Nelson Institute faculty, student receive 2015 Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education awards

January 16, 2015

Members of the Nelson Institute faculty and student community have received 2015 Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education (SIRE) awards from the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, it was announced this week. 

The Office of Sustainability is charged with promoting sustainability research and education on the UW–Madison campus and creating intersections between UW–Madison campus operations and the research and education enterprises that promote sustainability. The SIRE awards program was created in 2012 to support this mission and to stimulate innovation in research and education related to sustainability on the UW–Madison campus.

SIRE Educational Innovation 

Holly Gibbs, an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies and faculty affiliate of the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), and Tyler Lark, a Nelson Institute master’s student also affiliated with SAGE, have been awarded a SIRE educational innovation grant for their project, Solutions for Food Waste Reduction: Integrating Teaching with Research on Sustainability.

The pair will develop a module on food waste for a large-lecture undergraduate class and subsequently create a new, interdisciplinary undergraduate course on Local to Global Solutions to Reduce Food Waste. The proposal builds on two prior awards from the Office of Sustainability that had highly successful outcomes. 

They will continue their partnership with Carl Korz, Dining Director of the Wisconsin Unions, and hope to forge additional campus collaborations over the next year to ensure the work has long-lasting contributions for campus sustainability efforts. They will also continue to informally collaborate with Nelson Institute professors Adrian Treves and Catherine Middlecamp by giving guest lectures in their classrooms and discussing teaching approaches. 

SIRE Research Initiation 

Nelson faculty affiliate Majid Sarmadi, the Rothermel Bascom Professor of Design Studies and a professor of environmental studies, is part of a team awarded a SIRE research initiation grant for a project examining energy-efficient recycling of packaging waste. Collaborators on the project are Natalie Rudolph, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Elyse Kowalczuk, a facility strategist with the Wisconsin School of Business.

The research project aims to produce recycled plastic materials from UW campus packaging and container waste without sorting – and preferably without cleaning – while at the same time maintaining or improving upon their properties. The team also hopes to improve the collection, sorting and distribution system of packaging on the UW campus by using the Wisconsin School of Business (Grainger Hall) as a prototype. 

This new approach to recycling will lead to a reduction of the plastic waste going to landfills, decrease carbon dioxide emissions, conserve non-renewable fossil fuels, and may have potential use in the production of 3D printing parts.