The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: EcoReps

Dear Sustainable Abigail #16

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I’m a big fan of the EcoRep Newsletters, and often find myself reading through the various facts and figures as I sit in different bathroom stalls around campus. While I definitely appreciate the reading material, I also always can’t help but see the irony in the group that does so much for sustainability using so much paper to talk about sustainability! To be honest, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Is there an alternative option to promoting and publicizing these newsletters and sustainability in general that doesn’t involve using so much paper?

-Puzzled about Paper Waste

Dear Puzzled about Paper Waste,

I’m glad you wrote in with this question, as it is actually a point that has been brought up to us a few times before. Honestly, we EcoReps all agree with you: it is ironic that we use so much paper to promote sustainability! Unfortunately, that is not to say that it is an easy fix. Producing Newsletters is one of our ways to connect with the Bates Community, and share exciting Sustainability updates, news, or upcoming events, as well as lend advice about how to be sustainable on the Bates campus. That said, we recognize the double-edged sword that is printing these messages and updates on many sheets of paper. One thing that at least alleviates some of my worry about this is that all of Bates paper is 30% recycled! Hooray! Nonetheless, we’ve also been brainstorming about ways to help account for the sustainability that is lost when we print out newsletters. One of the ideas that we’ve had and are hoping to get started is to print on student-recycled paper that has only been used on one side. That way, we’d be using paper that someone had disposed of already, rather than the pristine and clean empty pages that could be used for other things. Of course, this is just one thing that we’ve thought of, but we’d love to hear thoughts from students on campus about how to account for the paper waste that newsletters produce, because I’m sure there are a lot of great and creative ideas out there! If you have an idea, go ahead and send it to me through my Google form, which can be found in Bates Today, or through my question envelope, which hangs on the bulletin board in Commons. A final note I want to share with you is that if the paper newsletters irks you so much that you can’t bear to read it, we do have other mediums through which we share the newsletter, so that we can reach as many people as possible. When a newsletter comes out (which is monthly!), we share it on our Facebook page “Sustainable Bates,” our instagram “BatesEcoReps,” our website “www.bates.edu/sustainability,” and also our news listserv called “EcoRep News.” We are excited about these different platforms to share our newsletters and more, so definitely check them out if you have a chance! We’ll keep brainstorming about how to account for the newsletter paper waste, and again, let us know if you have ideas. Have a great day!

-Sustainable Abigail

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the Google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

Sustainable Abigail

Dear Bates Community,

We Ecoreps have been hearing a lot of talk about some confusing sustainability terms that are often thrown around Bates and can be quite frankly isolating to those who aren’t as familiar with sustainable practices and processes. For that reason, I wanted to take this opportunity to explore one term that is particularly relevant to the Bates campus: “RFO,” or “Renewable Fuel Oil.” Renewable Fuel Oil is relatively new energy source derived from burning wood or wood-based feedstock. It is a term that is particularly relevant to Bates because it is source of energy that our Campus has relatively recently begun to utilize, and plays a large role in keeping all of us warm during these winter days! This oil, also referred to as “biocrude,” actually has had past lives in a variety of products such as the food seasoning liquid smoke. So, if you spend any time near Merrill and the Maintenance building, don’t be surprised if you catch a whiff of barbeque, it’s from the RFO boiler! Here are two great pictures, the first of that powerful boiler and the second of the fuel storage tank which holds 20,000 gallons:

The coolest part about RFO is that it is 100% renewable and has much lower carbon emissions than other energy sources. On January 10, 2017, Bates became part of the renewable energy movement by switching from natural gas to RFO for our primary heating, and has since cut down our campuses emissions by around 83%! This is an incredible number, and is made even more exciting when put into the context of Bates actually being at the forefront of this new energy wave as the first educational institution and only college utilizing RFO! So, how are we able to do this? Well, Bates works with the only commercial producer of this oil, a Canadian-based company called “Ensyn.” Ensyn was established in 1984, with hopes to explore the field of carbon-based feedstocks. Through the years, the company established a series of relationships that eventually led to a successful entry into the renewable fuels business, and today they produce 10 million gallons of Biocrude per year at a facility in Port Cartier, Quebec. While right now Ensyn is focusing on the U.S. Northeast as their primary consumers, hopefully their reach will continue to expand and contribute to a widespread transition to cleaner energy.

