All posts by Wesley Enterline

UW-Whitewater Sustainability Coordinator.

Reflections on Arbor Day 2021: Looking to the Future

By Jarrett DeBruin, Sustainability Office Gardens and Grounds Intern

It was a sunny day last April 30. The sky was blue with soft clouds drifting through the troposphere, a cool breeze gliding through the small town of Whitewater. As folks gathered at the “Little Red Schoolhouse” atop the glacial drumlin at the center of UW-Whitewater’s campus, they exchanged introductions and chit chat. Waiting for the exciting event to unfold, students, professors, staff members, and the campus Chancellor shared enthusiasm and anticipation…

The first Arbor Day was held in 1872 on April 10th thanks to J. Sterling Morton; Arbor Day is now held on April 30. Morton was a Nebraska native who took concern over the sparse population of trees in his state. An avid writer of agricultural content, Morton believed that trees could provide many benefits to crops and eco-services to the people of Nebraska. What was originally started to promote the planting of trees in Nebraska is now celebrated all over. Today, many celebrate Arbor Day and the planting of trees, not just for its original purposes of agriculture and celebrating the future, but for much more. This brings us back to the 2021 Arbor Day event here on the UW-Whitewater Campus.

Organized by UW-Whitewater’s sustainability director, Wesley Enterline, the 2021 Arbor Day Event served the purpose of giving back to the community and reaching the public. Once everyone gathered at the Little Red Schoolhouse, Wes provided a compelling background on Earth Day, Arbor Day, the campus, and the Salisbury Idea. The Salisbury Idea was inspired by Albert Salisbury, a campus professor who had the dream of planting every tree, shrub, and forb that could grow in our climate on the campus’ grounds. Since then, the idea has evolved into locating every tree native to Wisconsin that will grow in this climate and planting it somewhere on campus. These efforts include the newer 50 Trees for 50 Years Campaign at UW-Whitewater. The Sustainability Office on campus has been hard at work with this impressive project, and Arbor Day 2021 marked another milestone in the undertaking.

After completing his engaging dedication speech, Wes led the party over to the planting site. Waiting there in a precisely dug hole was a beautiful Pink Flair Cherry tree which had been donated by PEACE, a campus organization focused on social justice. One by one, everyone present grabbed a shovel and showered the Cherry with love. All attendees took turns, and before long, the Cherry was packed in nicely, waiting to grow and provide our campus with a blooming, ornamental aesthetic. Following the engagement of playing with dirt, everyone went for a peek at the Log Cabin on top of the drumlin, enjoying more history and conversation.

All in all, the Arbor Day event was a major success and achieved everything it was meant to. This event brought together members of the UW-Whitewater community to work together and support a great cause. That cherry tree that everyone tenderly cared for is now more than just a tree. It is a deep representation of community and care for one’s neighbors and the environment. Not only will that tree be a part of the beautiful arboretum for years to come, but it will also contribute to important eco-services that we all rely on. On Arbor Day of 2021, a small group of students, professors, staff, and the Chancellor all contributed to caring for the planet, for each other, and for the future one tree at a time. Best said in the words of J. Sterling Morton: “Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.”

So, if you ever happen to be in the area of the drumlin, take some time to peek at the Pink Flair Cherry tree as well as all the other trees that the community has worked hard to provide. Take a few moments to appreciate trees and what they do for us, take a few minutes to consider the importance of community and the efforts to care for it, and take a few minutes to appreciate those that make these efforts possible. Remember to reflect on the hard work that has been done to care for the UW-Whitewater Campus and look to the future of our community.

Adding Data Analytics Value to your Position

By Rocky Hickey, Data Analytics Intern

Often, we assume that conservation and sustainability is only to be found in the outdoors among the plants and wildlife, but it can also be found within our daily lives in the energy and resources we use, which have consequential impacts on the outside world. A crucial component of any organization’s efforts to measure its success in sustainability is analyzing how it is currently doing and what areas it could improve in to be more successful and that’s where data analytics can be crucially useful.

Where We Started

Creating a greener campus and organization is always an ongoing work in progress where one can seldom say that we have reached our goal and cannot improve the environment we inhabit. A more common question is: “what do we prioritize first?” As discussed, resource use costs money, time, and sometimes the well-being of the environment, so being able to outline to an organization the best and most effective ways to positively benefit sustainability are vital to ensuring resources are being efficiently used. One of the primary ways that I assist the Sustainability Office is by creating and organizing campus building energy data into formats to make it easier to gather insights from it. At times, this means pulling data from historic sources on Excel spreadsheets and cleaning that data up into more machine-readable forms in a predefined Excel table.

