University of Wisconsin-Madison launches ambitious environmental sustainability initiative



Aerial view of campus, including Bascom Hall, Observatory Drive, and Lake Mendota.

President Jennifer L. Mnookin announced a new sustainability plan that represents the most comprehensive environmental sustainability initiative in University of Wisconsin-Madison’s history and advances the university’s research and education mission. It will turn the campus into a living laboratory for sustainable practices. Photo: Jeff Miller

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a rich history of advancing environmental sustainability through excellence in fields ranging from ecology to wildlife biology to satellite technology. Building on this tradition, the university is launching a new cross-campus initiative focused on environmental sustainability, centered on five goals, including the launch of an interdisciplinary research hub.

President Jennifer L. Mnookin formally announced the initiative at a meeting of the University of Wisconsin Board of Trustees on Thursday, February 8.

This plan represents the most comprehensive environmental sustainability commitment in UW-Madison’s history, making the campus a living laboratory for sustainable practices while also connecting the university’s research and It will advance the mission of education.

Guided by this goal, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to significantly reducing the environmental impact of its campus and physical plants, fostering a culture of sustainability, building resilience to climate change, and We will be on a course to stimulate innovation that will benefit the people of our state. And a planet.

“This work builds on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s tradition of great Wisconsin ideas: innovation for the common good,” Mnookin said. “We prioritize issues that impact our state’s people and communities. We owe Wisconsin more leadership in the sustainability and stewardship of our planet. It will pave the way for us, building on the great strides we have made in recent years.”

The new initiative is structured around five goals:

  • This spring, the Sustainability Research Hub was launched to facilitate large-scale interdisciplinary grants and advance sustainability innovation.
  • By sourcing 100% renewable electricity on campus by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2048 or sooner, UW-Madison will significantly reduce its carbon footprint and improve public health. and combat global climate change.
  • By 2030, meet future and current student demands by making sustainability education experiences accessible to all interested students.
  • Achieve a zero-waste campus by 2040 by sustainably managing materials and associated emissions, from procurement and use to reuse or disposal.
  • Achieve STARS Gold by 2025, aligning UW-Madison’s performance with peer institutions and fostering campus-wide participation in sustainability efforts.

This new initiative reflects the University’s commitment to stewardship and addressing the state’s natural resource and climate change challenges impacting Wisconsin residents.

For example, the state’s lake ice is shrinking, disease-carrying ticks are taking advantage of longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures, and climate-related storms and flooding are driving up insurance premiums and causing costly losses. There is.

By establishing specific goals and timelines for the initiative’s goals, UW-Madison is also integrating important priorities expressed by numerous stakeholders. These goals support the shared governance of the campus, community members, and the Madison Sustainability Committee and the Student Subcommittee of the Sustainability Advisory Committee, who continue to address sustainability issues and take an interest in educational opportunities. It reflects collaboration with students, including student subcommittees.

The University’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions in 2048 aligns with UW-Madison’s bicentennial, as well as the City of Madison’s 2050 goals and the Paris Climate Accords.

“Sustainability is a core principle in how the University of Wisconsin-Madison plans, builds and operates,” said Cindy Toastveit, vice president for facilities planning and management. “We are incorporating cutting-edge sustainability design features into new building projects, launching research to understand how heating and cooling systems can be decarbonized, and building new solar panels at the Kegonça Institute. We are collaborating with power companies on exciting initiatives like power generation and agricultural research projects on campus.”

Efforts to achieve the initiative’s goals include focusing on visible issues such as food waste and recycling, while also addressing less visible issues such as indirect emissions caused by the manufacturing of products used on campus. It also includes a cross-cutting approach to waste management.

A man installs solar panels on a campus bus shelter.

Contractors will install flexible solar panels on top of the Engineering Drive bus stop. The panel’s unique and flexible design was a student-driven solution. The panels power the shelter’s lighting and screens that display up-to-date route information. University of Washington Office of Sustainability.

Missy Nagaard, Director of Sustainability at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the university’s approach is particularly noteworthy because it centers education and research while creating ripple effects far beyond the boundaries of its campus. I say it’s worth it.

“Our goals are not abstract; they are fundamentally mission- and people-focused,” Nagaard says. “We are developing an organizational strategy that leverages the work of our amazing faculty while creating teaching and research opportunities here in Madison and around the world.”

She further added: “We collaborate with communities near and far, using our campus as a living laboratory for sustainability projects. And we are committed to incorporating sustainability principles into our future careers. , we value and engage students who are passionate about creating a livable and fair planet.”

Prominent academic figures such as Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson laid the foundation for the modern conservation movement and Earth Day celebration. Currently, nearly half of all departments and more than 320 faculty members participate in sustainability-related research, making significant contributions to scholarship on air quality and energy, global health and climate change, environmental justice and food systems, among others. Masu.

To complement existing academic opportunities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will expand educational services that help develop adaptable, interdisciplinary thinkers ready to confront the challenges of the future.

“Sustainability has always been central to UW-Madison’s mission because sustainability is central to the lives of people across the state. People care about clean air, river trout, and water quality. “, says Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute for the Environment. “This campus sustainability initiative is an extension of our mission to listen to those voices and address those concerns. The community wants to see that. We ‘s students are demanding that. The next few years are going to be very exciting.”

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