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Sustainability

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for the Holidays

Tis’ the season for gift-giving, gift-receiving and, as a consequence, waste generation. Here’s some tips to consider that will put a greener-tinge to your holiday season.

  • Many thousands of paper and plast shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Or use a used brown grocery bag you/your kids decorate for the occassion. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper.
  • Give a gift card. More than two-thirds of American consumers purchase at least one gift card as a holidy present for a loved one. They’re appreciated, they never expire, and they require no fancy gift-wrapping.
  • Say “Happy Holidays” over the phone or internet. An estiamted 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. If every family reduced thier mailing list by just one card, the nationw ould save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. If you have Internet access, consider sending electronic holiday cards this year. Check the selection at commercial sites like hallmark.com, bluemountain.com, or 123christmascards.com.  You can also check charitable support groups like care2.com or conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy.
  • Repurpose old holiday cards – donate your old cards to a nursery or day care center for arts and crafts projects. Or, cut up cards to be used as gift tags, bookmarks, greeting cards, placemats, or decorations. Used cards, especially those with large pictures to cut out, can also be used as decorations. Just put a hole at the top of the card and knot a piece of string to lace through the hole to hang on next year’s Christmas tree, door handles, etc.
  • Recycle that tree. Nationwide, an estimated 15 million used Christmas trees end up in landfills. Remember to recycle trees locally or turn them into mulch for water conservation and weed control in the garden. Reuse branches to make colorful holiday wreaths and separate the pine needles from tree branches to create tree-scented sachet bags. Or, consider an artificial tree or a “living” tree that can be replanted in the yard.
  • Make room for new gadgets and toys. Outgrown toys, clothes and furniture may be donated to charitable groups like Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, or many local shelters and thrift stores.
  • Shopping for a new cell phone? Americans ten to upgrade their cell phones every 18 to 24 months, and the U.S. EPA estimates Americans discard 125 million old cell phones annually, creating 65,000 tons of waste. What’s more, the old phones contain hazardous materials- including mercury, cadmium, and arsenic – that cannot be accepted at landfills. Look up cell phone recycling on the Internet and you’ll get back both sites where you can sell your phone as well as organizations that gratefully accept your old cell phone donation.
  • Buy reusable batteries. About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Consider purchasing rechargeable batteries instead as they can be used again and again. And don’t forget:  at the end of their life, rechargeable batteries need to be properly recycled and not discarded in the trash. Check out call2recycle.org for battery recycling locations in the area.  
  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
  • When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • Recycle packing peanuts. Check with local postal shipping stores to see if they will accept foam peanuts for recycling. Call “The Peanut Hotline” at 800-828-2214 to find the nearest location, or check the Plastic Loose Fill Council website for a drop-off location near you.

Sources:  U.S. EPA and Cal Recycle

Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes

Note: If you venture up to the 8th floor of the Cofrin Library and take a look out at Green Bay, you will see sand bars that normally are under at least a few inches of water. This article from Newswatch: National Geographic details some the possible explanations of what we’re seeing.

By Lisa Borre, published Nov. 20, 2012

“For people living around the Great Lakes, water levels this past month have appeared much lower than many will remember. The upper Great Lakes reached near-record low water levels in October. This was most evident on Lake Michigan and Huron, where lake levels dropped to less than two inches (4 cm) above record lows and 28 inches (71 cm) below the long-term average. All five lakes, plus Lake St. Clair, remain below their long-term averages.

Rock and sand recently exposed by low water levels made stretches of the northern Lake Michigan shoreline look like a moonscape. Recreational boaters had trouble navigating the shallow water this fall, and shipping companies lightened loads to compensate for low water. Lakes Michigan and Huron hovered just above a record low set nearly 50 years ago, and Lake Superior was within five inches (11 cm) of record lows set in 1975.

A 2002 National Geographic magazine story, Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes, documents declining lake levels and the potential economic and ecological consequences for the region. Ten years later, the story continues to unfold, as water levels remain lower than normal.

Experts blames the recent low water on the unusually warm and dry weather over the past year. Rain events in October, including Hurricane Sandy, delayed the inevitable, but forecasters predict Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron will likely reach historic low levels in the late fall or winter, a time of year that the lakes are normally already dropping due to high rates of evaporation.

