Beginning spring semester, the University of Wisconsin will
launch an initiative to promote environmental sustainability on campus, UW
administrators announced Monday.
The Gaia Project is designed to help UW professors
incorporate eco-friendly ideas into classrooms, according to Ann Hoyt, a
professor in the School of Human Ecology.
Through "learning action groups," which could be study
groups, lectures or discussions, participants are encouraged to explore ways to
make their own lives and the lives of others more sustainable.
"The point of the project is to get campuswide discussion
going on all types of issues related to global warming," Hoyt said. "We're
hoping that in the long run we'll become a campus noted for responding to a
UW surveyed faculty on what they believed to be the most
significant environmental issues during a Faculty Senate meeting last fall.
Based on their responses, the Gaia Project organized subject-based meetings
like campus conservation and stability and water issues.
Sustainability 101, another meeting topic, is considered an
introductory lesson in defining the meaning of sustainability and evaluating
individual ways to become more environmentally efficient.
"Last fall's survey directly asked the staff what their main
issues were in the classroom," Hoyt said. "It's really designed to be faculty-driven,
not so they can control how the program works, but to help create this
environment in the classroom and address sustainability."
According to Hoyt, the Gaia Project is similar to UW's "WE
Conserve" campaign because both promote sustainable ideas and raise awareness,
holding the university community accountable for the campus environment.
The project will not only partner with WE Conserve, but also
the UW Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Sustain Dane, a
citywide initiative to make Madison greener.
"I always see room for improvement, but I did want to see
more students and faculty working together in WE conserve program," WISPIRG vice
chair Gabrielle Hinahara said. "We just formed a brainstorming group to help
plan a student advisory board, and we're excited about that."
Hinahara called the move "an important step" toward the
university's main sustainability initiative.
There are already a number of faculty members who wish to
participate in the Gaia Project, Hoyt said. Once the program kicks off, participants
can make a username on the Gaia website and log in to discussion boards and access
readings suggestions. There is also room to add more discussion topics to the
project as they arise.
"Students have also been very interested in sustainability,"
Hoyt said. "We hope they will share that same excitement with us in this
According to Hinahara, the Gaia Project will help different
departments incorporate sustainability, not just the Nelson Institute.
If a professor from the business school is involved with the
Gaia Project, it is more likely the school will become a more sustainable
community, she added.
"I definitely think that faculty care a lot about this
issue, and I know that students care about sustainability so much," Hinahara
said. "I think that having faculty reach out to students in that way, and
incorporating sustainability into classrooms, is a good way to connect with