UW-Platteville reflects on more than a decade of sustainability, students look toward future

Written by Alison Parkins on |
Students in parade holding sustainability sign
Click through the slideshow of images for some visual highlights of UW-Platteville’s sustainability initiatives and view the full timeline, below.
Glenview rooftop
During the 2008 remodeling of Glenview Commons, a green roof was installed to reduce energy costs and limit excessive water runoff.
Students with Green campus project display
In 2009, the Green Campus Project student organization was formed. Still in existence today, the student group recently changed its name to Sustainability Club.
Wind turbine
In October 2011, UW-Platteville began operating a 20 kW wind turbine outside of Southwest Hall. In addition to energy cost savings, the turbine was also an educational resource for the fairly new-at-that-time sustainable and renewable energy systems program.
SRES program work in lab
In 2012, UW-Platteville launched its sustainable and renewable energy systems major, following the launch of the minor in 2008. More than 75 graduates have majored in the program, which is one of only a handful of its type in the nation.
Student working in edible garden
The university’s first edible garden, between Royce and McGregor halls, was created in 2014 and provided opportunities for students to grow vegetables to use in Dining Services.
Andrew W. Thundercloud
In 2015, the inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day Lecture was delivered. The series was launched in an effort to welcome more Native American voices to the university and enhance the way Indigenous histories are taught at UW-Platteville. This fall’s event welcomed Andrew W. Thundercloud, pictured above.
Pioneer Restore
In 2015, UW-Platteville opens Pioneer Restore to sell low-cost computers, furniture and clothes back to the community – leading to an estimated 35% reduction in landfill items.
Native plant beds
In 2016, native plant beds and additional edible gardens are installed around campus.
Goats in Memorial Park
In 2017, a 20-day pilot program, supported by a grant from the UW-Platteville Campus Sustainability Fund, brought a herd of 40 goats to Memorial Park to graze invasive honeysuckle and garlic mustard.
Electric vehicle charging station
In 2018, the first electric vehicle charging station is installed on campus.
Hydroponics lab
In 2019, a Hydroponics Lab opens in Glenview Commons. Operated solely by students, the 1,500-square-foot lab offers space to grow lettuce used by Dining Services.
Sugar bush on Platte Mound
In 2020, a sugar bush camp on Platte Mound is established so students can experience land-based education.
solar panels
In 2021, UW-Platteville builds a 2.4 megawatt solar array in Memorial Park – the largest owned by a Wisconsin state agency. It is anticipated to offset electricity by 17%, saving an annual $217,000.
Chancellor speaking at Earth Day event
On Earth Day of 2021, Chancellor Dennis J. Shields pledged to commit the university to become a zero-waste campus by 2035. The commitment was the result of a student proposal and petition seeking institutional commitment to the zero waste plan.

Located in the ecologically unique Driftless Region, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has long played an important role in sustainability, both on campus and in the wider region. From the first wind turbine installed in 2011 to the 2.4 megawatt solar array installed a decade later, UW-Platteville has remained unwavering in its commitment to sustainability. See a full timeline of sustainability highlights below. 

Many of today’s students – like Ryan Lodico and Megan Kaufmann – are continuing the tradition of advocating for sustainability on campus. 

“I’ve been interested in sustainability for a lot of my life, but I didn’t get involved in advocacy until I came to UW-Platteville,” said Lodico, a senior engineering physics major from Moline, Illinois. He joined the student organization Renewable Revolution his freshman year and became involved in advocating for the solar array. 

“I really liked how hands-on it was and how much of a concrete goal we had,” said Lodico. “The number one highlight from my time here has been how easy it has been to talk to our administration and make real change happen. Within the four years I’ve been here, we’ve actually seen a physical project implemented on campus [the solar array]. That came directly from conversations we had with the chancellor and senior leadership. I don’t think there are many universities out there that you can meet with the highest leaders and talk about real solutions in real time.”

Kaufmann said she also has always had an interest in sustainability, but became more involved when she came to UW-Platteville. Originally a biology major, she eventually decided she could make more of an impact with environmental engineering. She is currently the president of Sustainability Club – formerly the Green Campus Project.

“Sustainability is the future – it’s whether or not we have the future,” said Kaufmann, who is from Sherrill, Iowa. “What we do decides the worlds we are going to grow up in and the generations following us – and even whether or not there are generations following us.”

