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Green Masters program goes hand in hand with Evergreen’s core values

The credit unionís sustainability efforts have been recognized by the WSBC since 2017

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January 24, 2024

FOX VALLEY — As sustainability takes center stage across industries, The Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) continues to recognize businesses prioritizing and enhancing their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, through its Green Masters Program.

One of those companies is Evergreen Credit Union, which has two locations in Northeast Wisconsin — one at 133 N. Richmond St. in Appleton and the other at 1500 W. American Drive in Neenah.

Sustainability Manager Megan Horejs said Evergreen is a full-service financial institution on a mission to be environmentally responsible.

“A fact that separates credit unions from other financials is that credit unions are member-owned,” she said. “Our board is made up of volunteers, and we strive to give back to our members any way we can.”

Horejs said Evergreen’s sustainability journey has gone hand in hand with a “reduction in costs, an increase in convenience and the ability to align our mission with our membership’s core values.”

“Our focus on sustainability came from the top down — Evergreen’s president at the time had a personal interest,” she said. “Many of the staff members had an interest, too, so when the idea was explored and presented to the board, it was an easy decision to make.”

The first sustainable step forward, Horejs said, was the installation of the 198-panel solar array on Evergreen’s Neenah Branch.

“Our solar array is now nine years old and has led to the installation of another array at our Appleton Branch,” she said.

Evergreen Credit Union has four main focus areas regarding sustainability:

Energy self-sufficiencyCarbon neutralityZero wasteWater conservation
“Highlights from these areas include our rooftop solar arrays on both branches, diverting 90% of our waste from the landfill and having on-site rain collection and breakroom composting,” she said. “We also have free electric vehicle charging for the public.”

Horejs said the Neenah solar array — which was installed in 2015 — produces enough electricity to satisfy 85% of the credit union’s annual electricity demand.

The SunnyPortal link — which is viewable on Evergreen’s website ( — monitors the daily solar production at its Neenah branch.

“On any day whenever you want, you can see what the array is producing,” she said. “Recently, it’s been gloomy so it isn’t that interesting, but on a nice sunny day, you can watch it take off.”

Horejs said Evergreen shares its solar data to keep itself accountable.

“If you are interested in solar for your home or business, we invite you to take a look and see the real-world data for yourself to help decide,” she said. “If you ask, we will share our Appleton data, too.”

Evergreen Credit Union, Horejs said, only purchases 100% post-consumer copy paper, and in 2020, reduced its paper consumption by 47% by refining its accounting workflow and digitizing all loan and membership applications.

Megan Horejs said every new Evergreen employee is onboarded into the credit union’s sustainability program, picks a sustainability-related title and receives ongoing training for it. Submitted Photo

“No money envelopes or deposit slips here — that just means more waste,” she said. “Members may also opt for electronic copies of their receipts to be sent to online banking.”

Horejs said Evergreen also invites its members to participate in the credit union’s sustainability initiatives, including collecting plastic film and office supplies year-round for recycling.

Evergreen’s focus on sustainability, Horejs said, also extends beyond the walls of its two branches — through partnerships with community organizations.

“While we partner with many community organizations, most notably we are Heckrodt Wetland Reserve’s Community Partner in Habitat Protection & Enhancement,” she said. “Our contributions in 2023 helped plant 500 milkweed plugs and facilitate a prescribed burn on the prairie.”

In addition, Horejs said Evergreen donates funds to plant a tree for each new account opened and loan closed, which goes to local forestry programs both in Wisconsin state forests and where our branches are located.

“To date, we have donated enough to plant more than 13,500 trees,” she said.

Both branches, Horejs said, are pesticide and herbicide-free, and the Neenah location has a native pollinator garden.

On a smaller scale, Horejs said the credit union helped spearhead the Village of Fox Crossing’s Adopt-a-Trail Program — being the program’s first sponsor.

“We are responsible for cleaning the 2.1 miles of trail that runs in front of our Neenah branch,” she said. “Our staff and their families volunteer their time, and their hours are tracked both for our Branching Out volunteer program and through our employee environmental engagement program.”

Evergreen Credit Union, Horejs said, also has a board-approved environmental responsibility policy.

“This includes responsible purchasing guidelines and other policies — including its guaranteed ride home for employees that engage in alternate modes of transportation, such as taking the bus or biking to work,” she said.

