UW Solar member Sunni Wissmer presents at the CSF Project Brainstorming Workshop last week.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Walk by the IMA at any time of the day and you’re bound to see students on treadmills and elliptical machines, running and walking for miles on end. That is potential energy.

At CSF’s inaugural Brainstorming Workshop last Tuesday, one of the sustainability project ideas discussed was how to turn the energy generated by students working out into a useful power source. Not only could this provide a platform for real-time energy metering, but it could also make students more aware of their consumption of energy in their daily lives. A student who attended the workshop said, “If there could be a way for me to see that I exerted x amount of energy on the treadmill to power a light bulb and I went home and realized I had left my room light on, I might be more discouraged from doing that again.”  

The 30-strong group from over 15 different majors and 10 RSOs also discussed two other alternative sustainability ideas. The first project contemplated UW’s 100% compostable serviceware initiative and a possible reduction in, or elimination of, compostable utensils in Husky dining facilities to reduce waste. Instead, they proposed a proactive “bring your own-reusable-utensils” movement on campus.

The second idea, aptly named the “Transparency Project,” was geared towards creating a website to encourage intra-campus connections between administration, faculty and students. The aim was to break down information barriers that might hinder students from pursuing ideas that could be potentially implemented with CSF funding. “Establishing a network to encourage transparency could be a good step towards giving students the agency to make sure projects like this happen,” said Sunni Wissmer, a graduating senior and former UW Solar project leader.

To wrap up the workshop, students were challenged to elevate their ideas by setting tangible goals and consider how their potential projects might fit into the UW’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and CSF’s application criteria. The CAP guides the University’s goal of achieving climate-neutrality by looking for ways to promote individual behavior change and energy efficiency in buildings on campus. CSF’s goal in hosting the workshop is to encourage the development of new ideas and collaboration among students across various disciplines. CSF hopes to inspire students, staff and faculty to create and implement local projects that could have a positive impact on UW’s environmental footprint and profile.

Tony Serna, a member of the UW Biodiesel Cooperative, summed up the spirit of the workshop well, in lauding his fellow workshop attendees’ ideas as being a stepping stone towards “instilling sustainable behavior and changing students’ perspectives on the environment.”

By Tiffany Loh