Composting: fuel for food

I have decided to focus on the Bioconversion Center on Whitehall Rd. for my documentary project. There is a unique collaboration of Physical Plant’s composting system and Biofuels research. I hope to show how this dynamic works together in organic waste management while still pursuing their separate goals of research and campus landscaping. These photos focus on the composting aspect of Bioconversion Center where leaf, limb, animal bedding and food waste is composted and redistributed in campus soils.

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Momentum in Energy and Water Conservation

Andy Pattison, Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver, talks about the student movement in energy and water conservation.

Andy Pattison , Auraria Higher Education, and Michelle Sprowl, Metropolitian State College of Denver, talk about their project of maintaining momentum with energy and water conservation. Through three tiers of bureaucracy Auraria is challenged with getting approval by multiple boards, but the student voice and passion pushed sustainable measures into reality. $1 per student Clean Energy Fee provided them with the opportunity to provide solar panels. However, the fee was written very narrowly, so they delved into creative measures. Instead of $1 they implemented $5 fee to fund a Sustainable Campus Program following goals of renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, recycling program, education and outreach.
Overall, the measures that Auraria are doing saves them money, energy, water, and creates a discipline of sustainability knowledge. The students are almost 100% involved in the measures, voting 97% for the $5 fee that provides the projects with the funding. The support continues, and more projects including a sustainable coffee campaign/fundraiser for the sustainability fee, bike share, and energy awareness program.

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Recreation as an advocate of sustainability

Kathleen Hatch and Jamie Bentley from Washington State University talk about the connection between recreation and sustainabilty.

Kathleen Hatch and Jamie Bentley, Washington State University, address recreation and sustainability efforts. Recreation sports act as the biggest classroom on campus and is a place to shape behavior. Students are a major stakeholder in the recreation sports: best maintained facilities on campus, approved budgets raising student fees, and active voice in needs. Goals in sustainability at WSU: 1) sustainability statement 2) share practices 3) inspire others 4) role. Guiding principles of WSU recreation: 1) foster culture 2) model collaboration and leadership 3) advance wellbeing and sustainability
Within the recreation center they have set benchmarks for energy sustainability and consumption. They have also focused on the average 4,000 students that come into the facilities every day through education of their “benchmarks” and ways to help succeed in those benchmarks.
Programs, Education and Services: 1) Crimson Revolution (communicate information of green practices but also inspire them to be a part of that program) 2) Earth Week (collaborate with a purpose, such as mirror clings in buildings that promote sustainability efforts) 3) Green Bike (bike share program, that’s about physical activity and social aspect of healthy living) 4) Auditing (35 professional staff and 350 student staff were audited about their daily practices such as carrying reusable water bottles 5) Eco Adventures (hiking and backpacking with a service learning component)
“Ultimately what we are trying to do is create a call to action,” said Bentley. “To be part of the social, sustainable and healthy living movement.”

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Partnerships through Food and Community Gardens

Scott Green, University of Northern British Columbia, talks about building relationships with local food.

Scott Green, University of Northern British Columbia, focuses on strengthening community through partnerships around local food and sustainability.
“Sustainability is as much about social and cultural relationships as it is to restoring natural environment,” said Green. Green argues that technology is a double-edged sword because it is an advancement towards sustainability but there is an erosion of social/cultural values. For example, satellite TV’s introduced in Arctic communities have eroded the social values, rather than interacting with the environment and making social connections with each other and nature, they are watching TV. The environment and the culture suffer.
Restoring ecological principles into “human ecosystems”
1) Diversity of perspectives are required for healthy human ecosystems
2) Interdependence is a recognition that we need all those perspectives, connects to social justice
3) Carrying capacity is the importance of being connected with the environment and living within the means
To make this vision concrete Green’s project has brought together students and partners such as UNBC, PIRG and the Christian Reform Church. They built the community by working shoulder to shoulder through work parties including students and the church community. The program reached out to the local neighborhood by supporting the needs of the local neighborhood and being visible in the community. Bringing in local businesses as partners increased local support the project because they recognize the value of enhancing the community. After the first year of the project they had a harvest feast that brought all the participants and community together.
“Food is something that cuts across the whole human culture,” said Green. “This program, a community garden, promotes ecological and cultural goals.”
1) restore “community” around local food security and sustainability
2) restore capacity (local knowledge of agriculture)
3) restore control (empower individuals to have control over nutritional life)
Lessons learned: 1) community building is hard that takes a core group of people that is engaged in the process and wanting to discuss/progress 2) community building takes time that is more of a counter-culture feature that’s non-adversarial and non-simplistic 3) food connects people in amazing ways clarifying challenges in poverty, sustainability and social norms 4) we have so much in common, such as a desire to live in healthy, safe communities.

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Ecovillages

Daniel Greenberg, Living Routes Ecovillages, points out the differences between sustainability in academia and in living experience in ecovillages.

