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Sustainability

Campus Multi-Purpose Use Area and Sustainability

As the Sustainability Coordinator for campus, I wanted to respond to student concerns regarding the tree removal and land grading activities currently underway on the three acre tract of land between the Union and Residential Life. First, thanks for caring and being interested in environmental sustainability – apathy and unwillingness to consider changing lifestyle habits are some of the biggest hurdles we face in becoming a more sustainable culture. So, thanks for voicing your concerns!

Next, info on the multi-purpose use area. Yep, it’s a shock to see the clearing of the area, that’s for sure. But there was much discussion on environmental impact of this project and how to do the project with the least long-term impact on sustainability over the two to three years this project was under consideration. I joined the Multi-purpose Use Committee last Spring which already had four other campus Sustainability Committee members participating, including student representatives, so sustainability was always an important consideration on this project.

Some of the items we considered/discussed both on the Sustainability Committee and the Multi-Purpose Use Committee included:

  • Species mix on the area  – was there anything unique or rare to be aware of? Members of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity walked through the area to evaluate the ‘quality’ of the area and determined it was a typical mix of what you find when you allow a farm field to go ‘natural’, being colonized by the typical plants – both invasives and naturally occurring. Nothing unique that would be displaced. In fact, this area was the dump field for the soil removed in constructing the University Union. The ‘best’ trees (health and species) in the multi-purpose area were marked and saved. We’re really lucky on our campus to have so much already ‘green’ property with 300+ acres of high quality natural ecosystems in the Cofrin Arboretum, plus other native, non-mowed areas in the remaining 300 acres that makes up the rest of campus & housing. Not to lessen the impact of the 3 acres currently being re-purposed, but it certainly was a consideration in whether we could let this area be used in a different way.
  • What about carbon sequestration?  If we cut down trees, we lose their ability to sequester carbon, how do we account for that loss? We looked at other areas on campus where we could do a ‘land swap’, but there are no other intact 3 acre tracts in one chunk that would be suitable, and the ‘bang for the buck’ of carbon sequestration was low on helping lower our overall campus carbon footprint. There are many more actions each one of us can take on campus to lower that footprint – but they involve behavior change, like using Zimride and carpooling with someone once a week (for example). In addition, new plantings will be going into this space – both native trees and plant species – that will help mitigate the loss and actually potentially increase the biodiversity of the area (depending on the number/types of plants going in).
  • Trying to find the balance point: Student/Res Life saw the importance of reusing this area as an outdoor meeting place for students to gather, have events/programs, participate in various sports/outdoor activities, and generally enjoy being outdoors. As a Sustainability Committee, we do want to do what’s best for the environment but we also have a responsibility to make sure you and all future students have an opportunity to actively engage in community building activities outside the classroom or dorm/apartment, and literally in this case, outside! Given the scrubby and ‘non-special’ nature of this 3 acres, the lack of other suitable areas on campus close to academic and residential buildings for repurposing for student outdoor space, the plan to incorporate new native species plantings including tress, and the other 300+ acres of high quality natural habitat on campus, we agreed to support this project.

 Also, I encourage you to get involved in student organizations like PEAC or SLO or the SGA Environmental Affairs committee – all these orgs are actively involved in environmental and sustainability efforts on campus and certainly welcome new members.

Don’t Forget: Take the Commuting Survey by Nov. 2nd

You’ve got a few more days to provide your input! How we commute to campus appears to be a significant ‘chunk’ of our overall campuswide greenhouse gas emissions, contributing approximately 27% of our total emissions.  For comparison purposes, our greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning natural gas to heat the entire campus for a year’s period is 19% of our total emissions (FY2012 data). However, our commuting emissions are based on older data and that’s where we need your help!

Please take this short survey to update our data set. In addition, please provide feedback on Zimride, the ridesharing/commuting website that helps you find a ride to share with someone else – commuting or one-way trips (zimride.uwgb.edu).  We are halfway through our contract with Zimride and want to get a sense of participation and usage of the program which targets reducing solo trips in a vehicle, thus reducing emissions.

 Tracking and measuring the impact of “Eco-U” through an annual greenhouse gas inventory helps us better understand our progress and is a requirement of our participation in the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.

 Thank you for taking the time to help us better understand where we’re at in working to make Eco-U greener.

 UWGB Sustainability Committee

Take Part in ECO-RUSH Days: October 22 – 25

Another on-campus opportunity to learn more about sustainability, food issues, and where some of the electricity feeding the grid you’re using to use or recharge the device you’re reading this on! Events are free and open to everyone!

