In October of 2015, Siri Chillara, an undergraduate student at the University studying chemical engineering, founded The Swaraj Project, an urban micro-farm. The Swaraj Project is located at the site of the former UR Microfarm, behind the graduate housing at Whipple Park Chillara started the project through a fellowship with the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, a non-profit organization that collaborates with local organizations, academic institutions, students and committed peacemakers in areas such as nonviolence education, sustainability and environmental conservation, and the promotion of racial justice.
The University of Rochester’s Center for Community Health (CCH) built and installed a Little Free Library outside their office building in the Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA). With the creation of the Center’s Little Free Library, staff are celebrating a new contribution they can make to community health and wellbeing. They can share their library as a community resource in NOTA. The Center’s Little Free Library looks like a small two-story house. It operates on the “take a book, return a book” principle common to these libraries.
University Dining Services announced that by June 2016, all chicken served on River Campus and at the Eastman School of Music will be antibiotic free. In working with Aramark and local suppliers, Dining Services has been able make this large-scale pledge without additional costs to students or customers. Antibiotic-free products are a livestock industry alternative where healthy animals are not given daily antibiotics. The public health concern when animals are raised with antibiotics is that the practice could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in consumers.
High energy use has led the University to pursue energy savings initiatives focusing on improving ventilation, upgrading exhaust systems, changing lighting fixtures, and other energy savings projects. The University of Rochester’s Medical Center Facilities Operations (MCFO) team creates and implements these projects. The largest energy saving project addressed Kornberg Medical Research Building’s (KMRB) high energy use in its laboratories. Updated controls that reduce airflow but maintain safe ventilation rates for the laboratory environments were installed resulting in about a 45% in the amount of ventilation needed to keep researchers in the KMRB safe. The KMRB Energy Saving Project equates to an annual savings of $381,000 per year. In a similar project, the MCFO implemented an exhaust system improvement project which brought in more efficient equipment to operate the system and cut the exhaust system energy use by half. The project resulted in a savings of $45,500 per year.
In support of National Eye Donor Month, University Facilities and Services partnered with the Lions Eye Bank at Rochester to hold a collection for eyeglasses during the month of March. Participants mailed in their unwanted prescription and nonprescription glasses, sunglasses, and frames to University Mail Services to be sent to the Lions Club International. Lions Club volunteers then clean, sort, and package glasses for those in need, mostly in developing countries. Overall, 330 pairs of eyeglasses were collected from both the mail-in program and inter-department competition, with the departmental competition accounting for nearly 200 pairs. Congratulations to the department of Neurodevelopment & Behavioral Pediatrics, who won the collection component of the competition by collecting 52 pairs of eyeglasses.
Each year, the University of Rochester participates in RecycleMania- an 8-week inter-collegiate competition in which institutions competed to recycle the most material. For 2016, the competition was comprised of 4.4 million students from 350 schools who altogether recycled and composted 79 million pounds and prevented 122,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere. The University of Rochester ranked fourth place in New York State for the Gorilla Prize collecting over 435,000 pounds of recyclable material. Nationally, the University placed within the top 30 for Paper, the top twenty for Corrugated Cardboard, and the top ten for Bottles and Cans. For full results visit the RecycleMania official website.
In just six months, Professor William Jones’ University research team developed an efficient route to n-butanol, making it look more like gasoline, thus enabling butanol to be a better alternative to ethanol. Jones’ team of five researchers accomplished this by modifying the Guerbet reaction. Named after Frenchman Marcel Guerbet, the organic chemical reaction converts ethanol to butanol plus water. Before the team’s discovery, the Guerbet reaction produced the co-product acetaldehyde which can react with butanol to produce unwanted molecules. Jones’ team modified the reaction to produce only one product and 25 percent more butanol than with the previous process.
The University of Rochester was awarded a College Council Grant for innovative environmental projects through the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3). The $2,747 grant will be used to implement a three-part plan developed by a group of EcoReps aimed at reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic grocery bags. The University of Rochester is among four colleges and universities in New York to receive a 2016 College Council Grant.
