Category Archives: Uncategorized

Water Recycling

On the International Space Station, astronauts could drink and shower with the same water for well over a year before they would be forced to get water from another ship.  That raises the question, why are most of us so wasteful with water in our everyday life?

Being sustainable while saving money at the same time is something we can all get behind. In our everyday lives, there are many opportunities for us to make sustainable choices. One of these ways is through the conservation of water.  Simply turning off your faucet while brushing your teeth, cutting back on shower times, and waiting until the dishwasher is full are all easy ways that we can reduce our water usage at home or in student housing. Rainwater can also be collected and reused to irrigate gardens or other landscaping. During the hot summer months, this can be especially important. Rainfall can also be filtered to remove pollutants, leaving the water potable (drinkable).  These minor changes can end up meaning savings on your water bills, but what else makes water conservation and filtration so important?


Water filtration is an increasingly important factor in countries that do not have easy access to drinkable water. Many times, drinkable water is used for non-potable reasons such as watering plants. However, non-potable water cannot be used to drink due to pollutants present in the water. Discovering ways that we can better collect, conserve, and filter water can mean great benefits for all of us.


Campus Prairie Restoration

Have you ever been behind the Wells Towers, and seen the large prairie down the road?  Have you ever wondered what it is, or why it is there? What that area actually is, is a nature preserve where the campus is making efforts to restore native prairie species.

About 15,000 years ago, two small glacial formations (Drumlins) formed there and created the 110 acre area that you see today.  There are lots of trails you can hike, but the area in and of itself is quite interesting.  Each week, staff and students go into the prairie and collect seeds from the native species.  Before winter, those seeds are spread out to areas where we hope to expand the prairie to, and to promote biodiversity.

The area has grown rapidly since the restoration project began, and the prairie is thriving.  It is not only plant species that this restoration benefits either!  Pictured below is the Upland Plover. This rare bird is one of 8 species currently being considered for “endangered” status by the state of Wisconsin.  However, one of these birds was recently spotted in the prairie, and this has gained attention from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Below, you can see the bird, as well as several of the plant species that are commonly found in the prairie.  Don’t forget, you can always help! The UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative, SAGE, and other orgs come to help collect seeds every Friday morning at 10am, and you can too!  Not only is it fun and sustainable, but you can get volunteer hours for your efforts!

Check out this video below, which shows what one of these prairie seed collections looks like, and provides some more insights as to the purpose of collecting and seeding the prairie!

Pictured (left to right): Upland Plover, Rattlesnake Master, Showy Goldenrod

220px-UplandSandpiperOntarioCroppedRattlesnake Mastergoldenrod

Beyond Recycling

When many students hear “sustainability” they probably think “recycling” or maybe even just turning off the lights when they leave a room.  While those things are sustainable acts, sustainability encompasses much more.  Many campuses around the country, including UW-Whitewater, are starting measures to become sustainable.  Even better, they are doing so in creative ways.


Massachusetts Maritime Academy, for example, thought outside of the solar panel when it came to producing renewable energy on campus.  While many campuses have at least some solar panels producing energy for their students, this school has taken to installing wind turbines on campus.  Currently, the school saves over $160,000 per year in energy costs due to the wind turbine energy output, and that was just from their first turbine!  They plan to install many more in the future.


Wisconsin’s own Ripon College found another creative solution to the burning of fossil fuels.  Due to concerns about the pollution of students with cars (and parking concerns) Ripon College instituted a brand new program where incoming college freshman get a free bike, bike lock, and helmet if they pledge to use them instead of driving to class!  The College even received donations from local businesses so that it costs the school little to nothing.


Many colleges, including UW-Whitewater, are strongly supporting ride-share programs as well!  These can be as simple as a web page organized by the school, where commuting students (or those who are just going home for the weekend) post where they need to go, where they are already driving, and how many open seats they have.  Not only does this drastically cut down on the number of cars and the roads, and therefor emissions, but it also gives everyone somebody to talk to on those long, boring drives back home!


As you can see, there is much more to sustainability than just recycling.  These are just a few of the creative ways that some schools are encourages their students to protect the Earth for future generations.




Earth Initiative


Filabot: Changing Plastics

Have you heard of 3D printing?  Basically, it works much in the same way as an inkjet printer.  However, instead of ink it uses plastic, and obviously prints in 3 dimensions.  This offers the average person endless opportunities.  The amateur inventor no longer has to look for a manufacturer to make their prototype.  They can simply print it out on their desk.

3D printing also offers exciting opportunities for society as a whole.  Some suggest that in the future, whole houses could be 3D printed in under 20 hours!  3D modular homes could be used to replace rundown slums in inner cities.  Medical products have been made available to poor areas because of the inexpensive 3D manufacturing process as well.

