For Earth Week this year, Green Liaisons again hosted two great speakers: UD scientist Dr. Jennifer Stewart and UD Dining Representative Ryan Boyer. The lunch took place on April 18th.
Dr. Stewart spoke about her research under the school’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment that seeks to make algae-based biofuels a viable source of renewable energy.
Algae, like corn and sugarcane, is an organic matter that can be converted into a “biofuel” capable of replacing gasoline. It is thought to be preferable to such food crop biofuels, as it offers the advantage of producing more fuel per acre and requiring no farmland for growth.
Algae could be made even more beneficial by feeding it carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from smokestack emissions. This would reduce the amount of CO2 released to the atmosphere and subsequently reduce climate change.
Stewart is investigating a way to enable the algae to use this CO2 for increased growth while simultaneously absorbing the nitric oxide also found in the emissions. Nitric oxide would otherwise be harmful to algae.
She aims to breed a strain of algae that would treat the excess nitrogen as a nutrient rather than as a toxin, so that it would grow faster and consume more CO2.
The second speaker, Ryan Boyer, the District Marketing Manager for Dining Services, shared with us the latest environmental initiatives being implemented in the university’s new Caesar Rodney Dining Hall.
These initiatives fall under the umbrella of Dining Services’s new Green Thread program, which focuses on responsible sourcing (such as purchasing locally, moving to cage-free eggs, and looking out for animal welfare), efficient operations (such as increasing water conservation and improving green cleaning practices), and waste minimization (such as increasing recycling, introducing tray-less dining, and streamlining the to-go container system).
In addition, Dining has been adding other initiatives to improve their environmental footprint, like the weekly Farmers’ Market, Sustainable Fish Friday, and RecycleMania.
If you would like to learn more about either of these topics, please check out the talks here!
On Friday, March 4th, Green Liaisons hosted Dr. Willett Kempton, UD Professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy and Research Director at the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, for our first lunch of the semester.
He shared with us the latest news about the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology that he helped to spearhead.
V2G technology is an innovation of renewable energy research that enables electric vehicles to communicate with the electric grid in order to recycle stored battery power.
Beginning with local situation of electric vehicles (EVs), Dr. Kempton mapped out the current locations of electric vehicle charging stations in Delaware in order to demonstrate the benefit of how deliberate public planning can benefit the electric-vehicle driver and how that planning is already being instituted in this state.
He also described for us the benefits of transitioning to EVs. The environmental benefits are certainly known, but what Dr. Kempton stressed were the advantages earned by the entire grid system and by the EV driver when V2G technology is implemented, as this enables the grid to rely on a more efficient and quick-responding power source and it enables the driver to earn a profit from the energy they are sending to the grid. According to Kempton, in a theoretical situation in which the vehicle is unplugged for six hours a day, a driver may earn up to $56 a month.
Dr. Kempton also detailed the aggregator system that is responsible for bidding on the amount of energy required by the grid each day and then documenting what energy is inputted by the EVs in order to recognize when the energy limit is reached.
This work has involved collaboration between Dr. Kempton’s team in Newark and international collaborators in Denmark.
If you would like to learn more, check out Dr. Kempton’s talk here!
Photo by Evan Krape (UDaily)
For our last Green Liaisons Lunch of the semester, on November 19th, we had the pleasure of hosting UD senior, Clarke’ Snell, a biochemistry major and president and founder of the UD Veg Club, who shared with us her campaign to bring Meatless Monday to UD’s campus.
Clarke’ has partnered with the Humane League, a nonprofit specifically geared toward farm animal wellbeing, as well as students at Yale University who have embarked on similar campaigns, in order to promote Meatless Monday. During her talk, Clarke’ also provided for us in detail the benefits behind Meatless Monday, on both a global and university-wide scale: from the potential reversal in certain environmental effects of animal agriculture (for example, the increased greenhouse gases, land consumption, water consumption, and crop production, among others) to the potential reduction in spending (meat is costly) to the improvements in human health.
Clarke’ is already in talks with Dining to make Meatless Monday a reality, but she’d love to get your support by signing her petition here!
Clarke’ also broke down the impacts in numbers for our specific school were Meatless Monday to take effect–you can check out her talk here! If you’d like to get more involved with this campaign, contact Clarke’ at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this year’s Campus Sustainability Day, October 28th, Green Liaisons partnered with the Campus Sustainability Day Working Group to host UD’s very new Sustainability Manager, Michelle Bennett, for a noontime lunch.
