Skip to main content

Accessibility menu

Skip to main content Skip to footer

Reduce, reuse, reimagine

Posted 10:05 a.m. Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The dumpster diversion program, a new partnership between UWL and Habitat for Humanity, will aid the city's Climate Action Plan goals and create learning opportunities for students.

UWL partners with Habitat for Humanity for campus dumpster diversion program

As Emily Whitney, an associate professor of public and community health education, strolled through the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Onalaska, she got an idea. 

“I really wanted my Environmental Health students to learn more about the Restore and how their mission helps create sustainability through a circular economy — reusing and/or repurposing things rather than throwing things away,” Whitney says. “I also thought it would be great to collaborate on some type of project that would give students a chance to practice what they were learning.”  

Her light-bulb-moment led her to Amy Smith, the sustainability director for Habitat for Humanity, who suggested a dumpster diversion program collaboration. With the involvement of Andrew Ericson, UWL’s Sustainability Program director, Scott Brown, the Physical Plant director and Lisa Walker, associate director for Facilities, the program began to take shape. 

“The collaboration and teamwork from Andrew, Scott, and Lisa have been vital to moving this project forward,” Whitney says. “It absolutely could not be done without them.” 

Ericson says that the dumpster diversion program will launch at the beginning of May. Five storage containers, or “pods,” will be placed near campus dumpsters, acting as collection sites for large items to be donated. The pods will remain for about two weeks, coinciding with move-out, and will be transported to the Restore to be sorted. 

“UWL is part of the larger La Crosse community,” Whitney says, “and we should also be working with our neighbors as well as local organizations and businesses to care for and give back to our community.”

Beyond its community impact, the dumpster diversion program offers valuable educational opportunities for students.

Whitney sees the program as an opportunity got hands-on education experiences.

“This project has helped students in my Environmental Health class learn several skills such critical thinking, problem solving, communication, adaptability, social marketing and applying theory to program planning,” Whitney says. “The students specifically worked on developing social marketing materials with messages that aim to encourage students to participate in the dumpster diversion program. The theme for the dumpster diversion program is ‘reduce, reuse, reimagine.’”

Whitney sees the program as an opportunity for hands-on education experiences.

“This partnership helps students from across disciplines to connect and care for our campus and well as our larger community,” Whitney says. “The initiative provides opportunities for faculty to create service-learning projects for classes that help students interact with course materials in a different way, while also connecting them to the La Crosse community.” 

The dumpster diversion program aligns with the City of La Crosse’s Climate Action Plan, specifically its goals related to waste management and community collaboration.

“Moving forward, the hope is this program will be sustainable and implemented every year,” Whitney explains. “By doing so, we will help divert items that can be used from ending up in the landfill, creating a more robust circular economy while also allowing new students to be part of the stewardship of our campus and community.”


Share your news suggestions

Submit your news suggestions using UWL Share by no later than noon on Wednesdays preceding the next Monday's edition.

For more information, contact University Marketing & Communications at 608.785.8487.