Category Archives: sustainability

Sustainability in The Residence Halls

Living in the residence halls for my first two years of college at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was a wake-up call to the reality of energy consumption.  A wake-up call that everyone needs once in a while. We often get stuck in the same pattern and do not realize the effects we have made, whether it be on the environment or something else.  The University has an enrollment of 12,000 students and every student here has a different perspective on values and how they live. One of the values I hold strong in my life is to live more sustainably, which has led me to look at my daily impacts and see how I can change them to help myself towards my goal. I started learning about environmental challenges when I was young. We were taught about the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and how parts of the world that were once covered in trees are now covered by business parks and subdivisions. We started to focus on topics that we were interested in and I saw myself focusing on the effects of pollution or the way we change an ecosystem over time. The more I learned, the more I wanted to change the way I live. As a society we have to analyze our lives and see how we can all grow towards a sustainable future. 

I walked through the halls as an excited freshman, like many of the other students, I grew closer to my fellow classmates, especially those in my learning community. We started to hangout in our dorm rooms almost everyday and I started to realize how much energy we were all wasting. My friends and I would often come back from class or from getting food and I would see their room light had been on since we left. A lot of my friends frequently played video games and often left their consoles on. One day I decided to ask why they didn’t just turn off the devices they weren’t using and they responded to me with, “I don’t have to pay for it, the University does.” This mindset was common around my friends and a majority of the other students as well. They do not care because they do not directly see the bill, when they should. The housing cost for a double room is $4,430 per year (as of 2021) at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The cost includes the basics of housing, which means it includes electricity. So everyone that is paying for housing on campus is paying for the electricity. 

Vampire Energy is another issue that people often don’t see the impact of directly. Vampire Energy, or Standby Energy, was given this name because many individuals assume that because the appliance isn’t on means it is not drawing energy. In actuality, The Department of Energy has estimated that around 10% of the energy in an average household is spent on vampire energy alone. (Slay the energy vampires in your home 2021). The easiest way to avoid wasting energy is just to unplug electrical appliances that you are not currently using.

I have started making it a daily habit so I am not wasting money on energy that I am not using. When I make breakfast in the morning, I unplug the toaster and my tv after I use it. Even though unplugging appliances seems insignificant, it does provide many benefits. I have only recently started doing this (since I am living in my own house and now realize bills are quite expensive) and I have already started to notice my bills becoming gradually cheaper. Saving money is important for a lot of people and it is also a good way to start living sustainably. The use of energy is often looked at as something that we can keep creating. This is true, but the environmental impact on the way we get energy negatively impacts the planet. The less energy we use, the less negative impact it will have on the environment.

There are plenty of more ways to make your residence hall room more energy efficient and sustainable! There has been an increase of sustainable products in the past few years which means they are more accessible to find! Start small and swap out things you run out of. Are you done with your plastic toothbrush? Find one made out of bamboo that is biodegradable. Run out of shampoo that was in a plastic container? Search the web for solid shampoo and conditioner bars, or you can even look up a recipe to make your own! Before you add something to your shopping list try researching to see if there is an eco-friendly alternative that you might like instead. 

Another way to become more sustainable is by reusing items. Instead of shopping for dorm necessities, see if any of your friends that have graduated from college are getting rid of their old items. You won’t have to pay as much and new products are not being made, this helps save natural resources that can be used elsewhere or not at all. If you are off-campus, try going to a secondhand store to buy used furniture. If you don’t know what you need for your dorm or off-campus apartment, then do not buy anything right away. Oftentimes, people buy furniture that they do not need and end up wasting money, and afterwards it could end up in the landfill.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a common phrase we have heard since we were young and we often forget about the most basic part, recycling. There are a lot of myths people assume about recycling; for example, anything plastic can be thrown into the recycling. This however is not always true. Each city has their own rules and it depends on the company that provides the service. Whitewater takes plastic #1-7 which means that relatively all the plastic you have should be recycled if it has any of these numbers inside the recycling logo. Our city has a cheat sheet that provides everything you would want to possibly know about recycling in our community. 

A recent addition to the slogan Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are the phrases Refuse and Repurpose. The former is about saying no to products you do not need. Living on a college campus there is bound to be free handouts that most people decide to take. Flyers handed out are often thrown in the next garbage can, instead just don’t take the items offered. The latter, Repurposing, is focused on the idea of mending items you already have. Individuals often just throw items away that they believe are broken when all they need is to mend it. Taking the time to see if you can repurpose a product will save you money and instead of depleting resources from the environment you are able to repair the item or turn it into something new.