Typical source data format
Machine-readable format

This process can seem daunting at first, but often is one of the easiest portions of my job and I think most people, if trained correctly, would also find it relatively easy. It is the portion of data analytics that takes up well over 90% of time and energy, converting and creating what we have as data into something that we can plug into a website or piece of software that can analyze and interpret it. This conversion in data types might seem a bit mundane at first, but consider this: which of the data below would you rather interpret?

Energy Use Data Visualization courtesy of Energy Star Portfolio Manager
Utility Summary of Natural Gas Data

The above examples aren’t meant to knock on how data was gathered and interpreted previously. If anything, the first visualization would not be possible had the prior work never been done in the first place, but it highlights how additional development and refinement to the data on hand can create stories that were previously hiding under an assortment of cells and rows. This work can open up many doors into creating efficiencies in energy use on campus and narrow down issues that might have previously been known but understood poorly. Visualizations like the one above are truly just the beginning of the work data analytics can do for any organization’s data, but to keep things simple I’ll stick to how any employee can provide data analytics value to their job.

How Can I Help?

Without getting too far into the weeds of how one technically performs data analytics, I think there are some general ways in which anyone can provide value in this critical area of business operations.

Keep your data in an organized electronic form

Barring any privacy or legal concerns, one of the first and easiest points of data analytics is maintaining an organized electronic file of the data that you perceive as having value. Having data on member participation, recycling rates, or a survey in physical form will prevent deep dives into data analytics, so convert relevant data and maintain that data in a logical and organized way. When I say logical and organized way, I mean within the confines of an appropriate data structure for that data. If it’s numerical data, keep that data within the confines of a structured spreadsheet with well-defined columns and rows.

File Organization and Process Documentation is Essential

Once we have the data within the confines of a spreadsheet, now we need  to make sure we know what this data is describing and when. The energy used to create the spreadsheet should also match the energy to maintain a clear and organized file folder. File folders where each spreadsheet can find its appropriate home will help future data analysis on an underlying file because there is a clear source file to work with that is accurately and appropriately described.

Keep It Simple & Get Creative

As I said before, it is a common misbelief that since we’re doing data analytics we have to get into the weeds of complex formulas, macros, and data analytical tools. Sometimes the most straightforward way to answer a question about underlying data is just to visualize the data. There are many ways to visualize a spreadsheet. Internal to the spreadsheet program, both Google Sheets and Excel have built-in visualization tools such as pivot tables and chart functions, but there are a couple free external tools (for students) that allow for more flexibility and depth if needed. PowerBI and Tableau are both powerful software platforms that allow individuals and organizations to create striking stories about their data and I recommend anyone to poke around with the software to get comfortable using them and learn the visualization portion of data analytics. Lastly, when keeping it simple, make sure to keep the process for recording information into your spreadsheets relatively straightforward and documented in some manner. Often our spreadsheets outlive the job we may be currently working as college students, so it is important to have some semblance of simplicity for yourself and other coworkers to maintain the work you have done.

Microsoft PowerBI Example

Personal Guidelines for Data Analytics

As a passing point, I think that if you intend on participating in data analytics it is important to keep these points in mind while you work towards creating data structures for your organization’s data.

  • Be patient – Data analytics is a marathon, not a race, in the way a newly planted tree may take years to grow into a fully mature tree, so it’s important to know that most of the work you will do will be in answering a relatively small number of questions in relation to the amount of data you gather. Be focused on the health and integrity of the data you are developing and its role within your organization, not just what it can immediately do now.
  • Be an avid learner – Data analytics can be a difficult process when you encounter roadblocks that you’ve never had to overcome before. Being able to search an error code or look into the help section of a software to answer a question isn’t an admission of defeat, it’s a highlight of your perseverance in getting things to work
  • Have fun with it – I have had many times where I put in several hours processing a long list of spreadsheets into a working input for PowerBI visualization and it wouldn’t work, but when I did get it to work and I got to see the visualizations that I could create, the work I did to create that was well worth the wait. So, don’t get overly frustrated, it’s all part of the process and look for the light at the end of the tunnel

If you are able to follow the guidance above and keep in mind those important components of maintaining good data you will be well on your way into introducing data analytics into your work.