I had the chance to talk to the Bates energy manager John Rasmussen, a key player in Bates’ conversion to RFO, and he shared with me some of his excitement about this project: “the most exciting thing about [our campus conversion to RFO] is it’s impact on sustainability. This plant was the major source of emissions for the campus, and so that’s the major reason why we did this: it reduced the emissions by 80%!” Rasmussen’s enthusiasm is shared by all of the Ecoreps, and is hopefully also shared by the entirety of the Bates community! If you’re interested in learning even more about the Bates conversion process, or even just the company Ensyn, here are two helpful links to explore: http://www.bates.edu/news/2017/01/26/campus-construction-update-jan-27-2017/ and http://www.ensyn.com/environment.html . Also, be sure to check out the EcoReps latest newsletter for even more data on the impact of RFO on the Bates Campus. I encourage you to look more into Renewable Fuel Oil, and other alternative energy sources as well, as it is important to stay connected with and reflect on where our energy that we often take for granted it coming from!

-Sustainable Abigail

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

 

 

Dear Sustainable Abigail

 

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I’ve always admired commons for their commitment to sustainability–with the mug club, the local food, and the various waste bins. However, I’ve also always wondered what happens with the liquid waste? Especially now that we have the separate spot at the dish return to pour our liquids down, I’m just wondering where all that goes?

-Lingering Questions about Liquids

 

Dear Lingering Questions about Liquids,

Great question, the chute down which our leftover liquids go is a pretty mysterious place. I’m really glad that you brought this question up, because it actually brings up a lot of important points. But, first, to answer your question: all of the liquids that are poured out in commons into the liquid waste place simply go into a bucket and then get dumped down the drain. Unfortunately, while our food waste can be repurposed for the pig farmer’s use, liquids are a whole other issue. They are simply not useful for Bates’s purposes nor for the farmers purposes; thus, every cup of water, juice, soda, coffee, etc. poured down the liquid waste chute is just that: waste. Which brings me to the first important point that this question raises: a necessary awareness of how much liquid we are taking versus how much we are actually drinking. You may have noticed the increase in size of the plastic cups, part of the initiative to rid Commons of paper cups last year, and thought “wow look how much orange juice I can drink now!” While this is true, there is a lot of space for orange juice, the worry with the larger cups is all of that extra orange juice that never makes it into your stomach. Liquid waste is a significant issue at Bates, and just as it is important to only take as much food as you are going to eat, it is important to only take as much liquid as you are going to drink, especially because any leftover will go down the drain. The second point that I wanted to briefly touch on was that of the other waste receptacles that we have throughout campus, with spots for recycling, compost, landfill waste, and of course, liquid waste. While this liquid waste is similarly wasted in that it gets poured down the drain, it is still important to separate any liquids into it because if any liquids end up in the recycling section of the waste receptacle, then that entire batch of recycling gets compromised. Liquids can damage paper fibers thus compromising their ability to be reused (check out this link for more tips about recycling right! http://www.recycleacrossamerica.org/tips-to-recycle-right). So, first, try not to waste liquid products and take only what you are going to drink; however, if you must waste them, put them in the proper location so as not to harm other important waste processes. Thanks for writing, write again soon!

-Sustainable Abigail

 

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

 

 

Dear Everyone,

Dear Everyone,

 

Thank you so much for participating in changing the way we interact with and appreciate our world. I know at times the environmental plight can seem overwhelming and dire, and the individual impact that we all have can seem small, but I just wanted to send along some holiday cheer and a reminder that each and every person can make a change that aids the health of our planet and our home. I want to do so by sharing with you an incredible change that some of our very own Batesies made happen.

This year, a group of 11 motivated Bates students representing all class years came together and participated in the “Maine Food System Innovation Challenge,” a challenge that called for a creative and inspired idea for addressing and supporting “the expansion of production, distribution, processing, and consumption of local, sustainably produced food and seafood.”

