Student’s zero waste column featured in Sunday Press-Gazette

UW-Green Bay senior Robyn Nielsen, an Environmental Policy and Planning and Environmental Science student who recently completed an internship with Brown County’s Waste Stream Committee, wrote a column on the zero waste philosophy for Sunday’s (Sept. 22) Green Bay Press-Gazette. In it, Nielsen — an April Posters in the Rotunda participant — outlines the economic and environmental benefits of zero waste, detailing current procedures and future possibilities for how we dispose of organic materials. “The best way for all of us to keep items out of the landfill, though,” Nielsen writes, “is not to think about the items we throw away as ‘waste.’ Just because an item is no longer useful to one individual, it does not mean it is completely useless.” Good column, here.

High-energy leftovers: Scraps find a taker at neighbor campus

Behind the scenes at the University Union’s kitchen operated by A’viands Food and Services Management, there’s a lot of fancy knife work going on. Cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing, and paring is a part of the everyday work that helps feed several thousand people daily at various UW-Green Bay dining venues.

But where do the parts that get cut, chopped or sliced off in preparing your food end up?

Until mid-September, those “pre-consumer” scraps went to the landfill where they became part of the more than 36 million tons of food waste generated annually in this country, contributing to the production of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas when released to the atmosphere.

Now, the Union and A’viands team is collecting the scraps from daily food preparation and shipping those leftovers 50 miles down the road to UW-Oshkosh, which has an industrial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester.

That’s a really long name for a process that allows the waste food to do its thing — decay (ferment) without air (anaerobic) through use of microbes (the real biodigesters) which produce methane as one of the by-products. The methane gas is collected from the “fermentation vessels” of the digester in a bag house, which is basically a highly specialized balloon that expands as the methane fills it. The methane gas is then burned in a combined heat and power engine that has the capacity to produce 370kW of electricity and 495 kW of heat. What remains after the 28 days of fermentation is something called digestate, which can be used as compost.

UWO estimates the plant will provide up to 10% of its electricity when the digester begins to run at capacity. The heat generated is currently not used, but plans are in the works to pipe some of the generated heat to a nearby campus building. The plant has been designed to handle organics such as campus food waste, yard waste and crop residuals, as much as 25 tons per day.

Fondly called “the beast” at UW-O, the biodigester’s appetite for feedstock far outpaces what can be generated by a single campus. UW-Green Bay sustainability coordinator Laurie Case says the partnership with UW-O is a green win for both campuses.

On the cutting edge of the new partnership are the food preparation team slicers and dicers learning a new way to handle the waste, with the University Union team supporting the effort with both staff time and financial assistance. A’viands held a training seminar for culinary staff about the new initiative. Staff learned what constitutes pre-consumer waste, how to dispose of it, and how the waste will be used to generate energy.

Bright yellow collection bins are strategically placed throughout production areas. In addition to kitchen waste, coffee grounds are also being gathered from satellite dining locations to include in the collection.

The UW-Green Bay Sustainability Committee is also contributing to funding the program. Collection of post-consumer organic waste is a possible next step (involving common items like apple cores, uneaten food, banana peels and the like), with planning in the preliminary stages.

‘Message in a Bottle’ update: Recycle, reuse, reclaim … in about 40 years

We told you previously about UW-Green Bay’s “Message in a Bottle” campaign, which is bringing a fun time-capsule element to environmental awareness on campus. Sustainability leaders this fall collected messages in plastic soda and water bottles, designed to be used as fillers in new planters on the IS rooftop. The project brings awareness to the need for recycling — bottles in landfills won’t decay for a staggering 450 years — and also offered students, faculty and staff the chance to leave a message for the UW-Green Bay of tomorrow. The bottles were placed as filler in two large planters this week, and won’t be unearthed for about 40 years. We’ve got an update and cool new photos, click here.

Recycle, reuse, reclaim… in 40 years

Message-in-a-Bottle campaign

What happens when plastic bottles are used as time capsules? University officials will find out in about 40 years — when the new planters now on the IS rooftop will likely need to be reconstructed. The bottles, some with personal messages in them, were placed as filler in two large planters this week, covered with dirt and await spring planting. They provided volume and fill in the planters and make a statement — recycle! Those that end up in land fills won’t decay for a staggering 450 years! Read more here.

