Tag: sustainability

Lawrence’s sustainability efforts place it on annual “Green Colleges” listing

Main Hall is seen among the fall colors of October. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Ongoing sustainability efforts on campus have landed Lawrence University on a listing of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges.

The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 Edition, released in late October, includes Lawrence among the 416 schools being highlighted for strong “sustainability-related policies, practices, and programs.”

Being chosen sends an important message to all Lawrentians, as well as prospective students, about Lawrence’s priorities, said Grace Subat, the university’s sustainability and special projects fellow.

“Sustainability is the future of everything,” she said. “We know the environmental crisis is just getting worse every day, and I think prospective students seeing that Lawrence is committed to and taking action on trying to combat that on our campus is really, really important.”

Lawrence’s Presidential Committee on Sustainability oversees efforts to instill a culture of sustainable long-range planning, working with student organizations and other departments across campus to develop and implement programs and practices that enhance good environmental stewardship. Projects such as the student-run Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG), partnerships with Bon Appétit, recycling efforts, and research on bees and other pollinators have highlighted some of that work.

To learn more about Lawrence’s sustainability efforts, see here.

Lawrence recently contracted with Johnson Controls on a $5.5 million upgrade of lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment to lower the campus’ utility consumption and reduce its carbon footprint. The ongoing project, which started this summer amid COVID-19 safety protocols, includes the installation of LED lighting in 17 buildings on campus, the replacement of chillers that serve the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, the replacement of inefficient steam traps campus wide, and upgrades to mechanical and fume hood systems in Steitz and Youngchild halls.

“No one is forcing us to put these measures in place,” Subat said of the sustainability-focused work. “We’re taking accountability for it and doing it ourselves. I think that is important to all Lawrentians and is going to draw prospective students who care about those issues. They know because they’ve grown up hearing all of the facts about climate change and what needs to be done.”

The Princeton Review, an education services company, has put out the Green Colleges guide each of the past 10 years, and Lawrence has consistently been on the list. Lawrence also landed on the Princeton Review’s 2021 guide to the Best 386 Colleges earlier this year, and it placed No. 3 in the ranking of Best Impact Schools in the country.

“Each and every one of the outstanding colleges in this edition of our guide offers both excellent academics and exemplary evidence of environmental commitment,” said Rob Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Campus upgrades in lighting, heating, AC part of “innovative” $5.5M agreement

Infrastructure upgrades, including in the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, are expected to decrease energy usage on campus by more than 20 percent. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has signed a $5.5 million agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. to upgrade lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment on its campus, in the process lowering the school’s utility consumption and reducing its carbon footprint.

The agreement is part of a 20-year innovative payment contract with the Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls that allows the sustainability-focused work to be done now with no up-front capital costs to Lawrence. The savings in utility costs that will come from the energy efficiency upgrades, along with fewer repair and replacement costs, will pay for the project over the next two decades.

The project includes the installation of LED lighting in 17 buildings on campus, the replacement of chillers that serve the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, the replacement of inefficient steam traps campus wide, and upgrades to mechanical and fume hood systems in Steitz and Youngchild halls. Other targeted heating and air conditioning upgrades also will be completed across campus.

“The work will reduce Lawrence University’s utility costs and its carbon footprint while improving lighting quality and the comfort and safety of building occupants,” said Aaron Rittenhouse, Midwest program leader for Johnson Controls. “The project is expected to reduce the campus’ energy usage by more than 20 percent.”

Johnson Controls recently entered into similar contingent payment performance contracts with a handful of other private colleges and universities. It puts the onus on the company to guarantee that its work will provide the promised savings. Once the work is done, the company continues to monitor the upgrades and verify that expectations are being met. If the university is not seeing the agreed-upon efficiencies, it’s Johnson Controls’ responsibility to make the needed adjustments.

The payment program is an alternative to traditional debt financing, one that gives Lawrence advantages when it comes to managing its long-term debt, said Jenna Stone, Lawrence’s associate vice president of finance. By not taking on additional debt for these infrastructure projects, the University gives itself flexibility for future borrowing.

“Our partnership with Johnson Controls has allowed Lawrence to pursue important capital renewal that support Lawrence’s goal of decreasing our carbon footprint without limiting the University’s capacity to fund other capital projects,” Stone said.

Mechanical upgrades in Steitz and Youngchild halls will enhance air filtration in those buildings. It’s part of $5.5 million in utility enhancements planned across campus.

Dane Lindholm, lead financial analyst for structured finance at Johnson Controls, said the company guarantees that energy and utility savings from the infrastructure upgrades will pay for the project over the 20-year life of the contract, providing a boost to the school’s sustainability efforts while not requiring it to take on added debt.

“If the projected savings don’t materialize, Johnson Controls will cover the difference up to the amount we have guaranteed,” Lindholm said. “The University has set-off rights, meaning Johnson Controls will provide a credit on its next quarterly invoice if the projected savings do not meet the utility savings we guaranteed. Essentially, Johnson Controls owns the risk of performance.”

