Image Credit: Eddee Daniel

Image Credit: Eddee Daniel

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Biophilic Cities Member since 2013

Moving beyond the legacy of industrial manufacturing and its associated contaminated by-products, Milwaukee is now taking advantage of its location at the intersection of three rivers and Lake Michigan, positioning itself as the Freshwater Research Capital of the world.  Milwaukee has made considerable strides in urban sustainability, which is now a priority issue for the current mayor, Tom Barrett. With a its Sustainability Plain, ReFresh MKE, working to actualize sustainability initiatives that prioritize people, planet, and profit, and plenty of non-profit organizations pushing green initiatives forward, Milwaukee is becoming greener, bluer, and more accessible for those who live there. Through the plan, key areas in Milwaukee, such as the Inner harbor, are being revitalized with  biophilic principles in mind. In addition, Milwaukee is already quite well known for its innovative work in urban agriculture and community food production. Finally, other initiatives, such as Alice’s Garden, Urban Ecology Centers, Center for Resilient Cities, and Home Grown Milwaukee, are implementing a variety of strategies to bring Milwaukee citizens closer to the nature within the city.

City Contact: Erick Shambarger, Director of Environmental Sustainability


  • ReFresh MKE is the city’s 2013-2023 sustainability plan that to acts as a roadmap for purposeful environmental and economic action that will result in collective benefits within Milwaukee.

  • Harbor District Initiative: world-class revitalization of Milwaukee’s harbor that sets the standard for how waterfronts work—environmentally, economically, and socially—for the next century. At the confluence of Milwaukee’s three rivers, the Harbor District is the place where our city’s past meets its future. Historic neighborhoods and century-old rail bridges meet high-tech manufacturing and world class freshwater research. Our last remaining wetland meets our newest fish ladder. Old school corner bars meet trendy restaurants.

  • The Urban Ecology Center fosters ecological understanding as inspiration for change, neighborhood by neighborhood.

  • Milwaukee County Parks Strategic Plan lays out a vision to inspire passion for parks as a part of people’s lives, encouraging participation, learning, and stewardship.

  • Alice’s Garden Urban Farm is a two-acre, urban, community garden in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nurturing families and organizations to reclaim and nourish cultural and family traditions connected to land and food.

  • HOME GR/OWN - an initiative of Mayor Tom Barrett and the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) with the following mission:

    • Transform targeted neighborhoods by concentrating City and partner resources, catalyzing new, healthy food access and greenspace developments to promote economic development in City neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

    • Make it easier to grow and access local food and re-purpose city-owned vacant lots. We work within City government to streamline processes, permitting, and ordinances, making it easier to grow and distribute healthy food, start new food-based businesses and improve vacant lots into parks, orchards and healthy green spaces, increasing Milwaukee quality of life.

    • Work within Milwaukee's community food system to link local growers to local markets, increase urban food infrastructure (water, access, compost), support new urban farms and increase the number of healthy food retailers and wholesalers.