A new product, called the Filabot, is looking to make 3D printing look like an even more enticing option.  This product allows you to take your recyclable plastics (numbers 1-7) and melt them down right in your own home.  The device fits on a desktop, and produces the plastic filament used in the 3D printing process.  In theory, one could take their old milk jugs, turn them into an exciting new product, and melt the result down again if you aren’t satisfied.

The project, which is run by a 20 year old entrepreneur, is still in its infancy.  The first consumer units are now shipping, and new models are in development that increase convenience and efficiency.  In the future, it is entirely possibly that all of our recyclables can be reused in the home to make other needed items around the house.

This device allows you to take your ideas and turn them into reality using resources you otherwise were just putting in the recycling bin.

Here is a video of a small prototype in action!


Earth Initiative

Kettle Moraine State Forest

It’s that time of the year again! The crisp smell of fall in the air; orange, yellow, red, and brown are becoming the primary colors. Now that you have gotten into the groove of school and work, it’s time to get a breath of fresh air and clear your mind before midterms come barreling in.
Where do I go? What do I do?
Well, let me tell you!
The Kettle Moraine State Forest has over 22,000 acres of hills, valleys, ponds, and lakes that are open for you to explore. It’s a great place that is always changing with the seasons!
This enchanting state park begins in Walworth County and extends through Kewaunee County. Created by the Greenbay Lobe and the Lake Michigan Lobe of the glacier, the Kettle Moraine has unique features that many other states do not have. These unique features include valleys ranging from three to 200 feet in depth, small ponds, large lakes, and hills up to 300 feet high.
The DNR has given you 160 miles of trails that allow you to see these wonderful features. One of the many nature trails include a short half mile trail up to one of the highest points in Jefferson County.

Not only that, but the Bald Bluff Nature Trail also used to be a former Native American signal hill. You can grab your horse and ride it around the Kettle Moraine for 87 miles also. Finally, don’t forget the beautiful Ice Age Trail!  If backpacking or hiking is your thing, then this trail is the premier destination for you! It stretches throughout Wisconsin for more than 1,000 miles, and goes right past Whitewater!

If neither of these peak your interests, don’t worry! Go ahead and canoe, go boating, fish, kayak, hunt and trap, practice target shooting, and go camping. Once the fluffy white snow begins to fall and the temperature drops, break out your cross-country skis, snow shoes, snowmobile, and ice fishing gear and head on over to the Kettle Moraine.

Go and make some memories today!

-Katie Barker


Earth Initiative

Cold Weather Tips

It’s that time of year again where the warm weather days are far and few between and the wonderfully chilly Wisconsin autumn weather begins to creep in.  If there is one thing we Wisconsinites know, it is that winter’s knock is fast approaching. That got me thinking: what are some ways I can continue to be sustainable as the colder weather moves in?

During the warm summer months, it is easy for us to go for a swim, ride a bike through the breeze, or grab a Popsicle to cool down instead of running the air conditioning or fans all day. However, during the winter months, we often forget that we can still be “green” even when the landscape outside is not. Here are just a few simple tips that can help us reduce energy costs.

  • Check for any gaps in your windows and doors and get them filled or covered. Heat from you building or apartment can escape through these cracks, and cold air can blow in.
  • Cover your windows with blinds or thick curtains. Doing this can reduce the amount of heat that escapes or the amount of cool air that blows in.
  • Wear layers to trap heat close to your body.
  • Try warming up by exercising, drinking a cup of warm soup, or wrapping yourself in a blanket. Wool is an especially good insulator.
  • A major source of heat loss on your body is through your feet. Wearing slippers or thick socks can keep you from feeling the bite of the cold weather.
  • The most fun way to stay warm is to invite friends over to play board games, eat dinner, or do homework.  The body heat being given off by other people in close proximity will keep the whole group warm.

As always, no matter what time of year it is, properly recycling disposables, reusing and repurposing products, and reducing the amount of waste produced are great ways to decrease our impact. With these tips, we can be sustainable year-round and show that living better is always in season.

-Ethan Wilke

Family Fest and Campus Sustainability Day

It’s October already?  I guess what they say really is true; time flies when you’re being sustainable.  It’s a good thing you checked into the Conservation Conversation when you did.  In the upcoming weeks of October, there will be numerous events for you to take part in and enjoy.

“Get set for good food and lots of fun with carnival games, prizes, professional family photos with Willie Warhawk, face painting, music, and more!”  On Saturday, October 12, UW-Whitewater will be hosting Family Fest, an interactive and fun-filled event that is sure to bring enjoyment to all who attend.

