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UW-Green Bay is Eco U™

UW-Green Bay, founded in 1965, engaged in a novel approach to campus planning that joined together academic programs, residential life, and the physical campus environment. The program areas focused on environmental research and teaching and the campus was conceived as a holistic university community, with students spending much of their time on campus. The University was heralded for its environmental ethic. It was dubbed Eco U™ by Harper’s Magazine, Newsweek and other national and regional media in the early 1970s. The nickname came about in large part because of the University’s multidisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems. As former interim Chancellor David Ward once put it, “We were green long before green became mainstream.”

Commitment to the environment

Carrying that commitment forward, the current Mission Statement for the University states:

“UW-Green Bay provides an interdisciplinary, problem-focused educational experience that prepares students to think critically and address complex issues in a multicultural and evolving world. The University enriches the quality of life for students and the community by embracing the educational value of diversity, promoting environmental sustainability, encouraging engaged citizenship, and serving as an intellectual, cultural and economic resource.” (Approved by the UW System Board of Regents, September 2007)

Natural areas

Cofrin Arboretum
290-acre Cofrin Arboretum, UW-Green Bay

The 290-acre Cofrin Arboretum that surrounds the campus buildings and residence halls is a physically tangible example of the University’s commitment to the natural environment. The Cofrin Arboretum was established at the inception of the University to restore and preserve natural areas for their ecological, educational and aesthetic values. The purpose of the arboretum is to restore and preserve some of Wisconsin’s native ecological communities and to provide a place where people can enjoy and appreciate nature. It serves both the University and the local community as a popular destination for hiking, recreation and outdoor learning. Emphasis is placed on the protection, enrichment and development of native Wisconsin plant communities and areas of special ecological significance. Forests, prairies, ponds and creeks represent some of the major natural features thriving in the arboretum.

Building efficiency

Mary Ann Cofrin (MAC) Hall

Mary Ann Cofrin (MAC) Hall
Energy efficient, Mary Ann Cofrin Hall, UW-Green Bay

Mary Ann Cofrin (MAC) Hall, built in 2001, also serves as an example of how UW-Green Bay’s environmentally focused tradition was translated into the design of a campus classroom facility. The building incorporates day lighting, building integrated photovoltaic glass, room occupancy lighting sensors and other energy efficiencies – the majority being cutting-edge applications at the time of construction.

The Kress Events Center

The Kress Events Center, home to campus sports and athletic facilities, was completed in 2007. A floor made from recycled tires can be found in the Fitness Center. Lighting in several gyms and the pool area have recently been retrofitted for increased efficiency.

Contributing to environmental awareness

Prof. Draney's outdoor entomology lab
Prof. Draney’s entomology lab class visits a campus pond to collect, preserve, prepare, label and correctly identify 50 insect specimens.

The natural environment, its man-made surroundings, and its culture, all contribute to the learning environment of the University. To that end, faculty and staff actively engage students in the development of knowledge and skills that help them to become environmentally aware citizens. Beginning in fall 2014, the general education requirements for all new students includes a course focused on sustainability topics. The UW-Green Bay academic plan promotes hands-on learning through internships, research and team projects. This certainly applies to environmental students, but also to students across all disciplines. It proposes that students should examine issues from multiple perspectives, including the environmental, historical, social and psychological viewpoints, and to work effectively with those from other academic areas of interest. UW-Green Bay’s “interdisciplinary” structure provides for deep and meaningful connections and problem-solving across practical areas of interest.

Energy efficiency

The University’s environmental perspective competes with the social and physical realties of a dependence on fossil fuels – both for operating campus facilities as well as for students, faculty and staff commuting to campus. The challenges are ongoing, but focused attention on areas contributing to greenhouse gas emissions has yielded positive results. Wisconsin Act 145, passed by the state legislature in 2006, directed state institutions to reduce total BTU energy usage by 20 percent by 2010 from a FY 2005 baseline. Over the last eight years, actions taken to make academic building systems more energy efficient have achieved great success with more than a 27 percent decrease in weather-adjusted BTU/GSF (see table below) through FY2013. 

Fig. 1. Percent Change from Base Energy Consumption (BTU/GSF) 2005-2010

More students are bringing cars to campus than ever before and offering alternative transportation options to change the behavioral dependence on cars is an important challenge. In collaboration with the Green Bay Metro, the University offers faculty, students and staff the U-Pass program, which provides free bus rides on the local transit system. In fall 2014, a car share program will launch providing students with easy access to a car without having to bring their own to campus.

With an environmental ethic as a core founding value, UW-Green Bay has a proud heritage that it will continue to build upon with its efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and enhance campus sustainability. By operating in a sustainable manner and by providing its students with an opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of climate change issues regardless of their major discipline of study, UW-Green Bay graduates can take their place in society and the economy armed with critical thinking skills to become active participants in battling climate change.