Climate solutions worth $50,000 in prizes for UW-Madison students

September 24, 2009

Wanted: Fresh ideas to generate clean energy. Or produce green products. Or persuade people to adopt more earth-friendly lifestyles. Or ease the impacts of climate change in some other way. Eligibility: Submissions must come from University of Wisconsin-Madison students or student teams. Reward: $20,000 for the best overall project and up to $30,000 in additional prizes to be shared by other top finishers. Deadline: April 10. Get cracking! Organizers of a new Climate Leadership Challenge at UW-Madison are seeking the best and brightest ideas from the student body of 42,000 to promote an environmentally sustainable future. They hope the unprecedented contest will unleash a burst of youthful brainstorming and entrepreneurship across the bustling Big Ten campus. "UW-Madison is one of the top schools nationally in the number of graduates who join the Peace Corps and also in the number of alumni who become CEO's of Fortune 500 companies," says Tracey Holloway, director of the university's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), which is sponsoring the contest. "With so many idealistic and enterprising students, this is the perfect place for such an ambitious competition." An informational meeting about the Climate Leadership Challenge will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (February 4) in 140 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St. Free pizza will be served. Another meeting will held from 1 to 2 p.m. February 18 in the same location. With $50,000 in total prize money, the Climate Leadership Challenge may be the most potentially lucrative competition of its kind at any college or university. "Awards of this size can help students offset the substantial costs of attending college," says project coordinator Josh Ghena, himself a graduate student in urban and regional planning. The initiative is supported by a grant to SAGE, part of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, from the Global Stewards Society. Submissions may be state-oriented, national, or international in scale and must include detailed implementation plans. A panel of judges with academic and professional backgrounds will review all entries and invite finalists to present their ideas during the Nelson Institute's annual Earth Day conference at Madison's Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center on April 22. Prize winners will be announced that day. Ghena says ideas for the Climate Leadership Challenge, if appropriate, also may be submitted to the Wisconsin School of Business' G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition and vice versa. The annual Burrill contest encourages teams of UW-Madison students to compete for cash prizes and includes a special award from the Nelson Institute for the best "green" business plan. For more information, visit or contact Josh Ghena at