For the seventh year in a row, the University of Rochester has been recognized as a Tree Campus Institution. Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation which honors colleges and universities that have committed to effective urban forest management and to engaging students and staff in conservation goals. The University of Rochester prides itself in its commitment to creating green spaces on all of its campuses, with more than 1,400 trees and 116 different species.
The breakdown of methane hydrates due to warming climate is unlikely to lead to massive amounts of methane being released to the atmosphere, according to a recent interpretive review of scientific literature performed by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Rochester. The review, published in Reviews of Geophysics, concludes that current warming of ocean waters is likely causing gas hydrate deposits to break down at some locations. However, not only are the annual emissions of methane to the ocean from degrading gas hydrates far smaller than greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere from human activities, but most of the methane released by gas hydrates never reaches the atmosphere. Instead, the methane often remains in the undersea sediments, dissolves in the ocean, or is converted to carbon dioxide by microbes in the sediments or water column.
Grassroots, a River Campus environmental activist group, organized and spearheaded the University of Rochester EarthFest, an event designed to celebrate the beauty of nature and to promote a sustainable future. This year, more campus environmental groups participated than ever, and a clothing exchange was added.
The University of Rochester was honored to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise Region 2 Award in waste diversion for 2017. The University of Rochester, as a partner of the WasteWise program, must show how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship, and incorporate sustainable materials management into their waste-handling processes. The basis for this award was the data submitted for 2016. The University furthers its efforts through programs like Shred Fest, E-Cycle Day, and the Game-Day Recycling Challenge.
Each year, the University of Rochester participates in the “GameDay Recycling Challenge” during Meliora Weekend. This year, the University of Rochester scored second place nationally in the Waste Diversion category! The GameDay Recycling Challenge is a national collegiate football waste reduction competition administered by the College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC), RecycleMania, Keep America Beautiful, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program
During the University’s 10th annual E-Cycle Day 26,744 pounds of electronic waste was diverted from landfills. 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. The event raises awareness that the option to recycle electronics is available and effective, and prevents material waste, energy waste, and harmful leakage of toxic chemicals from non-recycled electronics into the ground, and eventually into the water supply.
The Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) held its annual Wilson Day event as a part of the University of Rochester Orientation. Many of the service projects assigned to students this year involved environmental work. Students completed projects related to community gardening and ecological landscaping for the Rapid’s Cemetery Food Forest, Phillis Wheatley Library’s Public Food Forest, Neighborhood of the Arts, Ganondagan State Historic Site, Green Visions at Greentopia, and Taproot Collective.
The University of Rochester held its seventh annual Shred Fest event for University employees. This event is hosted by University Facilities and Services and it provides students and employees an opportunity to securely destroy and recycle their personal documents for free. Iron Mountain, a company that provides secure shredding services, partners with the University to help make this event possible. This year, a total of 21,380 pounds of paper were collected, making this the second largest collection out of all seven paper shredding events held at the University!
The University Facilities and Services has implemented more outdoor recycling containers on the River Campus, making the choice to recycle more convenient and widely available. These ten new containers are a combination of “Big Belly” Solar Powered Trash Compactor units and Victor Stanley Ironsite containers. The Horticulture and Grounds staff, in conjunction with the Sustainability Coordinator, worked to bring these new containers to campus as part of the ‘Go Green’ initiative.
The University partners with Imagine It to recycle used ink cartridges to minimize waste and bring new life to our campuses. Rebates received from the program are used to purchase new trees for the University. New tree purchases help the University maintain Tree Campus USA recognition. Each year Horticulture and Grounds works with student groups to plant trees on occasions such as Earth Day and Arbor Day.
In light of a new project to replace several Radiology doors at Golisano Children’s Hospital, Dante Paladino, Project Manager for the Construction Renovation Group within Medical Center Facilities Operations, researched alternatives to the standard single-use drywall barriers. Paladino chose to use the Simple Telescopic Airtight Reusable Containment (STARC) Systems barrier, a modular, reusable alternative to the standard drywall technique, to isolate the Radiology door replacement project. Why is this a better alternative? It pays for itself in 2.5 uses, its easy to clean, and above all - it is reusable!
This year marked the 9th annual “Move-Out Cleanout" event held by Facilities Team Green, and it was our second-largest to date! We collected 18,137 pounds of clothing and shoes for Planet Aid, 4,189 pounds of food for Open Door Mission, and 1,179 pounds of electronics for Sunnking electronics. Student Organization Grassroots also held their annual “Dump & Run” event, which collected unwanted and gently-used appliances and furniture students would typically throw away while moving out. Both events encourage students to avoid sending unwanted items to the landfill, and were a huge success!