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Message in a Bottle, time capsule campaign, Nov. 2012Message in a Bottle, time capsule campaign, Nov. 2012Message in a Bottle, time capsule campaign, Nov. 2012Message in a Bottle, time capsule campaign, Nov. 2012

Last chance to leave message in a bottle

UW-Green Bay’s sustainability team is hoping the campus community gets — and gives — their “Message in a Bottle.” This is the final week for the personal time capsule campaign involving the new Student Services plaza/roof deck, currently under construction. The “last chance collection bin” will be located on the second floor of the Cofrin Library this week and will be well marked. Messages can be anything — campus memories, hopes for the future, a note to future generations, poems or photos. Drop off your message, and include, if you will, name, age, title, etc. as appropriate, so future University historians will know something about you. Read more.

Last chance: Leave your message in a bottle

Message in a BottleUW-Green Bay’s sustainability team is hoping the campus community gets — and gives — their “Message in a Bottle.” This is the final week for the personal time capsule campaign involving the new Student Services plaza/roof deck, currently under construction. The “last chance collection bin” will be located on the second floor of the Cofrin Library this week and will be well marked.

Here’s the history… The plaza project includes a number of large, deep planters — some are so deep that the plants going in them don’t require them all that much soil to thrive. Rather than paying more for soil, UW-Green Bay’s sustainability and facilities management teams will reuse capped plastic bottles collected from recycling bins on campus. The bottles will add the needed volume and won’t decay for a staggering 450 years or so (maybe longer) — which serves as a reminder of what happens (or more accurately, doesn’t happen) when bottles end up in the landfill, rather than the recycling bin.

Message in a Bottle poster
click to see larger image (pdf)
In order to add an element of fun — not to mention awareness — to the project, campus community members will be able to repurpose one of their own plastic bottles as a personal time capsule, said UW-Green Bay sustainability coordinator Laurie Case.

All they need to do is rinse out a rigid plastic bottle (keeping the cap), let it dry, and then write their “message in a bottle” on a slip of paper — or express it via another medium — to be put inside.

Messages can be anything — campus memories, hopes for the future, a note to future generations, poems or photos.

Drop off your message, and include, if you will, name, age, title, etc. as appropriate, so future University historians will know something about you.

“We’re reusing bottles, avoiding costs for unneeded soil, reinforcing a plastic recycling message and leaving messages from 2012,” Case said. “Future members of the campus community will literally unearth these messages the next time the roof deck undergoes reconstruction — probably 40 or 50 years in the future.”

For more information, email sustainability@uwgb.edu.

Still time to leave your “Message in a Bottle”

Just a friendly reminder that UW-Green Bay’s earth-friendly “Message in a Bottle” campaign continues through Friday (Sept. 21) on campus. As we mentioned here before, members of the campus community are welcome to leave plastic-bottled messages for future generations that will be used to fill planters on the new Student Services roof plaza. The project is designed to raise awareness of the importance of recycling while allowing folks to leave a message, time-capsule style, for the UW-Green Bay of tomorrow. Full details.

Sending out an (eco) S.O.S.: UW-Green Bay’s Message in a Bottle drive

It’s the awesome, cost-saving eco campaign that already has us singing that catchy ditty from The Police — that’s right, UW-Green Bay’s ‘Message in a Bottle’ drive is here! All next week, campus community members will be invited to share their message, time-capsule style, in a plastic bottle (of the soda or water variety). These bottles will be used to help fill deep new planters as part of the student services roof remodel, thereby reducing the amount of soil purchased and calling attention to how slowly plastic breaks down (think in the four-to five-century range). There will be six collection locations around campus from Monday, Sept. 17 through Friday, Sept. 21. See our full news post for complete details — and think about what message you’d like to leave for the Phoenix of the future.

Correction, clarification on household e-waste recycling

A couple of things regarding our previous post about UW-Green Bay students arranging for the local company Cyber Green to run an e-waste collection next week.

1)  The initial date provided was incorrect.  The roundup will actually take place Monday (April 23), 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the MAC Hall circle dropoff.

2)  A loyal Log reader points out that, although Monday’s event includes dropoff charges for  CRT/Monitors, $10; TVs, $10; TVs over 30”, $20; Console TVs, $20, and is free for other items, there are sites that accept all electronics free of charge (Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin is a DNR E-Cycle Wisconsin-registered collection site, and one just such example.) Organizers say Monday’s event will actually be of primary interest to students who reside on campus and others who want the convenience of this particular opportunity.

We have corrected and updated our previous post.