About this blog:

"A Sustainable UW-Eau Claire" was created to promote sustainability initiatives happening on our campus and in cooperation with the community of Eau Claire. Contributors from various parts of the University that are advancing sustainability initiatives post to the blog. Its goals: nurture community and create connections to coordinate the important work that improves our place on the planet--here on the banks of the Chippewa River.

February 2, 2012


A recycling craze is happening now at UW-Eau Claire!

Recyclemania is here once again…

The campus community will compete against more than 500 other colleges and universities during Recyclemania 2012. The 10-week program will run Jan. 22-March 31 and will measure UW-Eau Claire’s recycling and reduction efforts in comparison to other universities nationwide. The schools that out-compete the others win the grand prize, taking home the Recyclemania trophy!

How Recyclemania works: Each week we will report our recyclables and waste weights to Recyclemania who will calculate our standing in the competition based on our enrollment size, student residential population and number of faculty and staff.

UW-Eau Claire will compete in five categories:

Grand Champion- recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation.

Stephen K Gaski Per Capita Classic- largest combined amount of paper, cardboard and bottles and cans on a per person basis.

Waste Minimization- least amount of both recyclables and trash on a per person basis.

Gorilla Prize- recycles the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottle and cans regardless of campus population.

Targeted Materials- We are competing in all four separate targeted material categories for Paper, Cardboard, Cans and Bottles, Food Service Organics.

Electronics- Electronics is a new pilot category to RecycleMania for the 2012 tournament. Limited to a single, month long tracking and reporting period. Ranks schools on a gorilla basis, i.e. gross quantities without a per capita divider. Is weight-based with volume-to-weight conversions allowed.

January 27, 2012

The SOS Blooms at Growing Power

Earlier this month, eight members of the Student Office of Sustainability were given the opportunity to participate in the innovative workshops at Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI. When we first arrived at Growing Power bright and early on Saturday morning, I was absolutely amazed by the grand scale of their operation. Every inch of the vicinity is utilized to its utmost ability: hoop houses, green houses, solar panels, rain water catchers, a huge heap of vermi-compost, the list goes on!
We began our day in greenhouse one, where people and groups from around the country gathered together anxiously waiting for the day (and Will Allen!). As we waited, Growing Power provided a delicious and hardy breakfast, and we were able to meet and greet with unfamiliar faces and hear the many reasons for participating in the various workshops. I met a man from South Carolina whose ambition was to start up something similar to Growing Power in his community, I met many Milwaukee Public School teachers who were eager to learn more about implementing sustainable agriculture in their schools. The greenhouse was heated with passion and promise. We all came to Growing Power to listen, look and learn.
After breakfast and introductions, we received a full tour of the facility. After awhile, I had to remember to keep my mouth closed, there were so many moments where my jaw just dropped. The dangling mushroom chandeliers glistened in the sunlit greenhouse, hanging plant filled pots were overflowing with greenery, and the sound of swimming fish rang throughout greenhouse three, Aquaponics. The chickens in the chicken coop seemed happy-go-lucky, the goats gloated and grinned (they eat like kings!), and I've never seen a more luscious pile of compost.
When we finished the tour, we split up into our breakout workshop sessions. I was fortunate enough to attend the Microgreens (Sprouts) Year Round Production workshop on the first day and the Community Project Planning workshop on the second day. Each day I was surrounded by enthusiastic learners and it was inspiring to see the Good Food Revolution unfold firsthand. Growing Power opened my eyes to the fast growing Good Food movement and the great opportunities and potential for sustainable agriculture on our own campus here at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

November 28, 2011

Trash Talk - presents “Sustainability on Campus: What, Why and How – and Who?

Dr. James Boulter, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, will discuss sustainability and what people across campus are doing to reduce our “climate footprint” here at UW-Eau Claire. This event will take place on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. in The Commons of Towers.

Boulter will present “Sustainability on Campus: What, Why and How – and Who?” as part of Trash Talks, a lecture series hosted by Housing and Residence Life’s office of sustainability. Boulter will discuss how to be more sustainable as a part of a college campus and the way in which this effort is motivated by understanding climate change.

In his presentation, Boulter will discuss how UW- Eau Claire can be more sustainable as a campus, and what each person as an individual can do to help reduce waste.

“I believe that in order to move forward and be progressive with sustainability, we first need to understand climate change,” said Boulter.

Boulter is an associate professor in the UW-Eau Claire chemistry department, teaching courses in general, analytical, and environmental chemistry. He also currently serves as both Sustainability Fellow for the office of the Chancellor and interim coordinator of the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies, as well as the faculty adviser for the Student Office of Sustainability.

Trash Talks are free and open to all students, faculty, staff and the community. Housing will be hosting Trash Talks on different environmental sustainability issues the second Thursday of every month until April from 7- 8 p.m. in the Commons Room of Towers North residence hall.

