Can You Spend 30 Minutes for 30 Days in Nature Without Technology? The State of Wisconsin Challenges You!

30x30 graphic UWsustainability

In North America, we spend roughly 95{13cc73ace98a1a1c72459df4609391372da874048f40eb9ad7cb1a640123a483} of our day either indoors or in our vehicles. Children are averaging 6 hours a day in front of television, computers, tablets, etc. Most of our time as human beings was spent outside in nature before the … Continue reading

2014 Earth Day Business Sustainability Awards

Do you work in a business?

Would you consider yourself a sustainability leader?

Or perhaps you’ve incorporated sustainability into a business process or a particular product.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, or if you know someone that it may apply to, then you should apply to the 2014 Earth Day Business Sustainability Awards!

Award recipients will be invited to the 2014 Celebrating Earth Day Celebration Event on April 9th, held at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, where they’ll receive their awards in front of a group of like minded Wisconsin businesses.

In an effort to recognize those Wisconsin businesses who have embraced the principles of sustainability, The Earth Day Business Sustainability Awards have been developed. The awards are designed to honor businesses for their leadership in developing innovative products, processes, and business models.  The awards are designed for those Wisconsin businesses that can demonstrate that economic performance and environmental and social performance go hand-in-hand.

A company may apply for one, two or all three of the awards. In addition, small businesses will be competing against other small businesses, to try and level the playing field. For additional information, please watch the educational video for instructions on how to apply or click on any of  the three award tabs.

Applications open January 20th, 2014 and close on March 31, 2014

Apply Now

Sustainable Process of the Year

Sustainable Product of the Year

Sustainable Leadership Award

Masters of Green: Wisconsin Statewide Sustainable Business Program

Why Should Businesses be Interested in Adopting Sustainability Practices?


“…virtually every business gets into sustainability because of the cost savings opportunities,” admits Tom Eggert, Director of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council say.  “Cutting energy use certainly reduces the environmental footprint of an organization, but it also reduces their energy bill. Reducing the percent of raw materials that becomes waste and is sent to a landfill saves on the cost of landfilling material, but also ensures a greater percentage of raw materials are turned into finished product.”

For other businesses, the benefits and motivations for sustainability efforts go beyond the financial savings (although those never hurt)! KI Ceo Rick Resch puts it this way: “Sustainability is about striving for continual improvement every step of the way. To us, sustainability isn’t just about ‘going green.’ It’s a fundamental way of doing business – one that conserved natural resources and reduces waste, consumption and operating costs.

Enter The Green Masters Program, a voluntary, business sustainability recognition program that recognizes Wisconsin businesses for these very sustainability actions. A program of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, established through the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, the program has attracted businesses from every corner of the state, of every size, and almost every sector and has doubled each year since it’s inception- with over 160 participants in 2013.

The top 20{13cc73ace98a1a1c72459df4609391372da874048f40eb9ad7cb1a640123a483} of businesses each year are awarded the designation of Green Masters, presented annually at the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference in front of a crowd of over 350 Wisconsin companies. The application process is simple, can be done online, and is often downloaded and used by businesses as a check-mark list to help them continue on their sustainability path.



Learn more about the Green Masters Program.
Check out the online application.
Read the full article. 

Green is the New Black: Part II in Home Renovations

Just this past November, the 12th Annual U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo attracted over 30,000 attendees dedicated to green building from 90 different countries. Whether you are a student, new to the industry, or an experienced practitioner, there is something there for everyone.

In early December, the Huffington Post published an article on green building following and reviewing the conference. One of their 3 key points is that: transparancy is key.