Monday, Oct. 22:  Come to DIVE! the Movie – learn how you can supplement your diet with dumpster diving … ok, not really, but you will learn a great deal about the vast amounts of food wasted and disposed of in America. Movie will be shown from 5 – 6:3O in the Alumni Rooms, University Union

Tuesday, Oct. 23:  Autumn Fest at the Mauthe Center! Come enjoy a great gathering 7 – 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 24: Food Day.  All day at the University Union. Here’s an opportunity to learn more about food issues such as hunger, factory farming, urban agriculture and more about the local foods movement. Come for a locally source meal ($1 suggested donation for students, $2 for faculty/staff) in the Phoenix Rooms, University Union, starting at 4 p.m. and stay for keynote speaker, Will Allen, a MacArthur Genius grant awardee and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. He’ll be talking about his efforts in Milwaukee to introduce local and sustainable food sources.

Thursday, Oct. 25:  Beehive Design Collective at the Mauthe Center, 7 p.m. Come learn about The True Cost of Coal – using graphic design and great storytelling, the members of this collective give an informed presentation on the effects of mountaintop coal extraction.

Eco-Rush is sponsored by these student organizations:  PEAC, SLO, SIFE, UWGB Dietetics Club, as well as the Richard Mauthe Center and UW-Green Bay Sustainability Committee.

Five Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

From Wisconsin DNR Recycling News, September 2012

Have you ever looked at an item in your home/room and thought, “I wonder if I can recycle that?” Chances are good that you can! Try doing a Google search for whatever you’re looking to get out of the house, and you may find a program like the ones below that will keep it out of the landfill. If these five are in your “get rid of” pile, here’s how you can recycle them!

1. Sneakers

Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program turns any brand of old athletic shoes into playground and athletic surfaces, such as basketball courts and running tracks. Go to nikereuseashoe.com to find drop-off locations in Wisconsin or learn about hosting a shoe drive.

2. Crayons

Imagine how many homes across Wisconsin have broken, stubby crayons in abandoned boxes. Give them another life through the National Crayon Recycle Program! Crayons are melted down and turned into new crayons of various shapes. Visit crazycrayons.com to learn more.

3. Trophies

Total Awards and Promotions in Madison is one of many companies that will recycle old trophies for parts or re-engrave and donate them to nonprofits. They’re not accepting trophies currently, but check back at awardsmall.com to find out when you can send in your old trophies to be reused.

4. Wine corks

Close the loop by sending in your old wine corks to become floor and wall tiles. Yemm and Hart, a company that manufactures materials out of reycled content, creates and sells the tiles. Visit yemmhart.com for more details.

5. Jeans

If you have old jeans (or any denim) that are too worn out to be donated, consider giving them to the “Cotton. From Blue to Green.” program to be turned into natural fiber insulation. Corporate responsibility, mail-in, and university drive programs are all available. Go to cottonfrombluetogreen.org to find out more.

PepsiCo launches new Facebook-inspired carbon calculator

 By Alison Moodie, GreenBiz.com, 10-9-2012

For a company like PepsiCo, which oversees more than 20 brands and hundreds of different products around the world, calculating the carbon footprint of just one of its products can take weeks, and at a signficant cost to the company. To save time and money, PepsiCo teamed up with researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a tool that can measure the carbon footprint of thousands of products all at once.

The calculator, which lacks an official name, can calculate the carbon emissions of different materials and activities in a company’s supply chain and operations, and within minutes pinpoint which of these carries the largest carbon footprint.

‘The objective was to give companies several capabilities at once with only a single effort,’ said Christoph Meinrenken, the tool’s lead researcher and associate research scientist at the Earth Institute.

The calculator was developed to follow publicly known carbon footprinting standards such as the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) standard and PAS20:2011. The methodology and software helps businesses identify which materials or activities in their supply chain and operations have the biggest effect on the total carbon footprint of one of their products, product lines, brands or regions. The calculator also reveals the accuracy of this information and how this accuracy can be improved so a company can make better business decisions.

“We saw the opportunity to use our carbon/greenhouse gas analysis as a base for building a broader decision-making tool that could help us identify other efficiency opportunities throughout our supply chian, drive innovation and improve our overall operations,” said Rober terKuile, PepsiCo’s senior director of environmental sustainability.

The tool also provides certifiable product footprints to be used in ecolabeling and for environmental measuring groups such as The Sustainability Consortium and GoodGuide. This certification requires an intensive, bottom-up assessment of each product’s entire life cycle in order to provide the required microscopic level of detail and to be auditable outside the company, said Meinrenken.

The tool is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Danone announced it had developed a system, in partnership with SAP, that can calculate the carbon emissions of individual products. Meinrenken said the inner workings of the Danone tool hadn’t been made public, so it was hard to adequately compare the two. He said PesiCo’s tool was developed before Danone unveiled its calculator.

The PepsiCo tool takes inspiration from sites like Facebook and Netflix, which mine huge swaths of data to figure out what users like. It analyzes data already stored in a company’s database to infer information, like what materials are in a product and where they come from. This process saves a company time and money, said Meinrenken.

‘This is just a general argument of being smart and efficient with companies’ existing data to mine and ‘milk’  it if you will, to learn additional things from the same data, rather than hiring additional staff and building up new data,’ he said.

To learn more about this approach to carbon footprinting, finish reading the article HERE.