University of Wisconsin-Stout senior Kadi Wright knows students are adjusting to alternative ways of learning this semester but wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to learn about Earth Day and how to be more sustainable.
Wright created a video for Earth Week, which UW-Stout will celebrate virtually starting today through Friday, April 24. A web page has been set up sharing videos on being more sustainable, along with movie and book suggestions on sustainability and tips to be more sustainable.
Wright, of Dike, Iowa, who graduates in May with a degree in applied science, shows in the video how to make a canister to store and reuse plastic shopping bags.
Wright said she reused a Lysol cleaning wipe container, painting it blue for UW-Stout, to make the plastic bag dispenser. “I thought that was perfect because everyone has one of those now,” she noted, noting with COVID-19 that the cleaning wipes skyrocketed in use.
The bags are folded into long rectangles and then placed in the container. “It is an easy way to store them and reuse them,” Wright added. “I reuse plastic bags for smaller garbage bags.”
The web page has links to about 15 videos made by students who worked in the Sustainability Office or are part of the Stout Student Association Sustainability Council. Book and film recommendations were made by students as well as members of committees on campus focused on sustainability.
“The videos are for do-it-yourself projects,” said Sarah Rykal, UW-Stout sustainability manager. “We just want people to know they can still be sustainable while being socially distant.”
The site also has tips on sustainability while physically distancing because of COVID-19. The Sustainability Office is also partnering with Focus on Energy to offer a virtual pop-up shop for students, faculty and staff to purchase energy-efficient LED lighting and other items for a reduced cost.
“At a time when our electricity grid is experiencing a high demand from many people working or studying from home, we love that we can offer ways to help our students and employees conserve energy and save money,” Rykal said.
Having the online resources is a benefit to students, Wright said. “I feel a lot of us are in apartments or at home and have free time on our hands,” she noted. “We can read a book or watch a video. Now is the time to learn about sustainability when we have time for it.”
50th anniversary of Earth Day
This year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, on Wednesday, April 22. Founded by Wisconsin’s 35th governor, Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was started as a national day for the environment.
Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement leading to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clear Water and Endangered Species Acts, according to the Earth Day website, earthday.org.
Nelson, who also was a U.S. Senator, was originally from Clear Lake, about 40 miles northwest of UW-Stout. Nelson also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 for his environmental work.
Rykal said she believes Americans have made strides in sustainability since the inception of Earth Day. “We have political candidates talking about climate change,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do, but it’s in our consciousness now. I do feel hopeful that a lot of people in elected offices are pursuing climate change initiatives.”
Campus committed to sustainability
UW-Stout is committed to sustainability. The campus is a Charter Signatory of the American College and Universities President’s Climate Commitment, an effort to address climate change by committing the campus to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions.
The campus offers recycling and composting campuswide. Since 2014, UW-Stout has placed in the top 20 to 40 of universities participating in the nationwide RecycleMania waste reduction tournament. Students and staff can ride community and campus buses for free with a current campus identification.
The campus is a bronze level Bike Friendly University, a designation from the League of American Bicyclists for promoting and providing a bikeable campus. Students can rent a bike through the StoutBikes bike share, and there are bike lockers to rent on campus.
Last summer the campus retrofitted 10 building and outdoor areas with LED lights, which is slated to save the campus $89,000 a year in energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Grant funding is being sought to convert the entire campus to LED lighting. The campus is also in the process of retrofitting all campus residence halls with LED lighting.
An additional $150,000 in solar panels are slated to be added to Merle M. Price Commons to generate electricity, and an energy kiosk will be placed in the building to show how much energy is being produced by those panels. In 2017, 32 solar panels were placed on Price Commons.
UW-Stout also offers a master’s degree in sustainable management and a minor in sustainability.