“We are thinking very critically about how our work helps to
truly sustain the university,” explains Nelson. These goals make
even more sense when considering the budgetary crunch many
university campuses are under today. This is especially the case
in Wisconsin, where the UW system absorbed much of a $250
million cut to education.
With these cuts, the Office of Sustainability at UWM has
attracted the eyes of the administration as a locus for finding
solutions to the problems that ail the public university because
of the recognition and successes that they have achieved. “Seeing
people looking to sustainability for solutions is just an amazing
place to be in,” Nelson adds.
At CDC, people look towards York’s office for problem solving,
but it hasn’t always been like that. “In the federal government,
you have a lot of resistance to change,” says York. “A lot of that
resistance isn’t because people don’t want to change, but because
people aren’t sure if they are allowed to change.”
Through open and supportive channels of communication,
CDC’s culture of sustainability has yielded impressive results.
York helped implement a water efficiency initiative to capitalize
on a valuable opportunity. The agency lacked water meters, pre-
venting them from seeing how individual buildings used water.
After installing the meters, CDC found that one laboratory was
using five times as much water as other labs on their campus.
Through further investigation, they found that flush valves that
were thought to be closed were actually open. Once that was
an organization just tweaking the way they do things towards sus-
tainability and getting far with something,” adds Nelson.
At UWM, some of the changes towards a more sustainable
campus include stormwater contingency plans, community gardens and green infrastructure. There are even talks to include
a brew garden to foster research opportunities in a distinctly
Milwaukee way. With these projects, Nelson attempts to connect sustainability directly towards education by working with
academic departments and student research projects.
“I always ask myself, ‘How does this fit in with our mission?’” says
Nelson. “We’re not necessarily in the business of reducing carbon;
we’re in the business of education. So how do our initiatives meet
that goal with curriculum, research or student life? When meeting
One of the most successful projects Nelson has undertaken
is an energy conservation program that garnered a 27% reduc-
tion in energy usage per gross square foot. The savings from
the program, which ran from 2009 to 2013, are still the “gold
standard” for the university.
CDC’S WATER CONSERVATION
efforts brought more water
meters to its Atlanta campus.
These efforts have been
successful, as the agency
has saved $1.1 million annually
since installing the meters.
SOLAR ENERGY is a major component of UWM’s renewable
energy plan. Multiple buildings on campus – including the Golda
Meir Library – employ PV panels. The energy conservation program Nelson established from 2009-2013 reduced energy by 27%.
THE UW SYSTEM
has recently faced
cuts. Nelson views
a means for the
university to solve