With the new solar array scheduled to go online June 3, members of the UW-Platteville community have their eyes to the future, including Lodico and Kaufmann, who are hopeful about future classes of UW-Platteville students driving more sustainability initiatives on campus. 

“I think UW-Platteville is a unique example of the different ways students care about sustainability,” added Lodico. “Not only does our generation put a high priority on sustainability, but people at UW-Platteville come from different backgrounds and perspectives on sustainability. Some care about the innovation of sustainability – like electric cars, for example, or anything in STEM. For some students, it comes down to the genuine love of the outdoors, and we live in a very outdoorsy state. Some students love to be involved in activism and promoting change. Our school is a good example of not everyone caring about sustainability for the same reason, but that end goal is still the same.”

For more information on sustainability at UW-Platteville, visit www.uwplatt.edu/department/sustainability

UW-Platteville Sustainability Timeline

The following timeline recognizes some of the highlights of sustainability throughout the years at UW-Platteville.

  • 2008: Environmental Impact Committee refocused and renamed to Environmental Sustainability Committee.
  • 2008: Sustainable and renewable energy systems minor launches.
  • 2008: Green roof installed on Glenview Commons.
  • 2009: Green Campus Project (student organization) established.
  • 2011: Campus Sustainability Award Program is established.
  • 2011: A wind turbine is installed on campus.
  • 2012: UW-Platteville hired its first sustainability coordinator.
  • 2012: Sustainable and renewable energy systems major launches – one of only a handful of its type in nation.
  • 2012: UW-Platteville is the Wisconsin RecycleMania Grand Champion.
  • 2012: Campus dashboard is launched for tracking energy use.
  • 2013: First campus sustainability plan is approved.
  • 2014: The first Campus Edible Garden is created.
  • 2014: Ditch the Dumpster program begins – this residence hall donation program diverts an estimated 10 tons from the landfill each year.
  • 2015: The Indigenous Peoples Day Lecture series is established.
  • 2015: Pioneer Restore is created, which has led to a 35% reduction in landfill items.
  • 2015: The student-run Sunflower Oil business is created.
  • 2015: The Platteville Transit System is established, in cooperation with the City of Platteville. This mostly rural, fixed-route bus system in Wisconsin provides 60,000 annual rides for students and community members.
  • 2016: UW-Platteville participates in the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) for the first time.
  • 2016: Campus Green Fund is established.
  • 2016: Native Plant Beds and more edible gardens are installed around campus.
  • 2017: A 20-day pilot program brings a herd of goats to Memorial Park.
  • 2017: Triple-Bottom-Line workshop for faculty and staff is offered to help integrate sustainability across campus in both teaching and operations.
  • 2018: Electric vehicle charging station is installed on campus.
  • 2018: UW-Platteville earns a silver star rating in the AASHE STARS program.
  • 2019: University Strategic Plan emphasizes sustainability as one of the primary pillars of investing in our future.
  • 2019: Re-usable to-go containers are introduced in the Pioneer Crossing – the most populated dining venue on campus.
  • 2019: Pioneer Provisions, a food pantry for students, is established.
  • 2019: Hydroponics Lab opens in Glenview Commons – operated solely by students, the 1,500-square-foot lab offers space to grow lettuce, used for Dining Services.
  • 2020: Established a sugar bush among old-growth sugar maples on the Platte Mound.
  • 2021: UW-Platteville earns a second silver star rating in the AASHE STARS program, with progress toward gold.
  • 2021: Students conduct prescribed burns on campus.
  • 2021: The university heating plant converts from using coal to natural gas, which is estimated to reduce heat-related emissions by 20%.
  • 2021: The UW-Platteville campus in Baraboo becomes a member of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.
  • 2021: UW-Platteville builds a 2.4 megawatt solar array. The largest state-owned solar array, it is estimated to reduce 2,300 tons of carbon emissions each year.
  • 2021: Chancellor Dennis J. Shields pledges to commit the university to become a zero-waste campus by 2035. Students were the driving force behind the initiative, researching and presenting a proposal to the chancellor.
  • 2021: Inaugural Spring Swap with the City of Platteville and Faherty Inc. allowed students and community members to exchange gently used items, diverting an estimated 10,000 pounds from the landfill.
  • 2022: UW-Platteville’s newest building, Sesquicentennial Hall, seeks LEED certification.