Recap of March – Women in Sustainability Month

By Gabby Pogantsch – Outreach Intern

Hello everyone! It’s Gabby here with a recap of March. What a crazy month is has been as we’re already enjoying our wonderful Earth Month celebrations. In March, we focused our content on Women in Sustainability Month and tied black women/creators in sustainability into this theme as we just celebrated Black History Month in February. Ashley and I released two new podcast episodes this month titled ‘danner, doc martens & more’ and ‘the (wo)man, the myth, the legend.’ These two episodes were dedicated to answering questions about sustainability and environmentalism overall and episode 5, ‘the (wo)man, the myth, the legend,’ featured Maryam Enterline, who is a woman of color that incorporates many amazing sustainable practices in her lifestyle. She is a super interesting lady who founded and runs her own business, Enterline Designs. Maryam and her husband, who also happens to be our boss, have also visited all of the state parks in Wisconsin, so tune in to that episode to learn more about her and her adventures! All of our podcast episodes are located on

We just finished up our first Earth Month events, including a new one called Wellness in the Nature Preserve. This event featured many local wellness groups, such as Active Minds, Brienne Brown Yoga, Community Health in Practice (CHIP), University Health and Counseling Services, Whitewater Grocery Co., and Working for Whitewater’s Wellness (W3) tabling with some great information and resources. We held three different sessions on introductory yoga, meditation, and a quick prairie tour to practice mindfulness in nature. You can find our whole list of Earth Month events at our website. Events go until Friday, April 30th and include many events hosted by Whitewater Student Government during their Sustainability Week. 

With coming up on my graduation in May, I’ve been focusing a lot on finding jobs in the sustainability and environmental field and this last year and a half at the office has been my saving grace when it comes to defining my ‘personal mission’ while applying for new positions. The Sustainability Office has been an internship where I’m allowed the opportunity to show what I’m capable of doing all while working on amazing projects like the podcast and a full Earth Month event calendar. 

Reflecting back on my time here, it has urged me to explore many different work environments from testing water in a stream, growing a massive garden, tabling at campus events and planning events behind a computer screen. Writing a ‘recap’ can be difficult when there’s so many amazing things to point out that we do every day in the office. 

I hope the month of March has brought you all many great things and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this semester takes us! 🙂 

UW-Whitewater Commits to Climate Action through Creation of Task Forces


Wesley Enterline

Sustainability Director, Facilities Planning & Management


WHITEWATER, WI., December 1, 2020 — As part of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s initiative to address the university’s impact on climate change, the Sustainability Council is requesting individuals from the university and broader community to learn more about and consider participating in a Climate Action Task Force in Spring 2021.

This effort was initiated by shared governance leadership from Whitewater Student Government and the Faculty Senate to ask Chancellor Dwight Watson to consider signing the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a plan administered by Second Nature. The Climate Commitment challenges university leadership to  address the institution’s contributions to climate change by developing a greenhouse gas inventory, engaging a community task force, and creating a resilience assessment and climate action plan. Chancellor Watson signed the Climate Commitment in December 2019.

Three task forces will convene to address distinct approaches to addressing climate change and resiliency. The Energy and Operations Task Force centers around the university’s overall environmental footprint, such as its energy consumption and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The Academic Engagement Task Force focuses on research, curriculum, and general university engagement on related topics. The Community and Resiliency Task Force targets community engagement, regional adaptation, and resilience. Potential overlapping goals include achieving a climate neutrality date, determining milestones for increasing resiliency measures, and expanding awareness of issues attributed to or amplified by climate change.     

Membership is open to anyone interested in addressing climate change through your individual identities, perspectives, and various areas and levels of expertise. We are seeking individuals from a wide range of campus and community representatives to ensure diversity and inclusion of many stakeholder perspectives. If you are interested in this effort  and want to learn more about any of them, fill out the survey and you will be invited to a future informational session to describe next steps and involvement opportunities.  Please share with any friends and colleagues you think might be interested as well:

UW-Whitewater Joins Monarch Watch and Receives Free Milkweed for Monarch Waystation

The UW-Whitewater Sustainability Office is excited to extend our commitment to local wildlife by joining the Monarch Watch to establish the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve as a Monarch Waystation and expand the value of this habitat by planting nearly 400 milkweed plants, including swamp (asclepias incarnata), common (asclepias syriaca), and butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa), through the Monarch Watch’s Bring Back the Monarchs program. This generous contribution from the Monarch Watch is valued at approximately $1,000 and will support countless monarchs for the Whitewater community to enjoy. Our Sustainability Office Grounds Intern, Emily, identified this opportunity and completed the application.

