By Olivia Gacka, PhD student
While it’s true that an overwhelming majority of negative environmental impact points occur at the hands of large corporations, as individuals we still have roles to play in practicing sustainability in our everyday lives. As a 10,000-strong graduate student population, we have the power to be a huge source of waste, or we can contribute to the solution.
Small actions, like using a reusable water bottle and refilling at one of the campus’ filtered water stations, using up old pens instead of buying new ones to commemorate the start of the semester (I am guilty of that one, I’ll be honest), and joining a local Buy/Sell/Trade group on social media to give older materials new lives instead of buying new are all ways we can reduce our waste and contribute to a culture of sustainability at UW and in Madison.
Because this is such a huge and expansive issue, it can feel overwhelming to take up the torch on your own. But you don’t have to. The UW Office of Sustainability is a phenomenal resource for all things, wait for it, sustainability! Here are a few of the many ways you can learn more, implement sustainability into your everyday practices, and get involved on campus:
- The Office of Sustainability (OS) is a huge source of information and education. Whether you want to formally include this work in your academic studies, attend events focused on the importance of representation for Black, Indigenous, and people of color in our conversations around sustainability, or do some independent reading, there are tons of options.
- The SustainUW Podcast is a great way to learn on the go, covering topics like farmers’ markets, greenwashing, and low-waste holiday ideas.
- OS offers tons of solutions for the areas or events in our lives where we could do well to keep sustainability and our impact in mind, including Sustainability Tips for Meetings, Tips for Moving Sustainably, and Recycling Guidelines.
- If you’re in a lab on campus, OS offers Green Lab Certification, aimed at helping labs assess and reduce their environmental impact.
- There are a huge number of student organizations on campus dedicated to various areas of sustainability, like climate change, social justice, food waste, energy, and conservation. Whatever area interests you most, there’s probably a group for that.
- You can use the Sustainability tab on the UW events calendar to keep up with upcoming sustainability happenings around campus, like the upcoming Sustain-a-bash on Friday, September 24.
Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.