Nelson Institute undergrad implements change on campus and beyond

December 5, 2019

Nelson Institute undergraduate, Jeremy Sanford, is a driving force behind conservation efforts on campus. He’s used the knowledge he gained during his time at UW–Madison to become active in community outreach efforts ranging from his internship with the Office of Sustainability to his work with fraternities and underrepresented communities.

Originally an economics major, Sanford decided to pursue environmental studies and conservation biology after taking an introduction ecology class at UW–Madison.

“I was interested in how humans can impact ecological paradigms that go back long before we were a species on this planet. I was invested in it after taking that one class,” he said.

Sanford, a senior, now focuses his studies on how human activity can both positively and negatively impact our surroundings. He’s hoping to educate and inspire others to take an active part in conservation efforts.

Sanford is also an intern at the Office of Sustainability at UW–Madison, where he works to implement environmentally-friendly initiatives across campus. He is currently working with the Green Fund, a program that funds student sustainability-related projects, to place compost bins in Camp Randall. He is also connecting with Nelson Institute student-athletes to plan a sustainable softball event in the future.

In addition to conservation and sustainability, Sanford says he also feels passionate about inclusion and environmental justice. He is working to address some of these challenges with the Green Allies Coalition, an organization that discusses inclusion for historically underrepresented communities in the fields of sustainability and environmental protection.

“These are the people that feel the majority of the impact, so if they don’t have a voice, that’s definitely problematic because their interests are not being looked out for,” he said.

Sanford is also involved with the Greek Community on campus. In fact, one of his proudest accomplishments is becoming the Community Service Chair of his fraternity, which has allowed him to promote advocacy for more ecofriendly practices.

“I’ve signed us up for a lot of volunteer events that pertain to sustainability, such as donating leftover food from the farmers’ market that wouldn’t be sold otherwise and giving it to the food pantry, participating in Lakeshore Nature Preserve cleanup events, and getting a compost bin for our house this year, so that’s really exciting,” he said.

Sanford also recently accepted admission to the University of Buffalo, New York where he will obtain his Master’s degree in Urban Planning.  By pursuing this degree, Sanford hopes to strengthen the public’s relationship with nature while helping to reinvigorate the economy by combining his interests for community mobilization with conservation. Sanford acknowledges that, at times, this can seem like a daunting task, but he remains hopeful that his efforts will bring attention to the importance of sustainability.

“We are part of the environment as a society, as a civilization, and I’d like to integrate that viewpoint into daily life, so we have better environmental protections,” he says. 

Sanford credits the Nelson Institute for helping him gain the well-rounded education he now has. He encourages current and future students to take classes outside the major as well, to help integrate different perspectives that could implement change in terms of environmental protection and awareness.

“That’s pretty integral to make change happen,” said Sanford. “Be as well-rounded as you can, don’t just stick to the ecology classes.”