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Projects Updates for Student Sustainability Committee (SSC)
The Sustainable Student Farm (SSF), has been growing sustainably produced vegetables for the U of I campus community since 2009. Since 2012, Fresh Press (FP) has been producing paper from agricultural waste like soybean stalks and prairie grass, including much of the waste from SSF.
This project deepens the connection between SSF and Fresh Press while expanding their offerings to the community. In addition to expanding the current paper production, this project will also allow for the creation of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at the Sustainable Student Farm, increasing the farm’s ability to sustain itself financially. Through employing students while selling their products to the campus and the community, this proposal ultimately truly creates a circular and sustainable economy on campus while furthering campus sustainability goals.Attached Files:
The former forest research area south of the main Arboretum grounds (near Lincoln Avenue and Windsor Road) has been neglected for over 20 years and has largely been overtaken by invasive plantings that have forced out the native flowering forbs and bushes that normally occur in healthy woodlands – leaving instead honeysuckle, which is unpalatable to almost all native insects and mammals.
This project clears out the invasive species and begins the replanting efforts to restore native species to the area. Not only does this improve biodiversity around campus, but it also serves as an important educational opportunity for current students to witness the restoration process firsthand.
The Sustainable Student Farm currently grows numerous varieties of hot chilies, but demand is often lacking in the dining halls over the summer and excess crops are simply composted. One option to help reduce this waste is adding fermentation capabilities to the current Sustainable Agriculture Food Systems to create hot sauce for the dining halls. One especially exciting aspect of this project is that the student body itself will have the opportunity to create different blends of sauces, with the winner of the taste test becoming the official hot sauce for the semester.
While this equipment will initially be used to create campus’s hot sauce, it can also be used in the future to create products ranging from sauerkraut and pickles to soy sauce and kombucha.Attached Files:
Fume hoods are one of the largest sources of wasted energy in laboratories because of inefficiencies in fume hood use. This proposal specifically funds a Fume Hood Energy Conservation Pilot Project in the National Soybean Research Center (NSRC), in which ways to reduce fume hood energy waste through behavioral interventions will be explored.
Small changes in behavior such as keeping hoods closed when not in use can have large impacts on energy conservation, but behavioral changes can be difficult to achieve. This project adapts Harvard University’s highly successful “Shut the Sash” program to the particular needs of Labs in NSRC, first by working closely with “early adopters” — labs that are actively interested in reducing fume hood energy use — to develop protocols, reminders, and reinforcement/tracking systems that help reduce fume hood-associated energy waste, and then by reaching out to other labs in NSRC. The long-term project goals are to make NSRC a model for the campus in fume hood energy conservation, and to develop an approach to fume hood energy conservation which can be readily applied to other labs and buildings on campus.Attached Files:
- Associated Project(s):
Hallways in the Foreign Language Building, especially on the upper floors, may go long periods with no traffic. However, the overhead lighting is always on, which is extremely energy inefficient. This project aims to replace some of the overhead lighting with more energy efficient options and install occupancy sensors to automatically dim the lights when people are not present.Attached Files:
This project creates an aquaponics system that will work as a demonstrative unit on campus to spread sustainability awareness and illustrate the effectiveness of aquaponics in a small area. The goal of aquaponics is to create a closed ecosystem in which both plants and fish benefit and grow. Aquaponics has the potential to produce large quantities of both vegetables and fish with minimal inputs and nearly no negative outputs. The project teams’s desire is to establish a base system from which the possibility to expand exists. This project is student led and contain an educational element on aquaponics. This proposal is linked with the student sustainability course GCL 127.
The Illini Gadget Garage is an initiative to provide University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff a place to bring their personal electronic devices for assistance with assessment and repair. Using the same “collaborative repair” model employed at the campus bike shop and MakerSpace Urbana, clients with devices in need of repair or troubleshooting can work together with Gadget Garage student staff and volunteers to perform the necessary device assessment and maintenance activities.
SSC initially funded this project in Fiscal Year 2015, contingent on a permanent site being established. A permanent location has been selected and partially renovated; however, in order to meet the accessibility requirements for final occupancy, additional construction is required.
