University of Wisconsin System leaders discussed cuts to the Wisconsin state budget that affect the system’s sustainability efforts during a recent gathering.
Held at UW-Whitewater, the annual meeting is a place for sustainability representatives from UW schools to share accomplishments and discuss challenges throughout the system. This year’s meeting centered around increasing efficiency despite having a reduced budget.
Dave Barbier, sustainability coordinator, and Shelly Janowski, sustainability program and policy analyst, represented UWSP at the meeting. The meeting itself was in a point of transition as a result of budget cuts, Barbier said.
Two key individuals’ positions were eliminated, including the meeting’s primary coordinator. Barbier said representatives discussed searching for ways to fill voids left by cuts.
“What does the future of sustainability look like on a UW System level, given that we no longer have people in those positions?” Barbier said. “It’s going to have to be collaborative in addition to current duties.”
Fewer funds also helped drive a discussion of how efficiency of operations may be improved at a system-wide level. Best practices and data reporting, Barbier said, may be improved.
Janowski and other system analysts oversee data reporting of campus information to several organizations like the Carbon Reduction Initiative and the Princeton Review Green Honor Roll. By streamlining the process, each university may reduce the amount of time and effort needed for reporting.
“We want to share best practices so each campus doesn’t have to recreate the wheel,” Janowski said. “We continually discuss ways to reduce the amount of time we put into sustainability reporting, how can we coordinate system-level data so we all don’t have to research the same things.”
Janowski also participated in a session during the meeting on state purchasing policies to better influence policy as a group. A switch to all LED lighting on all campuses or green cleaning policies, she said, are examples of some policies representatives are interested in.
Barbier said without policy change, funds are not being used efficiently. He said things like hybrid fleet vehicles could have a positive return on investment.
“It doesn’t take long to see,” Barbier said. “How do we make those realities come into a policy related issue?”
Darrek Sams, senior fisheries biology major, said he hopes staff are able to make the most of cuts and continue working toward a more sustainable university.
“I think a smaller budget might help everyone think a little more carefully about how we do things,” Sams said. “It’d be a shame if we became less sustainable because of budget cuts.”
Sams has enjoyed energy efficient buildings and composting while at UWSP and said those are important parts of a sustainable college experience.
“Not every school has those types of things,” Sams said. “It’s good exposure to those kinds of things. It’d be great to spread that to every school.”