Sustainability goals require awareness
February 12, 2009
UWRF has a goal of going completely off the grid by 2012. This means that in just three years, this campus should be operating in self-sufficient ways that result in zero energy loss, leading to 100 percent sustainability. But the details on how the University hopes to achieve this lofty goal seem to be scarce, with projects coming sporadically, few and far in between. According to Mark Gillis, the University building and grounds supervisor, UWRF is committed to a large range of projects all working towards the off-the-grid goal.
Students should be more widely informed about these initiatives. The student body is the backbone and central nervous system of this University; without them this institution does not exist, and yet the Student Voice feels there is a disconnect from the sustainability decisions that influence student lives everyday.
The St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development (SCISCD), the organization created by UWRF to pioneer, develop and implement new sustainability ideas, recognizes that “all solutions are ultimately local… it is not until solutions are identified and applied at the local level that we will ever solve any of them individually, much less all of them together.”
These words flat-out state that in order for the ideas being applied to UWRF to have an impact, they must be embraced by every person involved with the campus. That cannot happen until every person on campus understands exactly what is being done to promote sustainability. UWRF needs to launch an aggressive advertising campaign outlining and detailing each of the projects, from the biomass powered steam plant to the wind turbines slated for the campus and community, the neighborhood electric vehicles to the push to convert waste vegetable oil to biodiesel.
E-mails, flyers, campus channel interviews and advertising are all ways that the information could be introduced to the general student populace. Beyond that, sustainability outreach could utilize viral marketing, employing student workers such as resident assistants to connect with students and spread the word.
As is stands now, the only spot for information is on the SCISCD Web site, accessed through the “sustainability” link in the A-Z index on the UWRF homepage. This site is a good start, but needs more detailed, in-depth coverage. Out of the 23 projects mentioned on the page, only 15 have links to more information. Each and every bulleted initiative needs full coverage outlining exactly what that project is, or the idea becomes lost in the average reader. One example of a confusing proposition is the idea of having one megawatt photovoltaic arrays over parking lot O.
It is honorable that UWRF is attempting to be a UW System leader in the realm of sustainability, but that cannot happen if the details behind what this campus is doing in that arena is kept obscured. Sustainability should be a prominent focal-point, one that is not just shuffled into the dark recesses of the sustainability kiosk in the UC.