The work will begin this summer and continue through spring. Lawrence officials will work with the Johnson Controls team to ensure that the work is scheduled around the school’s educational needs and is done with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in place.

“There are safety protocols already in place as crews enter and exit the campus,” said Russell Garcia, director of higher education at Johnson Controls.

Private colleges and universities with strong endowments, good credit ratings, and consistent enrollment numbers are considered for this type of alternative financing agreement, Garcia said. Lawrence fit that bill.

“There’s much more transparency these days with campus operational costs versus the rate of student tuition,” Garcia said. “So, these projects demonstrate that in addition to positive environmental stewardship aligned with the University’s mission and goals, they are being fiscally responsible with those monies and how they’re being managed.”

Garcia called the expected savings that are factored into the agreement “pretty conservative.” If the efficiency goals are met, Lawrence makes its payments from those savings. If the goals are exceeded, Lawrence keeps the additional savings. And if the goals are not met, Johnson Controls will make the needed infrastructure adjustments.

“The company’s track record in projecting savings from facility upgrades gives it confidence to proceed with that route,” Lindholm said. “We’re willing to do this because we are fully assured in the work that we perform. Due to the company’s size and experience in higher education projects, creditors trust that we will live up to our performance guarantees.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Sustainability is personal: Let’s all embrace 50th anniversary of Earth Day

Kelsey McCormick, Lawrence’s sustainability coordinator, poses for a photo overlooking the SLUG garden. To honor Earth Day, Lawrence’s Sustainability Steering Committee will host a live documentary screening of Once Was Water at 6 p.m. CDT April 22. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

By Kelsey McCormick / Sustainability Coordinator

When I was young, my siblings and I spent many weekend mornings on walks or bike rides with our dad. I assume it was to get us out of the house and burn off energy. I never would have guessed that years later I would be able to so clearly remember Dad picking up a leaf or a pine cone and telling us which tree it came from. I would be awestruck. He taught me that each tree had its own identity and purpose. There was something I deeply respected about that.

Wednesday (April 22) is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day marks the birth of the modern environmental movement and is usually a day for people to gather together to show appreciation for the planet and demand that we treat it with care. As I was lamenting the loss of our on-campus Earth Day celebration, I asked myself, “How can I take advantage of this opportunity and encourage Lawrentians to celebrate Earth Day at home?” Then I thought, maybe celebrating Earth Day at home was meant to be.

Sustainability conferences often begin with the same ice-breaker question. “How did you become interested in sustainability?” Many responses follow a similar theme to mine. Summers in a little fishing boat with Grandpa, helping Mom plant the backyard garden, late nights catching fireflies with neighborhood friends. Maybe it’s corny, but many of us seem to have strong emotional connections to the natural spaces where we live or have created fond memories. Sustainability is local. Sustainability is personal. 

This made me perk up. Even though we cannot celebrate together, maybe we can still celebrate Earth Day in a way that is personal and meaningful to each of us.

In a nod to Earth Day, we also share this video that showcases the Fox River and trails near the Lawrence campus:

If you aren’t sure where to start, here are seven ways that you can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day from wherever you call home. 

1. Participate in a remote Earth Day documentary screening with the LU community

With assistance from Bullfrog Films, Lawrence’s Sustainability Steering Committee will be hosting a live documentary screening of Once was Water at 6 p.m. CDT on April 22. Tune in to watch the film along with the committee members and fellow Lawrentians. A live chat feature will be available during the film. The film will be available for 24 hours after the initial screening for those who are unable to watch at that time. We hope the film will inspire and spark conversation about resource use in your own community. The link to the screening is here:  https://streaming.bullfrogcommunities.com/sustainable_lawrence_once_was_water. The video password is 0wW2!21U

(Here’s a message from Bullfrog Films: To watch the film, viewers must sign up with email (and sign in) or just sign in with Facebook or Twitter to access the screening room, and then enter the video password. If signing up with email, we recommend that viewers do this in advance of the screening. See our How To for details. We also recommend copying and pasting the password. We will open the screening room 30 minutes before screen time so viewers can chat.)

2. Follow Lawrence’s green-living guidelines at home

Many of the credits in the Green Room Certification from Lawrence’s Office of Residential Education and Housing can be applied at home. See how many of these green-living strategies you can add to your regular routine. Bonus points if you can get your family members or roommates to play along. Access to the Green Room Certification is here (a Lawrence login is required to access the link).

3. Refine your SLUG skills in a backyard garden

The produce grown in SLUG is sold to Bon Appetit to be served in Andrew Commons. If you can’t tinker in the campus garden, try growing your own fruits or veggies and serving them in your own meals. If you don’t have a yard, that’s OK. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce, and many others will do well in pots on a balcony or patio. 

4. Become an ally for pollinators

Pollinators play an especially important role in welcoming spring. Did you know 90% of flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce? Lawrence is recognized as a Bee Campus USA and demonstrates its commitment to bees and pollinators by including native plantings and “bee hotels” on campus. You can create your own little refuge for bees by planting native flowering plants at home. No yard space necessary. Try installing a window box and enjoy the buzz of activity you will see outside.

