Student Projects Fall 2014

The students in the class People, Environment, and Sustainability Fall 2014 were paired with businesses or organizations to work projects concerning sustainability. The students were asked at the end of the semester to submit their recommendations on how their clients should move forward sustainably with their projects. Below is a brief description of each project, and the students’ final recommendation reports can be viewed by clicking the title of the projects.

 Crane USA Sustainability Assessment

Since 2005, Crane has taken the lead in putting the “fun” into humidifiers, air purifiers, fans, space heating and night lights by following our mantra: Design for Better Living. Crane USA is a fast growing company of about 15 employees located in Bensenville, IL (just outside of Chicago) that has grown to $30 million in annual revenue by designing products that are functional and efficient, while communicating an appreciation for unique and elegant design. In order to continue Crane’s growth, the company wants to integrate sustainability into processes, design and operations.

Crane USA sought recommendations on creating a tailored Sustainability Assessment. This assessment would guide evaluations of performance and identify opportunities for improvement.  The assessment reflects the requirements of our main customers such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and buybuyBaby, as well as the expectations of consumers. The assessment will serve as a checklist for helping improve product life-cycle, office habits, customer/product care, and manufacturing as Crane USA moves towards their vision of becoming a paragon for sustainability.

The final product addresses those areas of business operations that the team identified as of most interest to our customers, and that will help Crane continue to attract and retain top talent. Within each of these areas, the assessment helps Crane understand how their sustainability efforts compare to the expectations of their customers and suppliers, while comparing their efforts to competitors.



Developing A New Fossil Fuel Free Stock Index

A well-diversified Fossil Fuel Free stock market index can provide an opportunity for investors to responsibly divest from investments in fossil fuel producers and their support industries without sacrificing financial performance.

The team developed a global stock index for climate-minded investors that excludes coal, oil and natural gas companies, and any others that profit from exploration or extraction. The intent is that investors will be able to use the index to build their own fossil-free portfolios, and thus avoid risks they see from “stranded assets.” The phrase refers to fossil fuel reserves that can’t be burned if the atmosphere is to stay within a low level of warming.

The team was responsible for developing both the appropriate negative screens that excluded fossil fuel companies and their supply chains, and also positive screens, including both financial performance screens and any other sustainable screens that the group agrees on.

Once the screens are in place, and the index created, the team identified 1, 3, 5 and 10 year performance, looking back.  By demonstrating hypothetical performance (if the index would have been in place), the team lays the foundation for creating market demand for this strategy moving forward.



Developing a Sustainability Program for a New Madison Brewpub

Robyn is working on opening a new brewpub in Madison and she is looking for some help on developing a sustainability program for the brewery, including recommendations water and energy conservation and overall efficiency.

Brewing requires a lot of water, for the product itself, for cleaning, and for sanitation. The brewing process also requires high energy use, including heating during the mash and boil, and temperature maintenance during fermentation. This new Brewpub is looking for recommendations on:
1. how to reduce and/or recapture heat and energy loss during the brewing process

2. water and wastewater management: how to reduce/re-use/increase efficiency

3. how to measure the impact of the program: cost and energy savings or loss



Future Roots

Future Roots is a brand new agriculture startup located in New Berlin, Wisconsin, about 15 miles west of Milwaukee, with a focus on aquaponics farming. Future Roots supports healthy and sustainable diets through a deep commitment to bringing the freshest and highest quality greens, herbs, and perch to market.

Future Roots Farm is in the process of expanding production space and volume to bring high quality, local food to the market year-round.  Going forward, Future Roots will focus efforts on supplying wholesale distributors, such as the Wisconsin Food Hub Co-Operative, UW Health in Watertown, and other kitchens in Children’s Hospitals.  To meet the high volume demands of these clients, Future Roots must maximize production of our produce. To do so efficiently, all stages of the grow process must be analyzed and optimized, including germination, transplanting, proper lighting cycles and techniques, and finally harvest timing which includes proper planning to coincide with demand forecasting for customers.

Future Roots sought recommendations on how to analyze and document growth techniques and inventory planning for each individual crop with the goal to maximize production. This will require:

  • Research each crop’s optimal growing conditions including light, temperature, conditions, and harvest (but doing so as sustainably/efficiently as possible)
  • Analyze each crop’s timing as it relates to clients’ demand forecasts as well as end products such as Future Roots Farm’s salad mix
  • Recommend an inventory planning system which will serve as guidance to Future Roots



InPro Corporation

Inpro is a mid-size company with a large appetite for thought leadership—especially when it comes to sustainability.  InPro has a long history of leading our industry in new product development and community involvement, and now InPro want to lead the way in transforming business practices to become more sustainable.

