Green Grant

For my green grant, I propose that the dining halls get rid of the trays used to carry food. Eliminating trays from the dining halls would lower energy and water use. At Union, the trays are not used by all the students, but more so to bring the dirty plates, cups, and utensils into the dish room. If we eliminated the trays from this process and just had a rotating conveyer belt system, then less water would be used cleaning the trays. Additionally, there would also be fewer plates to clean. This experiment was done at Georgia Tech and for the 18,000 student body, they save 3,000 gallons of water each day. Additionally, when students do not have trays to carry their food, they can only take what they can hold reducing the overall food waste. Another study was done in New York that showed that without trays the school saved a total of 25 pounds of waste each meal. This is because students have less space to carry the food to their area so they can take only what they need. At RIT, last summer they removed trays and they saw less food waste and the school saved 10% of food spending. Overall, taking away trays and finding a new system for Union students to transport their waste to the dish room would have several benefits.

Are Craft Breweries Part of the Answer in Reducing Waste Water

We spend the majority of our year on the Union College campus, so it would be insane to assume that every single one of us remains unaware of the massive number of cases of beer consumed per weekend here. However, the amount of water used, and wasted, to produce such a college staple might surprise many of us. In an article by Justin Solomon for CNBC in which it is revealed that five barrels of water go into every barrel of beer made by MillerCoors. In a full barrel there is, approximately, thirty one gallons of beer. So that would mean that one hundred and fifty five gallons of water go into producing 31 gallons of beer, and these, reportedly, were the companies more water conscious numbers. Good, but not great.

Now we have a possible solution to all of the unnecessary water waste coming out of an, honestly, unnecessary product. An article by Cassandra Profita for NPR reporting that some small craft breweries in Oregon, the Portland area, have been assembled to use a form of highly treated, “high purity” wastewater produced by a Oregon water treatment facility. The facility, Clean Water Services of Hillsboro, has reportedly developed technology that can treat sewage to a point where it is safe for human consumption. The technology involves a three step system of ultra filtration, reverse osmosis, and enhanced oxidization. In order to get that ball rolling they enlisted thirteen local brewers in a competition to make beer using the treated wastewater, after being approved by the state of Oregon as a safe practice. The purified water that was used in the competition was thirty percent treated and filtered wastewater, but the ultimate goal for the company is to have brewers using one hundred percent recycled wastewater.

The goal for this experiment, and a healthy lesson for us all to learn, is that people need to come to terms with using recycled water for everyday activities before a major draught forces them to do so. Beer is by no means a necessity, but somehow it seems easier to approach major issues (like water management) through the means of something unnecessary. Sometimes, those are where the best answers are found.

Changing the Course of Water Sustainability

Sustainability efforts continue to rise as awareness of the ecosystem’s demise becomes more of a global priority. Due to the increasing efforts, the need to identify the most effective plans of attack is also increasing. In terms of water sustainability, Will Sarni has identified three ways the course of water sustainability changed in 2017.

One of the most notable changes is the increasing efforts to more efficient tracking of water data. New public policies, like California’s “Open and Transparent Water Data Act,” require a statewide platform that combines various databases in order to provide the public with the most comprehensive water and ecological platform possible. The collaborative database highlights numerous issues, like water scarcity and climate change, that otherwise may go unnoticed. Other technological advances include more powerful sensors that track water quality, water usage, asset management, and water utility economics. The new technology can also provide a more accurate set of predictive analytics, keeping the public as updated as possible.

Although we are heading in a positive direction, certain large corporations continue to be huge contributors to the negative water usage. In an investigation by Christine MacDonald, Coca-Cola is identified as a huge source of false advertisement talking about its own sustainability efforts.

The company promised in an advertisement in The New York Times that “For every drop we use, we give one back.” Coca-Cola conducted a self assessment of their product which revealed that it took 35 Liters of water to make every half liter of Coke. The company promised in 2007 that its goal was to sustainably source 100% of key agricultural ingredients, but the follow through on this promise has been seriously lacking.

Coca-Cola isn’t the only offender of over using water. MacDonald reported that it takes 712 gallons of water to produce a single t-shirt and 462 gallons to produce a quarter-pound hamburger. People don’t realize how much water it takes even to produce the simplest of things. In the United States alone, the per capita Water Footprint is 2,060 gallons a day.


Water Waste

According to Livescience, 70% of the world’s freshwater supply is used for agricultural purposes, such as farms and lawns. This poses a problem for the environment because when fields are watered, the excess water flows into nearby streams or rivers. This can pollute bodies of water because the runoff is filled with fertilizers and other toxins that may be harmful to marine life. Also, some crops require more water than others. For example, cotton needs a lot more water to survive than potatoes do.

