Don’t Ditch Diesel Yet
When most people think about clean energy, many just think wind and solar. However, the truth is that with the rapid increase in technology and innovation within the last few decades, the possibilities for renewable energy have increased exponentially. Biodiesel, for instance, is one that many people are not familiar with but should be because it is leading the way in clean fuel production. Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be made from a diverse mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats.
UIUC is participating in the development and expansion of biodiesel in many ways. On campus, there is a registered student organization dedicated to it called The Illinois Biodiesel Initiative (IBI). Their primary mission is to produce biodiesel and soap from waste vegetable oil (WVO) collected from campus dining halls in an effort to reduce emissions and promote sustainability on campus. The Student Sustainability Committee initially voted to fund the Illinois Biodiesel Initiative during its 2012-13 funding cycle; however, due IBI being forced out of their old site at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, SSC funding was put on hold. While they wait for their permanent site in the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, IBI is currently running scaled-down production in a space in Roger Adams Laboratory.
In addition to the club, the team working on this project found that an education component would be very beneficial to spreading their overarching goals of sustainability across the campus. Because of that, they created a class that students from all disciplines can take and piloted it this semester. The objective of the class competent is to educate students on the project and hopefully increase student and campus involvement in sustainability. I had the opportunity to check out the class earlier this week. I got to see the entire progress that the oil goes through first hand, and it was incredible. The SSC plans to follow up again after they are moved into their permanent location so stay tuned for further progress and innovation updates.
In the meantime, aside from the class, there are several other opportunities to get involved with the initiative and in the club. Students can join any of the four subgroups which include production/testing, Soap (production or research), Finance, and Special Projects. They are always looking for new members from all grade levels.
Did you know Styrofoam can be recycled?
I met with Marco Tijoe, a biological physics major who coordinates campus Styrecycle. Styrecycle started Styrofoam recycling on UIUC’s campus for the first time after receiving SSC funding in 2014. They have emulated a very successful program that’s eco-friendly and self-sustaining. Marco showed me the collection box that contained large Styrofoam boxes, which were used as coolers to ship equipment to the life science lab. Styrecycle has established a partnership with Community Resources, Inc. (CRI) to pick up Styrofoam, transporting it to their site, and feeding the Styrofoam into a “densifier”. The densified Styrofoam is then sold to a company in Chicago. CRI gives Styrecycle a portion of the proceeds to support interns who keep the program running.
Each month Styrecycle collects 1000 pounds of Styrofoam a month, improving campus sustainability and diverting waste from the landfills. Due to the hefty amount of materials handled, Strecycle are looking for volunteers and interns for the coming semester. Students can take an one credit hour class under ENVS 491 for Spring and Summer semester. Please contact Marco at Illinois.firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved with Styrecycle. This is a great community effort to make our university greener. SSC would love to see more campus projects like Strecycle. If you have ideas, feel free to apply for SSC Spring funding.
My First Aquaponics Experience at UIUC
Justin is a sophomore student in NRES who applied for SSC funding last year to set up an aquaponics system. He and his partners ordered the aquaponics kit and set up the system in the south quad greenhouses behind ACES library. He invited me to take a tour to learn more about aquaponics.
As he opened the greenhouse’s door for me, a warm breeze gushes out. The room is set to a temperature as a warm spring day to keep the plants and fish in a controlled setting. The aquaponics system was put in a few weeks ago, and the water is still being filtered to get a livable PH level for tilapia. Justin explained to me that the main input to an aquaponics system is fish food. The fish eat the food and excrete waste. The waste contains ammonia that is harmful to fish. In aquaponics, water from the fish tank is fed to a plant grow bed where ammonia is broken down into nitrate. The nitrate is absorbed by the plants to help them grow and further clean the water. The clean water is returned to the fish tank with the oxygen the fish need. This is a natural and sustainable process that mimics the ecosystem and provides a chemical free fish product.
When the water’s PH level is right, the tilapia can come as soon as next Friday! And Justin plans to give more tours of the aquaponics system. I enjoyed learning about this alternative sustainable way of fish farming, and I was able to compare and contrast this to our modern fish farm practices. I saw how simple the process is and it is very possible for me to set up a DIY aquaponics system at home that is chemical free and ultimately free fish in the long run. I encourage everyone to go check out the aquaponics system when Justin gives tours. Please keep an eye on the SSC blog or Facebook page for the aquaponics tour schedule.
Before The Flood – Public Screening
97% of scientists agree that not only is climate change real, it is accelerated by human contribution. The Student Sustainability Committee definitely agrees with the science.
Please join SSC on Thursday the 27th at 7:00 PM in 112 Gregory Hall for a free preview screening of Leonardo DiCaprio’s newest film, BEFORE THE FLOOD, before its national debut.
For more information, or to RSVP, please visit https://www.facebook.com/events/177947295986443/. Hope to see you there!