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How Madison Wisconsin Incentivizes Energy Efficiency in Student Housing

Creating a market of sustainable housing options for students living off-campus at University of Wisconsin-Madison.


At Focus-UW we are working on persuading off-campus rental property owners to make their housing more energy efficient to create a market of sustainable housing options for students living at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A roadblock our campus currently faces is the fact that students in Madison generally live in off-campus housing or apartments for only one or two years. Therefore, rental property owners do not see how engaging in environmentally sustainable practices or making their properties more energy efficient will be of any benefit to them. At the same time, for the students who desire to live in more environmentally friendly housing, there is no easily accessible database that exists for them to find information about the energy efficiency or sustainability of properties off campus.

Our goal for the next few months is to create incentives which attract property owners and students to environmentally-friendly housing. We are researching the most effective and credible way to rate off-campus housing on energy efficiency. The most recent stakeholder we met with was the Director of Community and Residential Properties at Madison Gas and Electric where we discussed the resources available to property owners who agree to retrofit their properties. We also discussed how we can educate students on how to conserve energy at home. Once Focus-UW finds an effective means of rating off-campus housing for energy efficiency, we need a way to present this information to students. We plan on developing a user-friendly program to connect landlords with energy efficient properties to students looking for sustainable housing.

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I only had a couple months to party with my friends and our diplomas before I drove into the sweaty south to search for a solution to my college debt. After a pleasant interview process I was awarded a position as a Data Analyst at a renewable energy company. The company owns and operates wind turbine generator fields in many states around the country. The company headquarters, where I work, is in a cosmopolitan and skyscrapered downtown, complete with beautiful underground tunnels of food courts, where stampedes of corporate employees speed through lunch.

Aside from the scenery, I couldn't imagine a better fitting job for myself. The other Data Analysts and I are responsible for validating the hypotheses of the engineers. These hypotheses concern the performance of the diverse multitude of wind turbine generators which constitute our parks. This validation requires a fair amount of creative code writing and mathematics, so my team and I are encouraged to continue learning and applying new technologies everyday. I no longer fear the fabled mental stagnation that accompanies the 'real-world' working lifestyle. My job has continued learning as a job requirement, something I consider to be my greatest job benefit.

The office has the youthful air of intellectual fascination. Nearly all of my co-workers are a few years older, but that fact does not divide up the workplace socially. My new co-workers have warmly welcomed me into a brand new state and culture. I've been introduced to the city's free outdoor theater performances, pub trivias, and monthly critical-mass bike rides. The bike rides are imperative because the food here is, lets say, hefty?

What makes all of my co-workers easy to get along with is our shared commitment to renewable energy. Each long day, each internal efficiency meeting, and each technical explanation is a part of proper planetary stewardship, and I've never felt more comfortable inside of such a large company. With the simple goal of paying off college debt I've smoothly transitioned to the working world, and had no trouble finding the purpose to do my very best.

This month, challenge a neighbor to GOOD's energy smackdown. Find a neighbor with a household of roughly the same square footage and see who can trim their power bill the most. Throughout February, we'll share ideas and resources for shrinking your household carbon footprint, so join the conversation at good.is/energy.

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Our Antiquated Building Stock Holds Huge Opportunity for Energy Conservation

I am a firm believer in the ingenuity of the human race and energy is a case in point.


Throughout my final semester as an undergraduate, I decided to partner with Focus the Nation to implement clean energy initiatives. I secured over $200,000 for a multi-phase solar photovoltaic project at the University of Utah, and the majority of these funds were derived from student fees, which in itself, highlights the importance my generation is placing on clean, green tech.

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