Thursday, June 21, 2018

Partnering with Freight Farms

Think of your favorite fruit. Imagine being able to grow that ALL YEAR round, wherever you want, and harvest a fresh, juicy piece of fruit that only requires 10% of the water that other farming methods require.

Sounds like a tough task, right? How is it possible to make it easy to grow tomatoes in the middle of December on the east coast? Or an basket of strawberries in the Sahara Desert?

A Leafy Green Machine  might be able to help!

Freight Farms is a company that has made it their mission to empower individuals and organizations with the ability to grow fresh,  sustainable produce all year round - in any condition. With the LGM - or, Leafy Green Machine - Freight Farms has created a sustainable way to grow anything, anywhere, anytime! They have sold over 160 LGMs in 10 countries and provided their services to over 20 college campuses world wide.

But, what is a Leafy Green Machine™? In simple terms, it’s a portable farm that can grow items in any climate during any season! The farm-in-a-box is an upcycled shipping container outfitted with all the tools, technology, and growing equipment needed to harvest some goodies. The LGM can harvest up to 150 pounds of produce a week, using features like vertical crop columns and an sensory controlled environment. Even better, the LGM requires no previous farming experience and is designed for easy operation. The use of hydroponics allows these farms to use 90% less water than traditional farming methods, while also cutting down the impacts of food transportation.

Why is this relevant?

Rensselaer Dining Services is looking to partner with Freight Farms to purchase an LGM and begin our own local farm.  Freight Farms is able to provide modern universities with an opportunity to integrate sustainable, high quality food production into campus culture. Each LGM is tailored specifically to fit the needs and wants of each campus. Freight Farms has been able to promote sustainability, health, wellness, and transparency to students all across the country, educating students on the farm-to-table benefits and journey.

We even had an opportunity to take students from Rensselaer’s Student Sustainability Task Force and Hospitality Services Advisor Committee on a tour of a working LGM. They loved it and hoped to see it on campus sooon.

Check out what Freight Farms has to offer!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

An Inside Look at Landfills

Do you ever wonder what happens to that piece of trash you throw away? Where does it end up? What happens to it? Americans generate nearly 4.6 pounds of waste per day per person. That's nearly 250 million tons of waste produced per year! All that trash is sent to landfills to decompose. Landfills are given a bad rap, but it's really the stuff in landfills that's bad. For example, nearly 50% of landfill space is taken up by paper. If that paper would have been recycled then more energy and resources could have been saved.

There are actually several different classifications of landfills and they are heavily monitored to ensure they do not contaminate the environment per the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Regardless of the regulations set in place, landfills are still the third largest source of methane emissions in the US. Trash is buried under layers and layers of trash that cut off the supply of oxygen and cause anaerobic decomposition. Any organic matter that is sent to landfills is a wasted resource as well since food can easily be composted and repurposed.

Trash production in the US has almost tripled since the 1960s. 32.5% of the trash is recycled, 12.5% is burned and 55% is buried in landfills. Those numbers need to change, we need to see an increase in recycled product and send as little as possible to landfills. Burning trash may provide an alternative use and provide power, but it also uses a similar amount of water per unit of electricity generated. The use of that water comes with its own environmental repercussions.

It's not easy to live a zero-waste lifestyle when all food products come in pre-packaged plastics, but with just a little effort we can easily reduce the trash we put in landfills with just a second of thought. Ensure you know what can be recycled, located your nearest recycling bins and take advantage of them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Fall in Love with the Environment this Valentine's Day

It's Valentines Day <3 Love is in the air, and so are harmful toxins, greenhouse gases and an increase in CO2! But don't worry, let Cupid help you fall in love with the environment and take these 7 easy steps to go green today!

There are little things you can do every day to help reduce greenhouse gases and make less of a harmful impact on the environment:
1) Pick up trash you see on the sidewalk. When trash is left on the ground it finds its way into sewers and into the ocean. In 2010 there was eight million tons of plastic trash that ended up in the ocean.
2) Pay attention to how much water you use. Little things make a big difference, so try shutting off the tap while you brush your teeth, reduce your time in the shower, even washing your clothes in cold water makes a difference.
3) Walk, take a bike or carpool to your destination. You can reduce greenhouse gases while enjoying the fresh air or just riding with friends!
4) Recycle. So much of what we use can be recycled, and the more we recycle the less natural resources we use.
5) Compost. Plant matter that is composted instead of thrown into landfills actually helps reduces greenhouse gases. It's easy to start your own compost bin!
6) Change your light bulbs! Compact fluorescent light bulbs last 10 times longer than standard bulbs and use at least two-thirds less energy. They not only save you money but also save the planet.
7) Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Unplug appliances when they're not being used. It only takes a second to be environmentally conscious.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Guru's Guide to Recycling

Recycling in 2018 doesn't include just paper and water bottles, with today's advances in technology we are able to recycle more than ever.

