Students in the class will work as teams on one of the following projects. These community service projects are a critical component of the class as they bring the subject of sustainability to life. Students will work with a wide variety of organizations on projects that include developing a marketing plan for shade grown fair trade coffee to investigating recycling options for industrial by-products. The projects all address a real need of the organization that the students will be working with, and the final reports will be used to bring about change in these organizations. The projects thus serve the dual role of helping out the organization and earning the students a grade in the class.
Farm to School Project for the McFarland School District
This is a continuation of a project started last semester. The middle school in McFarland (a small suburb south-east of Madison) is interested in revising their school lunch (and perhaps their breakfast) program to include healthier, locally grown foods whenever possible. Good preliminary recommendations already exist, and the project for this semester is to look at implementing these recommendations. This will involve working closely with the food service director and the finance guy for the district. A part of this evaluation will be to determine if grants are available to help the district fund this work, and if so, provide guidance on the grant-writing process. Exploring other, alternative ways to fund the acquisition of healthier, locally grown foods will also be done. The advantage to this project is that the principal is very supportive, and the school board is also interested. A lot can happen with the right group on this project.
The “Dairy Gateway” Project is a partnership created by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and the Wisconsin Agricultural Stewardship Initiative. The goal of the project is to develop a framework for creating a sustainable agricultural region in northeast Wisconsin. Students will be asked to provide recommendations for how to differentiate milk (and milk products) that are produced in sustainable ways. This will primarily be a project about product differentiation – another way of saying labeling. However, the project must be about ways to establish a label (how to make it mean something to the consumer), and also about what carrying the label means as far as the producer (they must act in a demonstrably sustainable way). You will recommend a way to describe and package commitments made by participating farmers in a label that is meaningful to consumers, and suggest a strategy for initiating and marketing such a labeling program. If enough students sign up for this project, it may become two teams.
The Mt. Meru Coffee Project creates a direct connection between farmers and consumers. It offers justice through a fair price for the farmer, and hope to both the farmer and consumer. Growing out of a partnership between the Lutheran Church in Milwaukee and the Diocese of Meru in northern Tanzania, coffee grown on the slopes of Mt. Meru is purchased directly from small farmers through their local coops. It is shipped to Milwaukee, roasted to order, then distributed to consumers through “Ambassadors” in 60 plus congregations. A broader marketing and distribution plan is desired, and students will provide recommendations on additional markets and design materials to market this “fair trade” coffee to these new markets.
Alliant Energy sets balanced yet ambitious objectives for preservation and enrichment of fragile, disappearing ecosystems. Alliant Energy is one of very few corporations to create and support a landtrust. Many companies have land that was previously purchased for a new site but then later abandoned.
- What is the business case for supporting a land trust?
- What is the economic, environmental, and social value?
- What is the short term benefit? What is the long term benefit?
- How could a return on investment be characterized?
- Can you place a dollar value on the environmental assets of a land trust?
- What environmental assets can be included in a property valuation (i.e. biodiversity, clean air, waterways, carbon sequestered, etc.)?
- What methods are currently available to assess the environmental value of property?
- Are there any programs that recognize and/or reward environmental assets (e.g. credits or allocations that can be traded, banked, etc.)?
- What are the benefits (social, environmental, economic, and health)? What are the costs or barriers to a corporation?
The Wisconsin Conservation Power Project (WCPP) is a collaborative of Wisconsin’s environmental community working to substantially expand the breadth and depth of Wisconsin’s individual conservation organizations and to raise the importance of the environment in public debate. The WCPP is elevating the level of the environment in public debate through a long-term, coordinated strategy that looks beyond individual issue campaigns and implements a plan for building and mobilizing members, activists and other resources in every legislative district in the state. Students working with WCPP will begin by learning about the building blocks of nonprofit organizations. Because much of WCPP’s work involves building a base of power for organizations in specific legislative districts, students working with this project will research a targeted set of Wisconsin’s state senate districts. Using the strategies for building an effective organization as a guide, students will research each district to determine how to build the environmental movement in that specific district. The product at the end of the semester will be recommendations to the Conservation Power Projects partner groups on how to most effectively build their organizations and have an impact in that district.
Dane County is home to many small, medium and large businesses working to become more environmental and socially responsible. Most community members however don’t know they exist and are missing an opportunity to make a real difference with their purchasing decisions. Over each of the past 4 years, Sustain Dane has published a directory of non-profit organizations working on sustainability related issues (e.g. transportation, land-use, conservation, energy, etc.). For the directories 5th edition, Sustain Dane would like to expand its annual Sustainable Organization Directory to include these local sustainable businesses. Similar directories are available free of charge in major cities such as New York, Portland and Minneapolis. Students will work directly with Sustain Dane to develop screening criteria for inclusion in the sustainable business section of the directory.
Madison Cutting Die is a print finishing company. This means that they do all the special additional things to make printed pieces look really good. For instance, they add the foil to wedding invitations, or fold brochures in unusual ways. They are looking for help to evaluate the effectiveness of the current recycling efforts for foil Mylar waste. It currently is being shipped to China for recycling into low value products. We would like to send the material somewhere more local and have the valuable Mylar be used in higher value products. This may drive changing the manufacturing of the foil so the coatings are more easily removed, or it many drive the development of a product where the coatings are not detrimental – and are maybe even helpful. Or it may drive how we reclaim the material from the press so that it has a higher value locally.
The students would be involved in an active revitalization project in Madison. As part of this project, the team would follow the process of the revitalization project to identify how the administrative process corresponds to the physical and perceptual needs of the project, i.e. does the project, managed in this manner, improve the environment and does it meet the social needs of the developer, city, and community. Then, after gathering this information and analyzing the way in which the project has developed, make recommendations on how to improve the process, and how to capture the lessons learned to apply the principle of sustainable development. Finally, the students should analyze the concept of transparency within this project, describe recommendations to change the level of transparency (more or less), and defend their position.