Student Projects Fall 2010

Badger Rock Middle School: Creating A Sustainable School

Badger Rock will be an environmental and culturally relevant project based charter school opening in Madison, fall 2011. We will be part of the larger Resilience Research Center which includes a neighborhood center, intensive urban agriculture, energy demonstration site and much more.  We are also a part of the Madison Schools (final decision pending) but as a charter school we operate somewhat independently.

1. Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum: As part of the larger Resilience Research Center, we have the good fortune of moving into a new building that will provide a greatly reduced carbon footprint but are well aware that even the greenest building needs the people inside them to do their part. We are looking for recommendations to develop best management practices in order to minimize our environmental footprint and maximize learning opportunities for students. These might include recommendations about how to move toward a paperless system and possible ways to modify or nudge human behavior so that it seems fairly effortless to behave in a sustainable way.

2. Long term Funding: How can Badger Rock Middle School provide for an ongoing and reliable revenue stream to support innovative programs and full student participation on various levels?   One of the greatest challenges the school faces is ensuring adequate funding streams to provide quality programming especially for the high numbers of economically disadvantaged youth we hope to serve. We are looking for recommendations to help us design effective and sustainable long term fund development strategies beyond the initial infusion of investment provided through the Department of Public Instruction planning grants, monies from private investors and the per pupil allocation contributed by Madison Public Schools.

Lands’ End Carpooling

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. They are committed to a superior level of service and connect with their customers through catalogs, on the Internet, through Sears retail stores and in their Inlet shops. Lands” End employs more than 7000 people and we design, test, sell, source, service, pack, and ship over 45,000,000  units each year.  As a company with a history of innovation, they are strongly committed to minimizing their impact on the environment and they are beginning the journey towards sustainability via a focus on product, policies and actions.

Carpooling: We estimate that 10,000 tons of CO2 are emitted by employee commuting to Dodgeville on an annual basis. We wish to understand the opportunities and barriers for significantly reducing this level of emissions. The team should be able to answer the following questions and propose solutions:
-Does Lands’ End have a significant percentage of its employee population carpooling? Is there opportunity for greater carpooling? What are employees’ thoughts regarding carpooling? Would alternative forms of employee commuting be accepted and viable?

Jordanal Farms

Jordanal Farms is really two farms dedicated to sustainable agriculture, nutrient density and quality over quantity. They originally started with mostly vegetables and have since shifted to pasture-raised livestock. Carrie and Eric have spent the past 10 years fine-tuning how they raise their livestock which has resulted in very high quality meats. All animals are on pasture getting the grasses/legumes with high Omegas, Vitamin D, fresh air, and sunshine they need to stay healthy and provide the highest quality meats. Jordanal currently sells four types of soups, four types of pasties, beef and chicken stock at the Farmer’s Markets and Metcalfe’s Sentry store at Hilldale. They are looking to expand their product line and open a small store in Verona to reach more customers and provide their superior food to surrounding communities. They are hoping to open a breakfast and lunch carryout (coffee bar) with retail cuts and ready to bake items available for purchase frozen.

The projects:
1) Cost analysis: They are looking for a team to help them estimate start up costs.  Included in the estimate would be everything from purchase of commercial real estate vs. renting, to new vs. used equipment and recommendations on wage and benefit packages to offer.

2) Buying local ingredients vs. commercial products: They would like to purchase all ingredients locally.  A team would need to identify sources of both food materials (spices, out-of-season vegetables, etc) and serving products (take-out containers, silverware, cups, etc) and identify the extra cost associated with purchasing locally.

UW Purchasing

One of the easiest ways for a large institution to bring about change is to use its purchasing power  to shape the behavior of vendors.  The UW buys a lot of stuff; office supplies, food, furniture, paints, cups and other disposables, etc.  Most purchasing at the university is coordinated through UW Purchasing.  In addition, the UW Sustainability Task Force recommended a better connection between students and what they are learning, and the operations side of the university.  The following projects arise from that recommendation.

A team will be provided with the top purchases the University makes in the category of office supplies. You will be asked to develop recommendations for greener options for some of the larger supply categories.  You will have access to the UW contractor (Staples) to obtain information about alternative green (greener) products that have the potential to become campus standards.  The project will entail research on 5-10 of the largest use item categories and result in a recommendation on new specifications that could be included in future purchase contracts. To reach this determination, the team should consider the elements of the product which make it a better environmental choice for the campus (durability, recycle content, re-use capability, disposal advantages, etc).  You will also need to develop a way to sell users on any added cost from a green recommendation, and finally, we would like you to also address how a department can achieve a reduction in their consumption of this product.

