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Are You Up To The Challenge? Eco-Commuting At The Urban Ecology Center

Written by Mike Larson
    Thursday, 25 April 2013
Are You Up To The Challenge? Eco-Commuting At The Urban Ecology Center

I started working at the Center on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2007. There were a lot of things that impressed me during my first week, but one that sticks out in my mind were the bikes that were parked outside of the building that cold November day. Apparently, despite the below freezing temperatures and threat of snow, some of the staff had chosen to bike to work instead of driving their cars.


This "From the Archive" post was originally published in the July/August 2008 edition of
our newsletter. Please enjoy this glance back at our past.

As time went on I began to realize that this wasn’t the exception, but the norm. Many people on staff chose to walk, bike or even cross-country ski to work … even after a huge snow storm! Others rode the bus or drove hybrid or bio-diesel vehicles. Part of the reason that so many staff did this was because of the Center’s Eco-Buck incentive which pays staff $1 a day if they commute to work without using fossil fuels. The other part of the reason, however, was that these people cared about the environment and were willing to put their money (or in this case, their commute) where their mouths were.

After a few weeks people began to ask me if I were planning on biking to work. At first, I was reluctant. After all, I live in Bayview, not within two miles of the Center as most people did. Over time, however, their gentle encouragement began to wear on me. Our Executive Director travels eight miles to and from work every day, one of our Educators travels 10; surely I could ride 13 miles a day! There are even showers at the Center for me to use when I arrive in the morning. My excuses to not eco-commute were running out.

I am proud to say that in March 2008 I did start riding my bike to work. It was hard at first, but I soon began to enjoy the exercise, the beautiful route along the lake and the occasional ride with one of my coworkers who was going in the same direction. As my enthusiasm for eco-commuting grew, I began to wonder how many miles we as a staff could accumulate over a summer if we kept track. Thus began the Urban Ecology Center’s Eco-Commute Challenge! Starting on May 1st, 2008, the staff began to track how many miles they commuted to and from work using human-powered means. Every week we totaled this mileage and used it to chart a theoretical trip across the country: 4050 miles from Olympic National Park in Washington State to Acadia National Park in Maine. We hung a huge map on the wall at Riverside Park so that visitors could see our progress throughout the summer. Along the way we made “stops” at various national parks, nature centers, wind farms and other ecologically-themed points of interest.

How far do you travel to and from work every day? Could you eco-commute? Could you and your co-workers create your own Eco-Commute Challenge at your workplace? Please feel free to contact us if you would like information about how to start up your own Eco-Commute Challenge or Eco-Buck incentive program!


Photo credit: Gavin Anderson

Mike Larson

Mike Larson

Mike is a happily married man living with his family in Bay View. As a young child he spent days playing along the banks of the Rock River, fostering a love for nature which eventually led him to study biology and pursue a career with the Urban Ecology Center. He enjoys telling people everything he can about the Center through his role as the Visitor Services Manager. He hopes that the work he does can help make it possible for his two sons and other kids in Milwaukee to grow up with similar experiences to those he had as a child.

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