University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sharing Sustainability Achievements and Insights at the 2018 AASHE Conference

Green roof at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Nathan Jandl.
Green roof at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Nathan Jandl.

In October, staff and students from the Office of Sustainability joined University Housing sustainability coordinator Breana Nehls and a large contingent from sustainability programs at several UW System schools to attend the 2018 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

AASHE, which was established in 2005, bills itself as “the leading association for the advancement of sustainability in higher education.” In addition to its annual conference, a bulletin, an online “sustainability hub,” and other resources, AASHE also administers STARS, or the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System. STARS is “a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.”

With several hundred people in attendance during the four-day conference, the variety of panels, workshops, keynotes, poster sessions, vendor displays, and networking opportunities was immense. So what did some of our attendees think of their experience at AASHE 2018?

 

Ian Aley
Ian Aley
Green Fund Program Manager

 

How were you involved at AASHE?

I presented “Lessons from the compost pile: a facilitated conversation about campus compost initiatives” with Breana Nehls. It was a fun and interactive workshop that engaged 45 participants from across the country in sharing best practices, challenges, and resources about composting in a university context. I also gathered useful information from other institutions about their use of reusable take out containers that can inform our Ticket to Takeout program.

Did you attend any panels, workshops, keynotes, etc. that you found especially compelling?

I was inspired by the ways that our peer institutions have built relationships with diversity and inclusion-focused organizations on campus, finding overlapping interests, holding monthly join staff meetings, and working in solidarity with one another. I see great potential for the Office of Sustainability to do the same on the UW-Madison campus. My favorite session was called “Sustaining our communities through care and action.” It drew on indigenous and Black feminist traditions to explore sustainability as creative and healing work, rooted in relationships and reverence for people and planet.

In what ways is the AASHE conference a useful experience for sustainability-minded people?

AASHE is the place where university sustainability staff share ideas and build collaborative relationships. The conference was a great opportunity to connect with others, ask questions, and be exposed to best practices.

UW System sustainability staff at AASHE 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA.
UW System sustainability staff at AASHE 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA.
Jason Gallup
Jason Gallup
Student Programs Director


How were you involved at AASHE?

I facilitated a panel presentation titled “Undergrads as Consultants: Sharing Strategies and Experiences From a Student Intern Program.” During this panel, interns, and staff discussed the ways in which we train and utilize student interns as sustainability consultants on the UW-Madison campus.

Did you attend any panels, workshops, keynotes, etc. that you found especially compelling?

I got really excited by a presentation called “An Introduction to the Role of Race, Class and Gender Issues on Campus Sustainability Work,” given by Heather Hackman. Hackman was able to provide a framework for how to talk about these issues and their relation to current sustainability initiatives, giving the audience tools to make a more concerted effort to address these topics at their own institutions.

In what ways is the AASHE conference a useful experience for sustainability-minded people?

The value of AASHE is that it is the preeminent gathering of academics, students and professionals in the field of sustainability. In addition to providing a space for all of these experts and enthusiasts to engage and network, it provides the students with a wider view of career possibilities than they are used to.

 

Dr. Paul Shrivastava gives the closing keynote at the AASHE 2018 conference. Photo by Nathan Jandl.
Dr. Paul Shrivastava gives the closing keynote at the AASHE 2018 conference. Photo by Nathan Jandl.

 

Tim Lindstrom
Tim Lindstrom
Project Assistant


How were you involved at AASHE?

I presented a poster on my doctoral research, which uses life cycle assessment methods to analyze the environmental and economic impacts of expanded polystyrene (EPS) waste on the UW-Madison campus. This project arose from the Office of Sustainability’s Boxable program, an EPA-funded student initiative to collect and recycle EPS shipping containers from labs on campus. As such, this study is an example of how sustainability can unite academics, operations, and research on a campus in pursuit of a common goal.

In what ways is the AASHE conference a useful experience for sustainability-minded people?

To me, the value of AASHE is that it brings together folks from across the country (and world) who are striving towards the same goals. This is beneficial from a networking and knowledge sharing standpoint, but there’s another perhaps grander value as well. Sustainability is a global challenge, and from the perspective of a single individual or office the challenges at times can feel daunting and disheartening. It’s therefore encouraging to see just how many people and institutions are with you in these efforts. It brings a sense of comfort and hope to know that while the challenges are great, there are many hands working to solve them.