Happy Birthday headline

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day is an annual event to celebrate and support our planet!

Every year, millions of people around the globe participate in events and activities to help put Earth-friendly ideas into action each and every day. As new, more sustainable technologies continue to grow, we have new hope for a cleaner, better world for generations to come.

flower decoration

How did Earth Day get started?

Senator Gaylord Nelson
(Photo: WHS-93130)

Thank you to Wisconsin's Gaylord Nelson for his amazing spirit that spearheaded the Earth Day movement!

You can learn more about the history of Earth Day at nelsonearthday.net.

Gaylord Nelson, the Founder of Earth Day, was born in Clear Lake, Wis., and was 89 years old when he died in 2005.

Nelson was elected Governor of Wisconsin in 1958 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1962 until 1981.

He was an advocate for the environment. The idea for Earth Day evolved over a few years with Nelson's idea to bring attention to environmental issues. In 1969, Nelson had the idea of applying "teach-ins" used as part of demonstrations to organize a huge grassroots movement for environmental issues. In September 1969, he planned a nationwide demonstration—called Earth Day—to be held in the spring of 1970. The response from the media and people across the country was immediate.

The success of the first Earth Day was spectacular and beyond anything that Senator Nelson had anticipated. More than 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated. As Senator Nelson recounted, "That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself."

What is climate change?

Everyone is talking about it, but what is climate change
and what can you do to reduce its effects?


The Earth has warmed by about one degree over the past 100 years. Some think the Earth is getting warmer on its own, but many scientists around the world agree that humans are making the Earth warmer.

What happens when the Earth gets warmer?

  • Glaciers melt, causing water levels to rise.
  • Delicate ecosystems become threatened.
  • Wildlife that depends on a delicate climate balance becomes endangered.


Scientists think climate change is caused by the greenhouse effect. Certain gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor, trap the sun's rays in our atmosphere. Our atmosphere is like a blanket that helps trap the sun's heat near the surface of the Earth. Buildup of greenhouse gases prevents the heat from escaping back into space, causing the Earth to warm at an unnatural rate. Many scientists believe this is the cause of climate change.


Human causes of climate change include:

  • Burning fossil fuels.
  • Deforestation—cutting down trees that help keep our air clean.
Girl doing handstand

How can you help?

Children's hands holding up globe
  1. Reuse and repurpose! Instead of throwing plastic containers away, wash and reuse them to store crafts and supplies you use around the house. Donate clothes you grow out of to local charities and organizations that take them. Organize a clothing drive in your neighborhood.
  2. Vacation can-do! Reuse your towels and bedding more than one day when you're staying in a hotel. This reduces water consumption and electricity use by the hotel.
  3. Eat your veggies! Livestock accounts for much of the pollution in the air and land (methane gas from cow toots and chips!). Eating less meat and more veggies is good for your body and for the planet! Land is dedicated to gardens and agriculture where CO2-eating plants thrive.
  4. Be an environment ambassador! Learn all you can about the science behind climate change and talk about how to protect the planet with your family and friends.
  5. Plant trees! Trees do so much for our planet! Nicknamed the lungs of the world, forests have been quickly disappearing all over the globe. But trees do more than just give us oxygen to breathe; they also:
  • Remove harmful CO2, a major greenhouse gas that warms our planet.
  • Catch rainwater in roots to help prevent flooding during heavy rains.
  • Filter the soil, removing harmful chemicals that can get into drinking water.
  • Keep homes warm during winter and cool in summer by blocking hot rays from the sun and chilly winds.
  • Provide food and habitat for wild animals.
Headline says Plug-in Electric Vehicles

How do electric vehicles (EV) work?

Vehicle charging station

An EV is powered by an electric motor rather than a gasoline or diesel engine. While some newer EVs have their own distinctive exterior designs, you'll really notice the difference under the hood.

  • A conventional engine is replaced by an electric motor.
  • The speed and direction of the vehicle (forward or reverse) is determined by a controller.
  • The motor gets its power from an array of rechargeable batteries.

(Source: auto.howstuffworks.com)

Benefits of EVs

  1. Reduced gasoline use.
  2. Lower fuel costs. Electricity is less expensive per mile driven than gasoline or diesel fuel.
  3. Reduced air emissions. MGE customers can offset electricity emissions by supporting renewable energy for their home and vehicle charging through MGE's Green Power Tomorrow and Shared Solar programs. MGE's public charging network of more than 50 chargers also is powered by renewable energy.

Charging up!