The recommendations and write-ups will be considered for publication in the University’s Business Newsletter; Adoption of a “University Recommendation” tag on the vendor website; and consideration for adoption as a campus standard.

Grameen America

Grameen America provides affordable micro-loans to financially empower low-income entrepreneurs.  Based off of the success of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus brought his model of microlending to the United States in 2008.

While currently operating in New York City and Omaha, Nebraska, Grameen America is organizing research on microfinance in the Native American populations. We are excited to present an opportunity for students to help us discover the potential of microfinance in these communities.

A team would identify variables that are common in impoverished communities in American.  These might include things like highest grade of school completed, age when first becoming a parent, rates of drug or alcohol use, likelihood of being convicted of a crime, or household make-up.  Following the identification of these key variables, students will conduct an analysis of Native American populations in Wisconsin and in the Salt Lake City area.  They will assess the market for a micro-credit program and make recommendations as to whether Grameen America’s peer-lending model of microfinance could be successful in Native American populations.  Suggested outcomes include a final report and short presentation on key findings to key staff at Grameen America.  NOTE:  Because the Grameen America are coming to Madison the week of Nov 15, if you choose this project, your due date is Nov 15th.

Developing a Plan for Move Out Day Trash in Madison

Trash is one of the most obvious manifestations of the lack of sustainability in our society.  The best example of our trash problems is the huge amount of trash that hits the curb every August in Madison.  This problem is not unique to Madison.  Every college town faces the same problems at the beginning and end of every school year.

The City of Madison has made some progress towards reducing the annual move out trash pile, but every year over 850 tons of trash finds its way to the landfill during the move out period.  This project will involve developing recommendations to divert move out trash from the landfill.  You will develop recommendations for new recycling and reuse programs.  You will also be asked to develop outreach materials (including social media approaches) for educating renters about the new programs. City staff will work with the project team to showcase their efforts at state and national recycling conferences so that other communities can learn from our efforts.

Developing Intuit’s Sustainability Approach for Small Businesses

Intuit is a leading software and services company that primarily serves consumers, small businesses, and accountants. Intuit has four specific corporate goals: be open and transparent, engage our employees, consider the environment in our decisions, and help our customers be more green. Since the beginning Intuit has recognized that they have a unique opportunity to help millions of small business customers become more sustainable and more profitable. In fact, one of their Sustainability goals is to solve important customer problems with delightful solutions that help lead to a sustainable community.

They have focused on building tools. They have already developed the following tools / resources: Intuit Green Snapshot, Intuit Green Community, Local Hero Challenge.

To date, they have received good feedback on these tools from small businesses, but have not received the type of traction or on-going use they had hoped for. They would like a team to take a step back and help them understand the needs of small business -are they on the right track, what insights are they missing, what are small businesses key questions and needs with respect to sustainability?  At the end of the project, they would like your recommendations on how to proceed with their sustainability tools.

Sustainable Program for Investment in Responsible Endeavors: inSPIRE

The program will invest donated funds into a committee-selected group of sustainable investments, while a second committee will award/grant proceeds to local developers/property owners implementing sustainable technologies.  The fund will be monitored completely by students.  With enough support, this program will become a great magnet for students interested in sustainable business, increase the School’s relationships with existing sustainable business, both domestic and foreign, as well as the school’s ranking on lists such as Beyond Grey Pinstripes.  This program will also strengthen ties with local business and contribute to the UW and the City of Madison rise as leaders in sustainable business and development.

An organizational plan needs to be drawn out with attention paid to the three main functions of this program:  fundraising, investment, and granting.  Fundraising will answer the questions of who to solicit funds from, as well as how to communicate to the world what this program is about and ensure local business is aware of the awarding potential.  Investment analysis should answer the question of what types of investment will qualify, as well as what the committee will look like and how it will function as it allocates the program’s resources.  The granting committee will be responsible for interviewing local business applicants with need for implementing sustainable technologies in their developments.

Plan and Host the 3rd WI Sustainable Business Council Conference

The WI Sustainable Business Council brings businesses from around the state together to talk about sustainability.  The third annual conference will be held in Neenah at Miron Construction on Dec 8th.  The paper outlines all of the steps the team needed to take to make the conference successful.