University of Wisconsin–Madison

What one unit is doing to increase sustainability

April 22 is Earth Day. Founded in 1970, Earth Day was prompted by “20 million Americans [who] mobilized a call for greater protections for our planet.” Today, this is more important than ever as we continuously tip the scales toward irrevocable global climate change—at our own peril.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, which is one reason the UW–Madison Sustainability Community of Practice was created. This CoP was created to hold space for staff to discuss ideas, concerns, successes, frustrations, and lessons about sustainability, both on the UW–Madison campus and personally.

Brittany Thomson is a member of the CoP. She is the Center Administrator for the Center for Healthy Minds (CHM), a research focused department on campus. CHM’s vision is to create a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world. While Brittany manages the day-to-day operations of the center, one way she embodies CHM’s vision is to consider the center’s impact on the environment.

In the CoP’s early April meeting, Brittany shared a few steps that the Center for Healthy Minds has made to increase sustainability and reduce waste. Here are some ideas for inspiration within your own units:

  1. Purchase rechargeable batteries and chargers to lessen departmental waste and staff time purchasing batteries. ShopUW+ currently carries rechargeable AA and AAA batteries and a charger for both.
    Charging AA batteries Charging AA batteries
  2. Provide silverware and dishes at work to encourage avoidance of single-use (disposable) plastics. This includes water glasses for visitors instead of disposable plastic water bottles—and dishwashing soap and a sponge so that employees can wash them afterward.
    Community dishes Non-disposable water glasses

Additionally, some of CHM’s employees have taken initiative in the spirit of sustainability to do additional things on their own time/at their own expense:

  1. Composting – an employee collects compost waste and takes it home to compost.
  2. Hand towels – another employee brings cloth towels for staff use and washes them.
    Washable hand towels

If you are interested in fostering sustainability in your unit, please join the Sustainability CoP and help us innovate. We can all be champions for change regardless of your role on campus!

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