The planning stages of the project took many weeks and many meetings at the Ronj, involving ideas such as “edible landscaping to using milk that was past its expiration date (but still perfectly fine to consume!) to making yogurt at a kitchen in Mill #5 in Lewiston.” While all of these ideas were exciting, the group settled on pursuing a project involving gleaning, which entails “reducing food waste by distributing excess crops to people who could use them, rather than leaving good food in the field to rot.”

As they developed the idea further, the days passed quickly until finally the big competition day was upon them. The weekend of the competition involved an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workshop on Saturday, followed by the various teams pitching their ideas on Sunday. During the workshop, the Bates team met with “over 15 professionals from Maine involved in all aspects of the food industry and/or running a business, including lawyers from Drummond and Drummond, the owner of Rosemont Bakery in Portland, farmers from all over, a representative from Sodexo, and more!” Sophie Landes described the experience as a wonderful learning opportunity. “Our team went into the competition with very little prior business and entrepreneurial experience. Through the wide variety of experts brought in for consulting and step by step guidelines on how to create a value proposition…we were truly able to learn so much over the course of a single weekend,” she said.

After a long weekend of inspiration and hard work the team was finally ready to pitch their idea. They took to the stage, and in a live-streamed presentation, delivered an incredible plan to make a change to the way we address “the twin challenges of food waste and food insecurity, both locally and beyond.”

Eventually, the time came to announce the winners. The Bates team sat anxiously until the announcer proclaimed, “And First Place goes to the Bates College team!” While I, Sustainable Abigail, was not there, I can only imagine the crowd went wild. The first place team received a cash prize of $2,500 to implement their project.

Professor of Environmental Studies Francis Eanes will be teaching a Winter Semester and Short Term course called “Urban and Regional Food Systems” in which students will continue working on this project to make it a reality. “So what?” you may ask, “How do I know that I can do that too?” This project and sustainable change was founded in the passion and inspiration within just a few Bates students, and came together when they shared in and built upon each other’s thoughtfulness and creativity.

If you have an idea, a question, or even the beginnings of a passing thought about making a difference, know that there are people at Bates and beyond that want to help you make the world a little better. Perhaps every idea won’t come with the $2,500 cash prize, but I can guarantee that every idea you have will spark an inspiration and conversation in someone in your community. Just remember, keep your head up and your heart open to making a difference, because you can!

 

Happy Holidays,

 

Sustainable Abigail

 

*Quotes throughout the piece came from various Bates students that participated in the competition*

 

Dear Sustainable Abigail…

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

 

I live on the third floor of a house on Frye Street and, up until recently, I’ve really loved living there. But with the changing weather and the heat being turned on, my room has become a horribly hot place to spend time in. I know that opening my window wastes energy, but if I don’t open it then it’s so hot I can’t bear to spend any time in there (not to mention I’d be far too uncomfortable to sleep!). Nonetheless, I really do try to do my part when it comes to sustainability, so I feel pretty guilty about having to leave my window open. Is there anything I can do to resolve this issue? Or is it a no-win situation?

-Hot and bothered

 

Dear Hot and bothered,

 

I too have lived in many rooms on campus that get unbearably hot during the heating season, and I know how uncomfortable it can be. I also know how frustrating it can be to feel like the only option is to waste a lot energy and open a window. Fortunately, there actually is a solution to this common dilemma! A service that a lot of Bates students don’t know about is the Bates Facility Services’ work order request process. It’s very simple: by submitting a form online to https://www.bates.edu/facility/customer-services/work-orders/ or by calling this number 207-786-6449 and describing your concerns, someone from Facility Services will come by and help you out. In regards to heating, sometimes the system itself just needs a mend, and by alerting Facility Services to the issue it can be fixed in no time! I know what you might be thinking, “Abigail, that sounds like a lot of effort when the window solution is easy and helps me just the same.” Yes, this is true, opening a window can obviously cool down a hot room. However, it is also incredibly wasteful. In the winter, windows lose more heat per square foot of area than any other service in the home (https://www.e-education.psu.edu/egee102/node/2017), and that’s why they are closed! By opening windows during the heating season, the hot air is escaping and the cold air is coming in (how much of each is dependent on the size of the opening, the weather outside, and ultimately the flow rate of the air). Yet, the heating system is still running to attempt to keep the room at the warmer temperature, and so it is now working harder to counteract the cold air. Of course, this is not news to you: the open window is a direct waste of natural gas, oil, electricity–whatever energy system is behind the heating, (on Frye Street, that would be renewable fuel oil). But now you have the tools to avoid this wasteful behavior!