Michelle joined UD as the pioneer in this position this past summer following a long campaign by several university parties, including some exceptionally dedicated students (see our luncheon post from early fall 2014). Students and faculty alike have been eager to hear from Michelle her vision for sustainability at UD, as well as to ask some questions of her. You can check out her talk on Youtube here!
This past September 25th, Green Liaisons hosted the always-energetic and endlessly passionate leader of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, Stephanie Herron, for our first luncheon of the semester.
Stephanie began with a brief overview of the history behind the Sierra Club–the nation’s oldest and most influential environmental organization, founded in 1892–and then led into those environmental issues that are of particular concern to both the national and state-wide chapters. These issues, on the broadest scale, are under the scope of health disparities, pollution, and sea level rise–all of which are under the even broader problem of climate change.
The DE Sierra Club has chosen to tackle climate change with its “Save the Energy to Save the World” Campaign, through which the Club is working toward a 23.3% energy reduction by 2025 in Delaware. Such energy reductions will be partially the job of Delaware’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, which is responsible for setting the targets for energy efficiency programs, but it will also depend on the consumer (us!) to both save energy in our own homes and make our support for energy reductions audible (for example, by signing the Club’s petition to DNREC or submitting a letter to the editor). The DE Sierra Club also recommends that anyone interested join their energy team (Contact Stephanie at email@example.com).
The DE Sierra Club also has a concurrent mission to mitigate the environmental issue of excess plastic pollution. In June, House Bill 202 that argued for a five-cent fee on single use bags was introduced in Delaware, but it has not yet had a committee hearing. If you are interested in helping with this campaign, the DE Sierra Club asks that you sign their petition to Delaware legislators, “like” the Delaware Plastic Pollution Action Coalition on Facebook, or call your legislators and ask them to support House Bill 202 (more info here).
Lastly, Stephanie told us that the DE Chapter has decided to re-launch one of the Sierra Club’s most well-known and loved features: outings! A few were planned for this past fall, but check on the DE Sierra Club’s Facebook for news on more!
This past April 24th, we held a special two-for-one Green Liaisons Lunch in honor of Earth Month featuring both Zach Platsis, UD’s Energy Manager, and Brenna Goggin, the Delaware Nature Society’s Advocacy Manager.
Zach led a great talk detailing the University’s rather recent solar initiative, which includes solar arrays atop Clayton Hall, 461 Wyoming Road, and the Delaware Field House. The arrays generate approximately 1000 total Mwh each year, which is out of UD’s overall 150,000 annual Mwh usage.
We actually learned quite a bit about some lesser known aspects of solar energy itself, such as how to discern and interpret the difference between “AC” and “DC” energy output, what conditions allow arrays to function most efficiently (it should be relatively cool), and the fact that arrays cannot run on max power for very long, which means that their advertised energy output can sometimes be misleading to the public.
Zach also told us about some of the University’s new energy initiatives, such as their sub-metering project, which will, in an effort to better target energy-consuming utilities, put several individual meters where there are currently full-building meters.
Next, we heard from Brenna about the Delaware Nature Society’s 2015 campaign, Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice, an effort to secure funding for cleaner waters in DE. Delaware, as Brenna explained, has had a long history of contaminated water, beginning with industries such as National Vulcanized Fiber (NVF), which operated without safe building regulations throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and thus released toxic chemicals like zinc and mercury into DE waterways that remain to this day. Delaware water also still receives a regular dose of Dupont chemicals, agricultural runoff, and combined sewer overflow from wastewater treatment plants (which especially affects the Brandywine), in addition to residential runoff from homeowner lawn management and storm drains.
The problem that needs addressing now is that none of that runoff is treated: it goes straight to local waterways. The only way to remedy this on a truly effective scale would be to fund solutions (like rain barrels, best management practices, and pervious outdoor surfaces), and of course, finding that funding is the difficult part. The job of the Delaware Nature Society then, in addition to raising awareness about the state of Delaware’s water, is to secure that funding by way of an increase on property taxes. Residents would have a certain annual rate, and, although perhaps unconventional, larger, otherwise-exempt locations like the University of Delaware (which contributes a great portion of pollution to DE water) would be required to pay an appropriate fee, all in the name of making the water we interact with every single day that much safer.