Monarch Watch is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration. The mission statement of Monarch Watch is “to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. We engage in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration. We also promote protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.”

Photo credit UW-Whitewater/Craig Schreiner

UW-Whitewater is also be participating in the Monarch Waystation program and adding signage around campus to identify areas that are similar to the main Monarch Waystation in the reconstructed prairie of the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve.  You can help by creating “Monarch Waystations” (monarch habitats) in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Creating a Monarch Waystation can be as simple as adding milkweeds and nectar sources to existing gardens or maintaining natural habitats with milkweeds. No effort is too small to have a positive impact. 

The UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve is 100 acres total, with about 55 acres being reconstructed as a prairie habitat.  We are rebuilding the area as a brand new prairie, so the oldest parts of our prairie are only 25 years old. Pesticide-free maintenance, controlled burns, and prairie seed collection conducted by the Sustainability Office and Grounds Crew results in a healthy, natural space filled with a diverse array of native plant species for humans and wildlife to enjoy. Learn more about our fall volunteer activities collecting prairie seed.

Emily plants milkweed along the accessible path into the prairie reconstruction.

We already have several species of milkweed in the Nature Preserve, including whorled, common, and swamp milkweed.  These plants are important for monarch larvae to eat, which is what most people think about when they think of monarchs. We also have a lot of flowering native prairie species, especially different types of goldenrod, that are important sources of nectar to adult butterflies.  When the goldenrod blooms in late summer, usually around mid-September, the prairie is filled with hundreds of monarchs!  It is not uncommon to see dozens of them in a small area feeding on the nectar of goldenrods.

Photo credit Wesley Enterline

Common milkweed (A. syriaca) grows in sandy, clayey, or rocky calcareous soils. It occurs along the banks or flood plains of lakes, ponds, and waterways, in prairies, forest margins, roadsides, and waste places. Swamp milkweed (A. incarnata) is a tall plant with fragrant, showy clusters of pink and light purple flowers. It does well in landscape plantings with moist soil and in plantings near bodies of water. Unlike many ornamentals, swamp milkweed tolerates heavy clay soils and is very deer-resistant. It is a more cultivated alternative to common milkweed that is also attractive to egg-laying Monarchs. Butterfly milkweed (A. tuberosa) is ideal in semi-dry places where it can spread without presenting problems for other ornamental species. Butterfly milkweed does well in sandy, loamy, or rocky calcareous soils of prairies, roadsides, and waste places.

Please consider visiting the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve at the Hoffman Kiosk to enjoy our reconstructed prairie and stay on the lookout for monarchs in all phases of their life cycle!

How to Make a Custom Reusable Bag

Turn your favorite old shirt into your favorite new bag

Using your own shirt to make an easy-to-use reusable bag is a great way for you and your family and friends to practice reusing a common household item instead of creating waste.  Most shopping trips usually ends with more plastic bags given out with your purchase, which are typically used once and end up in a landfill or polluting our local environment. Reusable bags are an easy way to avoid adding more plastic waste, but are often somewhat cumbersome to carry around.

This fun craft will transform a favorite old shirt into a bag that you can take with you on every shopping trip.  Not only does this help reduce plastic waste from disposable bags, but it also helps reduce resource consumption and generated waste through textile manufacturing.

If you and your family are in need of shirts to transform, visit local thrift stores or donations center.  For those near Whitewater, visit either Goodwill or The Thrift Shoppe.

Follow these steps for your new bag

1.  Gather a marker, scissors, ruler, and your shirt.

2.  Start by measuring 3 inches from the bottom of your shirt and make a small mark. From this mark draw a light line across your shirt.

3.  Next along the bottom of your shirt mark every inch. This will be used to make incisions later.

4.  This step requires you to fold your shirt in half vertically and to cut out the neck and sleeve areas.

5.  Once you’ve removed the neck and sleeve areas unfold your shirt and make cuts from the bottom up to the line you drew earlier.  Each incision should line up with your previously marked points.

6.  Next tie together each strip of clothing sealing the bottom of the bag. Remove any unwanted or excess material.

7.  For extra fun turn your bag inside out and decorate the blank side.

Single Use Plastics: Why the Fuss?

Editorial By Taylor Stevens – Sustainability Assistant

When we think about all the environmental impacts that our consumption and waste habits have on the environment, there is a lot to be talked about. In the new wave of trends and discoveries, people have been experiencing the realization that our consumption of products: plastic, paper, natural, etc. all have an impact on the environment around us. Unfortunately, if we do not pay attention to crucial issues such as human consumption and single use plastics we can miss a lot of details in the makeup of the ecosystem we call our Earth. We need to be aware of the impact that our daily habits have on the environment. We also need to ask ourselves the question of: What will happen to the world around us if we don’t start becoming aware of the impacts that our daily habits have on the Earth around us?