For a complete list of talks, go to the Housing and Residence Life’s sustainability website at www.uwec.edu/housing/Sustainability/index.htm.

November 18, 2011

Frac Sand Mining Panel at UW Stout

Last night, Sustainable Dunn and GreenSense of UW-Stout collaborated to create a fascinating panel presentation/discussion about the expansion of sand mining in the region.
Guests included Dr. Ron Koshoshek, Emeritus Professor of Ethics from UW-Eau Claire and resident of Howard, Rich Budinger of WI Industrial Sand in Menomonie, Tom Woletz of the Wisconsin DNR, and our very own Dr. Crispin Pierce, Associate Professor in Environmental and Public Health at UW-Eau Claire, along with James Fay and Greg Nelson, his ENPH student research collaborators.

The fascinating, and consistently respectful presenters illustrated a broad range of issues including the process of sand mining, water quality (and quantity), air pollution and human disease, environmental regulations, local political strategies and insights, contributions of one mining company to the local economy and to the community, and some preliminary research results of airborne crystalline silica presented by the students on the panel.

Some interesting tidbits: WI (and MN) have the best deposits of this mineral deposit in the nation, and it's due to the unique structure and purity of the resource. There are currently about 2,500 sand mines in WI, with the mineral used for manufacture of glass, ceramics and used in construction, foundry, and water filtration industries. Recently accelerating extraction of natural gas located in shale deposits has dramatically increased its demand (and price). Look here for a special report on "fracking," or hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, in the next several weeks.

Fugitive dust from these operations is a source of emissions of crystalline silica, a carcinogenic particulate air pollutant linked to the disease, silicosis, and increased incidence of tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although mines undergo extensive initial permitting processes, monitoring of these pollutants is currently inadequate and environmental limits are not effective or well-enforced.

Communities have options to determine their fates: these depend on local politics, existing zoning ordinances, and a certainly requiring much effort. But in the end, we must consider an ethical question: how can we reconcile a regional economic benefit with the losses incurred on our neighbors? Those neighbors may be those whose property values, quality of life and/or health is impacted by sand mining operations. Those "neighbors" may include the natural ecosystems directly impacted by mining operations or by indirectly by water contamination. And our neighbors may also be located above the Marcellus shale, deeply affected by the activities of the oil and natural gas industry.

November 13, 2011

Dirty Work

Menomonie's Mabel Tainter Theater was packed last Thursday night as community members gathered together for the locally produced film, Dirty Work.

The film chronicles the story of Elsie's farm, a heartfelt and inspiring tale emphasising the importance of Community Supported Agriculture in a world full of factory farms and grocery super centers. The film encompasses a year in the life of Don and Joni on their local CSA, where Interns, WOOFers, and aspiring growers came together to create and nurture some of Mother Nature's most delicious treats. The film bewitchingly preserves the memories and experiences of the people involved with Elsie's Farm. Unfortunately, the story isn't all sunshine and rainbows. In the end, Elsie's Farm was laid to rest. Agricultural run off from a near-by dairy farm polluted the water table and the crops could no longer be considered certified organic. Forced to relocate yet unable to shake a lifelong relationship with plants, Don and Joni continue to grow on their 1 acre lot of land.

Dirty Work captured the beauty and essence of farm life and illuminated the playfulness of human nature. In the film, youth and age work together hand-in-hand growing and producing food for the surrounding community. The people in this film seem to possess an intrinsic ability to create something out of nothing, a talent that should never be swept aside or forgotten. Dirty Work is an ispiration, a truly admirable story about the struggles and spontaneity of life on Elsie's farm.

October 27, 2011

Vanishing of the Bees

When you think of a bee, what comes to mind? Honey? Spelling? Winnie the Pooh? Bees are an important part of our livelihood. Each day, one hive can pollinate over a hundred thousand flowers. Approximately one third of the food we eat today is pollinated by bees. So where would exactly would we be without them?

Vanishing of the Bees focuses on this problem—more specifically—a hive death disorder called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). All over the world, bees have begun to vanish from their hives, resulting in a hive death. They leave no corpses or trails, only the queen and a few young. Quite simply, they vanish. Recent studies have pointed to "systemic" pesticides as the possible cause of CCD. Systemic pesticides are applied in a few different ways and are designed to be long-lasting. Crops are dusted and some seeds are treated to grow with the pesticide embedded. Over time, the soil harbors more and more of the chemical, adding to the sub-lethal dose of the pesticides. Bees gather the pesticide and take it back to the hive by way of the pollen and nectar they gather, where it is made into honey and wax. The effects of the pesticides are not immediate. It may take six months for the hive to experience a hive death. This time gap has led to problems in determining the exact and immediate causes.