As part of the renovation project of Douglass Dining Center, which reopened last fall, University of Rochester Dining Services introduced a biodigester as a new way to divert food waste from the landfill. In addition to the University’s program to collect food waste for an off-site compost program, the biodigester offers a hyper-accelerated, on-site food waste elimination system. The biodigester is used to divert food waste from landfills, reducing harmful methane emissions. It also reduces odors, vermin, and groundwater contamination at landfills.
In conjunction with National Eye Donor Month, University Facilities and Services partnered with Lions Eye Bank at Rochester to hold an eyeglasses collection during the month of March. A grand total of 1,221 pairs were collected – a record breaking number! Unwanted prescription and nonprescription glasses, sunglasses, and frames are sent to the Lions Club International. Once the eyeglasses are collected, Lions Club volunteers clean, sort, and package glasses. Recycled glasses are distributed to people in need in low and middle income communities where they will have the greatest impact.
As part of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) annual Earth Hour, individuals and national monuments alike shut off their lights in a global effort to create awareness of both climate change and light pollution. So, too, did the River Campus’s Wilson Quad. During the University’s second annual Earth Hour, the non-essential lights of the Wilson Commons porch, Hirst Lounge, Bridge Lounge, Wilson Quad, and Rettner Atrium shut off for one hour. The Astronomy Club facilitated a stargazing event on the quad, and nine student groups including GreenSpace, Engineers for a Sustainable World, and Society of Undergraduate Public Health Students presented their own perspectives on environmentalism through demonstrations and posters in Hirst Lounge.
This spring, seedlings are beginning to sprout in the new greenhouse at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, where they will eventually be transplanted into the ground to supply fresh vegetables to local residents of the 19th Ward. The greenhouse was built last fall by University of Rochester students enrolled in a new course in Food Justice & Social Practice. The class was taught by Leila Nadir, a lecturer in sustainability and environmental humanities, and Cary Peppermint, an associate professor of studio art.
During winter break of January 2017, six members of the University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter travelled with their mentor Dwight Harrienger, a Rochester-based civil engineer at the consulting firm Stantec, to the rural community of Don Juan. There, they implemented a water disinfection system in preparation for supplying a school with potable water.
Sustainability is a “messy, murky concept,” says philosopher Randall Curren, chair of the philosophy department. But he aims to bring some clarity with his latest book, Living Well Now and in the Future: Why Sustainability Matters (MIT Press, 2017). With his coauthor, Ellen Metzger—a professor of geology and director of science education at San Jose State University— they argue that the core of sustainability is the “long-term preservation of opportunities to live well.” It’s a matter of intergenerational justice.
In 2011, a team of researchers led by Vasilii Petrenko, an assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, spent seven weeks in Antarctica collecting and studying 2,000-pound samples of glacial ice cores that date back nearly 12,000 years. The ancient air trapped within the ice revealed surprising new data about methane that may help inform today’s policymakers as they consider ways to reduce global warming. This year, they published a paper on their findings.
In order to better understand the power of atmospheric oxidants—and the factors that effect their ability to do their work—Lee Murray, an assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, developed a computer model that shows how the concentration of oxidants changes under different climate conditions and temperatures. Then Murray, along with colleagues at the University of Washington, Princeton, and Harvard, compared model data to analysis conducted at the University of Washington’s lab on 100,000-year-old Greenland ice cores. Their surprising discoveries, recently published in the journal Nature, led them to rethink what it is that controls oxidant levels.
Dustin Trail, assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Mineralogical Society of America Award, in recognition of his contributions to studies of early-Earth environments, the conditions suitable for the origins of life, and the evolution of magmas and fluids in the earth’s crust. Trail conducted this research using path-breaking new geochemical tools, applied to the earth’s oldest materials.
John Tarduno, professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, researches the history of Earth’s geomagnetic field, which surrounds and protects our planet from harmful space radiation. This magnetic field reverses or flips irregularly every “several hundred thousand years or so,” write Tarduno and Vincent Hare, a postdoctoral associate in the department, in an article shared online by Newsweek. Scientists do not yet know for certain if the Earth’s magnetic field is currently reversing or simply fluctuating, but the work of geophysicists like Tarduno, Hare, and other researchers could provide valuable insights about this planetary process.
Carmala Garzione, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester, and Junsheng Nie, a visiting research associate at the University, surveyed sediment samples from the northern Tibetan Plateau’s Qaidam Basin and were able to construct paleoclimate cycle records from the late Miocene epoch of Earth’s history, which lasted from approximately 11 to 5.3 million years ago. They recently published their findings in Science Advances. Reconstructing past climate records can help scientists determine both natural patterns and the ways in which future glacial events and greenhouse gas emissions may affect global systems.