“From a product perspective, much effort in recent years has been to create systems that make it easy to compare one so called “green” product to another. … Many architects and designers remain understandably confused with the plethora of product certifications out there and how to compare apples to oranges. “Greenwashing” is still rampant. This year UL Environment, one of the leading testing, certification and consulting providers announced a partnership with the USGBC to make EPD’s more comparable. UL Environment also created an exciting tool called The Green Building Toolkit which was designed with downloadable tip sheets and a Sustainable Product Guide that helps you understand how to leverage products …”

There exists this innate problem with consumers having difficulty distinguishing between Greenwashing as well as making the right decisions for their green building project. Until more stable, standard rating systems emerge, there will always be a level of research involved. However, UWsustainability doesn’t want you to think taking part in such an endeavor is overwhelming, because it is absolutely not. Like any reconstruction project, there is research and decisions to be made. Tom’s project faced the following challenges- and this is how he was able to overcome them to make a decision:


1. Forest Stewardship Council Certified Lumber

FSC certified lumber- UWsustainability FSC lumber- UWsustainabilityIt was important to Tom and his family to utilize FSC certified lumber. They wanted to make a very visible statement about the importance of not only green building itself, but one that suported others than are committed to the broader principles of sustainability. However, they quickly found out that Home Depot, Menards, and Brunsell did not handle FSC certified dimensional lumber or plywood.

At this point, they met with two individuals from Holley Schink Design Builders, who they were working with on the project. It turns out that they were also interested in making a statement on the house and offered to split the additional cost of u sing FSC certified lumber (which would be shipped in from the twin cities). They stood by their decision, not only because it makes a statement about what is important to them, but also to help start a demand in Madison for FSC lumber.


2. Recycled Denim Insulation

Recycled Denim Insulation- UWsustainabilityAnother initial desire was to utilize recycled denim insulation in the walls. It would be perfect for use in
optimal indoor air quality. Unfortunately, the same with the lumber, it is not locally available. In this case it is much easier to shop. However, this would have added another $1000 to the cost of our renovation.

Alternatively, we could save a lot of money and use formaldehyde free fiberglass insulation which was locally available. After going round and round on this, we ultimately decided to use the cheaper option.


3. Radiant Flooring

Tom had planned on utilizing a radiant flooring system in their house for comfort as well as energy efficiency reasons. After some research he had decided upon using a Baxi Luna combined boiler to heat the water for the system. Although the plumber quoted him another boiler system, Tom and Joan stuck to their guns and paid the extra $1500 for the system they wanted.

Radiant Flooring Diagram- UWsustainability

Secondly, Tom had also decided on a Warmboard system in which the sub-floor has tracks for the radiant tubes to be laid in, and before the tubes are laid, the entire sub-floor is covered in aluminum (including the tracks). Thus, there is a continuous layer of aluminum below the tubes to reflect the heat up. In addition, since the tracks are cut in the sub-floor (allowing the radiant tubes to be laid in the tracks), the flooring can be installed directly above the piping. With this arrangement, the heat merely needs to move through whatever flooring is chosen and then into the living space.

Their motivation for this was to avoid and eliminate the movement of any volatile organic compounds into the living space, to make the house as ‘healthy’ as possible. Both Tom and Joan frequently got migraines when exposed to new furniture and other sources of benzene and formaldehyde. Moreover, they also wanted to create a very healthy living environment for their children.

They were quoted an additional $1000 to use this system, since it would have to be brought in from the Pacific Northwest. They opted not to go forward with this.

The alternative, which the plumber suggested, was installing the radiant tubes under the sub-floor, and then putting aluminum under the tubing (again, to reflect the heat up). With this design, the heat would have to move through the sub-floor, and then their choice of flooring before entering the living space. Not only did it come across as inefficient but it also posed the dilemma of the heat moving through the glues and binders used in the oriented strand board (OSB) sub-floor. Nonetheless, they moved forward with this option.


4. Flooring

Tom and his family tried their best to take an intelligent, yet practical, approach to the entire flooring selection process.

Another one of Tom’s initial ideas was to include cork flooring throughout the renovation. Cork greatly absorbs sound, is comfortable to stand on, is thisn, and allows heat to pass through easily, and environmentally, it was the best choice. However, Tom could not convince the rest of his family to utilize this- they were not fans of the look of it- saying it looked like a bulletin board on the ground.

The family finally opted for hardwood flooring. There were initial concerns on how it would stand up to a radiant system, but they were informed that many radiant systems have used hardwood flooring and assured them it works just fine.

