Student Projects Fall 2017

The students in the class People, Planet, and Sustainability Fall 2016 were paired with businesses or organizations to work projects concerning sustainability. The students were asked at the end of the semester to submit their recommendations on how their clients should move forward sustainably with their projects. Below is a brief description of each project.

Dane County Projects

From the roads we drive on to the, to the parks and lakes we enjoy, to the Sheriff’s Office that keeps our communities safe, counties are at the cornerstone of Wisconsin’s quality of life. County governments must evolve to meet the changing needs of the residents we represent and create public policy that reflects the desires and needs of our residents. The Dane County Board of Supervisors comprises 37 elected supervisors, one from each district in the county.  The County Board acts similarly to the state legislature in that it is the policy-making body of county government and enacts county ordinances, levies taxes, and appropriates money for services.

Workforce Outreach

Dane County is looking for a team to identify effective strategies that can be used to reach out and connect to the following populations; youth, minority, veteran, parents, former prison/jail inmates. Many members of these populations may not be aware of how to seek employment.  The team will develop out-of-the-box ideas based on best practices in other locations.  In addition, the team is responsible for developing recommendations on how to spread the word, perhaps through existing networks (you’ll need to identify these) and word of mouth. Strategies can also consider population-specific approaches including what language to use, locations and thought leaders that resonate in different communities.

Creating an Asset Map

Currently Dane county has over 600 nonprofit, faith based and businesses working in community and economic development. However, while this information is listed online with descriptions, how can this information be put into a meaningful format where partners in related fields or with supporting missions/services can connect? How can we visualize information or organize it in a more useful way?  This team would not only be responsible for suggesting how to visualize this information, but actually developing the asset map envisioned.

 Pop up Retail

Dane County’s Alliant Energy Center (AEC) is located in and around a diverse community that is not connected to the event space and has little ability to interact with it on a regular basis. This is partly due to the AEC having a lot of open parking space. While parking is needed for the few big events held there, how could the space be used on the majority of days when the parking lots are not in use? Could this space be transformed into a pop-up retail space, also known as flash retail or a modular market? If so, how might it look? How might it work (layout, is some storage onsite needed?) Might there be an opportunity to brand the space for the time it’s used (much like the Madison Farmer’s Market or Milwaukee’s night market)

Innovative Approaches to Phosphorus and Other Nutrient Management

The lakes are the crown jewels of Dane County—central to the county’s character, economy, and quality of life.  Public support for clean lakes and waterways is strong, yet water quality continues to be seriously impaired by nutrients like phosphorus and nitrates along with sediment runoff. Rapid urban growth is also accelerating runoff to the lakes and waterways.  Dane County is increasing its population by 60,000 people every 10 years, and development has converted many farms, forests, and wetlands to hard-surface urban and suburban uses.

Given the increasing concern related to phosphorous and its effect on water quality in Dane County, we are interested in new approaches to phosphorous management – for example, taking phosphorous from areas in the county that have too much and taking it to another area that is deficient in phosphorous.  This is an issue not only in Dane County, but in Wisconsin and likely other states as well.  There are likely other strategies and options that other municipalities are using to ensure their farms are thriving and water quality is improving – what are they?  What are the costs?  Who bears the costs? How effective are the initiatives?

Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change:

The Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change (DCOECC) was just created in May.  The office is responsible for planning, organizing, developing and implementing a county-wide climate action plan and for coordinating greenhouse gas emission reduction programs across all county departments.   The DCOECC has convened a diverse array of county stakeholders on a climate change council which will come up with recommendations for reducing GHG emissions to be included in the climate action plan.

Best-in-class Climate Action Plans

Many counties and cities across the nation have convened stakeholder groups and developed climate action plans.   Dane County wants to learn all it can from these other local governments while we put together our climate action plan.   We need a team of students to look at other progressive jurisdictions (King Co. WA, Berkley CA, etc.), that have created climate action plans (CAP) and tracked their results to find out which cities and counties have gotten the best results in terms of reducing GHG emissions, and which policies or programs in their climate action plan accounted for the most GHG emissions.   Dane County doesn’t want to recreate the wheel, and with your help we won’t!

Most Successful Carbon Sequestration Programs

The most recent published paper from climate change guru James Hanson warns us that to avoid saddling our children with the need to pay for outrageously expensive geo-engineering solutions to keep warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, we need to immediately begin drastically reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions as well as maximizing natural carbon sequestration processes.   The Dane County Climate Council will need to develop strong recommendations designed to achieve very significant carbon sequestration.  Students should focus on developing recommendations in improved forestry, agriculture and land use practices.   We need a team of students to take a look at carbon sequestration projects from around the country that have been executed, measured, evaluated and verified, and recommend the top 10 to 20 sequestration practices that could potentially be replicated here in Dane County.

Cool Choices:

Accelerating the Adoption of Electric Vehicles

Cool Choices was created to inspire individuals, communities, and small businesses to adopt sustainable practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Cool Choices relies on best practices from a variety of social sciences and uses games to bring about behavior change.  Choose one of the following projects:

Transportation represents a significant part of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While emissions from other sources are declining, transportation-related emissions continue to climb. The best opportunity to reduce transportation-related emissions would seem to be a transition to electric vehicles, but what will it take to get consumers—individuals as well as business people—into electric vehicles? This project involves an assessment of the electric vehicle landscape, identifying what’s working and suggesting strategies that could be applied in Wisconsin to accelerate the adoption of electric cars, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles.

Madison Gas & Electric:

Battery Best Practices

Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) generates and distributes electricity to 149,000 customers in Dane County and purchases and distributes natural gas to 154,000 customers in seven south-central and western Wisconsin counties. MGE’s roots in the Madison area date back more than 150 years.  MGE has a number of facilities including office locations and reporting centers in the Madison area.

MGE internally collects a variety of batteries for recycling.  These include lithium-ion batteries, nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, and alkaline batteries.  The batteries come in many different sizes from our operations and from employees.  Storage of certain batteries in certain conditions can present a fire risk.  Getting consistent cooperation with procedures at battery collection sites is a challenge such that a potential risk remains with this sustainability initiative.

A student team would identify best practices in collection methods and procedures along with identifying specific risks and ways to minimize those risks.  Research could be done within the US or internationally about best management practices for battery collection and recycling.