It’s official: sustainability has transitioned from trend to expectation in the events industry. And while there’s no denying the carbon footprint conventions and events leave behind, it’s inspiring to see event professionals playing a lead role in choosing destinations dedicated to eco-friendly offerings. 

In Madison, Wisconsin, sustainability has never been just a trend. It’s a tradition that’s been in our DNA for decades. Gaylord Nelson—the founder of Earth Day—called Madison home. In 1968, we were the first community in the U.S. to offer curbside recycling. Today, our mayor is the National Chair of U.S. Climate Mayors, and our county was the 4th in the U.S. to reach the milestone of using 100% renewable electricity at all county facilities.

This sustainability mindset is not just good for the planet—it’s good for organizers and attendees who want to incorporate sustainability easily. Read on for three ways Madison has made its mark in partnering with planners on a more sustainable mindset in the meetings space. 

Why Children & Nature Network Chose Madison, WI 

When it comes to the annual Nature Everywhere Conference, the Children & Nature Network focuses on finding cities that are already successful in connecting children and families to the benefits of nature. 

“Madison’s commitment to the health and well-being of children is in strong alignment with our mission,” says Laura Mylan, CSO External Relations at Children & Nature Network. “With its wealth of nature surrounding downtown plus incredible parks, natural areas and public lands throughout Greater Madison, this destination offers many opportunities to engage families in outdoor experiences and learning.” 

Mylan’s organization has worked with more than 50 U.S. cities over the past decade and says the only way their work gets truly realized is through strong collaboration between government agencies and nonprofit partners. After working with host cities from Austin, Texas to St. Paul, Minnesota to Oakland, California in recent years, Madison rose to the top for a few reasons—including its selection for the inaugural Nature Everywhere Communities cohort. 

“We’ve been working with the City of Madison since 2016 as part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative,” said Mylan. “But Madison rose to the top in a competitive national application process for this new cohort because of their inclusion of youth leaders, removing barriers to outdoor spaces for families of color and progress on increasing equitable access to nature in early childhood.” 

Mylan says a goal for the Nature Everywhere Conference is to leave a lasting impact on its host cities. “The team at Destination Madison has been invaluable in helping us make local connections through introductions, site visits and now, serving on the Madison Advisory Council. Together, we’re launching Nature Everywhere Day on Saturday, June 1, which we hope will inspire families in Madison to spend more time outdoors together this summer.” 

The Nature Everywhere Conference is taking place May 28-31 at the Monona Terrace. But in the weeks and years beyond, the Children & Nature Network welcomes anyone interested in helping to advance programs and policies that increase access to nature to join their efforts. More information can be found on the Children & Nature Network website

A Little About Madison’s LEED Certified Meeting Spaces 

Hosting the Nature Everywhere Conference at Monona Terrace was a natural choice for Children & Nature Network. Not only is this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed convention center located on Lake Monona, it’s also Platinum LEED-certified. It incorporates sustainability best practices from lakeshore path to rooftop garden—from a water usage level that’s 43% below the LEED benchmark to diverting more than 35,000 pounds of organic kitchen waste annually through its composting program to growing pollinator plants in its 6,800-square-foot rooftop garden. 

But Madison also offers an array of other green meetings spaces, too—including some impressive unique venues

A top trendsetter in this space is the Madison Children’s Museum. In 2014 it earned LEED Gold certification—the only museum in Wisconsin to earn that honor. Located just steps away from the Capitol Building, the Madison Children’s Museum contains five floors of experiential learning and examples of sustainability in action. Just a few examples include: 

  • Flooring that was reclaimed from a local school gym floor and mosaic columns made by 13,000 Madison students using bottle caps, broken glass and found objects. 

  •  A wind turbine made from old bicycle parts that pumps water from the museum’s rain barrel—demonstrating the incredible power of wind. 

  • A rooftop garden that grows 300 varieties of veggies and is home to a flock of chickens that produce 1,400 organic eggs each year. 

  • Little John’s Lunchbox, a self-serve, pay-what-you-can café that uses donated food from local grocery stores and farms to help feed families in need. 

The Association of Children’s Museums—the largest gathering of children’s museum professionals in the world—is hosting its annual InterActivity conference at the Madison Children’s Museum in 2024. But the space is also available to meeting and event planners as a venue for everything from evening events to closing receptions. 

Madison Celebrates Earth Day with Voluntourism Portal 

Destination Madison’s event services team has been thrilled to work with planners who share our voluntourism values to plan sustainable offsets for Madison meetings, from facilitating waterfront cleanup projects to creating connections with organizations that support local charities. 

New this year: on Earth Day, Destination Madison will launch a brand-new voluntourism portal that links like-minded meeting planners and attendees with easily accessible volunteer opportunities. We can’t wait to help visitors give back by going green, whether it’s part of the official agenda or an excuse to stay one more day. 

Stay tuned for details on our Madison meetings page