Student Projects Fall 2009

We Conserve Program

We Conserve, University of Wisconsin’s Environmental Stewardship Program, began in 2006 as an energy initiative, and the focus quickly grew to encompass eight areas of concentration.  One area of concentration is usage reduction and recycling.  Under this program campus composting began in 2009.  We Conserve would like to increase participation in this program particularly in the area of post consumer composting (meaning food scraps that you don’t eat) which in pilots has seen such high amounts of contamination that it is deemed not acceptable for compost.  The campus is currently composting pre consumer organics from food prep across campus and would like to grow the post consumer program.
We Conserve would like to find out why there is resistance from students, faculty and staff to separating out their food waste.  We would like a series of recommendations on how to increase both the rate of separation and the “cleanliness” of separation.  Your recommendations may be based upon case studies from other institutions, surveys, interviews and/or observations.  We would then like you to take your findings and design a proposed Marketing / Education plan that would be reintroduced to the Capital Café for spring semester 2010.

Lands End Wind Project

Lands’ End is a 46 year old global retailer based in Wisconsin offering classically styled American sportswear, accessories and Home products for the entire family. We maintain a laser like focus on the cornerstones of the brand which include Quality, Value, Service and our famous guarantee; everything we sell is “Guaranteed Period”. As a company with a history of innovation, we are strongly committed to minimizing our impact on the environment and we are beginning the journey towards sustainability via a focus on our product, policies and actions .We are continually looking for initiatives to further that goal.

Lands’ End is committed to providing a significant portion of its electrical power need through the use of renewable energy. We wish to partner with our energy provider (Alliant) and potentially the local community in the development of a proposal for a multiple megawatt wind generation installation on the Lands’ End Dodgeville campus. The project would consist of coordinating the efforts of Lands’ End, Alliant Energy and community partners in studying and proposing a generation scheme that would meet economic and energy hurdles. Available grants, rebates, and incentives for both a corporate and community initiative need to be evaluated and understood.  This project will take a substantial amount of hands-on work as you will need to investigate the “right” people to bring together, facilitate the meetings, and develop a project timeline and plan to move this project forward.  Other groups may take over this project in the future, but it is important to get the right parties to the table, investigate the costs and lay the foundation this semester.

Slow Food UW – Honeycomb Café

The Honeycomb Café is the evolutionary next step for Slow Food UW. Slow Food UW is the local chapter of Slow Food USA, with over 200 members and a dedicated group active in campus and community agriculture and food politics. The Honeycomb Café is a natural expansion of Slow Food UW because Slow Food revolves around cooking, eating, and cultivating a connection through our family, campus, and greater community. Slow Food is both an idea and a non-profit organization. As an idea, Slow Food values local food traditions as well as enjoyment and appreciation of the food we eat, the places it comes from, and the people who provide it. As an organization, Slow Food promotes ethical and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

The Honeycomb Café will have a warm, welcoming atmosphere and offer appetizing food that is connected to local farms. Designing and developing the café requires careful planning. Working closely with Slow Food UW executive members, each project builds a crucial part and determines the nature of the café. We spent a great deal of time collecting necessary data and information, which will be available to each and every project team. As well, we have focused our goals to reflect these three projects – organization, finance, and marketing.

Organization

Develop a plan to grow a student group cafe into a permanent business.  Organizationally we will need to decide how we will be organized, structured and how decisions will be made.  Please research and provide recommendations on the following:

– Legal form of “permanent business” (501(c)3, LLC, or cooperative)

– Other legal requirements that will impact upon our business (food, health, safety regulations; workers rights, etc)

– Organizational structure of “permanent business” (chaordic, committees; tiered or flat; etc.)

– Decision making entities and processes (voting or consensus among execs, board, members; etc.)

Marketing Slow Food

Develop a marketing strategy and plan that will build an ever-growing community to support and participate in the café.  This plan will probably require the following:

– A competitive analysis of campus food venues to help assess strengths, opportunities, etc

– Branding that reflects our core values throughout our messaging

– Critical review of low-budget marketing models (word-of-mouth) for the café

– Incentives (not gimmicks) for attracting customers and recruiting members, volunteers, staff, and execs

Green Development Financing Strategies

Design Coalition Architects is a small architectural practice that specializes in socially conscious and ecologically responsible design. We strive to design buildings and communities that are functional, beautiful, resource- and energy-efficient, non-toxic, and healthy – resulting in places that will endure the test of time, leave a smaller ecological footprint on our planet, and fully welcome all of us, our children, the elderly and those with disabilities

We have discovered a major frustration in practicing on the cutting edge of sustainability, namely the limits of control that we can exercise over how our projects are built.  We have found that conventional lending structures place serious limits on sustainable projects. Students will explore alternative financing mechanisms, especially alternative socially-based possibilities – some examples: co-op and land trust models, collaborative investing, and angel investing – that can be used in combination with other/conventional means to fund a development project. Based on this exploration, we ask that students make financing recommendations for a sustainable development.

