UWO sustainability nationally recognized


Courtesy of UWO Flickr — Chancellor Leavitt, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education Cindy Martin and UWP Sustainability Director Brad Spanbauer accept Green Ribbon Schools award.

Mackenzie Seymour, Staff Writer

UW Oshkosh was nationally recognized for its progressive and well-rounded efforts toward improving sustainability achievements on campus over the summer. 

The university was one of four institutions that received the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

This award requires high achievement efforts in reducing environmental impacts and costs, improving the health and wellness of students and staff and providing effective environmental and sustainability education. The recipient of this award is also recognized for incorporating STEM and green career pathways.  

“We are proud to have been chosen to represent the state of Wisconsin this year for the higher education nominee and to have been selected at the federal level as a winner,” said Brad Spanbauer, the university’s sustainability director. 

For the past few decades, the university has begun implementing sustainability initiatives to “engage stakeholders from Wisconsin and beyond to build healthy communities, inclusive economies and ecologically sound environments through inquiry, education and action,” according to the Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformation’s (SIRT) website. 

These strategies include a variety of avenues toward improving sustainability, such as tracking greenhouse gas emissions produced by campus buildings, constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings and collecting rainwater in four 1,000-gallon barrels to be reused for watering the campus grounds.

In addition, the Harvest Room, located in Reeve Union, is able to produce 200 pounds of lettuce and 15 pounds of herbs per month. All three UWO campuses have received Tree Campus USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation, and the Outdoor Adventure Center offers outdoor activities and trips that revolve around recreation, sustainability and education. 

In recent years, SIRT has accomplished funding and has facilitated sustainability-led research initiatives and student projects through the Green Fund. SIRT has also provided resources for both faculty and students, such as teaching modules designed to give instructors an introduction into key concepts of sustainability and an environmental educator certification through a new training program. 

In the spring of 2021, SIRT officially formed a new Climate Action Committee, which will research ways to make the campus more sustainable. The committee will also make recommendations to campus facilities on ways to switch to renewable energy, make efficiency upgrades and decrease emissions from waste produced by campus operations with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. 

“This award is built on a 20-year commitment that we are continuing to build upon,” Spanbauer said. “This is evidenced by significant grant funding in renewable energy infrastructure and climate action planning, as well as brand new sustainability certificates. Our latest commitment, being climate neutral by 2030, is a lofty ambition, and we are taking serious steps to achieve that goal.”