As for single use plastics, the real question we should all be asking ourselves is why have we not talked about this sooner. For decades we have dumped single-use plastic trash into our oceans and shipped them overseas to countries that may not be as developed at the United States. In the process, we are destroying our natural ecosystems, poisoning waterways, and killing off the food that we eat and the animals we call our companions on this Earth. However, why has society recently focused on the use of plastic straws specifically and not the overall use of plastic? Plastic straws are apart of the single use plastic problem contributing to a lot of plastic waste, but what about single use plastic consumption as a whole issue? What happens when the plastic cutlery, plastic product bottles for beauty items and water, plastic food containers, and plastic wrap add to our use of plastic straws and the plastic catastrophe as a whole? Then, instead of the problem just being about one form of single use plastic, we have created a massive monster of single use plastic that is slowly killing our oceans and our Earth. We need to start asking ourselves what can we do about it and how can we change?

For the month of October is it Campus Sustainability Month. Sustainability is embracing the principles of conservation, preservation, justice, and environmental activism to create positive change in the world around you. As a campus, the University of Wisconsin Whitewater Sustainability Office will be having a pledge and petition. We, as a collective campus are fighting to reduce our use of single use plastics! For the week of October 1st, on the 2nd and 3rd (Tuesday and Wednesday) we will be having a banner pledge signing as well as giveaway sessions on the North Mall and in the UC 12:30-2 pm. The banner is a pledge to reduce your use of single use plastic in your personal life in any way possible! Small changes among a collective group of individuals can have a massive impact on the larger community. When you decide to sign the banner and pledge to reduce your use of single use plastics, you will be given a prize from the following variety: reusable tote bag, reusable water bottle, bamboo reusable cutlery, or a stainless steel straw. Please consider taking the pledge to reduce your use of single use plastics and lessen your personal daily impact on the world around you!

Interested in joining a student organization focused on sustainability? Consider joining SAGE (Students Allied for a Green Earth) Wednesdays 6-7:15 pm in UC 275 A! As a campus we can create a brighter sustainable future for both our community and our campus here at Whitewater. Ask yourself the steps you can take to help the environment around you in your daily life- it could be as simple as refusing to use a plastic non-reusable water bottle. You can make a difference! Go out and try to make a change!

More questions or comments? Contact

Sneak peek at our newest STARS sustainability assessment!

This summer, the Sustainability Office has been up to many of our favorite summer activities, including some great student leadership and outreach through our campus garden and a focus on strategic planning for the new school year. We also worked on the second submission to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS). STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS is intended to engage and recognize the full spectrum of colleges and universities – from community colleges to research universities – and encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability. 912 institutions have registered to use the STARS Reporting Tool. Reported data is also utilized for participation in The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and Sierra Magazine’s Cool Schools.

An institution’s score is based on the percentage of points it earns by pursuing relevant credits across four main categories: Academics (AC), Engagement (EN), Operations (OP), and Planning & Administration (PA). In addition, institutions may earn up to four Innovation & Leadership (IN) points for exemplary and path-breaking initiatives that are not covered by other STARS credits or that exceed the highest criterion of a standard credit.

UW-Whitewater submitted our initial report for Stars version 2.0 in April 2015 and received a Silver Rating with a score of 45.35%. In spring 2018, we began the process of data collection, analysis, and reporting for our second submission to STARS version 2.1 and generated our final STARS submission in August 2018. We anticipate we will maintain a Silver Rating, but improved our score from 45.35% to a current provisional score of 55.21%. The report will be available on the STARS website and the UW-Whitewater Sustainability website upon acceptance by Chancellor Kopper and AASHE.

We are very proud of the achievements we’ve been able to make to improve our performance. On the other hand, STARS is a great tool to identify areas of improvement and we hope to take some strides in the upcoming years to reach Gold status by the next time we are required to report to STARS in 2021. We think this achievement is well within our reach and look forward to pursuing this goal with our campus!


