UW-Eau Claire’s latest push for sustainability

The Davies Center welcomes new sustainable indoor-gardens

Oludare Obadiya

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Photo by Bill Hoepner

New micro-gardens in Davies bolster the campuses sustainability.

There is a new addition to The Davies Student Center on lower campus. 

They’re called hydroponic gardens and according to the UW-Eau Claire website, they are a new sustainability project that was unveiled last week Monday on the first floor of the building.

According to the school website, the gardens grow a variety of different produce ranging from herbs to lettuces and micro greens. 

Lilly Strehlow is one of UW-Eau Claire’s sustainability specialists, according to the school website. She said she helped this project get up and running. 

“As sustainability specialist, I’m coordinating the installation and the first couple of harvests to make sure things are running smoothly,” she said. 

After the first initial harvests, Strehlow said she will be handling the project off to a team who will then take over.

According to Strehlow, a part of that team is Henry Scamehorn, a recent UW-Eau Claire graduate who now works in the Risk Management, Safety and Sustainability office as a graduate student, according to their page on the school website.

Scamehorn says he graduated with a degree in Geology and is currently attending graduate school virtually at UW-La Crosse. 

He offered a more in-depth explanation of how the hydroponic gardens work.  

“They are vertical gardens that use no soil in the growing of plants,” he said. “They use nutrient- filled water to help the plants grow indoors.” 

Scamehorn went on to say the gardens are even fitted with cameras to help monitor the plants. He also noted that the lack of soil used by the plants means less wasted water. 

Strehlow highlighted the gardens as another aspect of the University’s emphasis on sustainability. 

“Sustainability has always been a strategic priority here at Eau Claire and we’re really building momentum,” she said. “After student advocacy and SOS (the Student Office of Sustainability) got the ball rolling, there’s now more support within the administration.”

Strehlow mentioned plans for sustainability on campus including carbon neutrality by the year 2050 and more sustainability implemented around campus overall. 

She pointed to the gardens as a project that can help the University advance toward these goals. 

Both Strehlow and Scamehorn noted the importance of students being involved in the process.

Hazel Woodward is a fourth-year English student and student director of SOS. She shared why she felt it was important for students to be involved in the gardens as well. 

“I think it’s important because it affects students,” she said. “It affects whether or not they get fresh produce.” 

Woodward also explained how the produce from the hydroponic gardens gets to students for consumption. 

“I think most of the produce that we get from the (garden) will go to the Campus Harvest Food Pantry,” she said. “So any student who wants to can go there and pick up what they need.” 

Scamehorn noted the amount of help the project has been receiving from students. He says students were a part of the first initial planting and will be part of more in the future. 

According to Strehlow, this initial planting and harvest will determine any further plans for the gardens to grow in size and variety.

“This is the pilot project,” she said.  “And we’re going to listen to students about what they want to see happen next.” 

Strehlow also mentioned potential grants in the works for a hydroponics unit in UW-Eau Claire- Barron County, for their own food pantry. 

Information on the UW-Eau Claire food pantry can be found on their website. 

If a student wants to get involved with sustainability on campus, Strehlow said they can email [email protected]

Obadiya can be reached at [email protected]