Fifteen years ago in France, similar hive deaths were occurring. Because of protests by bee-keepers, the government banned the systemic pesticide Gaucho, manufactured by Bayer. Recently in the United States, the National Resources Defense Council sued the Environmental Protection Agency (the group responsible for determining the effects of pesticides) for information regarding the Bayer data on Gaucho. (The FDA does not conduct the studies themselves; rather, the manufacturer provides all the required data.) For the most part, bees had only been tested for immediate effects (1-3 days after exposure). As a result, Gaucho was banned by the federal court.

Without bees, we cannot hope to produce the types of food we do now. Already, 75% of the food we consume is imported, and 95% is treated with pesticides. With no pollination to aid the growth of edible plants, we would have to rely completely on imported goods. Not only would this raise the price, it would also lower the available amount of food. The bees have a major indirect effect on our livelihood and health. Without them, we have little hope of a sustainable living.

October 19, 2011

Forks Over Knives- A palatable solution

Forks Over Knives was a very inspirational film and this film series Food For Thought is great opportunity to network with like-minded folks from the community. If you were unable to attend, here are some photos. Enjoy!

Our menu was diverse and delicious including zucchini boats, watermelon, cinnamon baked apples, fresh apples from Hillview Farm Orchard, a pesto bar, local bread, tasty cheese from Castle Rock Organic Farms, corn on the cob, apple cider and much more. Other local donations were from Just Local Food, Foodlums, Haas Brothers and Blugold Dining by Sedexo.

Many more opportunities to enjoy films, food and new friends are ahead. Here is the poster for the Food For Thought Film Series.

October 16, 2011

Forks Over Knives

Get your sporks and chopsticks ready because we’ve just kicked off an eight week film series that’s all about, you guessed it, food! The first film was shown in the Davies Center at UW—Eau Claire on Tuesday evening and was followed by a community member discussion. Forks Over Knives is the first of eight free showings alternating between Menomonie and Eau Claire. Each will feature a community speaker, specializing in the topic of the film.

Forks Over Knives focuses on the subject of replacing the animal-protein rich American diet with a whole foods plant-based diet in order to prevent, and often times reverse, the effects of heart disease, diabetes, and various types of cancer. The film features research and practices from Dr. Esselstyn, a heart surgery specialist, and Dr. Colin Campbell, primary researcher and author of The China Study. Based on individual and nation-wide studies, these two researchers have found that food is the best medicine for the now common diseases and cancers plaguing societies whose diet is based largely on animal protein. Many of the eighteen patients given to Dr. Esselstyn were told that they should prepare for death. After being placed on a strict, whole foods plant-based diet, all eighteen patients survived the first twelve years of the study. At the time of the documentary release, fourteen were still alive and reported more energy than they even had at a young age.

After watching the film, I’m truly amazed and convinced that nutrition should be the basis for my own well-being. I remain slightly skeptical and I’m determined to try the vegan diet for myself. In the mean time, if you missed out on the film I defiantly recommend you watch it for yourself.

October 12, 2011

"Food For Thought" Success!

The Food For Thought Film Series kicked off last night with the first film at UWEC, Forks Over Knives. The movie shed light on the remarkable abilities whole foods and a plant-based diet can have on degenerative diseases.

Forks Over Knives follows two doctors on their separate but similar paths to promote and prove that food can be medicine, that eating a whole foods plant-based diet can and should be used as treatment for degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and different types of cancer. The film illuminated the preconceived notion that animal-based foods are essential to the human diet, a message embedded in our society for generations. With careful examination of the research conducted by Dr. T Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives exposed the harsh realities processed food and an animal-based diet have on the human body.

Before viewing the film, people gathered in the Council Fire Room in Davies to enjoy some delicious free food provided by Hillview Farms, Just Local Food, Foodlums, Haas Brothers, Castle Rock, and Blugold Dining & Sodexo. With full bellies and eager ears, the audience waited and watched as Forks Over Knives challenged our society's beliefs about food. After the film finished and the screen turned black, a variety of Guest Speakers took the stage for a panel discussion. The discussion continues on the film's website ForksOverKnives.com.

The Food For Though Film Series is presented by F.R.E.S.H. in partnership with UWEC- Student Office of Sustainability, Sustainable Stout, and the Ally Center. To join in on the food and fun, check out the Food For Thought Facebook page, where you can find the film schedule and additional information!

Yesterday at AASHE!

Yesterday, I saw a plenary session given by David Orr, and the students saw the President of the United States! What a day. Later on, we all saw a plenary talk by Sandra Steingraber, the author of Living Downstream, a great book and soon to be a movie. A few of us had a chance to talk science with her about hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction, a massive environmental problem... Check out the link (www.livingdownstream.com) for the book/movie!