University Housing student leaders receive sustainability training

 Captain Planet, Our Housing Hero! 

In a whirlwind of cheers, songs, dances and a recycling competition, 500 new University Housing student leaders received a sustainability training to remember August 21. Captain Planet (aka. Jason Rittel of Housing) visited campus to dazzle the incoming student leaders with a comprehensive new recycling program and a healthy dose of fun.

The idea developed from a partnership project between University Housing and WE CONSERVE focused on improving recycling rates in the dormitory trash rooms. At first, the plan focused on ensuring each dorm room had a bin for trash, paper, and glass/plastic/aluminum. To accompany the bins, a Syllabus of Sustainability (or recycling guide) was developed to resolve any questions. The same Syllabus can be found in trash rooms, or recycling rooms, as well.

With a simple name switch from trash to recycling room, Housing hopes to impress upon students the value and importance of recycling. But names, bins, and guides can only go so far. To complete the cultural shift, University Housing invited WE CONSERVE to co-develop a full training program to increase sustainability awareness of student leaders, who can in turn guide residents to recycle and connect with campus’ sustainability resources, WE CONSERVE and the Office of Sustainability.

That’s where Captain Planet comes in. His energy and enthusiasm kept the crowd captivated throughout the hour. He explained the three bin recycling system and the Syllabus of Sustainability, and then set the student leaders loose on the Waste Separation Game that awarded three giant trophies to the best recyclers. In 1st place: Smith, in 2nd place: Krocs/Leopold; in 3rd place: Ogg!

With their adrenaline running, student leaders also learned what it means to “Be the WE”: to Be the Waste Eliminator and make smart choices, and the Be the Wisconsin Educated and seize opportunities to learn about crucial environmental issues in and outside of the classroom. What’s more, they know how to “Be the WE” by taking the pledge and signing up to volunteer with WE CONSERVE, and using the Office of Sustainability webpage to find classes, jobs, and research opportunities in sustainability.

From Housefellows to Diversity Coordinators to Student Custodial Supervisors, Housing residents now have a wealth of informed staff to depend on. Staff who are not afraid to jump to their feet and follow Captain Planet in a resounding chant, “Near or far, far or near, I’m a Be the WE Planeteer!” This was the peak of the morning, when energy buzzed in the air and it was clear that student leaders felt a connection with the message and were ready to lead the way for new students to Be the WE.

If you’re ready to join in, visit to take the pledge today!

Story by Lea Zeise, WE CONSERVE