The development parameters, include the following:

  • Located in the City of Madison, in close proximity to public transportation and within walking distance to daily services such as a grocery store
  • One block development (approx. 3  to 4 acres)
  • 75-90 residential units varying in size and type with a mix of rental and ownership, approximately one third of which are cohousing units
  • 20,000 square feet of non-residential space
  • Common Indoor Space
  • Common Outdoor Space
  • A design approach that will seamlessly integrate building structures, renewable energy, stormwater management, community gardens, district heating, and more..

Credit Union Sustainability Play

Over 7,000 credit unions provide consumer financial services to 90 million Americans. On the surface credit unions look similar to all other financial institutions in terms of product and service offerings.  Credit unions, however, are unique among all financial institutions in that they are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, which are owned and controlled by their members. This unique structure is a huge differentiator, but one that perhaps has not resonated as well as one would expect with the general public. Credit unions hold about 1.5 percent of household financial assets as of September 2008, a market share that hasn’t changed significantly in over 25 years. Local examples of credit unions include the University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Summit Credit Union and Heartland Credit Union.

Credit unions came through the recent economic crisis largely unscathed in part because of the inherent sustainability of their business model: slow capital formation, a focus on service over profits and a general pro-consumer stance. How can credit unions use this success to continually brand themselves as a “sustainable” banking alternative?  How can they incorporate sustainability thinking into their business model and business strategy?  How can they effectively differentiate themselves compared to other financial institutions. How does an interest in sustainability impact an interest in micro-credit?  Please develop a series of recommendations on how an individual credit union, can better leverage their interest in sustainability to attract more business.  With research and intellectual support from the Filene Research Institute, a credit union think tank, we are interested in learning how the U.S. credit union system can better leverage, communicate and develop their sustainability strategies on a national basis.

Terra Experience Carbon Offset Project

Terra Experience is a small, Madison-based ecommerce business that specializes in ethnic doll clothes, hand-woven textiles, arts and crafts imported from Guatemala and Central America. Part of the business’s mission is “to support sustainable development, fair trade, local artisans, their communities and their environment”.  A specific goal for the coming year is to become a carbon neutral business, both by minimizing carbon producing activities and the use of carbon offsets that are both environmentally and socially responsible.

Terra Experience is looking for a team of students to provide recommendations on:

1) The best options for a small business such as Terra Experience to define and track their carbon footprint and make this information available to their customers and producers?

2) Business opportunities for Terra Experience (and other similar Fair Trade and Non Profit groups) to enter the Carbon offset business with projects that are environmentally sound and aligned with Fair Trade Principles.

The transportation of inventory and travel of management carry a substantial carbon footprint.  In fact, the majority of Terra Experiences carbon footprint is attributable to transportation issues.  They wish to find a way to minimize their carbon footprint.  There are few transportation choices either out of, or into, Guatemala, so there is little chance to make a greener choice.  Given this, they are interested in the purchase of carbon credits.  However, being true to their focus on the region, they want the credits to go toward carbon projects in Guatemala and Central America.

The team should first investigate the sale of carbon offsets to determine if there are viable and credible groups that sell offsets based upon Guatemala and Central American projects.  In doing this analysis, please describe what makes a group viable and credible, how the purchaser of offsets can be assured that the projects are additive (meaning that they would not have already been done), quantifiable, verifiable and permanent.  In addition, the group should look at both the environmental and the social impacts of any carbon offset project.  Is it possible to align an offset project with Fair Trade principles or certification programs?   If there is no business or group that is currently able to offer offsets in the Central American region, what steps would Terra Experience or a consortium of Fair Trade, Non Profit and Eco-Travel groups/businesses need to go through in order to develop a carbon offset expertise and capability that could be used to directly help their producer groups and the communities with which they work?

Plan and Coordinate the Second Annual Sustainable Businesses Council in Wisconsin

Last year, a group of students put together a conference that over 200 people attended.  With their guidance, we invited top speakers, students and business people from around the state to gather together to learn about sustainability.  There was great support for doing this again this year.  Your task would be to work with Tom on the planning and coordination of the conference.  This would be a large conference, held in early December in Milwaukee.  You would be responsible for planning the conference, working with Tom to secure sponsorships, preparing and distributing invitations, and generally making this conference  a success.  Given how many people are involved in planning conferences such as these in the real world, having this experience under your belt could be a great resume builder.