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2018 Award Recipients

The 2018 Sustainable Business Awards are designed to recognize Wisconsin businesses for their efforts in developing sustainable products and processes and to recognize some of the amazing business leaders in the state. Each award recognizes both a large and small organization that has stood out in their specific category.


On June 1st, 2018 the WI Sustainable Business Council presented the fifth annual Sustainable Business Awards. 2018's recognition event was held at Lands’ End in Dodgeville. 


Many businesses play crucial roles in responding to social and environmental challenges, and WI businesses are no exception. We received fabulous and well-written applications this year, making the judges job much more difficult.


If you would like to view past winners, click here.



The 2018 winners are as follows:

Sustainable Product

Mercury Marine (Large Recipient)

Fond du lac

Scott Louks, Lee Gordon


Mercury Marine has made a commitment to sustainability and one of their newest products, Active Trim, has been praised for its fuel efficiency and safety. Active trim, improves fuel efficiency by letting the computer control the motor elevation based on boat speed and engine revolutions per minute. Fuel efficiency improves by 15% - 54% and will pay for itself in a very short period of time. Mercury has just launched the largest outboard portfolio in its almost 80 year history and Active Trim, coupled with the new lean burn technology in these engines, can produce substantial improvements in air emissions, carbon emissions and performance.

Nelson & Pade (Small Recipient)


Rebecca Nelson & John Pade


Over the past 20 years Nelson and Pade, Inc.® has been designing, manufacturing and selling aquaponic systems which are used for commercial ventures, home food production, education models and social and mission projects. Nelson and Pade, Inc.®’s innovative Clear Flow Aquaponic System helps to solve global and local problems such as water shortages, over-use of chemicals in agriculture, lack of food safety and poor nutrition.

Aquaponic systems produce both fish (protein) and vegetables in a sustainable manner, without using pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. New product offerings include:

  • Non-GMO fish food, providing a better diet for the fish and offering a more sustainable product

  • Food grade plant rafts which save customers money while exceeding new food safety requirements

Sustainable Process

7 Rivers Recycling (Small Recipient)


Brian Tippets

7 Rivers Recycling is a mattress and box spring recycler. Old mattresses in Wisconsin and the United States, with few exceptions, are landfilled. However, 7RR recycles 86% of mattress materials that otherwise would have been buried in a landfill.
7 Rivers has shown that mattress recycling can work in Wisconsin and is a sustainable business model that is replicable in other Wisconsin economic centers.
7 Rivers recently implemented in-house efficiency improvements which include: moving operation to a larger unconfined enclosed space; streamlining work flow to reduce double handling; purchase of automated box spring dismantler to eliminate more manual intensive dismantling; and purchase of an in-house scale to eliminate going off the premises to weigh materials.
7RR is providing price incentives to mattress stores for mattress recycling. In this way when a mattress store delivers a new mattress to a customer, they can take back the old one with zero extra transportation. 7RR is providing price incentives for waste/recycling drop-off centers to provide mattress recycling closer to customers to aggregate old mattresses.

Sustainable Leadership

Mike Nikolai, Waupaca Foundry

Large Organization


Mike Nikolai, President, COO and CEO of Waupaca Foundry has promoted and supported primary business goals to achieve sustainable growth. As a result of Mike's leadership, Waupaca Foundry will:

  • reduce energy use in Waupaca Foundry Operations by 25% over the next 10 years.

  • Reduce spent foundry sand generation while promoting offsite reuse/recycling so as to achieve zero landfill disposal.

  • reduce water use in Waupaca Foundry operations by 80% by 2020.


Mike has also been a leading advocate within the metalcasting industry, providing sustainability resources for the American Foundry Society for the betterment of the industry, as well as being a spokesman for sustainability action and stakeholder engagement in our communities. Because of Mike’s leadership, Waupaca Foundry is the first U.S. metalcaster and only the second Wisconsin company to achieve ISO 50001 certification for an energy management system to reduce energy use.

Matt Earley, Founder, Just Coffee Coop

Small Organization



Matt Earley founded Just Coffee Cooperative as a mission-based business in 2001. They are a worker-owned coffee roaster dedicated to creating and expanding a model of trade based on transparency, human dignity and environmental sustainability. They build long-term relationships with small-scale coffee growers. Matt started the business to challenge the way the coffee industry worked-- in terms of how farmers and the environment were treated.

In 2017 Matt steered the company to B Corp Certification becoming the first and only B Corp coffee roaster in Wisconsin. B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They were recently named one of the "Best For The World" companies for 2018.


In 2017 Matt began working with their importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, and the NGO Take Root to measure and understand the carbon footprint of coffee growers. With this information they have set up a fund to pay three cents per pound of green coffee purchased to support efforts by farmer partners to mitigate climate change in an effort to offset their carbon footprint.

Matt has also focused on the local community, donating over 200 pounds of coffee in 2017 for community events and to support initiatives to raise money for many local farmers markets and local sustainability-focused organizations such as REAP, FairShare CSA Coalition, WI Bike Federation, Aids Network, The WI Literacy Network, and others.   

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