5. Pick up one of Lawrence’s sustainability must-reads

Read what the faculty in this year’s Sustainability Institute are reading. Try Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud, the Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology at Lawrence. Or check out The Two-Mile Time Machine by Richard Alley. Interested in trying a thought-provoking novel? The Overstory by Richard Powers will spark conversation. Looking for something more philosophical? A Sand County Almanac details Aldo Leopold’s observations and feelings regarding wildlife conservation based on his personal restoration project in southwest Wisconsin.

6. Support your local economy 

Many of the small businesses that make your community special are likely closed or operating in limited capacities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Support those businesses by placing carry-out orders or purchasing gift cards to use later. Non-financial options of support include leaving a positive review online or sharing their business page on social media.

7. Reduce personal waste

Be conscious of product packaging and be aware of single-use items. Have you ever noticed that many of the items in your trash or recycling bin are just the containers your items came in? Take a peek. … Both bar soap and shampoo bars can be found in simple cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic. Consider investing in reusable snack bags as opposed to the single-use film ones. Some of these options may even save you money in the long run.

Kelsey McCormick is a project specialist/sustainability coordinator on the president’s staff at Lawrence University.

Lawrence’s sustainability efforts get high marks in upgraded rating

Aerial shot of campus showing Main Hall Green.
Lawrence University’s sustainability rating has risen from bronze to silver.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s ongoing commitment to sustainability has been recognized with an upgraded rating by the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The organization recently awarded Lawrence a silver rating in its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), an upgrade from the bronze rating the school received in 2017.

“It’s great to see that progress rewarded in the upgraded silver rating,” Sustainability Coordinator Kelsey McCormick said.

The AASHE ratings are built on a bronze-silver-gold-platinum system. Only a handful of schools worldwide earn platinum status. By moving into the silver category, Lawrence has continued its sustainability growth as it eyes an eventual gold rating. It’s a matter of continuing to build on the momentum that started two years ago.

“I think Lawrence has the potential to see gold, maybe within the next five to 10 years,” McCormick said. “It’s a long-term goal. But that’s where we’d like to see ourselves get to.”

Lawrence students working last summer in the SLUG garden brought in 10 goats for two weeks to help control the spread of invasive weeds. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

For more on Lawrence’s sustainability efforts, see here.

AASHE tracks and measures sustainability efforts tied to academics, engagement, operations, planning, and administration. The school needs to report on a wide array of measurements, from greenhouse gases to how sustainability is infused into the classroom to how its food service operates.

The improved rating points to the more coordinated work Lawrence has been doing on the sustainability front the past two-plus years, supported by a three-year grant it received in 2017 from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

Lawrence has a history of sustainability-minded student groups being active, for example. And Lawrence’s Environmental Studies interdisciplinary program is more than 40 years old. But the grant allowed the school to build an infrastructure to coordinate and grow those efforts across campus. And the AASHE ratings system has provided an avenue for tracking the progress.

“It’s been my personal undertaking to take all of these sustainability efforts that have existed at Lawrence for a long time and get them all on the same page and moving in the same direction so we can build on each other’s efforts,” McCormick said.

While the Cargill grant will expire, McCormick’s sustainability coordinator position will remain intact, as will the sustainability mechanisms that have been put in place. A Sustainability Steering Committee that includes faculty, students, and staff will continue to provide leadership. The Sustainability Institute for faculty will continue to explore ways to integrate sustainability into existing and new courses. A peer mentorship program will still actively promote and teach about sustainability in the residence halls. 

McCormick’s work with the Sustainability Steering Committee, co-chaired by geosciences professor Jeff Clark, has included, among other things, working with student groups such as Greenfire to organize Earth Week events and other Earth-friendly activities, helping students get sustainability grant monies for projects in the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) or elsewhere on campus, supporting bee advocacy work, installing combined trash and recycling containers across campus, and partnering with Bon Appetit to reduce waste in the dining hall.

Students supporting the SLUG garden sell plants during the 2019 Earth Day Gala.
Students take part in the annual Earth Day Gala on the Lawrence campus.

Students take the lead on sustainability projects. See here.

Staying true to the cause is important to not only the Lawrence community but to prospective students as well, McCormick said. Being committed to improving the university’s environmental impact and enhancing its engagement in sustainability education are crucial talking points going forward.

“It is important for Lawrence to have a visible commitment to sustainability,” McCormick said. “We know that today’s students and prospective students are anxious about the status of the environment and the climate crisis. Our improved AASHE STARS rating shows that Lawrence is continuing to advance its sustainability efforts and is concerned about the world our future graduates will live in.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

From bees to goats to Flex Farm, LU students lead sustainability efforts

Valeria Nunez '22 stands beside the newly installed Flex Farm in Andrew Commons.
Valeria Nunez ’22 helped bring the Flex Farm hydroponic growing system to Lawrence’s Andrew Commons. The first planting is happening this week.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s been the summer of sustainability on the Lawrence University campus, with students front and center in making change happen.