Where can you plug in?

Plug 'em in, charge 'em up and go! MGE has installed more than 50 charging stations in the area. In addition, many apartments and workplaces are adding charging stations for their residents and employees. Check out mge.com/evcharging to find the closest charging station to your home or school.

DC fast charging station

DC Fast-Charging Stations

MGE installed Wisconsin's first public fast charger for EVs. Fast chargers can refuel an EV battery to 80% in as little as 20 minutes. The fast-charging option makes commuting longer distances more convenient for EV drivers. Visit mge.com/quickcharge to learn more about MGE's DC fast chargers.

How far can I go?

EVs are now available that can travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. Automotive engineers are working on technology to help extend the range of EVs even farther. How long it takes an EV to fully charge depends on the size of the vehicle's battery and the speed of the charging point.

Love EV logo
Solar energy is a natural. Solar energy, or sunlight, can be used to generate electircity, provide hot water and heat, cool and light buildings.

Passive solar

No mechanical devices are used in passive solar heating. Buildings designed for passive solar heating often have large windows that face south to absorb as much sunlight as possible. They might also use building materials that absorb and slowly release the sun's heat. Passive solar designs can reduce heating costs.

Photovoltaic (solar cells)

Photovoltaic cells turn sunlight directly into electricity. The simplest cells might power your watch or calculator. To power a building, many cells are combined into a system or array.

Solar energy in our schools

MGE has installed photovoltaic systems on area high schools and community sites to create more awareness of renewable energy. Visit mge.com/solarschools for more information.

Concentrating solar power

Some power plants use a concentrating solar power system. The sun's energy is concentrated in one area using mirrors. This creates a lot of heat. The heat produces steam that's used to run a generator, creating electricity.

Solar panels convert light into electricity, which is why they work in the cold and even with indirect sun.

Solar hot water

Solar water heaters use the sun to heat water that flows through a panel that faces the sun. These systems can reduce the need for conventional water heating by two-thirds. Sometimes the hot water collected also can be used to heat a building.

Solar projects in the Madison area

Family bike ride on a bike path Solar panels at Morey Field Solar Flare solar panels Solar canopy Installing solar panels at the state capitol Shared Solar panels

Aldo Leopold Nature Center

Bike Path Lighting

Dane County Arena

Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo

Morey Field Solar

Goodman Pool

Lussier Family Heritage Center

Madison Children's Museum

Olbrich Gardens Solar Flair

Solar Parking Canopy at MGE

State Capitol

UW-Madison Arboretum

Municipal Operations Center (Middleton)

Dane County Airport Solar

O'Brien Solar Fields

Hermsdorf Solar Fields

Tyto Solar

See the solar energy generated by the sun firsthand. Work with your teacher and classmates to build this fun and tasty Solar Hot Dog Cooker.

Click for instructions »
hot dog

Shared Solar Headline
Middleton Shared Solar facility

Shared Solar is an awesome way to share in the power of the sun! MGE built an array of solar panels on the City of Middleton's Municipal Operations Center in 2016 and another array at the Middleton Municipal Airport (Morey Field) in 2020. MGE customers signed up for the optional program to help foster growth of locally generated solar energy. The clean, renewable solar electricity generated through Shared Solar helps the environment by reducing CO2 emissions. Visit mge.com/sharedsolarproduction to see how much energy the Shared Solar installations produce.

Wind energy is a breeze

Wind is always here. It’s great for flying kites and generating electricity, too!

Wind turbines capture the wind's energy with propeller-like blades mounted on a rotor. Turbines are placed on top of high towers to take advantage of the stronger wind at 100 feet or more above the ground.

Single wind turbines can be used to generate power for a single home or farm. Utilities build a large number of wind turbines close together to form a wind farm.

Wind Energy Facts: Wind energy has been used since early recorded history to do work. From powering boats along the Nile River as early as 5000 B.C. to pushing the blades on a windmill to pump water and to crush a farmer's grain, wind has been, and still is, used as a viable source of energy.

On wind farms, the turbines take up only 5% of the land, leaving the rest for other uses like farming.

The total wind resource in the United States is very large. All states have some windy areas, but the Great Plains and the Midwest lead the rest of the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States generates about 10% of its electricity from wind. Three states generate more than 30% of their electricity from wind: Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Iowa and South Dakota lead the pack, producing more than 50% of their electricity from wind!

MGE customers are served by wind farms in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Learn more about wind power at eia.gov.


