Students in environmental sustainability majors paired up with UW-Platteville’s Sustainable Coordinator, Amy Seeboth-Wilson, to host “Sustainability: Reduce Your Footprint” on December 5. Through this event, students learned about what sustainability is and how to reduce their personal, ecological and carbon footprints. “We want to teach people about the carbon footprint and how they can reduce it,” junior Industrial Engineering major Amber Rohlena commented. The event started with a quiz. Test-takers evaluated eleven items, all from around campus, to determine if they are thrown in the landfill, recycled or compostable. The items included spoons, cups, lids, to-go boxes from the Haus, Starbucks cups and lids, tin foil and cardboard from the Perk, and soup bowls, soup lids and salad boat from the Crossing. Students were shocked when they found out that the spoons from the Crossing are compostable because they are made from corn.
Next, Seeboth-Wilson spoke about what sustainability is using the United Nations’ definition:, “sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” She gave examples of what she does to reduce her own footprint and emphasized that is hard to start but once you get into a routine, it is easier to reduce your footprint. She uses a reusable mug because she can put hot or cold drinks in it; she brings a reusable produce bag to grocery stores to save from using plastic; she makes her own cheese, yogurt and sauerkraut, and finally, she uses bar soap. All of these help the environment, but also save money.
She stated that “we [UW-Platteville] are ranked silver in The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and we [UW-Platteville] are listed in the Princeton Review in 2019.” AASHE leads a Sustainability, Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) program that rates colleges and universities on its performance in sustainability goals. It is aimed towards high-achieving colleges but is also used as an entry point for colleges who are taking the first steps towards sustainability. STARS provides a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education and compares institutions using a common set of measurements developed with broad participation from the international campus sustainability community. It creates incentives for improvements, facilitates information sharing about higher-education sustainability practices and performances and it builds a stronger and more diverse campus sustainability community. Following the short presentation, everyone calculated their own ecological footprint. The results were broken down into land type: built-up land, forest products, cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds and carbon footprint. The other category was consumption; food, shelter, mobility, goods and services. A discussion took place on what each participant had, and trivia wrapped up the event with topics of animals, Earthday, health, pollution, UW Platteville and sustainability. “There’s a lot of people who don’t know about sustainability and we need to think about the future” junior Engineering Physics Major Megan Perry, one of the student hosts, remarked.