Family Fest events will be held in the Kachel Field House from 11:30AM to 2:00PM.  Costs to attend events are as follows:

  • Adult Ticket: $12.75
  • Children under 10: $4.50 (3 and under are free)
  • Warhawks without a meal plan: $8.75
  • Warhawks with a meal plan: No Cost! (Students must present HawkCard at event to use their meal plan)

After Family Fest has concluded, you can watch your UW-Whitewater Warhawks take the field to battle UW-Stout Blue Devils at Perkins Stadium.  Kickoff will be at 2:30PM, so come and show your support for the Warhawks.

Following Family Fest, on Wednesday, October 23, UW-Whitewater will be celebrating Campus Sustainability Day.  There will be multiple events around campus for you to participate in.  In particular, the UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative will be hosting a table in the University Center asking for your participation in a plastic bag collection.  This event asks you to bring in 20 plastic shopping bags and in return you can receive a FREE reusable Sentry grocery bag.  Did I mention it’s FREE and REUSABLE?

As time continues to fly, make sure to take some time to enjoy your October by attending Family Fest and Campus Sustainability Day.  Feel free to let us know what you thought about either or both events on Facebook or Twitter.


Facebook: Sustainability at UW-Whitewater

Twitter: @sustainable_uww

Earth Initiative

Organic Campus Garden: Coming Soon!

Community Garden Interview

 What exactly is a community garden?

The campus garden is actually not going to be a community garden.  A community garden like the one that exists near the Innovation Center in Whitewater sells plots to individuals to garden during the season.  They share water and tools, but have their own plots.  Our campus garden will be managed by the same larger group of individuals as one large plot.  This could be more accurately be called the “campus organic garden.”

What is the point of a community garden, why should I care?

A garden is important for providing local, organic food inexpensively.  Organic produce is important because conventional produce uses intensive farming methods that are highly reliant on fossil fuel inputs as fertilizer, pesticides, and fuel for equipment.  Not only does this produce have a high carbon footprint as a result, but it also can have adverse health effects through pesticide exposure.  Eating organically helps avoid the pesticide exposure and lowers the carbon footprint, but often the produce is still shipped in from hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.  Given the more intensive methods, but many of the same transportation costs, often the prices are significantly higher than conventionally grown produce.

A garden helps provide this superior produce to individuals at a much lower cost because the fossil fuel inputs are often nearly zero because of the local, small-scale production.

Where is this going to be located?

The garden will be located in several circular plots located in the vacant lot between Moraine Bookstore and Ambrose Health Center.

How big will it be?

The nine circle plots total approximately 1440 square feet.  We plan on cultivating seven of the nine plots in total for vegetables, and will put flowers for cutting and for bird seed in the remaining two.  We will also be assisting the Children’s Center in Roseman to get their garden beds set up.

Who will take care of and plant the garden?

The garden is being planned and implemented as part of a Service Learning course through Geography, with Tom Karthausser and Kara Meissen as advisors.  Since then, we have recruited a team of students, faculty, and staff interested in helping us maintain the garden over the summer while the Service Learning students are gone.  I am providing logistical and planning support and Cameron Barker, an RA and VP-elect of SAGE, is functioning as our student manager and has been helping Tom in the Upham Greenhouse getting our plants started.  We have gotten a great response and team of people interested in helping and will be looking for more people looking to get involved.

What will be grown in the garden?

We have a variety of seeds already started for transplant, including broccoli, swiss chard, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and zucchini.  Some items, such as carrots, will be planted directly in the ground.

Where will the produce go?

During the first year, the garden will be substantially grant funded through the Student Sustainability Fund.  The produce for our first year will be primarily donated to the Whitewater Food Pantry, but we will be exploring partnerships with UW-W Dining Services and other local restaurants to help make the garden financially sustainable in future years.

How can I get involved with the garden?

You can email me at or call me at 472-6709 to express your interest and discuss your level of knowledge about gardening.  We welcome all interested people, regardless of experience, as much of the garden will be a learning process for those of us who are planning it as well!  We are specifically looking for people who will be in Whitewater during the summer, when most of the help is needed.

Any other questions you think should be answered please just add them!

Earth Week Recap!

Earth Week Recap

UW-Whitewater’s Earth Week 2013 has come to an end with very successful results! We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the week long celebration to support sustainability and environmental protection. Numerous events took place throughout the week which encouraged students, faculty, and community members to make a difference and really understand how important sustainability is to our local community and each community on Earth!

Here ‘s a recap of some of the Earth Week events:

Photo and Video Contest

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Earth week Photo and Video Contest! During the Recyclable Fashion Show all the beautiful pictures submitted were able to be viewed on the big screen in Hyland Hall. They attracted a huge crowd!