Thank you to Zach and Brenna for these great talks! If you’d like to learn more about UD’s solar energy, check out the live-stream solar generation tracker, and if you’d like to learn more about the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign, check out their Facebook page!
This was actually our last talk of the Spring semester, so check back with us in the fall to see what talks we have planned for next semester!
This past month, Terry Kaplan, a Territory Manager for the nonprofit Planet Aid, joined the Green Liaisons for our March Lunch. Terry gave us not only the breakdown of what Planet Aid does, but also an in-depth look at the cause behind the organization: textiles, the ever-growing industry that is often ignored as one of the world’s largest contributors to waste production.
As we learned from Terry, 14 million tons of textile waste is generated each year, and 12 million tons of that waste ends up in landfills. The reasons behind this excessive wastefulness lie in the transitioning nature of the textile industry itself as it conforms to an increasingly consumptive society of purchasers. With the U.S. being one of the primary contributors to this skyrocketing global consumption, fashion knows it has customers and is thus free to expand and change as often as it likes–even within the span of only days or weeks. Retail turnaround is then just as fast, which means that all over the world there is a constant cycle of production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of textiles, each with its own set of environmental and social consequences. Production of textiles alone not only requires immense amounts of the fabric material itself, but also electricity and water. The textile industry is now the third largest consumer of water in the world, and they’re likely one of the largest polluters of it as well considering the discharge from textile dyes which must be disposed of in nearby rivers. This initial portion of the process takes place before the textile even reaches the consumer, and all in developing countries where working conditions are hazardous and workers cannot even afford to buy the clothes they’re making.
That’s where Planet Aid comes in. A nonprofit and accredited charity through the Better Business Bureau, Planet Aid has been working since 1997 to mitigate textile waste and the problems caused by it. With their signature yellow bins (some of which we have on campus!), Planet Aid collects 100 million pounds of textile waste from 22 states per year. All of these clothes are then sold to markets in either the U.S. or developing countries, the latter of which have an incredible demand for used clothing. The money from those sales is then used to support and initiate programs such as Farmers’ Clubs, which helps farmers in the developing world start cooperatives in order to be more economically-successful and more environmentally-conscious.
Planet Aid is doing awesome things for the environment and its people–if you’d like to learn more about it check out their website, and if you’d like to see Terry’s talk, you can see it on Youtube here!
This past February 25th brought the Green Liaisons our first lunch and first guest speaker of the Spring 2015 semester: Professor Jeremy Firestone, a faculty member in Marine Science and Policy and the Director of UD’s Interdisciplinary Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, joined us to share his experiences leading and contributing to the development, permitting, and construction of the Lewes Campus Wind Turbine.
Professor Firestone gave us an excellent look into the work that is involved when a university plans and produces a piece of green machinery such as a wind turbine. UD’s wind turbine began generating electricity in 2010, but, as Professor Firestone told us, this was the result of years working through the development stage of the process. (One really interesting aspect of this process was the extensive number of studies that were required in order to gage public interest and opinion before and after the wind turbine was built, of which Professor Firestone gives a great overview in his talk!).
Today, five years after it first began turning, the wind turbine is still owned and operated by a partnership between UD and the turbine manufacturer, Gamesa Technology Coporation. It generates enough electricity to power the Lewes Campus, and any excess is sold to the residents of the Town of Lewes, whose continued support plays a large part in the success of the turbine. The turbine also serves as a research and educational platform for the university, and there are even opportunities for students to become certified to go to the top!
Every Monday from 12:30-2:00 PM during this Spring semester 2015, the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) will host a lecture concerning a relevant environmental issue in the ISE Lab. Known as the “Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratory Spring 2015 Lecture Series,” this event is a great way to get exposure to the environmental side of UD while interacting with like-minded UD faculty, staff, and students. The first lecture will be held this coming Monday, February 16th.
This upcoming lecture will feature two speakers: Doug Tallamy, a Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, discussing “Why Novel Ecosystems Won’t Work,” and Annette Giesecke, Interim Chairperson of the Dept. of Foreign Languages and Professor, on “the role of the garden in defining humanity’s relationship with nature.”
The schedule and more info on this awesome opportunity can be found here!
There will be refreshments served, but only to the first 30 people–register early by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!