​Bailey Matthys, resident of the Greenest Room in Knutzen Hall, uses vermicomposting and natural light in her room as part of an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Living and learning sustainably at UW-Stevens Point​

Not all learning at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point comes from a textbook. 

Soon after moving into the residence halls on campus, students learn that small changes make a big impact when it comes to conserving energy, reducing waste and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. 

Students drop food scraps into composting bins in all halls, with those in Knutzen and Smith Halls using vermicomposting (worm) bins in their lobbies. Composting breaks down waste and turns it into rich soil. 

Students in Thomson Hall turned off more lights to reduce their monthly energy usage by 9 percent as part of the 4th annual UW-Stevens Point residence hall energy reduction competition. 

This spring, nearly 400 students are growing seedling coleus plants in their residence hall rooms, and will return them to university Grounds Services on May 8 for planting across the campus. 

Efforts like these may seem small on a campus that has embraced sustainability since the first conservation education courses were taught in 1946. But daily efforts from students using recycling chutes in every floor of each residence hall helped the UW-Stevens Point’s Resource Recovery Center recycle more than 849,000 pounds of campus materials last year. 

"We recycle on average four and a half tons of plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and aluminum a month in the residence halls," Facilities Designer Cindy Von Gnechten said. “UW-Stevens Point was the first UW System campus, and possibly national campus, to locate a centralized recycling chute system in all floors of its residence halls.”

Residential Living's sustainability efforts also include the designation of Knutzen Hall as the Eco-Hall in 1998. The hall contains the Greenest Resident Room, where current resident, sophomore environmental education major Bailey Matthys, demonstrates how earth-friendly products and energy-saving lighting can be used affordably and comfortably as part of an environmentally friendly lifestyle. 

The newest hall, the Suites@201 Reserve, was built to LEED Gold-certified green building certifications. At 400,000 square feet, the suites use 30 percent less energy than the other, smaller 50,000 square-foot residence halls on campus. 

These are among the reasons that UW-Stevens Point has been on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll for the third year in a row – the only Wisconsin campus to make the list this year. BestColleges.com also named UW-Stevens Point one of its Greenest Universities in 2014. 

Students are leading the charge. Lindsie Wallenfang, a senior Spanish major serving as Residential Living’s Green Associate, has seen what her fellow students can do to be more sustainable. She works on the Green Advocate program with Von Gnechten, training students as peer leaders on sustainability issues and behaviors. The advocates lead workshops to spread awareness in their halls on composting, energy use, waste reduction and recycling. 

“Small things can effect change,” said Wallenfang. “If you set a positive example, you have no idea what will come from it.”

Wallenfang didn’t know much about UW-Stevens Point’s sustainability efforts when she first came to campus. “Shortly after starting here, I felt like I hit the jackpot as far as sustainability. We have a transforming culture here when it comes to sustainable living, a like-mindedness across campus and in the community.” 

Because learning about sustainable living occurs in the classroom, in dining facilities and residence halls, the lessons stay with students beyond college years.  

"Our students are becoming more and more aware and integrating sustainability efforts into their daily lives. The Green Advocate program’s networking and peer-to-peer interacting is making positive changes."

UW-Stevens Point sustainability by the numbers

5 – Residence halls using solar panels to heat domestic water
13 – Sustainable forests in central and northern Wisconsin, owned and maintained by UW-Stevens Point
56 – Percent of kilowatt hours expected to come from renewable energy this fiscal year
88 – Percent of kilowatt hours expected to come from renewable energy next fiscal year
96.4 – Percent of construction waste recycled when building the Waste Education Center
180 – Pounds of fresh produce donated to local food pantries from the Campus Garden
425 – Tons of recycled materials in fiscal year 2013
400,000 – Pounds of surplus materials saved from landfills in 2013 through Surplus Store sales and recycling
696,973 – Dollars saved in landfill tipping fees since the 1980s