The goats that have taken up temporary residence in the SLUG garden are just one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

So is the ongoing bee advocacy work that has resulted in Lawrence being certified by the Bee Campus USA program, only the second Wisconsin campus to earn that designation.

Now comes the installation of Lawrence’s first Flex Farm, a hydroponic growing system set up last week by Fork Farms in Andrew Commons. The first planting in the indoor growing container — basil and leaf lettuce — is taking place this week.

The three projects are the very visible fruits of ongoing efforts to make Lawrence a more environmentally friendly campus, efforts that gained momentum when the Sustainable Lawrence initiative was launched two years ago, funded by a grant to transform the campus into a living laboratory of sustainability.

Many of the efforts are student-driven, supported by a Student Sustainability Fund that allows students access to project-based grants, overseen by a Sustainability Steering Committee.

“The goal of Lawrence’s sustainability initiative is to make students, staff and faculty aware of places where they can make more sustainable decisions and then challenge them to then make those decisions in their everyday lives,” said Project Specialist/Sustainability Coordinator Kelsey McCormick, co-chair of the sustainability committee. “It’s encouraging to see students applying their knowledge and challenging Lawrence to rethink its own processes and decisions.”

Floreal Crubaugh '20 holds a goat in the SLUG garden.
Floreal Crubaugh ’20 sought and received funding to bring 10 goats into the SLUG garden this summer to help control troublesome weeds. The goats are here through Friday.

Among those students are Valeria Nunez ’22 and Marion Hermitanio ’21, who secured funding through a sustainability grant to bring the Flex Farm to campus.

Students will operate the year-round Flex Farm, with an assist from Bon Appetit, the company that manages the commons. It’s expected that 50 percent of the foods grown will be served to students and the other half will be donated to a local food pantry. The hydroponic system will produce about 25 pounds of greens in each 23-day cycle.

Nunez and Hermitanio, along with members of the Bon Appetit staff, are getting the initial training on the Flex Farm. When fall term arrives, Nunez and Hermitanio will organize a student volunteer program, in conjunction with the school’s Committee on Community Service and Engagement (CCSE), to run the Flex Farm and coordinate the community outreach.

“We both believe that any changes you can make to be more eco friendly can make a huge difference,” Nunez said of her partnership on the project with Hermitanio.

“We were talking a lot about hunger and how not everyone gets access to fresh, nutritious foods. We saw the Flex Farm as an opportunity to address the food crisis locally by providing these nutritious foods to people in the Appleton area who need it.”

‘It’s a learning curve’

Lawrence students have their fingerprints on all sorts of other sustainability projects this summer.

Floreal Crubaugh ’20 tapped into the Student Sustainability Fund and sought permission from the City of Appleton to bring in goats to help control an overgrowth of weeds in the SLUG garden.

For more on the goats working weed control, see here.

“It’s a learning curve for all of us,” Crubaugh said of using the goats to control the weeds on the east end of the garden. “I’m hoping it’s something we can repeat. Hopefully it won’t get to this point again where it’s so unmanageable. Hopefully, with a combination of just weed mitigation and having this mowed down by goats once in a while we can control it. My end goal is to turn it into a wildflower pollination garden and not just a weed bed.”

Elsewhere in SLUG this summer, Phoebe Eisenbeis ’21 is working on a volunteer program that brings area children into the garden to learn about sustainable agriculture. Amos Egleston ’20 is working with a contractor to fix the drip irrigation system, and Cas Burr ’20 is heading a project to replace the hoop house.

On the bee front, Allegra Taylor ’20 and Claire Zimmerman ’20 are working with biology professor Israel Del Toro on the Appleton Pollinator Project, part of the bee advocacy efforts that recently resulted in Lawrence earning a Bee Campus USA designation from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

For more on Lawrence’s bee advocacy work, see here.

And Jessica Robyns ’20 is taking the lead on a pollinator garden and grounds survey at Lawrence’s Bjorklunden property in Door County.

Students come to these projects with deep passions, McCormick said. The Student Sustainability Fund allows them opportunities to put those passions into action.

“Student projects play an important role in helping Lawrence achieve its sustainability goals,” McCormick said. “These projects are often based on the strong interests or research questions from students, and therefore result in deep exploration of a particular topic.”

Sustainability grants average about $2,500 per project, McCormick said. A faculty or staff advisor is assigned to each project to provide oversight, and all grant requests must go through the Sustainability Steering Committee.

“All sustainability grant recipients are also required to complete a final reflection for their project, to inform the Lawrence community what they have learned from the project and what the lasting effects to campus will be,” McCormick said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Goats called in for weed control, and, yes, we put a “Goat Cam” on a goat named Blu

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

APPLETON – Goats are busy working the garden. We’ve got the “Goat Cam” footage to prove it.