This year more than 56% of everything served and sold on the University of Rochester campuses is grown, raised, processed, or wholly manufactured within New York State. During Dining Services’ annual Local Foods Week this past year, this pledge to local products was taken even further to highlight local vendors with special meals, samplings, events and more. Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cameron Schauf, who also serves as co-chair of the University Council on Sustainability, stated that “the move to antibiotic-free chicken complements the University’s dedication to sustainability, as well as to purchasing and operating practices that are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable,” said Schauf.
The University earned a STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).AASHE’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for reporting information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. The University was scored based on institutional characteristics, academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation. The University’s STARS report is publicly available at https://stars.aashe.org/institutions/university-of-rochester-ny/report/2016-01-06/
Michael Neidig, an assistant professor of chemistry, is one of 49 scientists to be recognized this year by the Department of Energy as one of the nation’s “exceptional researchers” in his or her “crucial early career years.” The DOE’s prestigious Early Career Award consists of a five-year, $750,000 grant. Neidig, who was named the Wilmot Assistant Professor of Chemistry in May, will use the grant to study the electronic structure and bonding in lanthanides and actinides, including short-lived and transient molecules. Neidig calls the award a “significant personal honor” that presents an exciting opportunity to expand his research into heavy elements for the next five years.
This past year, numerous LED retrofitting projects have been completed, replacing outdated lights with more sustainable ones, saving energy and money. The incandescent lights in and surrounding the Medical Center parking garage have been replaced with LED lights and in some places, sensors have been installed. This project will save about 1,016,625 kWh of electricity and $81,330 in energy and maintenance costs per year with a payback period of only three years. The lights in Danforth Dining Center, Rush Rhees Library Room 354, in the common areas of some Hill Court buildings, and in multiple River Campus parking lots were also replaced. The changes in Danforth will save an estimated 9,461 kWh and $756 per year and in Rush Rhees Library Room 354, an estimated 40,727 kWh and $3,258 per year. In Hill Court retrofits in Gale and Fairchild will amount to a 23,825 kWh and $1,906 per year reduction. The new LED lights in Trustee Lot, Riverside Lot, and Bridge Lot will save 86,400 kWh and $6,900 a year. In addition to the money and energy saved, the new LEDs provide better quality lighting which increases visibility and public safety.
There is very little data on the methane levels in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest collection of freshwater. Early last spring, earth and environmental sciences professor John Kessler invited five undergraduate students and a master’s degree candidate on a research venture designed to change that. Over the summer, the team embarked on explorations of Lake Ontario and Lake Superior. Kessler, whose lab has also collected data on Lake Michigan, plans his study to encompass all five Great Lakes. Based on the seed data the group collected last summer and the instrument prototypes they developed, the National Science Foundation awarded Kessler a two-year grant that enabled them to spend a week in October collecting data on Lake Superior in a state-of-the-art, fully staffed NSF research vessel.
New York State law now prohibits the disposal of certain electronics items in the trash but for the benefit of University of Rochester employees, the University of Equipment Recovery Program Rochester IT has offered a convenient electronics recycling service since August of 2012. Through the program, you can securely recycle both personal and University-owned electronics, free of charge. Pickups for University-owned equipment are scheduled online and are usually completed within a few days of the request. Since the start of the program in 2012, 788,189 pounds of electronics have been collected. In fiscal year 2016 alone, nearly 240,000 pounds of electronics were collected making it the most successful year yet! For more information about the program, or to schedule a pick-up online, please visit https://tech.rochester.edu/services/it-equipment-recovery-program/.
On Friday, July 22 University of Rochester employees participated in the sixth annual Shred Fest – an event hosted by University Facilities and Services that provides employees a place to securely dispose of their personal documents for free. The University partners with Iron Mountain, a company that specializes in secure shredding services. This year, a total of 18,220 pounds was collected, making this the second largest collection out of all six paper shredding events held at the University.