1390 The Dutch create the Tower Mill and hire windsmiths to run them.


Late 19th Century Americans start using a multi-blade windmill to generate electricity.

What's a Wind Farm?Wind farm

A wind farm is an area where many large wind turbines are grouped together and work to "harvest" the wind into electricity. MGE customers are served by six wind farms—three in Iowa and three in Wisconsin, including:

  • A 17-turbine wind farm in Kewaunee County, Wis.
  • An 18-turbine wind farm in Kensett, Iowa
  • A 33-turbine wind farm in Saratoga, Iowa
  • A 28-turbine wind farm in Grant County, Wis.

All of these wind farms save hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 from being produced annually from fossil fuels.

MGE's newest wind farm is the Red Barn Wind Farm in Grant County. Learn more about our wind farms at mge.com/wind-farms.

MGE builds wind farm west of Madison

map of Iowa and Wisconsin

Saratoga Wind Farm, MGE's largest wind farm, is located about 200 miles west of Madison near Saratoga, Iowa, in an area known for its wind. The 66-megawatt wind farm serves about 47,000 households with clean energy.

The turbines reach nearly 500 feet in the air.

Q‐Which wind tower will produce the most electricity?

A. 350 ft.
B. 425 ft.
C. 500 ft.

Interested in learning the basics of wind power? Check out our video for an inside look at a wind turbine!

MGE is building your community energy company of the future!

MGE is committed to building a smarter, cleaner energy future for all of us. We have set goals to reduce carbon emissions and produce more of our energy from renewable sources. Under MGE's commitment, by 2030 every MGE customer will have 80% fewer carbon emissions associated with their electricity use simply by being an MGE customer as we work toward our goal of net-zero carbon electricity.

Mom and daughter learning about energy at a laptop

Here are some fun things you can do to get energy smart and help us reach shared goals for our energy future!

  1. Talk to your family members about ideas to conserve energy in your household.
  2. Count and keep track of the number of watts each idea could save in a month. For example, if you turn off lights in rooms that aren't being used, how much did you save that evening? Or if you only put one light on instead of two, how much would that save?
  3. Replace incandescent light bulbs in your home with ENERGY STAR®-rated LED bulbs. LED bulbs are more efficient and last longer than other light sources.
  4. Find other resources online that show you how to save energy or teach you about renewable energy like solar and wind power. See where large renewable energy generating facilities are located in Wisconsin.
  5. Write an essay about how your school can save energy.

New technologies are creating a smarter electric grid!

Today's grid features many power sources. MGE oversees a more connected grid where technologies work together as a system. The utility company acts as a "conductor" to balance the system and to manage the demand for and flow of energy.

illustration of energy grid

Solar energy


Solar energy is renewable energy produced by the sun. It comes to Earth in the form of visible light and infrared radiation. Solar energy can be harnessed in a variety of ways to heat homes and businesses, heat water, grow plants and produce electricity.

Q‐What kind of tiles are on the roof of Clark Street Community School?

Wind energy

Q‐              is produced by heating and cooling on the Earth's surface.

placeholder Wind energy is a clean, renewable energy source produced by the daily cooling and heating patterns on the surface of the Earth. Wind energy can be harnessed to produce electricity, pump water, grind grain and move sailing vessels.

Charging stations


Where can you plug in? MGE has a network of charging stations around our community. Find the charging station closest to you at mge.com/evcharging.

Q‐How many MGE charging stations are there in the Madison area?

Fight climate change by planting trees!

children planting trees

The Amazon rainforest experienced a massive fire in 2019, wiping out 7,200 square miles of one of the most diverse places on Earth. Losing so many trees has been devastating to the biggest area of the planet's lungs.

Q‐Plant a tree on Arbor Day! When is Arbor Day this year?

Geothermal energy is beneath you!

Geothermal Community Center

Geothermal heat pumps circulate liquids through pipes buried in a continuous loop (either horizontally or vertically) to heat and cool buildings. Geothermal energy takes advantage of the constant subsurface ground temperature.

Q‐Which community center in Madison has geothermal technology?

Watts Up portable energy meter

Energy meter

Phantom or standby energy users are devices that require electricity even when you aren't actively using them, such as a phone charger. They don't use much power individually, but when you add them up, they impact your monthly energy use. Check out a "Watts Up" portable energy meter from your public library to learn which equipment uses power when turned off.

Q‐Where can you borrow a portable energy meter?

Watt's in your family's kitchen?
Smart tips badge
Nature Net headline image

Celebrating Earth Day EVERY DAY is easy to do with our Nature Net partners.

