Maggie Layden is changing the world one vegetable peel at a time. Maggie
is the project leader for the American Family Insurance initiative, "Our
Dream of a Zero Waste Future." By diverting the corporate cafeteria's
pre-consumer food waste from landfills, she is helping the Fortune 500
insurance company move closer to its goal of a zero waste future. A 2012
alumnus, Maggie credits the University of Wisconsin online
Sustainable Management degree for her success today.
With a strong focus on the intersections between people, planet, and
profit, the online UW Sustainable Management degree offers a curriculum
designed to provide foundational knowledge for making changes in the
workplace. Students learn to take a systems approach to solutions,
analyzing whole systems in order to create lasting change.
"I think about my University of Wisconsin Systems Thinking course every
single day. It was a really difficult course, but it applies to
everything I do at American Family," says Maggie. "Plus if the degree
were not online, I could never have worked on an internship here, a
position that ultimately evolved into a full-time career."
Already a leader in sustainability, American Family has made significat
strides to drastically reduce its water usage by 20 percent. The company
is on track to reduce its energy use by 15 percent by 2016.
Originally designed to meet a course requirement, the zero waste project
grew out of a desire to recycle organic waste. According to Maggie's
supervisor Dan Rosetta, facility operations director, "it wasn't long
before we realized that in addition to adding organics recycling, we
needed to revisit the existing recycling program at American Family."
With the goal to divert at least 90 percent of its waste from landfills,
American Family hired Maggie to lead a ten-person team that includes
colleagues, the company's housekeeping services, and food vendor. The
team established a process for sorting pre-consumer food waste from food
prep in the kitchen so it can be composted under controlled conditions.
If the waste is uncontaminated, it can be recycled and not sent to
The high-visibility project is a public-private partnership with the
city of Madison. The first step was to collect organics to be audited by
the city of Madison. The city looked for non-organic contamination in
the sample. While there was some contamination found in the initial
sample, it was well within the city's acceptable limit. American Family
was given the approval to officially begin diverting pre-consumer waste
to the city's pilot program.
Next, Maggie and the team introduced the Zero Waste pilot to American
Family's senior leadership forum. The feedback was overwhelmingly
positive. In fact, when everyone from the CEO to directors completed a
survey, many suggested even more ways to reduce waste across the company.
In the pursuit of her education goals, Maggie reached her career goals.
"I consider earning my degree online through UW one of the best
decisions I've ever made. I am passionate about my job - I get to
calculate the company's carbon footprint, water usage and waste
reduction," she says. "I truly believe I'm making a difference."
More information on this program can found online at sustain.wisconsin.edu
or by phone at 877-UW-LEARN (877-895-3276).
About the University of Wisconsin Sustainable Management Program
The University of Wisconsin Sustainable Management bachelor's degree is
the first online degree of its kind. The UW-Extension has brought
together the strengths of four different University of Wisconsin
campuses-UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout and UW-Superior-to craft
a degree completion program that equips adult workers with the
management skills they need to lead sustainable business initiatives.
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