  • 2018 estimated performance:  34.30/58.00; 59%
  • 2015 STARS score:  21.73/58.00; 37%

Our performance for the integration of sustainability into curriculum and research credits significantly improved from our previous report. This includes new campus learning objectives that embrace “Personal and Civic Responsibility” and mention social issues and environmental concerns. The Environmental Science undergraduate and Environmental Safety and Health graduate programs ensure students at various levels an opportunity to focus their studies on environmental issues. Numerous faculty self-reported integration of sustainability topics into a variety of curriculum and research activities from a diverse range of academic departments. Integration of the campus as a living laboratory was accomplished through faculty collaboration efforts with the UW-Whitewater Sustainability Office serving as a conduit to operational sustainability best practices and related data. Beyond our campus, sustainability-themed immersive experiences offer students a look at sustainable development issues globally.


  • 2018 estimated performance:  24.57/41.00; 60%
  • 2015 STARS score:  22.87/41.00; 56%

A continued strength area for the UW-Whitewater Sustainability Office, our most notable success has been to transition several engagement programs to more direct student oversight as we have added several student staff members since 2015. We have also added marketing-focused staff to enhance the robust variety of outreach methods we employ to educate the campus community through our co-curricular programming, including others that involve students directly in this activity (Eco-Reps and Creative Marketing Unlimited for digital media and event outreach). Student organizations, campus events, and outreach materials provide sustainability information and experiences throughout the year. We also participate in organized national sustainability campaigns such as RecycleMania to engage the campus community and partner with various other campus and community organizations to maximize our impact in this area.


  • 2018 estimated performance:  31.93/72.00; 44%
  • 2015 STARS score:  30.63/70.00; 44%

Most operational categories utilize quantitative data to measure performance and in some areas, such as Waste and Water, we had noticeable improvements. Other areas, such as Air & Climate and Energy, saw noticeable improvements since becoming a signatory of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in 2007, but progress has stalled since our last report. There is a baseline of established practices that apply to Buildings that account for consistent scoring in these areas, but room for policy improvement still exists. Food & Dining will likely see increased values in future ore revised assessments, but the data needed for STARS reporting was not available in the format requested for assessment. Other areas, such as Purchasing, are restricted somewhat by UW System or state policies, but data collection methods improved from our previous report. Grounds and Transportation have notable successes, but indicate plenty of room for future growth.

Planning and Administration

  • 2018 estimated performance:  17.22/32.00; 54%
  • 2015 STARS score:  21.12/32.00; 66%)

This area is more difficult to collect data as many of these programs are not coordinated by the Sustainability Office, but the efforts to maintain an inclusive campus are reflected well in the Diversity and Affordability section. Coordination, Planning & Governance also saw strong scores, which reflects the existing efforts to incorporate sustainability in various planning processes already and the strong history of shared governance representation in campus decision-making. There is room for improvement in Health, Well-Being, & Work, but some of these elements are beyond our control, such as compensation, and great strides have been made to improve the living wage on our campus. Investment is a category that we received no points and remains the particular sub-category we could make the most improvements.

Sample of Priorities for FY 2019-21

  • Improve data collection of sustainability activity in academics through consistent faculty outreach and annual reporting of curriculum and research activities.
  • Re-launch Savanna Project sustainability training workshop to encourage more faculty to infuse sustainability concepts into their existing or new curriculum.
  • Develop survey instruments to assess sustainability literacy related to learning outcomes and sustainability culture on campus.
  • Reinforce partnership with Housing through the support of the Eco-Reps peer to peer sustainability training program.
  • Advocate for more campus sustainability leadership in the state and beyond and increase leadership and involvement with community sustainability efforts.
  • Pursue more aggressive energy conservation and renewable energy investment to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas impact.
  • Encourage alternative transportation use and establish a bicycle/pedestrian culture to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use.
  • Establish UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve as a protected area through formal policy.
  • Increase green cleaning product usage and recycling percentage in paper purchasing.
  • Develop data collection methodology with campus dining contractor and formalize reporting process on annual basis.
  • Develop waste and recycling signage and bin consistency and pursue more aggressive outreach campaign to improve recycling rates to 50% diversion.
  • Recommend development of mandatory cultural competence training and providing support for underrepresented staff members.
  • Recommend sustainable investment best practices to University Advancement and Foundation staff for consideration.
  • Write campus Sustainability Plan to inform future decisions and priorities with input from Sustainability Council and campus community.
  • Implement annual reporting cycle for key components of STARS data to improve data accuracy, reliability, and responsiveness from relevant campus contacts.

Campus Garden and Landscape Tours featured in August

As we approach the “dog days” of summer, there is always a lot to enjoy on UW-Whitewater’s campus. In particular, our partnership with the Office of Continuing Education allows us to host several Campus Garden and Landscape Tours every week, sometimes even twice a week, for anyone from campus or the community to come visit and enjoy.