Most standard recycling bins that you'll find on campus will take any plastic bottles, any paper products, aluminum cans, and even glass. Recycling these products instead of sending them to landfills makes a big difference. For example, the recycling of tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them. Paper is one the largest products recycled and just one ton of recycled paper saves enough energy to power the average American home for six months! But did you know you could also recycle old electronics, batteries and light bulbs?

You may not be able to throw electronics and batteries into your recycle bin on the curb, but they have very valuable and even harmful components that should be recycled properly. Rechargeable batteries usually contain nickel-cadmium, lithium ion, or nickel-metal-hydride, all of which should be recycled to reclaim valuable compounds and keep toxins out of the environment.

If you're lucky you can get through college with just one laptop, and maybe a few visits to the VCC. If your unlucky (like me) you'll go through three laptops and a few hard drive replacements. While my busted laptops seemed useless at the time, they were actually still full of valuable resources. Nearly 100% of a computer is capable of being recycled, so don't make the same mistake as me (like not having an insured laptop) and throw away something you can recycle. It's easy to recycle once you know what you can recycle and where.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The How-To Guide to Composting

As you can imagine, all you can eat dining halls lead to a large amount of food waste. While trayless dining helps to reduce food waste by 25-30%, there were still 13.7 tons of food waste between September through November 2017 in Commons Dining Hall. When food waste is sent to decompose in landfills it reacts with metals to produce harmful greenhouse gasses. Don't worry, that food wasn't just thrown away, it was composted through Natural Upcycling. Natural Upcycling is an upstate food scrap collection company that takes food waste and turns it into a reusable resource. With every ton of food waste that is composted, 0.9 tons of CO2 emissions are saved. There are several benefits to composting and it's easy to do! Follow these quick tips below to start composting today!

What you will need:
1) Carbon-rich material (leaves, straw, dead flowers)
2) Nitrogen-rich material (grass clippings, vegetable peelings, fruit rinds)
3) Garden soil
4) Site that is at least 3x3ft

To start your own compost you'll need to layer the material above starting with the carbon-rich material, then nitrogen-rich, followed by soil. Make sure to moisten each of the layers and continue piling on until the pile is 3ft high. Every couple of weeks the material will need to be turned by taking a fork or shovel to move the stuff at the center to the outside and vice versa. The compost needs to stay moist to allow for proper decomposition. You can always add new material to the compost, which is a great way to use your food scraps and add to your compost pile.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Environment Pays Less with Tray-less Dining

The Hospitality Services at Rensselaer does our best to reduce our carbon footprint and stay green at all our resident dining halls. One big improvement we've committed to in the past few years is the initiative to maintain a "trayless" dining environment.

The larger impact of trayless dining comes from the reduction in food waste. A recent study from Aramark revealed a 25-30% decreases in food waste during trayless days at 25 different colleges and universities. Students have a tendency to pack on the food when they have a tray that can carry multiple plates. With the absence of trays, students are lead to make more careful plate choices and therefore waste less food during meals.

Trayless dining is a simple and easy solution to reduce waste and save money. Not only have we made an effort to be trayless in resident dining, but we've recently pushed the initiative to our retails locations as well. Just this past semester The McNeil Room has gone trayless. While the food waste might not have been the biggest concern in our retail location, the energy and water saved from cleaning the trays make an environmental impact. Trayless dining conserves energy by eliminating the need run those trays through the dishwasher anytime they are used by patrons.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Go Green in 2018

New Years is a time to reflect on the past year and decide what measures we can take to be happier, healthier, and a better person in general in the coming year. With that, this New Years I challenge you to think about the impact that you have had on the planet Earth this past year and make a difference this coming year. Here are some pledges you can take to decrease your footprint and become a greener citizen:

1. The Better Bag Challenge: Promise not to take any disposable plastic bags for a whole year. Instead, bring your own reusable bag.

2. Take Back the Tap Pledge: Pledge to choose tap water over bottled water whenever possible, fill a reusable bottle with tap water, and support policies that promote clean, affordable tap water for all.

3. The B.Y.O Pledge: Pledge to bring your own mugs, water bottles, and reusable bags to work, school and whenever you are on-the-go.

4. The Lights Off Pledge: Pledge to turn the lights off whenever you leave a room for two months.

5. Colgate Make Every Drop Count Challenge: Pledge to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.

6. Zero Waste Pledge: Pledge to recycle or repurpose all waste. (Bonus: you even get a free gift for this one!)

Happy New Year!