This proposal directly funds the construction cost from skilled trades to add ramp access and other code requirements to the Gadget Garage’s permanent location to allow for general occupancy.Attached Files:
Illini Solar Car was established last year with aims to design, build, and race a commercially-viable, solar-electric vehicle to compete in the 2019 World Solar Challenge. To meet this long term goal, the organization has the interim goals of building a lighter, single-seat vehicle to allow for competition in the 2016 American Solar Challenge, 2017 World Solar Challenge, and 2018 American Solar Challenge.
Illinois Solar Car has already received two small grants of under $5,000 each to work on prototyping aspects of their system. Though they have received significant donations of equipment such as solar panels and motors from outside companies, basic supplies to manufacture the car itself still must be purchased.
The full project funds the remaining costs associated with completing Solar Car’s first full-sized vehicle, with the expectation that having one completed vehicle opens the door for expanded funding opportunities from other sponsors.
The Illinois Biodiesel Initiative (IBI) is a registered student organization whose primary mission is to produce biodiesel and soap from waste vegetable oil (WVO) collected from campus dining halls. 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.
This project helps IBI to rebuild production up to previous levels at the ISTC, where they were self-funding. An infusion of funding over the next year is critical to allow the IBI to grow and develop into a self-funding organization.
Agreements are already in place with Campus Fleet and Campus Dining for the sale of biodiesel and soap, respectively.Attached Files:
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Developing and implementing new alternative energy sources is essential to ending the era of fossil fuels and extreme carbon emissions. The more alternative energy sources available, the more potential there is for eradicating fossil fuels as the main energy source. Numerous different innovations have developed within the last few decades because of the massive increase in technology efficiency, and the U of I has taken the initiative to implement many of them. These strides toward alternatives increased after the university committed to cease using coal at Abbott by 2017. The replacement of this power will require as many alternatives available as possible in order to meet the growing need.
Biomass energy is a great example of how the University of Illinois is converting to more renewable energy sources. Biomass can be used to create energy because it contains stored energy from plants that have absorbed energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. When biomass is burned, this stored energy is released as heat.
In the Spring of 2014 the SSC funded, Field to Fuel: Biomass Heating on Campus. This project involved purchasing and installing a biomass boiler at the Energy Farm, in order to heat a research greenhouse using Miscanthus that is grown on the Energy Farm. The new biomass boiler arrived in early December, and installation is nearing completion!
This project is exciting because it is the first biomass energy initiative on campus, and it will work to meet the carbon emission caps that are outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan. Additionally, with this project, they hope to demonstrate the feasibility of biomass on campus, engage and familiarize faculty and staff personnel with the design, installation, and operation of such systems with a view to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy production on campus, support the education and training of students, and create awareness in the larger community about alternative energy sources. The ultimate hope for the project is that a successful pilot will pave the way toward expanded use of biomass heating on our campus and greatly reduce our campus greenhouse gas emissions.
Campus currently gives out tens of thousands of single-use plastic bags every year through its retail operations, including more than 50,000 each year at the Illini Union Bookstore alone. This proposal seeks to address waste by offering reusable bags via a partnership with on-campus traditions and university-affiliated retailers.
Approximately 20,000 bags will be supplied to students alongside an educational campaign about the impact of bag waste. The combination of replacing plastic bags with cloth reusable ones and an educational campaign to ensure reuse is projected to save hundreds of gallons of oil and thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions.Attached Files:
There is a growing interest in doing several native plantings at specific buildings and undeveloped areas around campus. However, there is no real information on the soil at these locations. This project is looking to provide the data needed to successfully and efficiently manage these planting projects. Several students will take soil core samples from each site and provide the samples to a commercial lab. The data will all be analyzed in comparable manner by the same lab. The project team will take 170 samples/subsamples with an 8” soil probe from these sites. The project team, Facilities and Services, and interested faculty and students will select these sites. The goal is to have an initial database of certain buildings and sites with usable soil sampling data: pH, fertility, and basic grain size. The analysis of the samples can be complete within two months of sampling.