All tours are free and open to the public, but we ask that you register online at or by phone at 262-472-1003. These are walking tours with low activity levels. If you need accommodations or have questions about physical access, please contact Kari Borne or 262-472-1003.

Here is the upcoming list of campus tour dates in August, followed by some details about each tour:

Prairie and Nature Preserve
• Thursday, August 9, 6:30-8:00 PM

Campus Flower Gardens
• Thursday, August 23, 6:00-7:30 PM
• Saturday, August 25, 10:00-11:30 AM

Upham Greenhouse and Campus Vegetable Garden
• Thursday, August 16, 5:00-6:00 PM
• Thursday, August 30, 5:00-6:00 PM

Prairie and Nature Preserve

The UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve and Recreation Area is approximately 100 acres, or about 25% of our total campus land area! This area that includes tennis courts, a softball field, reservable shelters, and walking trails through the 40 acre Friar’s Woods and a significant prairie reconstruction area we’ve featured in previous blog posts at both the beginning of the season and at the very end.  However, the real beauty and enjoyment of the prairie comes throughout the course of the summer months, with the prairie blooms peaking in July but offering something a little different no matter what month you visit.  The first tour this month will immediately follow the Summer Concert Series, so feel free to check out that free event and register to join us for our free prairie walk.  We will provide identification and some interesting facts and historic uses of about 30 prairie species and also talk about the invasive species that can often threaten a prairie habitat.  This walk follows a short looping path through the original prairie reconstruction area.  From this section, seeds are collected each year to distribute to other former agricultural lands in the Nature Preserve to restore this area to an ecosystem one might have found here prior to European settlement.

Photo Credit: UW-Whitewater/Craig Schreiner

Campus Flower Gardens

The Campus Flower Garden tours are a crowd favorite and with good reason.  The FP&M Grounds Crew assigned to the central core we visit on this tour do an excellent job planting a variety of annual and perennial flowering forbs to enjoy blooms throughout the summer, but the efforts peak in their display near the beginning of fall semester each year.  We will take a short, but very meandering walk past about a dozen flower beds and landscaped areas.  Members of the crew that manage this zone will join us for this tour to talk about their work first-hand and provide details on the types of flowers and specific varieties they order to ensure we have a beautiful campus that even begins to approach botanical garden quality!  Additionally, staff from the Sustainability Office will provide details on the sustainable landscaping practices that allow our Grounds Crew to maintain a minimal impact on the environment and on their budget.  Questions are encouraged and this tour is geared toward anyone with a casual appreciation for beauty to those hardcore plant aficionados!

Photo Credit: UW-Whitewater/Craig Schreiner

Upham Greenhouse and Campus Vegetable Garden

The Campus Garden and Upham Greenhouse tour provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the Sustainability Office manages these spaces to maximize student involvement in horticulture throughout the entire year.   The Campus Garden was started in 2013 as a food pantry garden by a Service Learning class focused on food security issues and how the nonprofit Growing Power addressed those issues in urban Milwaukee.  While Whitewater is not overly urban, its lack of a dedicated grocery store does limit access to fresh produce grown without use of pesticides or additional packaging and processing.  From this beginning, the Sustainability Office took over the garden project and grew it to be very impactful in its primary mission to donate between 1500 and 2500 pounds of produce each season.  Garden staff also collect donations from the Whitewater City Market and provide additional tons of produce to the Community Food Pantry each year.  Additionally, student support and involvement has expanded to reach other school and public gardens in our area and inspired the formation of the Gardening Club student organization.  These operations even occur in the winter as students use space in Upham Greenhouse to conduct horticulture experiments and stay involved in plant care in the Biology Department’s specimen collections.

Photo Credit: UW-Whitewater/Craig Schreiner

We hope you can join us for one or several of these tour dates.  Each tour offers a unique perspective on how horticulture and land management practices on UW-Whitewater’s campus not only provide avenues for more sustainable operations, but also offer faculty, staff, students, and community members opportunities to get involved in community service and have a positive impact on our local environment and community.

Meet the Sustainability Fellow!