It is really important to think about how your every action impacts sustainability, and it’s great that you reached out with this very common issue. Seeing how it is super easy to put in a work order request, and how quickly the heating issue will be resolved, it’s a great service to utilize and tell your friends about! This is especially important as we approach Thanksgiving break, for it would be a shame to have windows left open when no one is even in the rooms. We can work together to not overheat and still stay sustainable by utilizing the work order request line and encouraging others to use it too. Thanks for reaching out!

-Sustainable Abigail

abigail

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the Google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

 

 

Dear Sustainable Abigail…

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

There’re still many people who don’t turn off the faucet when applying soap/brushing teeth etc. Is it possible to change all the faucets to the kind we have in the new dorms, and at least put up signs to remind and educate people to be aware of their behaviors?

-Thinking about water waste

 

Dear thinking about water waste,

Thanks for writing! You bring up a really important point; there are a lot of quick and easy behavioral changes that can be brought about both through structural changes as well as education initiatives. The Ecoreps can absolutely help out with making the signs that you bring up, however excitingly you actually have the power to make such structural changes as changing the faucets in different buildings! All it would take is applying for a Bates Green Innovation Grant. These grants are set up to give students the agency to make sustainable changes to the Bates Campus, and entail simply designing your project and then applying by November 17. The design and application process includes a project description, measurable benefits of project, the implementation and timeline, and an overall budget. If your innovative project gets chosen, it will be funded in between $200-$2000 and then implemented. Your idea about changing the faucets could become a project that you lead and allow you to take on your role as an important agent in furthering Bates sustainability.

The Bates Green Innovation grant is a huge opportunity, and may even seem intimidating, but it is quite accessible. Here are some success stories! Last year, one Bates Green Innovation Grant participant proposed hand dryers in JB to confront the issue of needless paper towel waste, and in doing so helped an older building like JB to stay up to date on sustainability. Because of this motivated student and the Green Innovation Grant, every student who lives in JB from hereon out leads a less wasteful lifestyle! Another neat product of a Green Innovation Grant last year was the bike repair station located right outside of the library. The bike repair station was a project proposed by an avid cyclist who combined his experience with bikes and his knowledge of what cyclists on campus needed with an inspiration to contribute to a more sustainable campus with less waste and consumption of bike parts. This station also contributed to a larger narrative of biking on campus, collaborating with the green bike program to change behaviors and make biking more accessible and exciting! These are just two of the countless projects that were proposed and accepted last year, just two of the initiatives that were led by Bates students to contribute to campus sustainability.

With the Bates Green Innovation Grant, you could change the faucets in bathrooms and in doing so start changing behavior and awareness, and become an important advocate for Bates sustainability yourself. In fact, you are already halfway there by writing to Sustainable Abigail! This grant exists because of people like you who care about sustainability and observe where it could be better all around you, and would benefit greatly from your consideration!

In any case, thank you so much for writing, and keep thinking sustainably!

-Sustainable Abigail

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question envelope in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

 

 

Dear Sustainable Abigail…

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I am very confused about where our food waste goes to be turned into compost once a plate is put on the revolving dish rack. Does it stay on campus? Does it go to a nearby farm? Is it even composted?

Many thanks,

Confused in Commons

Dear Confused in Commons,

This is a great question! Commons is cool in that it’s one of the most sustainable parts of the Bates campus, a title that the Commons workers strive hard to maintain. In fact, they are so successful at sustainability that they divert more than half of the solid waste from ending up in landfill! In regards to tackling food waste, there are three neat elements. Speaking first to your main concern, all of the post-consumer food waste is given to a pig farmer in Poland, ME, (or more specifically, given to the pigs of the pig farmer). However, even before we diners reach the point of having food leftover on our plate, Dining Services tackles the issue of food leftover in the kitchen prep process through a program with a farm in Lisbon, ME. Finally, there is the issue of extra food that made it out of the kitchen but didn’t make it onto a plate. This waste is resolved through a community outreach program, in which the extra food is prepared and shared with local homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