Daniel Greenberg, director of Living Routes (livingroutes.org) Ecovillage Education, begins the discourse on community outreach with ecovillages as the ultimate sustainability classroom. “We are at a moment in not only human history but a planetary history,” said Greenberg. Living Routes is a non-profit based out of the University of Massachusetts that provide study abroad programs in ecovillages across the world. Ecovillages have staked out the middle ground between high quality and low impact, above the “dignity floor” (ethical standard of living) and below the carrying capacity of our world.
Programs:
1) Findhorn, Scotland
2)Auroville, India (40 different nations trying to build a sustainable community)
3) Kibbutz Lotan, Israel (live in the desert sustainably, building “dome”tories out of sustainable materials suitable for the environment)
4) Monteverde, Costa Rica (social and environmental justice)
5) Mexico
6) Amazon, Peru
7) Sirius community in Massachusetts
8) Brazil (studying permaculture)
9) Australia (studying permaculture)
Global Ecovillage and Network and Gaia Education along with Living Routes are creating a network and curriculum for living sustainably. Academia is 1) conservative, 2) hierarchical, 3) competitive, 4) fragmented in knowledge (departments), 5) academic community, 6) theoretical, 7) secular, 8) large footprint, 9) problem oriented.
On the other hand, ecovillages are 1) experimental, 2) heterarchical, 3) cooperative, 4) transdiciplinary, 5) living community (transformative, “Reawakens a need that’s inherent in us,” said Greenberg), 6) applied, 7) spiritual (ask the bigger questions: what does interdependence mean?), 8) smaller footprint, 9) solution oriented.
“We have to recognize that we are coming up against an institution that is antithetical to what we are teaching in sustainability,” said Greenberg. “In ecovillages you see sustainability measures everyday. It’s not disconnected.”

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Social Equity and Student Activism

Derrick Robinson, University of North Florida, talks about poverty and service projects, such as a community garden, building connections and teaching.

Derrick Robinson, University of North Florida Environmental Center, tells his story of improving disadvantaged communities through sustainable, urban gardening. His project, in collaboration with Colleen Herms at UNF, is literally and figuratively planting seeds, in the soil and in people’s minds. He is taking a bottom-up approach, starting with the students. His program is based on learning through experience. The experience offers knowledge about poverty and agriculture. Partnership between UNF and Clara White Mission garners experience-based training in sustainable methods in living on both sides.

The Clara White Mission feeds about 400 people per day, and this program expects to establish a program that grows healthy, sustainable food for the mission. One aspect of the program is also preparing the food after it is grown through the Clara White Culinary Art Program, which teaches disadvantaged communities skill sets such as cooking. Clara’s at the Cathedral is a program that allows Clara White’s Culinary Art students to prepare fresh meals while also giving them the training that they need.

The goal of the program is to give the Clara White Mission the tools to continue the sustainable gardening program, “We want to leave them a handbook that explains how to build and garden a 50×50 plot,” said Robinson. “It could be bigger than that, but at least they have this starting point after we leave these tools.”

Emilie Rex, Indiana University-Bloomington, speaks about the imperative aspect of internships in a student's career and their impact on campus sustainability.

Emilie Rex, Indiana University-Bloomington, spoke about student internships as drivers of sustainability on campuses. The mission of the program is utilizing the campus as a living learning lab where students engage in research-based projects aimed at greening campus operations, policy and procedures. There is wide student appeal from a variety of majors, journalism to neuroscience. There are a variety of internships that span cross-campus projects.

IU Energy Challenge has saved $165,000, and it involves over 18,000 students, covering the majority of the residence halls and was organized by two student interns. Hoosier to Hoosier Community Sale reclaims student move-out items and resale them to the public. Digital Waste Days is another program that a student intern has worked on that recycles digital waste, and IU has diverted over a ton of digital waste from the landfill.

Student internships are critical to the mission of the campus. Starting in March 2007 the IU task force on sustainability identified that IU needed an office of sustainability. By May 2009, the office of sustainability was established and a director was hired. Students were integral in this project. Initial task force funds have gone toward internships, and now half of the $300,000 budget for the office of sustainability goes to internships.

There are 18 student interns every year, but with over 18,000 students at the university they are expanding`their projects to leverage more student engagement, such as Game Day recycling program, which has between 150-200 volunteers. They are also partnering with classes including a dance class that is creating a dance influenced by sustainability.

“It is important to make the students famous within the IU community,” said Rex. “We send them to all different departments to make them well-known among the campus.”

Final notes:

1) Frame internships as critical to mission

2) Strategically share responsibility and ownership of projects

3) Support professional development of the students

4) Know audience (utilize social media)

5) Expand programs beyond the internships for further student engagement

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Innovative Partnerships Pushing Energy Sustainability

Melea Press, University of Wyoming, talks about creating partnerships to garner more effective research in energy sustainability.

Melea Press, University of Wyoming, focuses her discussion on academics with a public-private partnership. One project that her research is focusing on is energy use in one community. There are many restraints to consumption because it is intangible.

Macro level misunderstanding about promoting more sustainable electrical energy use: You don’t think about lights as a product of kilowatt hours. Also, product constellation effects is the “extras” that come with the TV, for example, the DVD player, the PS2, etc. Other constraints on the macro level include: saturation of demand for ethical attributes, class antagonisms, infrastructural constraints, backlash to green washing, limited cultural capacity for change (e.g. CFL light bulbs), confusion in 3rd party cultural schemes.

Press explores energy consumption in terms of comfort and habits rather than the kilowatt hours of electricity used. These are routinized, ritualized, habitual behaviors that are difficult to break. Her research focuses on Jackson, Wyoming that gets its power from Bonneville Power, notable for being some of the cheapest power in the US. There is a vast divide in Jackson between the rich, who vacation in Jackson for 2 weeks out of the year and consume inordinate amounts of energy, and the “libertarian,” practical people, who have to watch energy consumption due to financial constraints.

JHESP, the utilities managers in Jackson, teamed up with Press and other professors in Wyoming’s College of Business to communicate with people on reducing energy consumption. They have conducted interviews, held focus groups and sent out surveys. They are also looking at the energy Lower Valley Energy Authority’s audits of the homes, mapping the changes after the audits have been done and education has been in place.

Innovative partnership brought together complementary resources and skills: the town and county know the citizens, Lower Valley Energy Authority offers audits and behavior changes, professors bring an expertise in communication. The biggest challenges are vocabulary and lack of a model for working together.

“Our hope is what we do in this community will be transferred to other communities,” said Press.

 

 

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