Solutions in Action

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Incentivizing Energy Efficiency in Multi-Family Residential Buildings

Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Project Launch Date: 2012
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Clean Energy Forum in 2012, The Negawatt Summit: Catalyzing Energy Conservation In Our Community, students, community members, and clean energy experts discussed roadblocks and solutions associated with reducing energy usage in multi-family residential properties. They discussed that in Madison the one of the main roadblocks to creating a sustainable energy landscape is twofold:
  • First, there are many rental properties that waste a lot of energy and whose tenants are not making environmentally great decisions, included demanding energy efficient apartments.
  • Secondly, there are few good incentives for owners or renters to do anything making their properties more energy efficient.  

In addition to making is easier for students to know the energy efficiency level of apartments they are thinking about renting, the main solution would be to create a program to give incentives to owners and renters to make more environmentally friendly choices. This includes ways to make properties more energy efficient and to encourage occupants to make smart, eco-friendly decisions.

Moving forward with a project based on this solution, the students leaders involved the forum and interested in pursuing the solution created Students for Energy Efficient Living - SEEL. SEEL, the UW-Madison Focus Chapter is working with their partners, Madison Gas & Electric and We Conserve, along with groups like the Madison Green Property Owners Apartment Association, Focus on Energy, and WISPIRG Energy Service Corps to clarify the project outcome vision and goals. Currently the vision is to create a community situation where students become more concerned and informed about the environmental impact of their energy use (and other actions), which leads them to choose landlords with a "green" reputation. This will give certain landlords who are on the forefront a competitive edge in choosing tenants, and will persuade other landlords to follow suit. Those who aren't green but want to become green will have access to different services to reach their goals. This will help transform the market to contain more efficient and eco-friendly properties. Some specific steps to achieve this vision will include:
  • Raise awareness among students about the relative green-ness of properties so that they can choose a property that will be efficient and cost them less in the long run.
  • Make owners aware of how green-ness can be a competitive advantage, which could save on marketing and/or allow them to charge more rent.
  • Give owners the tools to become more green.
  • Give student renters incentives to reduce wasteful behavior.
  • Make information on properties' greenness much more user friendly and accessible.

Scroll down to see how SEEL is achieving the solutions laid out during the Forum!

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F2A Team

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Joel Charles
Joel Charles
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I am a Wisconsonite proud of my state's environmental heritage, determined to be part of a generation that furthers it.   

 
I am half way through medical school in Madison, on leave for a year to pursue my Master of Public Health degree, focusing on environmental health.  I see the health of the land and its people as inseparable, and the science backs that up.  Therefore I hope to drive climate mitigation policy based on potential benefits to human health.  For example, if major American cities were like Copenhagen, with up to 55% of trips made by bike, obesity and cardiovascular disease would be reduced immensely and with them, health care prices.  This is just one example among many. 
 
The way I see it, the point is that the vast majority of the actions we can take to prevent climate change now will have major benefits to our society in the short term, if we know where to look for them.  This is a powerful tool to drive policy. 
 
 It also means that the climate crisis is an opportunity to build a better society.
 
How do I hope to help build that society?  As a physician with my finger on the pulse of the community, I will drive change as a politico and storyteller.

Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, I served as one of the Focus Coordinator at Madison. This year, I have passed on the FC duties to Kelsey and Kirsten and I currently support the the F2A group as an FTN Almuni and team member.

 

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Kristine Engel
Kristine Engel
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I am an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Certificate in Engineering for Energy Sustainability. Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, I served as one of the Focus Coordinator. This year, I have passed on the FC duties to Kelsey and Kirsten and I currently support the the F2A group as a team member.

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Nathan Pinney
Nathan Pinney
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Kelsey Fortune
Kelsey Fortune
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Thomas Wilson
Thomas Wilson
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Kelsey Jashinsky
Kelsey Jashinsky
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I am currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin - Madison majoring in History and Environmental Studies with a certificate in leadership. After completing my undergraduate degree, I hope to attend graduate school for Urban and Regional Planning. The way we build our cities has a direct impact on our quality of life, and the state of the US economy as a whole. As our population continues to rise, I plan to advocate for the adoption of sustainable practices in communities in order to prevent a future energy crisis. In addition to coordinating a team for Focus the Nation on campus, I am the vice president of Students for New Urbanism and I volunteer on organic farms around Madison.
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Kirsten Walters
Kirsten Walters
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Young adults have the power to drive change within their communities and Focus the Nation is a perfect example of this. I am excited to help be this change and am driven to impact the community positively through an issue about which I am passionate. At the University of Wisconsin - Madison, I am currently working toward my Bachelor's degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership along with Certificates in Environmental Studies, Business, and German. 


Sep 18, 2013

Off Campus Energy Conservation Competition Coming Soon!
by Joshua Baker
Following the 2012 Forum and exploring and researching several solution and project ideas, we transitioned into a formal student organization in order to have increased access to the variety of excellent resources the campus offers. As Students for Energy Efficient Living - SEEL, we are continuing to encourage University of Wisconsin-Madison students to carry on sustainable lifestyles. SEEL expands beyond campus boundaries to decrease the carbon emissions released by off-campus student rental properties. Our primary objective is to educate students and campus area property owners on residential energy conservation. We also partner with other organizations to support sustainable food disposal and waste management practices related to student residences. Objectives of SEEL:
  • To make energy conservation in student rental properties a significant part of Badger culture
  • To encourage students to make sustainability a lifestyle, not just a hobby
  • To provide creative, hands-on learning opportunities surrounding our mission for members and the greater UW-Madison community
  • To give and to encourage career development opportunities for our members
With this newly defined direction, SEEL hopes to engage a diverse group of students, especially those not currently involved in environmental initiatives on campus, with ultimate desires to expand awareness and outreach to all UW-Madison students.

After reviewing the results of last year's student sustainability behavior survey and what diving into what incentives can promote more sustainable lifestyles, one of our first large initiatives will be running UW-Madison's first off-campus based energy conservation and reduction competition. We're busy preparing for the competition this winter and excited to start reducing energy usage off-campus later this winter! Stayed tuned in to learn more about this initiative and others SEEL will be developing.



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Apr 27, 2012

Surveying Student Sustainable Behavior
by Joshua Baker

Since the Negawatt Summit, the Focus Wisconsin Team has been busy having meetings with stakeholders and determining what types of incentives would be effective in pushing efficiency and green living within rental properties. Right now, the team is focusing on clarifying and defining what constitutes sustainable student behavior and what incentives lead students to engaging more often in this type of behavior. To do this, they are surveying students and community members on questions related to sustainability, factors that are considered when selecting a rental property, and the most convenient ways for college students to access information about the sustainability of rental properties. In a little over 24 hours after the Focus Wisconsin team sent out the initial survey, over 200 people have responded and the team has increased their goal on number of students and community members giving input. You can take the survey too! Just click here to get started. The survey should take 5-10 minutes to complete.

Following the analysis of the survey data, the Focus Team will work with We Conserve to finalize the student incentives in the Be the We program and continue to engage Madison Gas & Electric, Focus on Energy, Madison Green Property Owners Apartment Association, WISPIRG Energy Service Corps, and other stakeholders in putting the other pieces of the program together.
 
Stay tuned for updates on the survey results and the next steps in the project!
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