It is no longer enough for businesses to say they are reducing environmental impact and giving back to their communities.  Business now holds the potential to actually restore areas of the environment, rejuvenate and bring together communities and create circular economies that are regenerative and holistically beneficial.  B Corps are companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems (

InPro sought a group of students to analyze the history/future of B Corps, what it takes to become a B Corps company, and a strategy to do so.



Johnson Health Tech North America

Since beginning in 1975, Johnson Health Tech (JHT) has specialized in the design, production and marketing of award-winning fitness equipment. Johnson Health Tech brands, such as Matrix, LIVESTRONG and Vision, have been sold across 60 countries and are marketed to the commercial, specialty, and home-use markets. Based in Taiwan, they are Asia’s largest, the world’s third-largest, and one of the industry’s fastest growing fitness equipment manufacturers. Johnson Health Tech North America (JHTNA) is headquartered just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. The offices house the global product development and marketing team, as well as the sales and administration staff that service the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Johnson Health Tech North America sought recommendations on:
1. Water Efficiency:  Johnson Health Tech would like help in tracking water use, creating an inventory of current water fixtures, with a specific focus on their onsite laundry facilities which clean towels used during workouts and post-workout showers.  They are interested in understanding the impact the laundering of towels has on their water and energy use, and would like to compare that impact to using a commercial towel  service.  They would also like to consider other options that would be convenient and sanitary which would encourage employees to use the towels more than once before laundering.

2. To LED, or not to LED:  Johnson Health Tech have a mixture of task, overhead, wall fixtures, and outdoor lighting with a variety of bulb types. Most of the task and overhead lights are fluorescent ballasts or CFL, but with 220,000 square feet of space and very high ceilings, the cost to maintain and power the lights is high.  They are interested in understanding the potential energy and replacement cost savings of moving to LED bulbs where ever possible, or changing fixtures to accommodate LED. They would expect the outcome to include research on ROI and payback period, as well as quality of light, and bulb type and manufacturer recommendations.



Lands’ End: Lands’ End of Waste Program

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. Lands’ End employs more than 7,000 people and designs, tests, sells, sources, services, packs, and ships 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.

Lands’ End sought recommendations to improve their product ‘End Of Life’ program. Lands’ End had a pilot program to collect end of life clothing directly from their customers at retail operations. Lands’ End was curious as to how other apparel companies approach this critical step in making the life cycle of clothing more sustainable, and were looking for a recommendation of how to move to the next level of providing an End Of Life channel for their products.



Microfinance Project Development in SW Wisconsin DNR

The Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP) is a local, non-governmental, non-profit (501(c)(3)), anti-poverty organization serving five rural counties in southwestern Wisconsin. SWCAP provides a wide range of services to the low income community including Head Start, weatherization, housing, transportation, auto loans, nutrition, food pantries, clinics, small business development, and overall economic development. The annual budget is about $7 million and there are approximately 100 employees. SWCAP is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and employs an Executive Director along with Program Directors for each service it provides.

Rural southwestern Wisconsin is seeing a dramatic growth of its Hispanic, immigrant population primarily as a result of the availability of jobs on medium to large size dairy farms and in cheese factories. A few have a good working knowledge of English, some have limited knowledge of English, and some very little knowledge of English. SWCAP currently has a small Jobs and Business Development (JBD) program that assists low income persons start. However, very few if any clients come from the Hispanic community.

SWCAP sought assistance of a team to design a microfinance program geared toward Hispanic immigrants.  Included in the project development is a strategic plan for acquiring funds that would be loaned out and a plan for the infrastructure needed to administer such a program.



Plan and Coordinate the Seventh Annual Sustainable Businesses Council in Wisconsin

For the last six years, a team of students create a conference that over 400 people attended.  The students are responsible for inviting top speakers, organizing the conference, and marketing the conference to business people from around the state. We have established an identity as the leading (and largest) conference bringing businesses together to learn about sustainability.

The conference was held Friday, Dec. 3rd at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

Visit the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council conference page for more information on past conferences.


Sustainability and All That Jazz

A group of Madison entrepreneurs is considering a concept for a new bar/restaurant which would brew local beer, serve tapas, and offer live jazz.   The target audience is young professionals, and young professionals are attracted to businesses with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability.

Sustainability and All that Jazz sought recommendations on how to best incorporate principles of sustainability from the early idea phase, through building, operations, and ultimately products served. The recommendations include:
1. Location—what are “sustainable” locations

2. Building – other than a green roof, what elements could be addressed in the actual construction or remodeling

3. Operations – how can the bar operate in a sustainable way

4. Renewable energy – what should be used and how much

5. Beer – how can sustainability be included in the brewing of beer

6. Food – what should the restaurant be asking/requiring of food suppliers

7. Music – is there a sustainability element for live music

8. Building community – what are sustainable aspects of building a clientele