Low water levels are not the only climate-related trend being observed on the Great Lakes. Ice cover is also declining. The Great Lakes have lost 71% of their ice cover since 1973, according to a study by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). This past winter, the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, were virtually ice free with just 5% ice coverage, the second lowest on record. Similar to the global assessment conducted in 2000, loss of ice cover is being reported on lakes throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Summer lake temperatures are also on the rise. As mentioned in one of my previous posts about warming lakes, the Great Lakes are among many lakes in the northern hemisphere experiencing a rapid warming trend. Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and third largest by volume (after Baikal in Siberia and Tanganyka in Africa), is also one of the most rapidly warming lakes in the world.

Because lower lake levels are considered one of the potential consequences of climate change, I was curious to find out whether there was any connections to what is being observed on the Great Lakes.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with John Lenters, a lake and climate scientist, while we attended a meeting of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) in Mulranny, Ireland. When comparing notes about our personal connections to Lake Superior, I learned that this accomplished scientist, with a laid-back Midwestern manner, first fell in love with the Big Lakes as a 14-year-old boy while on a backpacking trip in Isle Royale National Park. “Although the trip was grueling, I was awed by Lake Superior and realized I wanted to study lakes,” Lenters told me.

Now an associate professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL), Lenters studies lake-climate interactions in the Great Lakes region, the Alaskan Arctic, and western Nebraska. Given the global implications of his research, he joined GLEON in 2008 and helped to form the new Global Lake Temperature Collaboration (GLTC), hosting their first meeting at UNL, this past June. With his boyhood dream as inspiration, he and his collaborators are leading the way to learning more about how climate change is affecting lakes around the world, including the Great Lakes.

On Lake Superior, Lenters and his collaborators are studying the interactions among evaporation, ice cover, and water temperature. Their research builds on works by others in the region (and elsewhere) and provides new insight on factors affecting water levels.”

Surface Water Temperatures Increasing on the Great Lakes

Is it or isn’t it? Click here to read the rest of the article.

Preparing for New Blooms on the Student Services Plaza

With the completion of construction on the Student Services Roof Plaza, the new planters are ready for planting….except, well, it’s the end of November! Not to be deterred, several student organizations gathered together to provide planting power for flower bulbs purchased by Facilities. On a chilly Thursday, the team from the SGA Environmental Affairs Committee, PEAC and SLO tucked in several hundred tulip and daffodils bulbs for their long winter nap. Come next spring, the triangular area under the small pergola will be the brightest spot on the Plaza.

Additional plants and landscaping will occur in late Spring in all the planters when the soil and air has warmed enough to support their establishment. In addition, SLO will be using several of the planters in the middle of the Plaza for their annual campus organic garden.  Tables and seating will also be added in the Spring helping to make this a new go-to spot for enjoying the nice spring and summer days outside.

Will Wisconsin election results tip scales against renewables?

by Dan Haugen, Midwest Energy News, 11/12/12

Will changing political winds in Wisconsin mean another new direction for wind energy policy in the state?

Wisconsin Republicans reclaimed control of the state’s senate last week, five months after recall elections tipped the balance to Democrats. Republicans will now hold power by a wider margin the 2013 than they held in 2011.

Wind energy advocates are worried that might mean another attempt to repeal the state’s wind farm siting rules, which limit restrcitons that local governments can place on proposed wind developments.

And one Republican state senator has already announced plans to seek a repeal of the state’s renewable electricity standard, though a renewable advocacy group doubts the bill will gain enough support to pass.

Hopes for bipartisanship

Overall, RENEW Wisconsin program and policy director Michael Vicerman expects less hostility and more acceptance of the fact that renewable energy plays a growing role in the state’s economy.

“We are hearing that there are Republican senators that want to introduce positive legislation on renewable energy next year, and they want to do so in a bipartisan fashion,” Vickerman said.

RENEW Wisconsin is a member of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News.

While Republicans haven’t announced their energy agenda, RENEW Wisconsin is concerned about a proposal by Republican state Sen. Frank Lasee that would un-do the state’s wind farm siting policy.