Even one small step can help the planet especially if we all take the initiative to make it a daily habit. Turning off the lights in the daytime might just make you realize that it’s a better mood to study in. Unplug your electronics and you might not get distracted from your schoolwork as much. Replacing your old plastic shampoo with a new solid shampoo bar might help you find a new scent that you really enjoy.  When you are shopping for a new pair of sneakers that just launched take a moment to think if you really need them. A lot of sustainable actions are more cost effective and can help you save money. Starting off with something small might make you realize how important that first step is. 

4 Ways to Eat Local

Eating local is beneficial to both the environment and our health. It’s estimated that U.S. meals have traveled 1,500 miles from farm to plate. These lengthy transportation times require crops to be harvested prematurely and result in lower nutritional content that continues to decline before being consumed. Local food travels shorter distances, which also means less fuel and fewer greenhouse gases.

Wisconsin’s water, soil, and climate contribute to it being ranking as one of the nation’s leading agricultural states. Here in south-central Wisconsin, we have a number of options available to access fresh, local foods during our growing season.  Eating locally can significantly reduce your individual carbon footprint by avoiding the travel, but it also has health benefits because organic produce tends to be more affordable when purchased locally and directly from producers.

1. Shop at a food co-op

Co-ops generally seek local, organic, quality foods and dry goods. Rather than being privately or investor-owned, food cooperatives are owned and governed by the community.  These grocery stores are open for all to shop but also welcome shoppers to join as member-owners, allowing them to vote on decisions regarding the operations of the co-op. To find a co-op near you, visit  Currently, the closest co-op in operating to Whitewater is Basics Cooperative, but there is there’s a co-op coming to Whitewater hopefully soon!

Whitewater Grocery Co. serves to nourish and educate the community while offering local foods, natural choices, and gourmet options. Planning efforts for the Whitewater GroCo began in 2016 and they anticipate opening in the next few years once they reach their target ownership goal of 1,000. For membership options and more information visit

The  408th owner of the Whitewater Grocery Co. (Source: Whitewater Grocery Co.)

2. Shop at local farmers markets

Whether you’re shopping for produce, honey, flowers, meats, products from the farmers market are minimally processed and more humane than conventional agriculture. You’re also able to meet farmers and artisans directly to learn about how and where your food is made. While farmers markets usually offer produce, some also have various forms of entertainment including music, food trucks, art, crafts, and other products. Going to local markets is a fun thing to do with family, friends, or to meet new people within the community. Check out to find farmers markets in your area.

Whitewater has two weekly farmers markets available throughout the growing season! From May through October, the Whitewater City Market is held at the Historic Train Depot (301 W. Whitewater St.) on Tuesdays from 4-7 PM. The Whitewater Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays from 8 AM-12 PM at the True Value (1415 W. Main Street).

Clint from Regenerative Roots selling produce at the Whitewater City Market (Source: Whitewater City Market)

3. Join a CSA

Community supported agriculture (CSA) connects consumers to local food directly from farmers. By purchasing an annual “share,” members are provided with fresh, seasonal produce and other specialty products. Product offerings and delivery options vary by CSA.  Visit to find a CSA near you.

UW-Whitewater is a host site for Wholesome Harvest CSA, a family farm located in Fort Atkinson, WI that offers a variety of membership options for their products including produce, meats, and eggs with weekly deliveries to the University Center for its members.  They anticipate achieving organic certification in the next year or so and have used organic methods for a number of years.  Additionally, the city of Whitewater is served by Regenerative Roots, a Certified Organic farm located near Jefferson, WI that delivers to The SweetSpot Cafe.  As an added bonus, CSAs are typically looking for summer help and can be a great job for students to learn more about farming and gardening produce!

Fresh tomatoes growing at Wholesome Harvest CSA. (Source: Wholesome Harvest Farm)

4. Start your own garden

Growing your vegetables is as local as it gets! If you don’t have the space or aren’t ready to commit to a traditional garden bed, container gardening is a manageable alternative and easy way to get started. Joining a community garden is another option, allowing you to rent a garden plot for the season. This also gives you the opportunity to connect with fellow gardeners to share tips and tricks! Attending volunteer sessions at the UW-Whitewater Campus Garden is another option to learn about gardening maintenance first hand.

Whitewater Community Garden (1201 Innovation Drive) has 30 plots available to the public with access to water and tools included in the rental fee. If you’re not in the Whitewater area, you can search for local community gardens at

Pepper seedlings planted at the Campus Garden. (Source: UW-Whitewater/Craig Schreiner)




UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative

Are you a student, faculty member or someone interested in sustainability who is curious about what actions Whitewater is taking to better our Earth? Or, perhaps you don’t know the first thing about sustainability.  In any case, what you may not know is that sustainable efforts are happening all around you.

The UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative is a student-led group, on campus, with two main objectives. First,  is to promote awareness of the sustainable efforts going on around you, and also to engage you to live more sustainably.

Earth Initiative plans events on campus that aim to inform as well as to entertain. An example from last year was the recyclable fashion show. Recyclables were collected from around campus and were brought to the Hyland Atrium. Attendees formed groups and used their creativity to design and create their own outfit purely out of recyclables. Judges decided the winners and awesome prizes were given out!

This year, Earth Initiative is planning to improve their outreach on campus. Planning events in each of the Colleges on campus and partnering with other organizations. If your organization is interested in partnering with UW-Whitewater’s Earth Initiative feel free to reach out to us via Facebook, at Sustainability at UW-Whitewater.

The Whitewater Earth Initiative also encourages you to be more sustainable!  One way you can go about doing this is to help us out by volunteering.  We offer an exciting volunteer opportunity restoring Whitewater’s prairies. If you would like to participate, meet at 10am Friday mornings by the Prairie Info Kiosk behind the Wells Towers. It’s a fun, and relaxing, opportunity to help maintain our prairies for future generations.

-Rachel Mader

Take Back The Tap

Take Back The Tap is  a national campaign designed to spread awareness of the harmful effects of bottled water on the environment, as well as to reduce the use of bottled water in general.  The program is ran through Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit that works to ensure that our consumables are healthy and safe. Take Back The Tap works to let people know that tap water is a more sustainable alternative to bottled water. Tap water is  proven to be safe, healthy, and of course cheap.  In fact, bottled water oftentimes simply comes from a tap!

Although it is a national campaign, Take Back The Tap has only recently come to UW-Whitewater.  SAGE Vice President, Cam Barker, is currently leading the campaign here on campus.  This Monday, September 16th, a group of motivated people with a passion for sustainability met and talked about goals for the program, and how the group will accomplish them.

Last year on campus, for example, over 18,000 disposable plastic water bottles were sold on campus.  That’s not even including vending machines, or special events!  The goal for UW-Whitewater Take Back The Tap is to reduce that number this year to only 10,000 water bottles, and eventually to ban the sale of bottled water on campus completely.   Currently, a vending contract prevents the ban of bottled water sales until at least 2016, but Take Back The Tap is actively working to make sure that when the contract expires the new contract allows for the ban.  They hope to accomplish this by building support from students and faculty alike.

Currently, they already have support from Deans of several of the different Colleges on campus, and they hope to gain support from all of them in the near future.  However, student support is likely what will really make the difference.

Another goal they are pushing for is the installation of water bottle filling stations on campus that encourage the use of reusable water bottles.  Currently, these filling stations are present in each of the residence halls, as well as several other buildings around campus.  Take Back The Tap is trying to encourage the University to install them in more buildings, including high traffic areas like the Center of the Arts.

If this is a cause you support, keep an eye out for Take Back The Tap on campus.  They believe that they can only accomplish the change that they hope for if they develop an obvious and visible following from the student body.  If you would like to know more, feel free to visit their Facebook page to take a look at their future events, and learn when you can come pledge to stop using bottled water.

UW-Whitewater Take Back The Tap on Facebook-

-David Zindler

UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative

Sustainability full color image

UW-W Earth Initiative Has Been Busy Planning Events!

While creating events and programming to actively engage students is an important aspect of the UW-W Earth Initiative, it is also important to educate individuals about the main purpose and components of our Sustainability Campaign. In order to accomplish this, we have created a sustainability video to increase awareness about this campus and community wide campaign.

Key ideas highlighted within this video include the explanation of the UW-W Earth Initiative brand name and the campaign slogan, “Social. Sensible. Sustainable.”

Please watch this video to learn more about this campaign and see how you can increase sustainable practices in your daily lives:

Thank you for joining the Conservation Conversation, until next time…


Sustainability Coordinator

Hello UW-Whitewater Community!

My name is Wesley Enterline and I am the first Sustainability Coordinator for our campus.  I have been a UW-W student for seven years total and for the last two years as the part-time Sustainability Coordinator.  I am pleased to announce that the Sustainability Coordinator position has been established as a full-time, permanent position!  I look forward to continuing my work with the campus to advance our sustainability goals!  Check back to this blog regularly to get articles pertinent to campus sustainability.

Please visit the UW-Whitewater Sustainability site for more information on sustainability in academics, operations and individual involvement and participation.    You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with sustainability developments on campus.  We also want to hear from you!  Visit our Sustainability Wiki to add your information on sustainability efforts or research and sign up for our Sustainability Listserv by sending the subscription command for  Finally, you can contact me via email at or call my office at 472-6709 to discuss anything directly!