Environmental leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted the second annual Sustainability Symposium at the Discovery Building on Oct. 25., bringing together students and faculty focused on areas of sustainability.
The event began with keynote speaker Dr. Weslynne Ashton of the Illinois Institute of Technology, who shared information about creating a sustainable, circular food system.
“Ashton was absolutely fantastic, and it was great to hear about her work in the field,” said Audrey Stanton, one of the event's organizers and a project assistant with the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability.
One key takeaway: food insecurity and food waste are linked. To solve both problems, Ashton said, they need to be solved at the same time.
“It outlined a problem that we have at this university that we don't talk about very much,” said Hannah Stahmann, Associated Students of Madison (ASM) Sustainability co-campaign coordinator. “UW System sustainability [work] is mostly focused on energy and facilities.”
There was an open application for presenting either a talk or a poster, and final selections were made by a committee. Eighteen “lightning talks” from students and faculty covered a variety of issues from sustainable cleaning to how to talk to conservatives about climate change.
Stahmann cited “Working Towards a Fashionably Sustainable Future with Re-wear It” by Anna Staresinic as the most memorable lightning talk.
After presentations, attendees explored through 30 different presentation posters and heard from presenters about their work.
Projects emphasize, empower sustainability
Rory Tevlin, an intern at the Office of Sustainability, told The Daily Cardinal about the SustainUW Podcast. Interns host, run, edit and produce the podcast about sustainability on campus and in the broader environmental community.
They balance educational material with lighthearted and digestible content, Telvin said. Some episodes might have interviews with professors while others review “Barbie” from a social sustainability perspective.
“Each listener and each guest we have on just makes sustainability a bit more accessible,” Tevlin said.
Arjun Muralikrishnan shared a project on how to use weather data clustering, which is choosing specific weather data to represent larger patterns.
With only 3.2% of UW-Madison’s energy consumption coming from renewable energy sources, Muralikrishnan said there needs to be better data collection on weather data to make timely infrastructure decisions.
Muralikrishnan was excited to share his research with members of the Office of Sustainability and praised the diversity of the group.
“It's just really cool to get the broader view of things,” he said.
Reactions to the event
Attendees hoped events like this one will spur more interconnectedness between major stakeholders in sustainability.
“I always find it super interesting to go to these events where you've got all these disciplines coming together,” said Bryn Scriver, outreach and volunteer coordinator for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
“It's been an awesome opportunity to really leverage the amazing resources that our campus has to collaborate in more ways moving forward,” said Christina Treacy, ASM Sustainability chair.
Students also said the event was an important networking opportunity. Lauren Marzinski, a freshman studying environmental engineering, said the event helped her understand the different kinds of fields she could work in.
“I'm so happy with the turnout and the engagement,” Audrey Stanton, one of the event coordinators, said. “The conversations that are happening are really important. This is how sustainability work gets done.”