Though Evergreen has implemented and supported many sustainability initiatives already, Horejs said there is more to do.

The credit union, she said, is currently working on refining its metrics and including more secondary and tertiary data into its tracking.

“For example, 2022 was the first year where we also tracked carbon emissions for every new vehicle financed, so we could visualize our impact beyond business operations,” she said. “We already track the paper and energy used for receipts, transactions, statements and so forth, but there is so much more to explore.”

The Green Masters program
The Green Masters program, a certification created by the WSBC, has four degrees of recognition — adapting, advancing, maturing and Green Master.

Horejs said Evergreen Credit Union’s Green Master status signifies the organization:

Has identified and is effectively managing its material sustainability issues and performance related to those issuesTakes a comprehensive approach to sustainabilityIs actively leading the transformation to a more sustainable society.
“We see environmental sustainability as part of the ‘people helping people’ credit union movement motto,” she said.

WSBC’s Green Masters program, Horejs said, goes hand in hand with the credit union’s core values.

“Each employee is onboarded into our sustainability program when they are hired, picks a sustainability-related title and receives ongoing training,” she said.

Horejs said being recognized as a Green Master in WSBC’s small business category “means a lot to us.”

“To make a change, businesses big and small need to be acting to limit their impacts on the environment,” she said.

Evergreen’s second branch on North Richmond Street in Appleton — which also has a solar array — was opened in February 2021. Submitted Photo

Horejs said Evergreen hopes its recognition as a Green Master also encourages other small and emerging businesses to participate, too.

“There is a perception you need a lot of capital to afford going ‘green,'” she said. “But, that is not the case — we have only 16 employees.”

Horejs said she encourages other businesses to reach out to other businesses finding success with sustainable practices/initiatives.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers who are doing great things,” she said. “When it comes to preserving our resources and caring for nature, we are all in this together. I can’t express how helpful it has been to connect with other businesses and gain outside perspectives.”

WSBC, Horejs said, does a great job leading by example.

“By recognizing leaders in the sustainability field, we can continue to share our knowledge, our impacts and explore new areas of environmental responsibility together,” she said.

Horejs said it is Evergreen’s mission to be the most environmentally responsible credit union in the nation, “while continuing to provide amazing service to our members.”

Other Green Masters Program participants in Northeast Wisconsin, include:

4Imprint, Oshkosh — MaturingAppvion, Appleton — Green MasterAssociated Banc-Corp, Green Bay — MaturingBPM Inc, A Specialty Paper Mill, Peshtigo — Green MasterCultivate Taste Tea Salon, Green Bay — AdvancingGreen Bay Packaging Inc., Green Bay — Green MasterGusmer Enterprises, Waupaca — AdvancingKrueger International, Inc. (KI), Green Bay — MaturingMasters Gallery Foods, Plymouth — MaturingMenasha Corporation, Neenah — MaturingMercury Marine, Fond du Lac — Green MasterMichels Corporation, Brownsville — MaturingNew Leaf Paper Inc., Appleton — Green MasterOshkosh Corporation, Oshkosh — Green MasterPurevant Living, Kaukauna — Green MasterSadoff E-Recycling & Data Destruction, Oshkosh — Green MasterSECURA Insurance, Neenah — Green Master
WSBC Managing Director Jessy Servi Ortiz said the Green Masters Program is a tool for businesses to define, prioritize, measure and manage their sustainability performance.

“It’s a platform aligned with internationally recognized standards that drives sustainable success and continuous improvement,” Servi Ortiz said. “These companies’ commitment to sustainability has also awarded them enhanced bottom-line benefits and brand recognition.”

More on Evergreen
Evergreen Credit Union was started in 1958 by employees of Wisconsin Tissue Mills to help its fellow employees with financial needs they felt weren’t being met by the local banks.

Evergreen staff is responsible for cleaning the 2.1 miles of trail that runs in front of its Neenah office through the Adopt-a-Trail Program. Submitted Photo

In 1984, it outgrew the space available in the plant, and the first branch was built across the street.

According to the credit union’s website, the location on Ehlers Road allowed Evergreen to provide its members with expanded services.

In November 2002, the members approved changing the name from the Wisconsin Tissue Employees Credit Union to Evergreen Credit Union, and in 2005, the credit union relocated to its current main location on West American Drive in 2005.

Evergreen’s second branch on North Richmond Street in Appleton was opened in February 2021.

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