The Green Dandelion—the University of Rochester sustainability blog—has reached a milestone 1,000 articles! The blog serves as a forum for discussion and communication of sustainability on all of the University of Rochester’s campuses and beyond. The Green Dandelion was originally created by University Facilities and Services in September of 2009. New content is added to The Green Dandelion every week with information pertaining to programs and opportunities in sustainability at the University of Rochester. Articles cover a range of topics including, energy, ecology, recycling, waste reduction, green building, transportation, and more. There are three main feature types of articles published on the Green Dandelion. These include Go Green articles, the Sustainability Tip of the Week, and Student’s Corner articles. All posts published on the Green Dandelion cater to a wide audience.
A University of Rochester researcher is helping develop next-generation batteries that will be small enough to fit into clothing – and others that will be large enough to power an electric vehicle. If Wyatt Tenhaeff and his colleagues succeed, miniature batteries would expand the use of personal fitness trackers, implantable medical devices, active RFID tags to track pets and objects, and other small devices connected to the Internet. And a lithium battery in a car would no longer carry the risk of catching on fire. Tenhaeff, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, is applying his expertise in polymer electrolytes to two projects –playing two different roles at two very different scales of engineering. As a principal investigator, he has received a $306,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to see if a chemical vapor deposition process he’s developed can overcome the biggest challenge to 3-D microbatteries. And he’s collaborating with researchers from five other institutions and companies on a $3.5 million ARPA-E grant to develop scalable manufacturing processes for ceramic electrolytes to be used in solid-state lithium metal batteries for electric vehicles.
Spearheading the greenhouse gas inventory completed this year was Recycling Coordinator Amy Kadrie. Kadrie has been working at the University of Rochester for nearly eight years, previously under the title of “recycling coordinator”. This summer the decision was made to change Kadrie’s title to better reflect her evolving role related to sustainability as a whole, and not just recycling. Under the direction of Kadrie, a Green Office Guide was created by Sustainability Intern Adil Nyambasha ’18 in order to assist University of Rochester staff and employees with meeting the carbon emission reduction goals. The guide is meant to help offices throughout the University become more responsible and sustainable in regards to resource consumption. The guide can be easily accessed online by University employees and used as a guide to incorporate sustainable practices in different departments. Having a green guidance document and other programs aimed at driving behavior change, like the Green Reps program, is important to incorporate and promote sustainability at the departmental level within the University.
The University of Rochester encourages bicycling through UR Connections as an alternative option for transportation. UR Connections is the University’s campaign to promote the use of transportation alternatives that assist in reducing commuting costs for employees, reducing campus congestion, and promoting the sustainability efforts for the University of Rochester and our community. Through UR Connections, University students, staff, and employees can sign up for either a walking, biking, carpool, or public transportation bundle. The University of Rochester offers a free bicycle lending program available on the River Campus for full-time University of Rochester undergraduates on the River Campus, called City Cycles. City Cycles aims to promote bicycling as an attractive and sustainable mode of transportation for the University of Rochester community. Bicycles can be borrowed from the Goergen Athletic Center for up to twenty-four hours or until next day close of business.To rent a bicycle through City Cycles, students can go to https://citycycles.rochester.edu/.
University of Rochester Central Utilities and Energy Management installed a new boiler at their Central Utilities Plant, replacing an old, inefficient boiler. The University of Rochester purchased the new boiler from a company called RENTECH, a boiler manufacturing company based in Texas.The new boiler is about 15% more efficient than the one it replaced, which will save both money and energy. It runs on natural gas rather than oil, which is much more environmentally friendly. The life expectancy of the boiler is estimated to be about 40 years. The energy that the boiler produces is used for both heating and cooling on the River Campus and the Medical Center Campus. The new boiler will be one of the most efficient and eco-friendly of the five boilers installed at the Central Utilities Plant.