Aldo Leopold Nature Center

Aldo Leopold Nature Center with Aldo Leopold

The Aldo Leopold Nature Center; photo of Aldo Leopold at his desk

Like Senator Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold was another important Wisconsin conservationist who also believed that our Earth is a very special place we must take care of. Famous for coining the concept of the "land ethic," Aldo Leopold believed that living and non-living things are all part of our one ecosystem and that humans live healthier, more fulfilling lives when we work to preserve all aspects of this "land." Aldo Leopold said, "When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

Aldo Leopold is also known as the "father of phenology." Phenology is the science of observing and recording events as they occur in the natural world. Thanks to Aldo Leopold and his family, we have meticulous records that span decades and include observations such as the bloom times of plants, the return of migrating birds and the changes in seasons.

When we spend time outside, whether we are playing or hiking, building a compost bin or picking up litter, just sitting and resting, or camping and adventuring, we are developing a connection with the living and non-living things around us.

Another way to develop a sense of community with the land is to observe what is happening around us in nature and record these events. Whether drawing or writing, using creativity to explain, share and tell stories about what we see creates impressions on our psyches about our experiences in nature.

Phenology is not only important for marking the change in seasons and knowing when to plant seeds to avoid frost but also provides evidence of a changing climate. In fact, some climate scientists are using the Leopold family data to illustrate that several phenological events are occurring earlier every year.

Aldo Leopold Nature Center
330 Femrite Drive, Monona
(608) 221-0404

Madison Children's Museum

Energize your fun!

The museum offers many ways to learn about new forms of energy and ways to conserve. Let's all take care of our wonderful Earth. We love renewable energy!

Roof of Madison Children's Museum with solar panel and windmill

Solar panels and the windmill on the roof of the Madison Children's Museum

Madison Children's Museum, in its ongoing commitment to sustainability and to the environment, uses renewable energy to power some of its exhibits and programs. The museum's rooftop solar panels create enough energy to give some back to the grid where others can use it.

What is renewable energy? It's energy derived from natural sources that can be replenished. Instead of using fossil fuels to generate energy, renewable energy can be harnessed from the sun (solar power), the wind (wind power), moving water (hydro power), Earth's heat (biomass and geothermal) and even from human power.

Currently, the majority of energy in the world is derived from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are raw materials like coal, oil and natural gas that are used to produce electricity, heat, fuel for transportation and many petroleum products or plastics that we use every day. These fuels took millions of years for the earth to create, are nonrenewable and will eventually run out. The process of refining these nonrenewable energy sources causes carbon dioxide (CO2) to be released into the air, which contributes to pollution, climate change and global warming by trapping heat in our atmosphere.

Madison Children's Museum is able to conserve energy and support its energy needs by using renewable energy. It is in all our best interests to use less fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources to protect our environment for future generations and slow down climate change. In 2014, the museum was awarded LEED Gold Certification, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which recognizes the museum's national leadership in promoting sustainable design and practices. When we use renewable energy, conserve energy or use less plastic, we are cutting down on our use of fossil fuels and making choices that are good for our planet.

Madison Children's Museum
100 N. Hamilton Street, Madison
(608) 256-6445

HENRY VILAS ZOO Helping all animals big and small!

An orangutan and bees flying around a give

Your Henry Vilas Zoo cares for many creatures both big and small, and we know that every critter—no matter their size—is important! From rhinos and orangutans to millipedes and bees, the zoo takes care of creatures for everyone to see!

How can we help orangutans?

We take excellent care of our orangutans at the zoo, but we also help orangutans in the wild. Henry Vilas Zoo is a part of the Saving Animals From Extinction program for orangutans, which means we work with other zoos to figure out how we can best help orangutans in the wild. One issue that orangutans are facing is deforestation, people removing trees from their natural habitat. Orangutans need native plants in their homes to survive. Zoos are helping to plant trees to connect orangutan forests and make them bigger. What native plants grow where you live? Making a native garden at home is a great way to help lots of animals!

Help bees help themselves!

Another animal that needs native plants in their home is our local bee population! Henry Vilas Zoo has a beehive with more than 60,000 bees! These amazing little insects can help pollinate plants within a two-mile radius of the zoo! Bees need nectar from flowers to survive, and by planting native plants, you are helping bees find food!

Henry Vilas Zoo
702 S. Randall Avenue, Madison
(608) 266-4732

Nature Net Partners

Visit naturenet.org to learn more!