It's more than just recycling. Local businesses are joining the trend toward reducing their environmental impact while continuing to meet their customers' needs.
Empire Screen Printing started in Onalaska during the mid-twentieth century and has printed graphic design pieces for other businesses ever since.
As technology has evolved, so have Empire's business practices.
"I think it comes personally from what you want to leave behind. I think they talk about the footprints that you leave," said John Freismuth, President of Empire Screen Printing. "Traditionally, screen printing was done with solvent base. So 50% of what we actually printed evaporated into the air. Now 100% of what's printed ends up on the sub strait."
Empire uses LED light printing on many machines, reducing overall waste and eliminating toxins from the air. This was one project developed during the MPower program through the Sustainability Institute.
Empire created a team of employees to lead sustainable changes throughout the company.
"We put sustainability at the forefront. People that really believe in it in their heart help everybody in the company understand the benefit and help not only Empire but other businesses moving forward," Freismuth said.
Encouraging other businesses to follow Empire's lead is a goal of the Sustainability Institute offered through La Crosse's Western Technical College.
"It's good for the bottom line, because once you put those practices in place, you will be able to be operating more efficiently," said Lee Rasch, President of Western Technical College.
Rasch was a driving force in establishing the program, which is a satellite of Sustain Dane operated in Madison, WI. He brought the idea to La Crosse in a local effort to encourage businesses to go green.
"This is a region but we're part of the nation, we're part of the world, and we think this an opportunity for us to do some things that will be modeled elsewhere. And if they're modeled elsewhere, we can have a collective impact on the future for all of us," Rasch said.
The program has grown each year. Businesses participate in monthly meetings to discuss various aspects of sustainability. Then, those teams pledge to develop their own local plan, work on the plan, and report the results of the plan at the end of the year.
Six businesses participated in the 2016 cycle of MPower. This is up from just four in the first year. These six businesses, including Empire, will showcase their project results at the Sustainability Showcase on February 1 from 7:30 am to 10 am. The showcase will be in the Lunda Center at Western Technical College.
Businesses are invited to attend the showcase and join the next cycle. They can also get ideas for how to adopt and incorporate sustainable business practices in their own work.
"Each year, we're growing more and more presence. Companies and organizations in the community are embracing sustainability, and that's what I think is so special about this," Rasch said.