University of Wisconsin grabs green gong

By John Pinching
US institution excels under Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award pillars

Everyone needs to be educated about sustainability and global institutions are very keen to demonstrate their credentials.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) has won the prestigious 2021 Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award. Between 2007 and 2018, UW cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 38%. This included a reduction in buildings energy of 19%, a portable water reduction of 20%, a reduction in total waste per campus user of 13% and a waste-diversion from landfill of 43%.

Project and Communication Specialist at UW Office of Sustainability Jake McCullough said UW prides itself on taking a holistic approach to sustainability. “It’s balancing economic interests, social interests and environmental interests,” McCullough said.

This culture boosted UW’s application to Green Ribbon Schools – a program managed by the US Department of Education, which acknowledges K-12 and post-secondary institutions for sustainability. Specifically, there are three pillars that they ask  applicants to address — reducing environmental impacts and costs, improving health and wellness of students, faculty and staff as well as providing effective environmental and sustainability education.

UW duly addressed all three arenas in their highly modern approach, but the university is not resting on its laurels: “I think we could still improve on something that we’ve been trying to address in the past couple of years – trying to engage our students’ voices,” McCullough said.

McCullough also suggested getting involved in the vast amount of research UW funds when it comes to climate change — an aspect UW highlighted in their Green Ribbons application for pillar three. UW gained more than $459 million in sustainability-related grant funding, and is the university that conducts the most climate change research in the entire Midwest.

Hersh Pareek, an undergraduate student double majoring in Global Health and Health Promotion & Health Equity added a note of caution by emphasising that UW can do a much better job of promoting nutrition – including vegan-based diets – diversity and equity. Babcock ice cream, UW’s very own brand, currently features flavours made from beef gelatin.

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