Ten goats — two Nigerian dwarf goats and eight fainting goats — have settled into the SLUG garden on the Lawrence University campus, and for the next week will continue to devour unwanted thistle and burdock weeds.

The goats — supplied by Steve Anderson of Mount Morris, owner of the newly launched Goat Busters farm — arrived last Tuesday after Lawrence biology major and SLUG garden manager Floreal Crubaugh ’20 put out a call for rented goats.

“I was looking for more sustainable ways to control the weeds than applying herbicides, and more efficient ways than pulling them up manually,” Crubaugh said.

We attached a GoPro camera — our “Goat Cam” — to the back of one of the goats. We let Blu show us the work in progress on a Monday morning in the garden. Be warned: the footage is adorable and may steal a large chunk of your day.

The SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden), a student-run nonprofit enterprise that uses sustainable agricultural methods to nurture a honeybee apiary, a fruit tree orchard, a vegetable garden and a hoop house, has been a fixture on the Lawrence campus for nearly two decades.

But the use of goats is a first.

Crubaugh went in search of goat rentals after successfully seeking monies through a Lawrence sustainability grant. The thistle and burdock weeds on the east end of the garden had gotten unmanageable, and the student volunteers couldn’t keep up, she said.

“I thought, what if we got some goats in here and they basically do the work for us, all while providing a lot of benefits for the garden, like fertilizer and digesting the seeds?” she said. “It was a really impossible project to take care of as humans, so we turned to goats.”

Lawrence senior Floreal Crubaugh holds one of the goats in the SLUG garden.
Floreal Crubaugh ’20 holds one of the goats in Lawrence’s SLUG garden. Crubaugh, the garden manager, brought in goats to help control troublesome weeds that have overgrown a portion of the student-run garden.

See more photos of the goats in the SLUG garden here.

More on sustainability efforts at Lawrence here.

Crubaugh, Anderson and LU officials first sought permission from the City of Appleton to allow for the goats. They were granted a special exemption for three weeks.

Anderson installed a temporary fence last Monday, then delivered the goats the following day.

“With the university always being progressive and thinking ahead, I think this is going to encourage the city and the county to take goats more seriously,” Anderson said. “Invasive plants are a widespread problem, whether it’s these weeds or buckthorn or whatever the issue is.”

It’s the first time he’s rented out the goats, something he wants to do more of in the future.

Anderson, who initially got the 10 goats this spring to help tackle a growing buckthorn problem on his family’s 30-plus acres in Waushara County, said he hopes to expand his goat herd and eventually connect with cities and counties to help control weed and invasive plant issues in parks and along hiking trails.

“They eat the seeds,” Anderson said of the goats. “That’s one of the biggest advantages of the goats is that they digest the seeds. The birds just spread it. But goats will actually digest it, so there’s no new growth.”

Steve Anderson, operator of Goat Busters, holds one of the goats in the SLUG garden.
Steve Anderson operates Goat Busters out of Mount Morris. He delivered 10 goats to the SLUG garden at Lawrence. They’ll remain in the garden through July 19.

Visitors are welcome to check out the goats and the work going on in the SLUG garden, located at the base of the hill just off of Lawe Street. Most of the goats are fairly shy. But a couple are outwardly social and are happy to greet visitors to the garden.

Crubaugh, who can be found tending the garden most days during the summer, hopes her work in SLUG will set the table for career opportunities in the sustainability field after she graduates.

“This is a good way to get a taste of that,” she said.

The senior from Bloomington, Illinois, had worked with goats while helping relatives who operate a cattle ranch in Montana. She saw the sustainability benefits first hand.

“I’d go out there during my summers as a kid and help bottle feed the orphan goats, and I’d watch the goats just move across the fields like a sundial, just mowing everything down,” she said. “That’s where this idea sort of originated for me.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

It’s personal: Earth Day activities raise awareness across campus

An aerial view of the Lawrence campus shows the sustainable gardens.
The Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) are part of the Lawrence campus. The SLUG student organization will take part in Earth Day activities between now and Tuesday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Earth Day 2019 arrives on Monday, but Lawrence University students and staff aren’t waiting until then to celebrate the wonders of the Earth and highlight the need for good environmental stewardship.

Lawrence student groups focused on environmental causes, along with the school’s Sustainability Steering Committee, will mark Earth Day with a series of events now through Tuesday.

Highlighting the Earth Day celebration will be a gala from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday on Main Hall green, featuring live music, Frisbee games, plant sales and various student-run booths raising money and sharing information on a variety of environmental issues.

Then on Tuesday, Equal Justice Works Fellow Jacklyn Bryan will present “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future” at 7:30 p.m. in Steitz Hall. A member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley in California and a 2017 Vermont Law School graduate, Bryan will discuss her work to assist in statewide collaborations to assess and address outside risks to clean water on tribal lands.

Sunday’s gala is being organized by the Lawrence student group Greenfire, in cooperation with other student organizations and the Sustainability Committee.

