Our Alumni: Sonya Newenhouse ’84
Sonya Newenhouse describes herself as a "serial eco entrepreneur." One look at her resume, and there is no doubt the description of herself is right on target.
She is founder and president of NewenHouse; founder and president of Community Car, LLS; founder and former president of Madison Environmental Group, Inc.; and founder and former executive director of WasteCap Wisconsin. The common thread is that all of these organizations were created to move sustainability forward.
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While Sonya attending Michigan State to major in hospitality and restaurant management, she became involved with a service project to create a recycling policy for the University. That was a turning point. She went home at spring break and told her parents she was more interested in environmental science than hotel management. After graduating from Michigan State, she received her master’s and PhD from the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I always knew I wanted to start my own business," admits Sonya. So after earning her PhD she started Madison Environmental Group, a boutique sustainability consulting company—one of the first in the country. “The company grew and five years into it, I became interested in transportation issues when I learned that driving less is the most important individual action to reduce pollution and gas emissions.” That resulted in the creation of Community Car that provides affordable access to cars, renting them on an hourly basis, while reducing pollution.
Today, Sonya matches her lifestyle with her environmental passion. NewenHouse is a business that creates homes for the future that are 80% efficient. In the R&D phase, she built a prototype, three-bedroom, two-bath, furnace-free, 970-square-foot home for herself and her family. “The house performs beautifully and even maintains temperatures between 68-86 degrees—even during the coldest winters in Wisconsin.
Her company will sell plans for one-, two- and three-bedroom models. The kits will include detailed plans, a specification and material list, a site-specific energy model, plans for an edible landscape, consulting during the building process, and membership to an online community.