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With spring in bloom, it’s easy to see how important the natural environment is to those at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

UW Oshkosh’s trees provide shade and habitats for various species of plants and animals, while its flowers paint the campus with colors and scents.

But that’s not where “sustainability” starts or ends on campus. UW Oshkosh is continuously committed to progressively reducing its ecological footprint and fashioning a durable and better world through its academic mission, operations, the generation and purchase of renewable energy, green building and more. The University also aims to spread attitudes of sustainability to its students and staff, UW Oshkosh Sustainability Director Brian Kermath said.

The University’s stewardship of the local environment has again earned the campus the distinction of Tree Campus USA from the Arbor Day Foundation — a recognition UW Oshkosh has earned every year since 2010. In order to qualify as a Tree Campus, a university must show its obligation by maintaining five standards including forming a tree advisory committee as well as dedicating annual expenditures toward tree planting and maintenance.

Additionally, at at a time of year when being “green” is most visible, many students participated in this year’s Earth Week celebration, which was held in April, despite inclimate weather. Dozens of people showed up for the rededication of Jacob Shapiro Park on April 22, Kermath said. The park commemorates former faculty member Jacob Shapiro along with several students, all of whom tragically died in a 1970 accident.

The Earth Day event outside of Reeve Memorial Union on the same day also had a decent turnout, organizers said.

“There were more than 85 people that signed the sustainability pledge at the festival,” Heather Conroy, sustainability intern, said. “We were satisfied with the number of people that showed up in spite of the weather. We would also like to thank those who participated and hopefully as each Earth Day comes, the festival will become much bigger and successful.”

But UW Oshkosh’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t end with Earth Week.

“As a society, we are further from sustainability than ever before, thereby making Earth Day evermore relevant,” Kermath said. “Fortunately, UW Oshkosh is among the leaders in forging a more durable and just world. With this year’s Earth Day and other campus events, our students carried the torch that is igniting a growing movement on campus calling for better environmental stewardship and improving the human condition.”

To encourage waste reduction, the University once again participated in Recyclemania, a friendly tournament that gives colleges an opportunity to see how their recycling efforts rank locally and nationally. Overall, UW Oshkosh ranked 35th out of 233 other schools; the University stood out in the category of food server organics where it placed first in the state and 8th in the nation.

UW Oshkosh also recently earned a spot on The Princeton Review’s Green Colleges list, which considers sustainability information from more than 300 schools; institutions report on their school’s sustainability-related policies, practices and programs to be considered for the list.

Even though UWO already devotes more time energy and resources to the environment than the average university, many on the campus agree that there is always more that can be done.

Get involved–A Conversation on Sustainability

On June 2, UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt will host a conversation on sustainability.

At the event, the campus community will learn about the current state of sustainability at UW Oshkosh, hear from Leavitt about his future charge and help envision the future of sustainability at UW Oshkosh.

“The purpose of the meeting will be to take a careful inventory of all of the academic and professional activities related to sustainability. Additionally, a conversation will be held on ways to move forward the increasingly relevant role of sustainability at our University through teaching, learning and research,” Leavitt said in an invite, which was sent out to the campus community. “As we initiate our strategic planning process, we have the opportunity to begin conversations on how we might further infuse sustainability into our core mission so that we may better address the urgent issues we face as a society. My hope is that we can develop a careful and inclusive inventory of our strengths and weaknesses in the field of sustainability to be ready once the strategic plan is complete.”

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