Earth Week Tabling

April 22-24th, 2013

The UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative hosted a table at three locations on the campus. We had a table at the University Center, Hyland Hall, and Esker Dining Hall. The tabling event consisted of informing students about the UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative as well as to play “Race to Recycle.” The Race to Recycle game was a crowd favorite to help the students actively engage in common items that are mistakenly recycled on a daily basis. This was able to reach students as well as faculty. Overall, there 80 water bottles given away throughout the duration of all the tabling events. The tabling achieved communication and participation between UW-Whitewater students and faculty, created awareness of common recyclable mistakes, and made recycling accessible and easier to understand for students, in a fun and creative way!

The Chancellor even stopped by and won a water bottle by participating in Race to Recycle. Hopefully he will start using the water bottle more so that students as well as faculty have more exposure to the UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative!

Recyclable Fashion Show

April 24th, 2013

The UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative hosted an All Campus Recyclable Fashion Show on April 24th. Prior to the event, there was a recycle drive to gather enough materials for the students to use and then they were given 30 minutes to construct an outfit and then were judged by three “celebrity judges” in several different categories. Overall, there were 8 teams, consisting of 5-7 people on each team. The participants were given a UW-Whitewater Earth Initiative water bottle. The winners of the competition were given the Geo Location of the trees that were planted by “Treenewal” which is being done by CEO. There were a total of five trees donated to the winners. In the end, 20 large trash bags of recyclable materials were also able to be recycled. This event actively engaged students in the practices of recycling while at the same time helped to create relationships between several organizations on campus!

Make-A-Difference Day

April 26th, 2013

This not only involved campus involvement but community participation as well! Some of the main goals of Make-A-Difference Day include developing brand awareness and increasing student engagement.

Do-One-Thing Pledge “Sustainability Wall”

April 22-24th, 2013

The Sustainability wall encouraged students to pledge one thing they would do from now on in order to be more sustainable here on the UW-Whitewater campus. The premise of this activity was to encourage students to become more aware of what they can do to be more sustainable. The Chancellor was even able to stop by and sign the wall! Students could either actively participate, by signing the wall and taking the pledge, or passively participate, by seeing the wall in the UC and Hyland.

Movie “YERT”

April 25th, 2013

The ecological movie “YERT” (Your Environmental Road Trip) is a movie about three friends who hit the road with the goal of using the least amount of garbage possible. On Thursday, April 25th it was shown in Summer’s Auditorium at the University Center. Participants were sure to have gotten some laughs throughout the movie while learning some great waste reducing tips.

Thank you for joining the Conservation Conversation!

Recycling Rumors Around Campus

Do you really think the recycling on campus gets recycled? I heard the garbage and recycling just goes to the same place anyways…

 Have you ever heard a friend or fellow student say something like the statement above? My guess is yes. These rumors have been circulating around UW-Whitewater for quite some time. Many students believe the recycling bins around campus and other sustainability efforts are just for show, and that the university does it just to promote being sustainable even though they aren’t. Even students living off campus are sometimes suspicious as to whether or not recycling is even worth it. Whitewater, being a relatively small college town, seems susceptible to such false accusations.

To get the truth of the matter, I contacted John’s Disposal Service and asked them directly if collected garbage and recycling is separated, or if these rumors may have any merit.

Brent Flikkema, Sales Manager at John’s Disposal had this to say:

 I can absolutely and unequivocally state that this rumor is false!  Here is why!

1.) Separate trucks pickup the recycle dumpsters full of recycling.  It would not make sense to take this to the landfill when our recycling sorting facility is right here in Whitewater.

 2.) Johns must pay for the garbage that is brought to landfills by our garbage truck.  Because of that, our driver(s) and our company are very proactive in trying to reduce the amount of recycling that ends up in the garbage.

3.) Johns has been recycling as a company for many years…long before the recycle laws were put in place.  Our ‘single-stream’ recycle program is one of the most inclusive in the state.

4.) The materials that we collect from the University are sorted, baled and shipped all over the world to be used in making more consumer products. 

 I appreciate all the help in getting the rumors stopped and also to encourage everyone to recycle properly.

Please start spreading the rumor that there is still a lot of recycling in the garbage bags that people are throwing in the garbage.  This is actually true and would make a big difference in our landfills if it could be corrected.

It is clear that rumors about dumping all trash collected into the same area are false! Point number two really helps you understand that John’s Disposal is set to profit more when they have less recycling disposed of in their garbage, which in turn is incentive to promote recycling.

Make sure to keep recycling and encourage other to do the same!