“All of it will have some sort of relation to sustainability, environmental practices and just getting people outside,” said Alyssa Ayen ’19, co-president of Greenfire, a student environmental group with roots dating back to the early 1990s.

Like many of those involved, Ayen’s interest in environmental advocacy is personal. The environmental science major from Madison watched as urban sprawl began to erode wetlands in her grandparents’ neighborhood in Verona, her favorite childhood hangout.

Wall along Drew Street is painted for Earth Week.
Earth Week signage is courtesy of Greenfire.

“I would spend all of my time outside as a child, playing games, going on hikes and bike rides,” she said. “I enjoyed my childhood so much. But as I got older, I started realizing more and more that Madison, like so many cities, has urban sprawl. There is a ton of development, and I saw it near my grandparents’ house. I think I was probably 13 at the time and I realized it really bothered me a lot.

“I developed almost a relationship with the beings that lived there, the different animals that interacted there, that I saw on a daily basis. It was really hard for me to see that habitat diminished, and I think that’s really where it started for me. I knew I had to go out and make my career about it because it mattered to me so much, to at least be part of a change in mindset that has to happen in order for us to limit more environmental degradation.”

Ayen, who will go to work for the nonprofit advocacy group Impact following graduation, said Greenfire students are focused mostly on environmental justice issues and environmental education.

Eight students from Greenfire attended the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year, taking in a range of sessions on environmental concerns and initiatives, mostly focused on the Midwest.

“It was a really good learning opportunity,” Ayen said of the biennial conference. “There were a lot of nonprofits there, and organizations such as Sierra Club that are involved in environmental policy.”

Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise the visibility of some of those efforts here on campus.

“The Sustainability Committee really pushed for a bigger Earth Day event, and Greenfire wanted to go that way too,” Ayen said.

Kelsey McCormick, a project specialist at Lawrence and co-chair of the Sustainability Steering Committee, said there was a concerted effort to better organize Earth Day activities this year and set a framework for future endeavors.

Eight Lawrence University students from Greenfire pose for a photo at the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year.
Lawrence University students from Greenfire took part in the Wild Things Conference in Chicago.

The committee set out to make sure there was at least one significant activity a day in the lead-up to Earth Day.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of student organizations that have decided to put on events and take advantage of the hype that Earth Week has kind of created,” McCormick said. “We had hoped to get one big event each day. Now on some days we have multiple events because those student groups have decided to put things on on their own. And that’s wonderful. That’s what we really want Earth Day to be about, for as many groups as possible to show their commitment to the environment through what they’re doing.”

The events in the coming days include:

7 p.m. Wednesday: Showing of “Awake — A Dream from Standing Rock,” a documentary, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.

7:30 p.m. Thursday: Sustainability Bingo, hosted by SOUP, in Mead Witter in the Warch Campus Center.

4:30 p.m. Friday: Plant Identification, hosted by the Bird and Nature Club, in Briggs greenhouse.

9 p.m. Friday: Sustainable Menstruation Ball, co-hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Club (ORC) and Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG), at Pullmans Restaurant, 619 Olde Oneida St., Appleton. Shuttle pickup from Wriston every 15 minutes from 9 p.m. to midnight.

3-5 p.m. Saturday: DIY Natural Self Care Products, hosted by Greenfire in the loft at Colman Hall.

1-4 p.m. Sunday: Earth Day Gala, Main Hall green. Rain location will be Esch Hurvis in Warch Campus Center.

6:30 p.m. Tuesday: ENSTfest, an Environmental Studies poster session, Steitz atrium.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Jacklyn Bryan presentation on “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future,” Steitz Hall 102.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Director/producer of award-winning documentary “Escarpment” to attend campus screening

What was the land like where Lawrence University’s northern campus — Björklunden — now stands several eons ago?

Roger Kuhns

The award-winning documentary film “Escarpment” will take viewers on a fast-paced journey through billions of years of natural history and the geologic and biologic past of eastern Wisconsin and the Niagara Escarpment region of the Great Lakes.

The screening, free and open to the public, is Thursday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence’s Warch Campus Center cinema. Roger Kuhns, who directed and produced the film, will attend the screening and be available for a question-and-answer session at the end of the film.

Winner of the 2017 Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award, the 92-minute film was shot on location along the entire length of the Niagara Escarpment, with a focus on Door County. Incorporating some animated sequences, it reconstructs ecosystems that existed when the Niagara Escarpment was formed, considers whether dinosaurs ever called what  is now Door County home and traces the path of glaciers as well as numerous other major events in the area’s geologic past.

Beyond just its geological narrative, Kuhns made the film as a way to educate, enlighten, and guide society toward better stewardship of the land and its resources while providing a glimpse of what a sustainable future might look like.

Roger KuhnsKuhns, who splits his time living in Door County and Mystic, Conn., is a man of multiple interests. A geologist by trade — he holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geology from Beloit College and Washington State University, respectively, and earned his doctorate in economic geology from the University of Minnesota — he also writes books and songs, makes movies, and is both a naturalist and a sustainologist.