In the Fall of 2016, a new class, entitled Urban Farming and Social Justice was offered to University of Rochester students. The class was taught by Leila Nadir, a lecturer in sustainability and environmental humanities, and Cary Peppermint, an associate professor of studio art. The course included seven youths, ages 15 to 20, under the direction of Seedfolk founder and director Lisa Barker, and 25 University students. Classes were held each Wednesday on the River Campus, but the two groups met every Monday at the Gandhi Institute, where duties included establishing garden beds, harvesting and planting vegetables, building and maintaining compost piles, and clearing space for a 24-foot square greenhouse. It’s part of a larger project by Nadir and Peppermint called the School of Live Culture. An example of socially engaged art—a participatory form of art in which the community itself is the medium—the school is a collaboration with the local nonprofit Seedfolk City Farm and the Gandhi Institute to hire statistically at-risk youth to teach university students about sustainability and food justice as well as how to farm, compost, and build infrastructure in an urban setting. In return, Rochester students teach the youths about socially engaged art, video-making, spoken word poetry, animal justice, and skills such as making natural food dyes from the plants in the Seedfolk garden.
During the University’s 9th annual E-Cycle Day 28,132 pounds of waste was diverted from going into landfills. For many University employees, E-Cycle Day is a quick and convenient way to recycle their unwanted personal electronics. Representatives from Sunnking Electronics Recycling Company worked alongside volunteers from Delta Upsilon Fraternity and members of University of Rochester Medical Center Facilities Operations to collect unwanted personal electronics. Recycling electronics prevents material waste, energy waste, and avoids the leakage of harmful, toxic chemicals from the cast-off electronics into the ground, and eventually into the water supply. The event also raises awareness that the option to recycle electronics is available and effective.
A team of geologists at the University of Rochester has discovered a new species of bird in the Canadian Arctic. At approximately 90 million years old, the bird fossils are among the oldest avian records found in the northernmost latitude, and offer further evidence of an intense warming event during the late Cretaceous period. John Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University and leader of the expedition led a team of graduate and undergraduate students. Tarduno and his team, named the bird Tingmiatornis arctica; “Tingmiat” means “those that fly” in the Inuktitut language spoken in the central and eastern Canadian Arctic (Nunavut territory). Their findings were published in Scientific Reports
After the Student’s Association passed a resolution to establish carbon emissions reduction goals, the University Council on Sustainability agreed to develop a carbon reduction goal. In order to set carbon emission reduction goals, an inventory of current greenhouse gas emissions was first needed. University Facilities and Services worked with outside consultant O’Brien and Gere to conduct the greenhouse gas inventory. The data for the inventory was based on direct and indirect emissions originating from sources on all of the University of Rochester locations ranging from refrigerants and chemicals, agriculture, purchased electricity, faculty, staff, and student commuting, solid waste, mobile sources, and stationary sources. The inventory found that 60% of the total greenhouse gases at the University of Rochester are from stationary sources at the Central Utilities Cogen plant, 23% from purchased electricity, 16% from commuting, solid waste, and recycling, and about 1% are from mobile source combustion (i.e. propane and gasoline). You can view the full report here. Armed with this information, leadership at the University can work to develop an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2016, construction began on Genesee Hall, a new residential hall, expected to open in August 2017, which will feature four residential floors housing approximately 150 freshman students, as well as meeting rooms for study groups and workshops, a new locker room facility, and training rooms for athletic programs. The new dorm will be a modern, air conditioned facility with a high level of commitment to sustainable design, construction, and operational practice. The project is targeting LEED Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation. Among the sustainable features of the building are water efficient fixtures in key areas, targeting a 45 percent reduction in water usage; and implementation of a whole building energy model to overcome the challenge of providing an abundance of fresh air to varied spaces, such as the locker rooms. The whole building energy model maximizes the use of materials and systems to result in an energy performance 14 percent better than a baseline building in terms of annual energy costs.
Researchers at the University of Rochester have made significant progress toward making microbial fuel cells cheaper and more efficient. In a fuel cell that relies on bacteria found in wastewater, Kara Bren, a professor of chemistry, and Peter Lamberg, a postdoctoral fellow, have developed an electrode using a common household material: paper. Until now, most electrodes used in wastewater have consisted of metal (which rapidly corrodes) or carbon felt. While the latter is the less expensive alternative, carbon felt is porous and prone to clogging. Their solution was to replace the carbon felt with paper coated with carbon paste, which is a simple mixture of graphite and mineral oil. The carbon paste-paper electrode is not only cost-effective and easy to prepare; it also outperforms carbon felt.