They ordered their two different varieties of wood for each floor- a dark maple by Kersten Lumber and a red birch from Green River Lumber. Kersten Lumber is a locally owned lumber mill near Shawno, WI and all of their wood comes from an area no more than 150 miles from the Eggert house. Green River Lumber is a bit farther away, but it is a company that specializes in FSC wood floors. Both companies embrace the sustainability tenants that were so much apart of what they were trying to demonstrate with their home.

Library- Cork: UWsustainabiltiy

It should be noted that Tom was able to convince his family to allow him to utilize cork flooring in the library room (the old front room).

5. Siding

UWsustainability: image of siding in houseThe family chose to utilize Hardie-plank for their siding, which is a cement and fiber board. It is sustainable in that it utilizes wood scraps in its constructions. In addition, it looked quite similar to the house’s existing siding. The only problem was that while it could be ordered pre-painted, they couldn’t match the existing color.

The solution: order a color similar to the existing color and “hire” the children to paint over the rest of the house to match. Problem solved!

6. Balancing ‘Perfect’ and ‘Good Enough’:
The Final Checklist

The Eggert family frequently faced this issue of how far to go with the addition. They were, after all, adding on to a leaky, energy-inefficient, old ranch house. As much as they would have liked to make the addition perfect, it would be easy to go too far. For instance, it simply wasn’t worth it to get triple-paned Thermotech windows out of Canada which can be “tuned” to the side of the house that they were on. They also decided not to insulate to an R-50 level in the second floor ceiling, because as energy smart as that might be, they would continue to lose a lot of heat out of the rest of the house.

However, they kept their goal in mind of acquiring 90 points on the Green Built Home checklist for additions and remodeling- 50{13cc73ace98a1a1c72459df4609391372da874048f40eb9ad7cb1a640123a483} more than the minimum needed to qualify.

About halfway through the process, a preliminary calculation was done and it looked like the home would be just over 90 points. At this point, they decided to shoot for 100 instead- especially after finding out that the highest scoring addition was 97 points.

Given all that was happening during the last month of renovations, the ‘point’ totals were not kept up with. It wasn’t until everything was said and done that they sat down to do a final total of points.

On a Friday afternoon in early September, Tom and Karl sat down and worked through the score-sheets. They found points that they had missed initially, and it felt like the old record would be exceeded. When they finally finished and went back to add the totals from each of the sections, it was time to start getting excited.

They had not only scored more than the greenest addition that had previously existed, they had scored more than 100 points. More than 110 points. More even than 120 points. And they kept adding. We passed 130 points, and then – amazingly 140 points. When they parted that afternoon, they were at 142 points, with several areas where more points were possible, once Karl checked on such things as the recycled content of the drywall. A couple of days later, Karl came back with an additional 7 points, for a total of 149 points. They had shattered the record of the previous greenest addition, and were close to the record for the greenest house that had ever been built under the green built home scoring system, falling only 25 points below this.

The Eggert family and UWsustainability would heartily recommend using the checklists as they really helped to keep the focus on energy efficiency, building a healthy home and sourcing building material from responsible companies committed to sustainability. Hopefully, others in the future will be building greener additions and taking what we have done and extending it ever further.

To read more about the Eggert’s renovations, check out the full story.

Plans Move Forward for a Madison Sustainable Commerce Center

Chicago’s Green Exchange is a conglomeration of eco-friendly businesses and organization housed within a single sustainably-designed building. It is a 272,000 square-foot historic landmark building that was completely renovated, now featuring a 41,000 gallon rainwater collection system and an 8,000 square foot organic garden. In fact, it is the nation’s largest sustainable business community and is linked to the creation of over 1,200 jobs. It also represents a valuable resource when in need of information and referrals to incorporate sustainable practices into both personal and professional lives. They also often host events, attracting individuals from all over, to come and learn about topics ranging from sustainable business to managing stormwater through sustainable landscape solutions

Green Exchange Building- UWsustainability

Gee, wouldn’t that be nice if we had something that epic in the city of Madison?


After all, Madison is home to a vibrant green community- from the thousands of young students passionate about the environment, to the city’s expansive recycling efforts, to non-profits, and its vibrant sustainability-orientated business community, Madison is without a doubt, an expanding sustainable city.