“He’s spearheading a one-person jihad against wind energy,” Vickerman said.

Wisconsin adopted statewide wind siting rules in 2011 that put boundaries on the local zoning and permitting regulations, which had delayed or derailed wind projects in some counties.

In March, Lasee introduced a bill that would have rolled back those rules, putting wind developers back at the mercy of a messy patchwork of local rules, some of which were, in Vickerman’s words, “a never-ending obstacle course” meant to discourage any projects.

Lasee’s effort last spring came up one vote short when Republicans had a 17-16 margin in the state senate. Next year, Lasee’s party is expected to hold an 18-15 majority.

“We survived, really, by the skin of our teeth,” Vickerman said. “All other things being equal, we have to find another Republican senator who will stand [for the wind siting rules.]”

RPS challenge?

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative policy group that promotes identical, model legislation across the country, says it plans to make repealing state renewable mandates a high priority in 2013.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, a Republican from Sheboygan, has already announced plans for a bill that would freeze Wisconsin’s renewable standard at its 2012 levels.

“The 10 percent renewable portfolio standard imposed on Wisconsin utilities in 2006 was a mistake,” Grothman said in a press release. (The senator’s office didn’t return a phone call last week.)

Vickerman said he is “not particularly worried” about Brothman’s bill. That’s because renewable energy has too many allies – from landfill operators to equipment manufacturers – who understand its importance to growing Wisconsin’s economy.

“He is looking at legislation that would not only scale back commitment to wind energy, but also solar, biogas, landfill gas, hydro – all the resources are covered,” Vickerman said.

For the rest of the article click here.

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.

Build Your Own Time Capsule!

 

Send a message to future UW – Green Bay faculty, staff and students by leaving a message in a bottle during the week of Sept. 17 -21. In October, the new planters being installed on the Student Services Plaza will be filled with soil. But, some of the planters are deeper than the plants will need to live a healthy and long life. So, as many gardeners do when they have a really big pot,  we’ll be using a ‘filler’ – bottles that have been recycled on campus - to take up some of that unneeded space. This saves money on soil we don’t have to purchase and reuses bottles already present on campus.

To make the whole process more fun, everyone on campus has the opportunity to build their own time capsule to be used in the planters. With plastic bottles lasting an estimated 450 years in a landfill (that’s why it’s important to recycle them!!), take a few minutes to send your message to a future generation of students and employees. Here’s how you can participate:

Do-it-Yourself

  • Save a rigid plastic soda or water bottle and save the cap!
  • Wash and dry the bottle – set the rinsed bottle in a sunny place for a day or so to evaporate the leftover water inside
  • Write your message – is it a wish, hope, dream, thought, comment, drawing? Include a little demographic info such as your name, age, etc. so future UWGB historians will know something about you
  • Place it inside the bottle and put on the cap
  • Bring your bottle to campus the week of Sept. 17 – 21 and deposit it in one of the specially marked containers located at-
    • MAC Hall – top of the hallway ramp, next to the recycling/trash collection station
    • Cofrin Library – collection station closest to the Garden Cafe
    • Rose Hall – to the right of the collection station closest to Wood Hall
    • Theater Hall – next to the collection station
    • Instructional Services – next to the GAC Lab, to the left of the collection station
    • Environmental Sciences – just outside of ES114 lecture hall, next to the collection station

 Less Do-it-Yourself

  • Come to the Message-in-a-Bottle booth staffed by SGA, PEAC and SLO members. Booths and times are:
    • Monday, Sept. 17, MAC Hall, top of stairs by the Biodiversity Center; 11:30-1:00
    • Tuesday, Sept. 18, Union, across from the bookstore; 11:30 – 1:00
    • Friday, Sept. 21, Cofrin Library, across from Garden Cafe; 11:30 – 1:00
  • Pick up a bottle (limited quantity available, first-come/first-serve), paper and pen.
  • Contemplate and write your message.
  • Deposit it in the time capsule bin.

Who knows how valuable your signature or message will be in 40 – 50 years when the roof again needs replacement!