Students, schools partner with businesses on efforts to get greener
There’s no better way to learn sustainability principles than to actually do sustainability. That’s why New North higher education institutions are working with business and industry to create internships and other experiences that not only immerse students in the field, but also help the business accomplish needed goals.
“We have a very important resource here in northeast Wisconsin,” said Linda Bartelt, executive director of the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA). “Our students, as well as our faculty in higher education, work together with business and communities to solve sustainability challenges.”
NEW ERA, which fosters collaboration among the 13 publicly supported higher education institutions in the New North, featured several of these relationships as part of a panel discussion at the New North Summit Dec. 7 in Appleton.
NWTC/Village of Allouez
Scott May is one of four interns from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College who teamed with Wisconsin Public Service, Focus on Energy, Citizens Utility Board and Franklin Energy last summer to help the Village of Allouez reduce its energy costs. An energy audit included walk-throughs of municipal buildings, schools and parks. Interns took measurements and analyzed energy usage data, and presented a report to the Allouez Village Board.
“Some of our recommendations were to install controls for the HVAC system and motion-detection devices, to change some of the indoor and outdoor lighting to LED and to change some of the fluorescents,” May said during the panel presentation. “We also looked at some outside-the-box solutions, like what would be the cost/benefit of an outside-the-vehicle charging station, experimenting with daylighting, and even a rainwater collection system. Our last step was to show savings.”
“At the village hall alone, they were able to project an estimated $5,000 in annual energy savings that they recommended to the village,” said Michael Holman, energy advisor at Franklin Energy Services.
Chip Bircher, energy management instructor at NWTC, coordinated the project. “For our students, the main benefit is to get some experience out in real buildings – to interact with building maintenance facilities and staff to see how they can enhance the energy efficiency,” he said. “Of course, developing a network of contacts and seeing how other people work in this field goes a long way to helping our students understand what it’s like to be a professional in this field and to make connections for future employment.”
UW-Marinette/Lower Menominee River Cleanup
When the Lower Menominee River Citizens Advisory Committee was formed, UW-Marinette was a leader in the group’s formation and in helping develop the remedial action plan to clean up the river. The school is still involved today.
Keith West, geography professor at UW-Marinette, is an active member of the committee, which was formed when the last two miles of the river, which empties into the Bay of Green Bay, was one of 43 sites designated as an environmental “area of concern” by the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes.
“This gives me the opportunity to not just talk to my students about environmental remediation, but also to show them some prime examples of it right in their own backyard,” said West.
West’s students are involved in field trips to the site and helped rid a nearby island of buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasive plant species last fall.
UW-Green Bay/Tosca, Ltd.
John Arendt is associate director of the Environmental Management and Business Institute (EMBI) at UW-Green Bay, which provides outreach services for New North businesses on environmental issues and sustainability. “To do that, we involve students, particularly as interns,” said Arendt.
UW-Green Bay offers a certificate in environmental sustainability and business, through which students take courses in business, public policy and environmental sciences.
“Our students have done waste reduction studies, energy analysis, life-cycle analysis studies, and helped businesses install environmental management systems, which is a requirement for joining Wisconsin Green Tier,” said Arendt. “Businesses get innovative, cost-saving solutions from students who ‘push the envelope’ by asking questions that may never have been asked. And potentially they’ll get a hire out of it.”
Steve Teclaw, a 2011 UW-Green Bay graduate, interned at Tosca, Ltd. through EMBI. Tosca produces returnable containers for the food and beverage industry.
“In my internship, I worked with two other students on a life-cycle assessment of one of Tosca’s wooden cheese boxes compared to the plastic box of a competitor,” said Teclaw. “We worked to figure out which was more sustainable – both from a material and energy input standpoint.”
Teclaw now leads quality assurance dealing with sanitation and food safety as a Tosca employee. “My internship is the reason I have my job today.”
Interested in pursuing a student intern to help with your business?
Contact Linda Bartelt at the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance at (920) 609-6399 or [email protected], or connect directly with any of the colleges and universities in the New North region.