In fact, this idea has been floating around the city for some years now. Recently, it was announced that Baum Development, the firm that helped develop Chicago’s Green Exchange, was recently hired to manage a similar project for a potential Madison Sustainable Commerce Center. An ongoing study involving the development firm, will research potential tenants and possible locations along with the feasibility of the Madison’s own Green Exchange.

There has been great optimism surrounding the project. Bryant Moroder, principle of the Sustainable Resource Group and a member of the team working to develop a Madison center commented, saying, “I can see a lot of potential users from nonprofit to the private sector who could work in a very cool space in downtown Madison.” We’d have to say, we agree. What do you think?

You can check out the full article online here.

Green is the New Black: Deciding on Green Building Products in Home Renovations

Modern, tiny home in Bayfield, WI

The image on the left shows a home- yes, you heard that correctly: a home. Despite it’s small size, it has a lot to offer. Architect Bill Yudchitz designed this E.D.G.E home, or Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment, which even won an Honor Award in 2010 from the American Institute of Architects or AIA Wisconsin.

In addition to its small size, this home has incorporated many sustainability and green models into it. It has triple-pane windows, super-insulated walls and roof, geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, and a heat recovery ventilator to name a few. Feel free to check out this video tour of the home and prepare to be amazed:


Despite the draw this home emanates, as a excruciatingly sustainable, small home that urges us to gravitate away from the traditional notion of ‘more is better’, even Yudchitz admits that he’s not convinced many Americans would embrace it. It would be a difficult change to make to live in a home like this; even Yudchitz uses it as a vacation home and not his primary residence. Yet, it does beg the question: How can we have more green and sustainable homes? What can we do outside of building ourselves an E.D.G.E. to make sure that we incorporate sustainability principles into our homes?

At UWsustianability, we try to practice what we preach. That’s why when Tom Eggert’s family decided it was time to expand there home, they challenged themselves to build a green and healthy home addition (along with some remodeling of the existing home) for no more than it would cost to do a traditional home addition. Their home offers a real world example that many of us can learn from. Being green doesn’t have to cost more. Having a green home that is larger than the E.D.G.E is a reality.

With help from Crescendo Design, with offices near Manitowoc, and in Madison, a firm the specializes in energy efficient, green residential design, they were able to put a design together:

  1. The addition would be a square-sized two story addition, with the family room on the first floor and the master bedroom on the second. A two story addition with standard 8 foot ceilings requires less energy to heat and cool than a one story addition that is spread over a larger area.
  2. The addition will extend the ranch home into a “T” shape, and extend out 22 feet into the backyard adding 484 square feet on each floor. By building an absolutely square addition, they minimized the ratio of wall area to floor area, resulting in the lowest amount of energy needed to adequately head and cool the structure. This also minimizes construction costs.
  3. To reduce cooling costs, all south and west facing windows will be operable so as to take advantage of the prevailing south-westerly breezes in Madison. The addition of many windows created an open, bright feeling in most of the rooms in the house.

Tom’s family also worked with the Green Built Home program, a program of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative (and implemented in partnership with the Madison Area Builders Association) in order to assist them with making appropriate green-minded decisions. It was important for Tom to make sure they were doing all that they could and knew that by employing the help of others, they would be taking advantage of all the opportunities that were available to them.

Here at UWsustainability, we encourage the use of outside help if you plan to attempt a similar venture. It will be worth it, we promise. Our focus and goal is not the E.D.G.E home but for realistic, cost-effective changes that can be made for the average Wisconsin resident. For tips on using green/sustainable techniques for designing or remodeling homes, we recommend the following:

  1. Designing or Building a more Sustainable Home Guide by the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development
  2. City of Seattle’s – Green Home Remodel Guide: healthy home for a healthy environment
  3. Settersten Construction in Janesville, WI works with you to find ways that your home additions, new construction, and/or remodeling project can coexist with the environment in a a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
  4. Green Building has many locations through the state and nation to be a resource for homeowners looking to remodel their home with sustainability in mind.
  5. Check out our Living Sustainably page for more resources that we’ve put together for you.


Stay tuned for our UWsustainability’s next post, which will focus on the rationale behind use of certain materials in the project in addition to specific remodeling recommendations.