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Congratulations! Announcing the 2021 Inspiring Sustainability Award Winners

We are excited to finally announce our winners of the Inspiring Sustainability Awards for 2021. If you missed the live announcement at the virtual event, you can watch and hear directly from both winners by scrolling to the end of this blog.

The Inspiring Sustainability Award originated from Coulee Partner’s for Sustainability’s Harvest Dinner in 2010. Each year Coulee Partner’s recognized individuals, businesses, organizations and projects that exemplified sustainability in our region.

In 2018, the Sustainability Institute continued this award through the Inspiring Sustainability Awards. To us at the Sustainability Institute, the Inspiring Sustainability Award represents recognition for outstanding leadership in sustainability...leadership that inspires others within our community and beyond. (See past winners)

We were amazed at the nominations provided by the community last year, that we decided to leave our nomination process open again to the public. We received nine amazing nominations all deserving of gratitude for their dedication and commitment to sustainability in our region.

We want to thank our community for sharing such amazing sustainability examples and congratulate and celebrate all the nominees for 2021!

From these nine nominations, the Sustainability Institute Executive Board vote and chose one individual and one organizational winner for 2021.

So without further ado, here are the winners of the 2021 Inspiring Sustainability Awards!

Our individual winner for 2021 is someone who has impacted our community by implementing and being instrumental in the sustainability efforts of the School District of La Crosse. Since becoming the Energy and Transportation manager for the District in 2007, Mike Freybler has implemented a number of energy and cost-saving measures, from LED lighting to efficient building mechanical systems. Combined with the work of his predecessor, these changes have created over $12,000,000 in energy cost avoidances since 2002.

Most recently, Mike has collaborated with donors and community organizations like Solar on La Crosse Schools (SOLS) to begin to transition the district to renewable sources of energy. Mike spearheaded the $189,000 community-funded project to put 81 kW of solar generation on the roof of the Hamilton/SOTA 1 Elementary School.

Mike also gives generously of his time--teaching UWL interns about his work and the sustainability challenges in different buildings. Described by his nominator, Mike is a gracious and open collaborator who has consistently demonstrated the ability to turn positive energy towards sustainability into concrete and lasting change. It is clear that Mike’s commitment and leadership in sustainability needs to be celebrated. That is why we are proud and excited to award the individual 2021 Inspiring Sustainability Award to Mike Freybler!

Next, we want to recognize our organizational winner for 2021. This community-based

organization is committed to providing renewable solar energy and its cost savings to our local schools. Solar on La Crosse Schools or also known as SOLS is working with local schools to implement solar saving energy dollars and protecting our environment at the same time. Not only will their solar projects cut air pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and slash energy costs, but it will also provide an opportunity for student learning. During installation and utilization of the solar panels, students are able to monitor performance of all aspects of the solar arrays for use in their science, technology, engineering, and math classes. Most recently, SOLS installed a solar array on the roof of the Hamilton/SOTA 1 Elementary School. This array will offset nearly half of the school's yearly energy demand and is expected to save the district an estimated $225,000 over the life of the system. It is this ingenuity, persistence and implementation of sustainability that makes SOLS: Solar on La Crosse Schools the organizational winner of the 2021 Inspiring Sustainability Awards.

The Sustainability Institute once again would like to congratulate Mike Freybler and SOLS: Solar on La Crosse Schools along with all of the nominees for their commitment and contribution towards sustainability within the Driftless region.

Watch the 2021 Inspiring Sustainability Award Event below and hear from both our winners!

It is through membership and donations that the Sustainability Institute is able to operate and provide our programming. Please consider supporting our organization to help us continue to offer our events like this at no cost to attendees! Simply click the "Become a Member" or "Donate" button at the top of this page.

Looking for ways to get involved with SOLS? SOLS shared 5 ways that folks can SHINE WITH SOLS and help them continue the School District of La Crosse's transition to more solar energy.

  1. Talk about solar power---especially with kids! SOLS has some great conversation starters to get you talking with kiddos about energy.

  2. Join a SOLS working group! These are short-term commitments of time and energy with HUGE returns for our community.

  3. Purchase a SOLS Sweepstakes entry (or two)! The fundraiser is hosted on Sabadash App, which is a free, local app that promotes local organizations and businesses. The sweepstakes winner will be randomly selected after all 200 entries are sold.

  4. Attend a monthly SOLS planning meeting! Our group meets (oftentimes virtually) on the first Thursday of every month at 6pm. Please email if you’d like to attend.

  5. Donate to SOLS! Without support from generous donors, Solar on La Crosse Schools (SOLS) could not make solar energy a reality for the School District of La Crosse. The La Crosse Public Education Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor for SOLS and donations are tax-deductible.



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