Kinney Florist, Jacs Dining & Tap House, Karner Blue Candle & Supply, Madison Environmental Group, Mallatt's Pharmacy, Maurie's Fine Chocolates, Monroe Street Family Dental, Monroe Street Framing, Mystery to Me, New Orleans Take-Out, Orange Tree Imports, Paragon Video and Stereo, Pizza Brutta, Restaino & Associates Realtors, SERRV, The Wine and Hop Shop, UW Credit Union, Wingra Boats.

Working with WEI and interns from the UW-Madison WE Badger Volunteers program, Monroe Street Green businesses will receive technical support to establish baselines, benchmark their operations and identify best practices from which others can learn. The Main Street Green Checklist is a stewardship tool that sets goals that are effective and achievable, relating to eight major environmental topic areas. Participating businesses will be able to:

• Establish a baseline of their current energy, solid waste, water consumption and storm water impacts.

• Pursue energy efficiency goals.

• Incorporate water-saving strategies.

• Implement best practices in landscaping and related efforts to reduce storm water run-off.

• Shift their purchasing practices to more local and environmentally responsible choices.

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• Educate their customers, employees and the public about actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact.

Like any Main Street district, Monroe Street is already being “green” by offering local shops, boutiques and restaurants that are within walking and biking distance, or reached by public transportation. As a “green business district” Monroe Street goes further by offering a diverse number of retail, food and beverage and service establishments that are committed to environmentally responsible business practices. Moreover, some have advocated that the upcoming Monroe Street reconstruction project include green infrastructure and green development strategies. A redesign offered by Sustainability Leadership students at Edgewood College includes green roofs, bioretention swales, permeable pavement and other amenities along a Monroe "Green" Street corridor to create an even more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant shopping destination.

We can buy local and act local every day by supporting Main Street Green businesses that make a stronger commitment to improved environmental performance. On Main Street, our small businesses showcase the very best of communities across Wisconsin.

John Imes is executive director for Wisconsin Environmental Initiative and co-owner of the Arbor House Inn on Monroe Street.