As we discussed in class, another source that requires a lot of water is the toilet. Everytime you flush, you are using between 1.6 gallons and 4 gallons of water. After this water is used, it may be treated and sanitized so it can be used in other ways, such as for watering plants.

Another common way that people waste water is through leaking and malfunctioning equipment. According to the Washington Post, Americans waste 1 trillion gallons of water each year, or 40 million swimming pools, due to leaky faucets and broken sprinkler systems. Not only is this wasteful and harmful to the environment, but it is extremely expensive for homeowners.

One way to reduce the amount of water waste in the world is to replace older toilets with more efficient ones. Also, landowners and farmers should replace their irrigation systems with sprinklers, which produce less runoff. Additionally, people should be wary of potential leaks in their faucets in order to avoid wasting any water.


Eco-Friendly Landscaping

WaterSense, a voluntary public-private partnership program sponsored by the EPA, seeks to help homeowners and businesses improve water efficiency and reduce their costs by promoting efficient irrigation technologies. According to research by WaterSense, about thirty percent of water used daily by the average American family is devoted to outdoor uses. This water is used for a variety of tasks, such as watering lawns and gardens, washing automobiles, maintaining swimming pools, and cleaning sidewalks and driveways. This accounts for almost one-third of residential water use nationwide, which is estimated to be more than seven-billion gallons of water per day, or 2,555-billions gallons of water annually.

However, not all this water is used efficiently. More than 50% of commercial and residential irrigation water is wasted through evaporation, run off, and useless over-watering. An inefficient irrigation system can waste an immense amount of water and money every month. There are certain ways to reduce the water wasted through landscaping needs. For example, a family could use a weather-based irrigation scheduler/controller. On a moderate sized yard, this can reduce a household’s outdoor water use by about 15 percent, saving up to 37 gallons of water every day because it would provide the right amount of water to your plants automatically. Another way to save water through landscaping is creating a rain garden. A rain garden transforms your yard to collect and drain rainwater in a way where it keeps the ground wet during hot weather. Families can also invest in a rain barrel to keep plants watered. Additionally, using the drip irrigation system is a way to ensure that water used on plants/crops goes directly to the rooms of the plants and nothing is lost to evaporation or run off.

As you can see there are easy ways families can preserve their beautiful landscape while conserving water and helping the environment.



WaterSense Fact Sheet


The Water Footprint and Waste of Beef

Did you know that it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef? That is the equivalent of taking 90 eight-minute showers, or staying in the shower for 12 hours. Personally, my jaw dropped when I read this article on beef’s water footprint. Beef has a much larger water footprint than almost any other crop or meat (Table 1). This is primarily due to the size and lifespan of cattle, and the amount of water it takes to produce their feed.

Beef 1,799 gallons of water
Lamb 1,250 gallons of water
Pork 576 gallons of water
Chicken 468 gallons of water
Tofu (soy) 303 gallons of water

(Table 1)

Though this might be an awakening ‘slap’ in the face to some, it does not mean that we shouldn’t eat any beef simply in the same of sustainability. Whether or not to cut out beef completely from ones’ diet is obviously a personal decision. There are, however, ways we can cut down the impact beef has on our water footprint. Some of which include choosing pasture-raised instead of factory farmed beef, or simply cutting down your own beef intake.

This leads us directly into water waste. Anytime beef is thrown away, this adds to our water waste. The almost 1,800 gallons of water it takes to produce a single pound of beef is completely wasted when it is not consumed. Taking a step back, I can recall a handful of times that I threw away 1 or 2 pounds of beef that had gone bad. Say each person throws away 4 lbs of beef per year, and that there are 7 billion people in the world. For every 1 lb of beef wasted there was also 1,799 gallons of water wasted. This would equate to 5 x 10^13 gallons of water waste from beef in one year. That is about 28 billion lbs of meat wasted and over 50 trillion gallons of water wasted in a single year.

Putting this into perspective I now understand that by throwing away a few pounds of beef has a huge impact on our water waste and footprint. Perhaps by producing less beef and using more sustainable techniques such as free range cattle rather than inhumane factory farmed beef, we can start to reduce our water waste and footprint exponentially.

Taking a look at Union College campus’s own water waste, we can assume that there are around 2,500 people on campus (including faculty and staff, as well as students). Lets say the average person consumes 31.8 gals of bottled water a year, that is .087 gals/day, multiplied by the total amount of people on campus is equal to 217.5 gals of bottled water consumed each day. Using the unit factor method 217.5 gals = 27,840 oz / 16 oz per bottle = 1,740 16oz bottles. With this solution, I would estimate the total bottled water consumption on the Union College Campus to be around 2,000 16 oz bottles a day.