Sustainability Writing Awards

The second-annual UW–Madison Sustainability Writing Awards, hosted by the Office of Sustainability, are intended to inspire conversations about how writing can bring together people with different experiences to reflect and act within the context of the global climate crisis.

This year’s theme is resolution. Applicants may consider resolution from any angle, but some suggested prompts include: What are our resolutions for climate action, and what do they tell us about how we see ourselves, the present, the past, and the future? What does it mean to make a resolution, to be resolute? What possibilities come from having a greater optical resolution on crises? Can there be a resolution to climate change? What would it look like? Who gets to make resolutions, and who or what do they serve? What can we learn from the resolve of ecosystems, species, or cultures? What makes a resolution sustainable? How can resolutions be managed (business), separated into their components (chemistry), narrated (literature), made harmonious (music), or developed (technology)?

Students are welcome to submit nonfiction (personal essay, feature story, etc.) between 750 and 1,800 words by Sunday, October 15 at 11:59 p.m. Any entry considering an aspect of the theme of resolution will be accepted.

The most successful essays will demonstrate a command of evocative, detailed, concise language. This year’s theme is broad, with global implications: effective essays will make the theme personal, specific, and local. Interested students can review last year’s winning essays and podcast interviews for inspiration.

$1000 in prizes will be awarded, and the winning authors’ work will be showcased at the Sustainability Symposium on October 25, 2023. Winning authors’ work will also be displayed on the Office of Sustainability website and included in a special episode of The SustainUW Podcast.

Eligibility Criteria: All currently enrolled UW–Madison undergraduate, graduate, and professional students are eligible to submit nonfiction writing. Only one submission per student will be considered.

Contact: Nathan Jandl (

$1,000 in prizes split among the winners
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Office of Sustainability
Supplemental Questions
  1. Full name and pronouns
  2. Email
  3. Major/Field of Study
  4. Undergraduate/graduate and year at UW
  5. Provide a brief summary of your submission and how it pertains to the theme of resolution (100 words max). This will be revised and posted on the Office of Sustainability website, along with your submission, should you be one of the selected winners.
  6. Please upload your writing as a PDF. Please review the full WiSH posting for this award for writing submission guidelines. To avoid any chance of a conflict of interest, please do NOT include your name in the file you upload.
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