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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students are sharing environmentally conscious ideas with the City of Oshkosh—including upgrades to energy efficient lighting, increasing green space and community gardens, encouragement of transit ridership and resident use of the institution’s biodigester.

The suggestions come from UW Oshkosh Environmental Studies senior students who spent a semester studying ways Oshkosh can improve its sustainable future. A 40-page report was presented in spring to the Oshkosh Common Council and the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB).

The students had been asked by the City of Oshkosh to present ideas for revising the sustainability plan—especially those that would reduce carbon emissions.

“I am very proud of the work these students have done and I think their recommendations are solid,” said Laura Hartman, assistant professor of environmental studies, who noted the students spent their spring semester researching similar cities, interviewing stakeholders and delving into research on the best practices in transportation, water treatment, land use, waste management and energy efficiency.

The students offered six substantial conclusions for Oshkosh’s sustainable future:

  • Investing in energy efficient operations for the wastewater treatment plant
  • Improving and incentivizing local transit ridership
  • Using the University’s biodigester for city residents’ organic waste disposal
  • Increasing the city’s green space and supporting local agriculture through community gardens
  • Upgrading to energy efficient lighting for all street lights and lighting in parks and buildings, sooner rather than later to maximize financial payoff
  • Pursuing grant funding to support these initiatives

Alexander Crawford, of Oshkosh, was one of the students involved in the project. He said they divided into groups and they researched four different sectors of energy use in several larger cities in Wisconsin.

“I specifically researched energy efficiency in Eau Claire,” Crawford said. “Once we all did our research we all came together and discussed the different options and compared them to what Oshkosh does.”

The students determined potential project costs and how much could be saved as well as the amount the city could get from grants.

A team of six students then put together a presentation for the city of Oshkosh.

“One major area I talked about was LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which helps make buildings more green and save energy and money in the long run,” Crawford said.

Steven Wiley, assistant planner with the City of Oshkosh, said the student report will serve as a guide as the city creates its sustainability update in conjunction with the SAB.

“We don’t want the report to just sit around and collect dust,” he said, adding that city staff members are looking at it and determining how recommendations align with current and future plans.

Wiley said it’s his belief that it’s important to have a plan for most anything.

“A plan that is written down is more hard and fast than just a suggestion,” he said. “A suggestion doesn’t typically carry the same clout.”

UW Oshkosh alumna Margy Davey ’76, of Oshkosh, is chair of the nine-member SAB. She said students and the city “win” with the partnership they have forged.

“When students help with marvelous research and writing papers, officials refer to their document the same way as their documents,” Davey said about the credibility students have achieved.

She is excited about the majors being offered related to sustainability and the way young people are showing strong interest in the environment.

“That is what is going to keep our world for them,” Davey said.

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