Sustainability at UW-Madison – Office of the Chancellor – UW-Madison

Weather issues that are likely related to climate change make headlines almost daily. As many of you know, we have worked to make the UW-Madison campus more sustainable and resilient over the past decade. In this blog, I want to tell you about some of our current efforts to create a more sustainable campus.

Our approach to sustainability brings together our facilities and operations experts with our faculty and staff working in universities and research. Dr. Missy Nergard leads the Office of Sustainability. She works closely with Associate Professor Andrea Hicks, who is Director of Sustainability Education and Research. (Associate Professor Hicks is ideally positioned for this role, with a senior civil and environmental engineering appointment and affiliations with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Geological Engineering, and Freshwater and Marine Sciences Program.)

Over the past few years, and despite the disruptions of the pandemic, the Office of Sustainability has launched major efforts in the areas of institutional sustainability, climate action and adaptation, and waste management. the Sustainability Advisory Council, the Zero Waste initiative and our upcoming Climate Action and Adaptation Plan have broad stakeholder engagement have broad faculty, staff and student involvement. We build these efforts on established best practices as well as evolving research.

By establishing a strategic plan for our sustainability efforts in the years to come, we are creating a framework that will allow UW-Madison to be a leader in these issues. We are devoting resources to it. For example, we have allocated $3.2 million for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects over the next fiscal year.

You can measure the impact of our ongoing sustainability efforts in several ways. For example, since 2007, UW-Madison has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 46% per square foot of building and reduced its potable water consumption by more than 37%, a remarkable measure considering the continued growth of our campus.

This spring, UW-Madison will submit its second Monitoring, Evaluation and Sustainability Rating System (STARS) Report, which will let us know how we are doing and push us towards continuous improvement. Following the last submission, we achieved a silver rating, and hopefully we can reach gold and then platinum in the years to come.

UW-Madison schools, colleges, centers and institutes produce our remarkable research on topics related to sustainability. We also work with faculty and students to integrate sustainability issues into courses, using the sustainability course attribute, which allows instructors to tag courses related to sustainability so students can find them more easily. . Students across campus are interested in this topic; undergraduate students enrolled in Nelson Institute Sustainability Certificate come from 48 different majors.

Some of our most distinctive sustainability efforts bring students, staff, faculty, and our campuses and community spaces together. The UW-Madison Green Fund, which supports student-initiated projects that improve campus sustainability, has in recent years installed solar panels on the roof of the Gordon Dining & Event Center and UW Arboretum Visitor Center, replaced inefficient appliances in college housing bathrooms, upgraded lots and lots of light bulbs on campus, and rolled out Electric Eats, a new electric food truck featuring local food. For each of these projects, student ideas have been the catalyst for collaboration, research, problem solving, and real change on campus.

Some fun facts:

We are positioning UW – Madison to take its rightful place as a leader in sustainability, not only in the conventional sense of reducing our environmental impacts and improving our operations, but also by leveraging leveraging our world-class faculty involved in climate research as well as channeling the passion and talents of our outstanding students. We also want to ensure that our efforts pay close attention to “social sustainability,” including how we honor and engage members of our Indigenous Nations, how we address environmental injustices, and how we examine issues of diversity and of inclusion in the environmental movement. Our great strength is in our community – on campus and across Wisconsin, with current students and alumni. This reach allows us to amplify our influence across the region as well as nationally and internationally.

I encourage you all to stay informed and connected about our sustainability efforts. You can subscribe to our campus sustainability newsletterfollow @SustainUW on social media, apply at Green fund to finance a major project, join an association linked to sustainable development student organizationor suggest ways you would like collaborate on sustainability efforts.

A shared commitment and involvement in operating our campus in a more sustainable way can help us make even more progress in the near future.

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