Given the University of Illinois’ existing reliance on coal-fired steam heating for many buildings, significant changes to campus infrastructure will be required in order to move to being truly carbon neutral. One possible option is geothermal heating, but there is somewhat of a lack of information about the feasibility of geothermal systems on campus.
This project will conduct a series of high-detail observations of the geothermal profile of campus and analyze the data. The results of the study will help identify the costs and possible challenges associated with adding a significant amount of geothermal heating systems to campus.Attached Files:
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The Sonified Sustainability Festival provides a new way for sustainability to intersect with campus – through the arts. The 2016 Sonified Sustainability Festival, funded in part by SSC, was developed as a 2016 Earth Week kick-off event focusing on sustainable practices in the arts featuring live music, interactive art making, and information fair to provide greater visibility of local projects, programs and organizations working towards a sustainable future. National and local musicians performing on original instruments made from recycled and repurposed materials were showcased at the Earth Week event, as well as two prior events at the Krannert Art Museum
The goals and outcomes of the next year of the festival will be similar, while expanding on the successes of the past. The events will encompass a series of music and arts programs spanning the 2016-17 academic year. The culmination is an Earth week event at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts that features a mix of live music, art making and information fair promoting campus-based and local organizations engaged with sustainability projects.Attached Files:
One of the strategies outlined in the Illinois Climate Action Plan is a significant increase in the amount of solar energy on campus, which would include rooftop panels as part of the plan. Toward that end, SSC is funding an 11-kilowatt array on the roof of the Speech and Hearing Building. This specific location was selected due to its viability, visibility, and location near the heart of campus.Attached Files:
This project allows campus to process wheat and oats grown on several of the UIUC campus farms into a finished flour product that will be utilized in the UIUC Campus Dining Halls. There are currently ~20 acres of ground planted in wheat/oats on the Urbana campus as part of large breeding program, and many more acres available off of the direct Urbana campus. Additionally, the University has significant acreage on campus that could be converted to grain production if needed.
Each acre of wheat produces 40-80 bushels of grain (2400-4800 lbs) depending on variety, producing up to ~4000 typical loaves of bread. The varieties of flour can be used to produce a number of products (bread, pastries, cakes, pasta, biscuits, etc.). One of the more exciting possibilities is making pizza dough to combine with the pizza sauce project already running, bringing campus dining very near an entirely locally produced pizza product.Attached Files:
This is a multi-pronged project with four areas of focus, all working toward our eventual goal of being a Zero Waste Campus.
The largest portion of funding is going to add new recycling bins to areas north and east of the Main Quad as an expansion of the dual-bin recycling system currently used. The Main Quad bins have been very successful and this is a timely and needed expansion.
Over the last few years, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has been conducting waste audits of certain campus buildings such as the Swanlund Administration Building and the Business Instructional Facility. The second part of this proposal is supporting building-specific solutions for each of the eight buildings that were audited. Staff from ISTC will work with building stakeholders to identify how to reduce their waste, then implement the new measures.
Several other new waste streams, such as nitrile gloves and Styrofoam, have been added to campus’s waste diversion efforts recently. The third part of this proposal will employ student employees to conduct campuswide outreach with buildings on campus to improve participation in these new initiatives.
Finally, a small amount of money is being set aside for education and outreach to the campus community regarding zero waste efforts. This will largely occur via social media advertisements and digital signage, and will be developed in conjunction with SSC’s own subcommittee for marketing.Attached Files:
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This project provides Illini Urban Farmers with a hydroponics systems for our club to learn more about urban farming and grow student effort on campus. Once an understanding is developed on how the system functions, efforts can be expanded for use within campus dining halls, dorms, or other buildings. The university will benefit from having this system because it will provide a feasibility study of using these systems on a college campus for year round sustainable food production.
Parking Lot E37 (near the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Natural History Survey) currently lacks sufficient lighting to meet minimum light requirements, but unfortunately is located in a low-priority area located away from current electrical access. The use of standalone solar-powered lights for parking is an innovative solution that allows the system to remain off-grid while improving illumination for the lots – which in turn improves campus safety. There are currently no other universities in Illinois utilizing solar-powered parking lot lighting, allowing the University of Illinois to lead the way in one aspect of sustainability.Attached Files: