Student Projects Spring 2006

Municipal Green Purchasing Design

The Sustainable Design and Energy Committee was formed by the City of Madison Common Council for the purpose of implementing a plan where the City will become  “a green capital city and acknowledged as a progressive leader regarding renewable energy and conservation…”  The Committee is currently implementing the recommendations of the Mayor’s Energy Task Force which published a blueprint of strategies and actions for this purpose.

As one of the key recommendations being implemented, the City of Madison will be transitioning to a green purchasing mode at a time when the purchasing department is in transition and in a hiring mode. The intent of this project is to research green purchasing departments in other cities including:

  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • King County, WA
  • Santa Monica

The project will detail the staffing levels of these green purchasing departments, how they ensure green purchasing, under what conditions individual departments can purchase independently of the purchasing office, how green purchasing is monitored, integrated into accounting practices, and reported out.  In addition to this city research, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is an established practice with many materials available through the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/epp/pubs/docs.htm,  through ICLEI at www.iclei.org,  and through California at www.ciwmb.ca.gov/EPP/ The project will provide recommendations of best practices and implementation points for Madison.

Creating an Environmental Management System for Crescendo Design

Last semester, two student groups worked on projects with Jon and Kandy Brouchard from Crescendo Design (http://www.crescendodesign.com/.)  Those projects were very well received by Jon and Kandy, and they are interested in our help again.

They are committed to applying to the Green Tier program with the WI DNR.  One of the requirements of that program is to develop an Environmental Management System that either complies with ISO 14001, or is deemed to be functionally equivalent. (guidance from the department is available on developing a functionally equivalent EMS).  This group would be responsible for helping Jon and Kandy develop their EMS.  This would involve background work on what would need to be considered within an EMS for a design firm, and laying out a series of recommendations for how they could proceed.

Sustainable Engineering Group – Employment Recruitment and Management Plan

Sustainable Engineering Group offers engineering consulting services that reduce energy consumption in buildings while improving indoor air quality, and increasing the quality of the completed buildings.  Our goal is to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and improve our living conditions one building at a time.

We are a relatively new business and need to determine how we can find employees that have an interest in sustainable engineering principles and match our current personalities.  Other elements of hiring employees that we need to determine are when to start looking for people, when to hire, what benefits to provide, effort involved with having employees (continuing education, morale, bonuses, company feel/attitude etc.), and other aspects of having employees. The task is to develop a plan to accomplish this.

Ogden Construction Project

Given a list of materials and their quantities for a standard home, determine which material products should be upgraded or substituted in order to be more green compliant  and sustainable.  Advise changes in building technique and product handling (recycling) in order to be more green compliant and sustainable.  Determine on a per square foot bases, the additional cost to my clients as an option to have their home built green and sustainable.

Monteverde Conservation League

The Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) is a non-profit organization based in Monteverde, Costa Rica. We manage the Children`s Eternal Rainforest (CERF) which, covering 54,000 acres, is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica.  The MCL is committed to preserving the forest and its incredible biodiversity for future generations. We work with local communities to promote awareness and provide environmental education.  We are also continuously working on reforestation and research projects that help us to better understand and thus better safeguard our environment. The 1990s were very good years for the MCL because of the high levels of foreign investment in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, such funds have ceased to flow, so we are stretching more than usual to protect the CERF.

Currently the MCL has two main sources of income: On the one hand there are donations from private donors.  A significant part of those come from MCL´s American sister-organization called MCLUS, but there are other similar organizations around the globe that contribute in a similar fashion. Of the total amount MCLUS collects, 50% is used for land purchases, 40% for administrative expenses and 10% is invested in an endowment fund.  On the other hand, MCL is raising funds through the environmental services it performs. About two thirds of all funds available to MCL are raised this way, which are again divided at a ratio of about 60:40 between money received from the Costa Rican government and money received from two large corporations that pay MCL for the efforts in preserving and improving the watershed.

Objective of the group project

The objective of this project is to help MCL in finding additional sources of funds and to set up a more systematized way of tapping into them.  Basically we have identified three potential sources of funds, which are private donors, corporate donors, and grants from governments and NGOs.  There is room for improvement in all three of these areas.  Also, any additional ideas that the group can come up with would be appreciated as well.

Friends of Troy Gardens

The Friends of Troy Gardens is a non-profit organization responsible for the development, management, and stewardship of Troy Gardens, 31 acres of open space on the Northside of Madison, Wisconsin. Sitting on a bus stop in a diverse mixed-income neighborhood, Troy Gardens includes four acres of community gardens, restored tall-grass prairie and maple woodlands, a five-acre organic farm, and educational gardens with small livestock.  In March of this year we will break ground on 30 units of affordable housing on the site.  Troy Gardens offers educational and leadership programs focused on sustainable agriculture and ecological restoration.

The Board of Directors is interested in both environmental sustainability and organizational sustainability.  We are moving away from our dependence on grant funding, and beginning to create entrepreneurial projects.  (See http://www.se-alliance.org for more on social enterprise and earned-income opportunities for non-profits).  So far we have created small businesses including fresh herbs for the wholesale market (we have an account at Willy St. Coop) and a small product line of conceptual and physical gifts.

We aim to significantly increase our income in a sustainable manner during 2006, and request a group to advise us on ways we can marry our values with selling a product or service.  This is generally called social enterprise, and there is a lot written on this.

We are open to new business ideas, ranging from value-added farm products, to conceptual gifts.  Our 1,000-person festival in August could be the kick-off for the social enterprise/product that the group creates.  In addition, we could offer students the opportunity to work on making our festival more sustainable while increasing event revenue.  A committee planning the festival began meeting this month, and could assist students with their project.

Food Fight

Food Fight is a holding company of many popular restaurants in the Madison area.  Top management of the holding company is interested in what they can and should be doing to make their restaurants desirable places for employment candidates that are either in their 20s and early 30s (Generation Y) and/or in their early to mid 30s and early 40s (Generation X).  In other words, what are Gen X and Gen Y professionals looking for in a workplace, and how can the various restaurants in the holding company meet these expectations.  This information would also then be used to better understand their customer base and how to market to them. Students would first be expected to understand what motivates and appeals to Gen X and Gen Y, and then recommend changes in organization, culture, operation, motivation, etc to attract top talent from these age groups.

Dane County Buy Local Initiative (DCBLI)

The DCBLI is a collaboration of about 80 local independent businesses and community organizations working together with the following goals:

  1. Promote the value of local businesses in strengthening the local economy and enhancing the unique character of Dane County.
  2. Encourage consumers to buy from local businesses
  3. Facilitate collaboration among Buy Local members in advertising and business to business transactions
  4. Recruit new members

We are looking for students to help with the following project:

Develop a strategic plan for DCBLI.  In preparing this plan, you will have access to survey information that has recently been compiled, and you will be encouraged to talk with members.  The strategic plan will be used to guide the future development and direction of DCBLI.  You should plan on including recommendations for how to promote DCBLI, how information about DCBLI can best be communicated (this may involve making some recommendations for how to improve the web site), what services are sought from DCBLI and how they can provide those services, etc.

Cuna Mutual Project – Add a Socially Responsible Mutual Fund

Currently CUNA Mutual Group offers a variety of mutual funds for credit union investors.  These mutual funds range from conservative bond funds all the way to aggressive international stock funds.  Cuna Mutual Group is looking for a group of students to provide recommendations on whether it would be advisable to move into the socially responsible mutual fund area.

What is the demand for this type of mutual fund?  Who are the potential investors?  How have these funds performed over time?  Could we sell this type of fund to our customer base?  These are all potential questions for a team of students.

By starting this type of fund early in the evolution of socially responsible mutual funds, Cuna Mutual Group could give our organization a head start in an area that other companies will be trying to get into later in the game.  In addition, credit unions are very grassroots oriented, so there is an advantage in supporting a new “grassroots” type of investing.