When it comes to sustainability staff at UW-Whitewater, most people are (hopefully) aware of the full-time Sustainability Coordinator position that has been on campus since 2008.   The Sustainability Office incorporated with student employees added to the team in 2014.  However, many are not aware that as long ago as 2009 there was a faculty Sustainability Fellow that was hired from our existing faculty to coordinate the integration of sustainability into academics, focusing primarily on networking with faculty and providing curriculum training.  This position was created and piloted by Dr. Eric Compas of Geography/Geology/Environmental Science and held most recently by Dr. Josh Mabie of Languages and Literature.  However, the position has not been consistently filled and this led to some inconsistencies in how our sustainability program integrated with academics.

To help address this shortcoming, Provost Susan Elrod decided to reconstitute the Sustainability Fellow position as well as the Sustainability Council, an advisory committee that also had faculty participation but lacked consistent leadership due to the Fellow position being vacant.  Dr. Jonah Ralston of the Political Science Department was selected by a hiring committee to serve as the Sustainability Fellow for a two year term with possibility of renewal for a third year.  Dr. Ralston started his term as Sustainability Fellow in Spring 2018.

We sat down with Dr. Ralston to ask him a few questions about his interest in sustainability topics and what he hopes to accomplish as the Sustainability Fellow during his tenure with the Sustainability Office.

Dr. Jonah Ralston

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and I currently coordinate the university’s Public Policy and Administration program.  I have also had appointments as faculty Sustainability Fellow and Community-based Learning Fellow.  Prior to my current academic position I was employed as a Program Analyst for a non-partisan legislative service agency in Wisconsin and before beginning my doctoral studies at Michigan State University, I had spent three years working as a business analyst with a multinational corporation.  Though these experiences were enriching, I longed for making a more meaningful impact on society.  Eventually this quest for finding greater purpose in my career would lead me to my current employment as a faculty member at UW-Whitewater.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?

My interest in sustainability began during my time as an undergraduate student.  I studied economics, which exposed me to the neoclassical growth model, and I remember being struck by what seemed like a lack of concern for the potential consequences of boundless growth.  In the years since that time I have researched sustainability both personally and professionally with an aim toward understanding how current development models can be made more sustainable.  I have come to view sustainability as an issue that is not only relevant to how we interact with the environment but also to how we treat one another.  Sustainability can be applied to social justice just as easily as it can be applied to environmental protection, and no matter one’s occupation or current lifestyle, sustainability is something we are all capable of striving to achieve.

Why did you want to become the Sustainability Fellow?

I strongly believe in the Wisconsin Idea, namely that our work at the university should improve the lives and environment of the people in our state.  The role our university can play in advancing knowledge on environmental matters cannot be understated.  Research by Jon Miller has demonstrated that the strongest predictor of adult scientific literacy is the number of college science courses that a person has taken.  I think we can extend our university’s impact beyond literacy by incorporating the principles of sustainability into our curriculum, instruction, research, and community outreach.  By focusing on sustainable living we can promote the knowledge that is vital to the long-term health and prosperity of our communities, from the local to the global.

What projects are you currently working on as the Sustainability Fellow?

This semester we reconstituted the Sustainability Council and at this point we have held two meetings.  The Sustainability Fellow serves as co-chair of the Council.  The Council has a broad membership representing a number of different stakeholders on campus and is dedicated to advancing the university’s sustainability initiatives.

A major project I have taken on as Sustainability Fellow is to assist in the opening of a campus food pantry that will improve the sustainability and resiliency of the Warhawk student body.  I have completed a number of tasks in this capacity, such as creating a survey that has been distributed to all current students at UW-Whitewater.  The food pantry will open this semester.

I am assisting the Sustainability Office in completing the university’s next AASHE STARS report, which will be submitted at the end of the semester.  I am working on the academic portion of the report and plan to distribute a survey to all faculty and staff asking them to report on their sustainability efforts related to teaching, research, and service.

What projects do you hope to take on in the future?

I would like to hold a sustainability workshop that would be focused on allowing faculty and academic staff to share their experiences with one another regarding how they have infused sustainability into their curriculum.  For those who have not yet incorporated sustainability into their curriculum, it would be a chance for them to learn about how to do so through guided activities and discussions.

I hope to create a sustainability resource for faculty and staff members, such as a university website where information about how UW-Whitewater faculty and staff have incorporated sustainability into their work would be made available.  I would like this resource to include actual examples from our campus.

What do you hope other faculty and staff members on campus do to become involved in campus sustainability?

It would be wonderful to have more faculty and staff demonstrating their support for sustainability efforts on campus.  That could be by attending a sustainability event or it could be by incorporating sustainability into one’s work.  Sustainability is a big tent and there is a place for anyone who wants to get involved to improve the environmental quality, social equity, and economic vitality of our university community.