Artha Center leads Travel Green Wisconsin

The number of eco-friendly tourism businesses that qualify for Travel Green Wisconsin certification has tripled since one year ago, to 160 as Earth Day approaches.

The leading example of them all – based upon points earned from the long list of criteria – is a retreat, yoga studio and sustainable workshop site in central Wisconsin.

The bed and breakfast component of Artha Sustainable Living Center, in Portage County, opened in June 2007 and can accommodate up to 13 people. It is not unusual for one group to rent the entire house for a reunion or workshop.

Proprietors Bob and Marguerite Ramlow for many years operated an Amherst store that sold solar energy systems; then they sold the business but worked for the new owner.

Straw bales, laid like bricks and surrounded by plaster, insulate a two-year-old house and the former farm’s barn on their 90 acres. Fresh produce from an organic garden feeds them year-round. Up to 150 maple trees will be tapped for their syrup this month.

Workshops teach others how to live more sustainable, balanced lives. The options are far reaching: balancing and upper body strengthening (through yoga), growing and using herbs, installing a solar-powered water heater.

“We make more electricity than we use in our house,” Bob notes. The excess powers the B&B (the former farmhouse) and yoga studio (the former barn). Pine inside of the Ramlow home comes from the Menominee tribe’s sustainable forest.

Regardless of which building you enter, the colors and décor tends to be southwestern, warm and inviting.

Bob, who began living on this property in 1971, is a consultant with Focus on Energy, which helps homeowners and businesses increase energy efficiency. Marguerite teaches eight yoga classes per week, throughout the year.

A son, daughter and son-in-law also make vital contributions to the multi-faceted Artha business and down-to-earth lifestyle, such as facility management, winemaking and creating the artwork that adorns B&B walls.

“This is a lovely place to live,” Marguerite says, noting the proximity to Hartman Creek State Park and the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes. The Ramlow home is adjacent to woods in the town of Lanark, and the rural neighborhood seems like-minded. Several homes have solar panels.

That should be no surprise, since these rolling hills are a half-hour southeast of UW-Stevens Point, where Bob (who calls himself “an old hippie”) was a natural resources major. The university is where the nation’s first major in conservation education was established, in 1946, and today the College of Natural Resources is the country’s largest program of environmental management and preservation.

The area’s diverse ecosystems and abundance of unspoiled habitat for wildlife make it a magnet for serious students of the Earth, and sometimes they stay after earning their diploma.

“America has blinders on, compared to the rest of the developed world, which is making plans for the future,” Bob believes, categorizing climate issues as “very significant” but ignored by the average person. He is passionate about wanting to change the average person’s mindset.

For more about the Artha Sustainable Living Center, 9784 Hwy. K, Amherst: www.arthaonline.com, 715-824-3463. The B&B can be rented daily or weekly, by the room or entire house. Weddings and meetings on the property can be arranged.

Upcoming workshops include planning/planting a vegetable garden, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10, $65; solar water heating installation lab, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 12-14, $420; and living sustainably, 1-5 p.m. June 14, $65.

The next Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Wisconsin is June 20-22 at ReNew the Earth Institute, 7558 Deer Road, Custer. Expect at least 260 exhibits and 170 workshops about how to respect and preserve the environment by changing the way you live.

Mass transit is offered from Madison, Green Bay, Appleton and Milwaukee. Activities and entertainment are designed to be of interest to children and adults.

For more about this Portage County event and its sponsor, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association: www.the-mrea.org, 715-592-6595.

For more about the UW-SP College of Natural Resources: www.uwsp.edu/cnr, 715-346-4617. Programs for the public occur at the university’s Treehaven Field Station, Central Wisconsin Environmental Station and Schmeeckle Reserve.

Local musicians and storytellers gather from 6-10 p.m. April 26 to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Schmeeckle Reserve, 275 acres adjacent to campus. Activities for all ages include a one-mile candelight hike.

Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Call 715-346-4992 to learn more. The reserve is at 2419 North Point Dr., Stevens Point.

Last: More about other businesses that have qualified for Travel Green Wisconsin certification can be found at www.travelgreenwisconsin.com, 608-280-0360.