He has lived throughout the world, including eight years in Africa. An active teacher and workshop leader, Kuhns remains current by conducting science and practicing sustainability as the director of his own company, SustainAudit, LLC.

Last fall, Lawrence received a significant grant to enhance sustainability efforts on campus.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.


A living laboratory: Lawrence launching campus-wide initiative focused on sustainability

In an effort to address real-world sustainability challenges, establish sustainability as one of its core values, and establish best practices in sustainable campus operations, Lawrence University is looking to transform itself into a living laboratory through a series of new institutional initiatives.

Project specialist Kelsey McCormick will serve as Lawrence’s new sustainability coordinator and will co-chair a newly formed sustainability subcommittee with Jeff Clark, professor of geology, who is also serving as special assistant to the president for sustainability.

Jeff Clark
Jeff Clark

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the past decade or so on the sustainability front, including the construction of the LEED Gold-certified Warch Campus Center, two solar arrays, a 100kW wind turbine at Bjorklunden, a campus-wide bike share and ride share program, a quarter-acre student-run organic garden that has operated since 2005 and a food service program that embraces socially responsible practices with an emphasis on a local farm-to-table sourcing model,” said Clark. “That said, we still have lots of work to do to try and change the culture of campus by integrating sustainability into our daily routines as well as our curriculum.”

A major focus of the new initiative will involve the establishment of an “Eco-rep” program designed to engage students in hands-on efforts in the residence halls to build a culture of sustainability, drastically decreasing the university’s environmental footprint in the process.

Eco-reps will lead by example and educate their peers on issues ranging from recycling and composting to water and energy consumption to food systems, transportation and consumer choices.

Kelsey McCormick
Kelsey McCormick

“The Eco-rep program is really at the heart of this effort,” said McCormick. “This key educational component will establish expectations around how Lawrentians live on our campus. The goal is to foster sustainability as part of every-day behavior. As a residential campus, a great way to accomplish this is to encourage our students to conserve energy, reduce waste and be more conscious in the spaces in which they live.”

Lawrence also will establish a “Sustainability Institute,” providing faculty with opportunities to deepen their understanding of sustainability issues and incorporate sustainability concepts into the curriculum. The institute will run for two years with as many as eight participants each year, increasing opportunities for faculty to work with students to create new engaged learning experiences.

These new efforts are made possible by a three-year grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The funding will support leadership opportunities for students, professional development opportunities for faculty and infrastructural improvements to the campus. In addition, part of the grant will be used for a special fund for Lawrence community members to seek support for sustainability-focused projects connected to classes, research or co-curricular programs.

During each year of the grant, Lawrence plans to embark on one major infrastructural improvement with the intended goal of reducing the environmental impact, improving efficiency, and reducing waste, which ultimately should lead to cost savings in the long run.

solar panels on the roof of Hiett Hall
Solar panels on the roof of Hiett Hall are one of the efforts Lawrence already has undertaken to become a more sustainable institution.

Lawrence also will launch a Community Read Program to encourage campus members to read and discuss a common book on a current sustainability topic as a way to engage students with others in the community over these global challenges.

As a part of Lawrence’s strategic plan, Veritas Est Lux, the university is committed to enhancing “a culture of sustainable living by integrating sustainability goals across all aspects of the Lawrence experience.” Lawrence aims to be a steward of the surrounding community and the environment by preparing students to be responsible citizens of the world.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence leftovers: Student organizations helping to feed the Fox Cities

An old English proverb claims the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Lawrence University senior and Servant Leader Fellow Shang Li is applying a similar philosophy not for affection, but to improve the lives of hundreds of area residents.

A product of Lawrence’s innovation and entrepreneurship program, Food for Fox is the brainchild of Shang, Rachel Gregory and Malcolm Lunn-Craft and run with the help of the Lawrence Food Recovery Network team to reduce food waste while also providing a healthy meal for clients of two area non-profit organizations, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Shelter and the Fox Cities Boys and Girls Club.

Helping to provide meals to area nonprofit organizations are Professor Mark Jenike, faculty advisor, Food for Fox co-founder Shang Li, Food Recovery Network co-presidents Sarah Diamond and Lindsay Holsen and Food for Fox co-founders Malcolm Lunn-Craft and Rachel Gregory.
Helping to provide meals to area nonprofit organizations are Professor Mark Jenike, faculty advisor, Food for Fox co-founder Shang Li, Food Recovery Network co-presidents Sarah Diamond and Lindsay Holsen and Food for Fox co-founders Malcolm Lunn-Craft and Rachel Gregory.

With the help of various student groups of volunteers — athletes, fraternity and sorority members, residents of theme houses and passionate individuals — unused food is collected from Andrew Commons, the Lawrence dining area, several evenings three weeks a month for twice-a-week deliveries of between 50 and 100 pounds of food to Harbor House. The collection the last week of the month is earmarked for a meal for children and their families at the Fox Cities Boys and Girls Club.

Beyond simple nutrition, Food for Fox’s goal is to support education of needy children through these donated meals.