As you can see, Dining Services is sensitive to the food waste in Commons every step of the way. Yet, these processes are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Commons’ sustainability. For example, even the packaging of the food purchased is carefully considered to avoid any unnecessary contribution to solid waste quantity. Dining Services tries when possible to buy locally produced products, such as Oakhurst milk, fresh meat, and fresh produce when in season. In fact, Commons is now even a part of the Green Restaurant Association, aiding them in making environmentally informed purchasing decisions. To find out even more about Commons’ contribution to sustainability efforts, you can visit www.bates.edu/dining/who-we-are, or you can sign up on BatesToday to participate in a tour of Commons offered every Monday.  There are a lot of ways that Bates Dining Services contributes to a more sustainable campus beyond their sensitivity to food waste; we have a lot to thank them for.

Nonetheless, it’s still just as important for us to take initiative in our daily actions and join in the sustainability movement on campus. From only the food left on our plates every day, Commons sends the equivalent of 100 full meals to the pig farm. Although the food is used as pig feed, and therefore not being entirely wasted, this is a lot of food that could have been reused in Commons or sent to the homeless shelters. So, it’s important that we students are only taking as much food as we can eat (the walk from the tables to the food isn’t that long, there’s no need to stock up and not eat it all!), and helping Commons minimize food waste as well. Fortunately, “No Waste November” has just begun, a time when we can all come together as a campus and cut back on waste.

Throughout November, the Ecoreps will be having events to increase awareness about the impacts of waste and the importance of sustainability. One such is a showing of A Place at the Table on November 8, a documentary that explores the affliction and implications of hunger in the United States.

By being cognizant of our contribution to food waste and waste in general, we are important participants both in Commons sustainability as well as Bates sustainability in general, so let’s keep at it together!

Thanks for writing!

-Sustainable Abigail

Dear Sustainable Abigail…

Hi Abby!

I am living in Adams this year and I have noticed students putting the trash bags from their room into the larger bathroom bins. I was under the impression that all trash from our room should be placed in a trash room, and definitely not the bathroom. I want to tell people to be conscious of their actions and take the time to place their trash in the correct room, but I do not want to be harsh or rude. How would you recommend I approach this situation?

-Worried about Waste

Hey Worried about Waste,
This is a very common issue, one that I am so glad you brought up! First of all, you are absolutely right.  It is super important to put waste in the proper receptacles, especially personal trash which is simply not meant for the bathroom trash can. It is always hard to address situations like this, and I have run into this issue myself. Fortunately, there are a couple great resources that can lend a hand.  First, talk to your JA. It doesn’t have to be an accusatory conversation, but instead, by reaching out about this issue, you can open a dialogue on an important topic and bounce ideas off of one another. Perhaps your JA would be able to send out a reminder email, or even hold a program that is waste oriented to get people thinking about their actions. Another way to approach this is through speaking to your custodian, a great person to create a relationship with. I would imagine they are feeling some of the same frustration, so creating a partnership with them would be a cool way to tackle the issue. In general, it’s great to get to know your custodians and put a face on the incredibly important work they do, so even facilitating a way to have your custodian meet your floor, perhaps with help from your JA or the Ecoreps, could begin to solve this issue with the bonus of a positive relationship with the people who make all of our lives much better (and cleaner)! The Ecoreps have been working hard to create initiatives for students to create these relationships with their custodians, and would love to help you in any way we can; if you’re interested just shoot an email to eoshea@bates.edu and we can get started on this issue together. Thank you so much for bringing up this problem. It is one that happens campus-wide and is important to be conscious of, as everyone’s approach to waste affects our overall sustainability.

Who is Sustainable Abigail? She is a sustainability advocate at your service! If you’re worried about recycling, have ideas about addressing food waste, or concerns about your role promoting sustainability on campus, Abigail is a great resource to turn to. Whatever your sustainable inquiries may be, Abigail is ready to address them all! Simply write to her by either filling out the google form found in Bates Today or by writing your concern on a piece of paper and placing it into her question box in Commons. Any question is valid and appreciated and will stay anonymous, so don’t hesitate to ask!

abigail

 

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