“Food is a very powerful thing,” said Li. “We want to partner with local organizations to provide educational sessions for the children and their families on the importance of establishing healthy eating habits, especially at a young age.”

Gregory was drawn to Food for Fox in part because of her interests in sustainability.

“We waste an abundance of food, while many families in our own community go hungry or do not have access to a reliable supply of nutritious foods,” said Gregory, an environmental studies major from Plano, Texas. “We are melding two problems together to create a solution.”

The Food for Fox program has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley to provide a family meal the last Friday of each month.

As of the end of February, the Boys & Girls Club had served 230 meals courtesy of the Food for Fox program.

“The biggest benefit of this program is being able to open the meal up to our member’s families,” said Holly Purgett, Healthy Habits Food Program Coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club. “Socially speaking, this event encourages families to have a meal together and spend quality time with one another on a Friday night. Our kids are proud to bring their parents, siblings and grandparents to the club and show them where they spend much of their time.

“Although we receive certain reimbursements, they do not cover all of our food program expenses,” Purgett added. “Having a meal donated, even once a month, helps with those non-covered expenses.”

Li was initially inspired by a Facebook video she saw two years ago about the Food Recovery Network, which prompted her to help establish a campus chapter — one of the first two in the state of Wisconsin — in the spring of 2014.

“That Facebook video really touched my heart,” said Li, a government and history major from Tianjin, China. “I was fascinated with how simple procedures and a support system can transform food waste into warm, nutritious meals for people in need.”

“I envision LU Food Recovery Network along with Food for Fox being run by generations of Lawrentians because there is always a demand for food and there is always a platform that will allow our students to shine as servant leaders.”
     — Shang Li ’16

In its first year of operation (May 2014- June 2015), the Food Recovery Network collected more than 5,000 pounds of leftovers, which were shared with its initial Fox Cities organizations, Loaves & Fishes and Homeless Connection. When those partnerships dissolved for various reasons, Li proposed the Food for Fox idea last fall to the Food Recovery Network’s new leadership team, Sarah Diamond and Lindsay Holsen. Harbor House and the Boys and Girls Club became the new beneficiaries.

“We are extremely appreciative of the Boys & Girl’s Club for their willingness to collaborate with Food Recovery Network and Food for Fox to create an event that has a lot of potential as it continues to build awareness, promote sustainability and provide meaningful meals to kids in need,” said Holsen, a Servant Leader Fellow who joined the Food Recovery Network board in 2014 and became co-president last April.

Food for Fox founders Shang Li (l.), Macolm Lunn-Craft (c.) and Rachel Gregory (r.) are using surplus food from Lawrence to help feed others in the community.
Food for Fox founders Shang Li (l.), Macolm Lunn-Craft (c.) and Rachel Gregory (r.) are using surplus food from Lawrence to help feed others in the community.

Like Li, Gregory and Holsen, Diamond is passionate about food, maximizing its use and reducing its waste. She sees the collaboration between the Food Recovery Network and Food for Fox as an ideal vehicle to accomplish those goals.

“Food is a topic that is largely under discussed in daily life, especially among those that have enough of it,” said Diamond, a junior from Winchester, Mass., who worked with a group that focused on food, farming and hunger in the Boston area while in high school. “The fact that 40 percent of food produced in this country is thrown away while at the same time one in seven Americans are food insecure is simply not okay.”

The students involved see the two programs growing and expanding their reach in the years ahead, including operating during the summer and winter term break.

“We want to be a support system to low-income families and their children throughout the year,” said Li, who plans to pursue graduate studies in social innovations post-Lawrence. “I envision LU Food Recovery Network along with Food for Fox being run by generations of Lawrentians because there is always a demand for food and there is always a platform that will allow our students to shine as servant leaders.”

Gregory sees great potential for the Food for Fox program, especially in the education realm.

“I hope over the next five to 10 years, the program increases awareness to food-related issues. We want to introduce the kids to delicious healthy foods they might not have tried before, which will give way to healthy life-long eating habits. Economically, Food for Fox could even increase economic efficiency among our donors as they begin to take note of which foods are often left over. In our work this term, we tried to build a simple, logical model that can be applied to many different locations so that the program expands throughout the Fox Valley, Wisconsin and the Midwest.”

Members of Lawrence's athletic teams are among the groups who volunteer to collect leftovers for the Food for Fox program.
Members of Lawrence’s athletic teams are among the groups who volunteer to collect leftovers for the Food for Fox program.

Julie Severance, general manager of Bon Appetit, has served as the advisor for Food Recovery Network since its inception while Mark Jenike, Pieper Family Professor of Servant Leadership and associate professor of anthropology, joined the team as faculty advisor earlier this year. John Brandenberger, Alice G. Chapman Professor Emeritus of Physics, Adam Galambos, Dwight and Marjorie Peterson Professor of Innovation and associate professor of economics, and Gary Vaughan, coordinator of the innovation and entrepreneurship program, have served as mentors to the Food for Fox program.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.