Earth Week Updates

IMG_20130423_152729To celebrate the Earth Week the Diner has organized two cooking demonstrations to teach students, faculty and staff how to cook local and seasonal produce. To the left is a picture from Tuesday’s cooking demonstration that featured homemade ricotta and mozzarella cheese. The Diner will offer a second cooking demonstration on grilling vegetables. Want to participate? Sign up at the Earth Week table in Wheelock between 11-1p.m. for the second cooking demonstration between 2:30-4p.m.!
Afterward, make sure not to miss the film Minds in the Water to learn about professional surfer Dave Rastovich journey to protect dolphins, whales and the oceans.  Tomorrow at 6p.m. in Rausch! Before then, if you haven’t yet recycled your electronics, bring them tomorrow or Friday at 7:30-930 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. & 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the Facilities Services Complex.

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Check Out What’s Happening During Earth Week!

Earth Week 2013

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Earth Day Showcase on Earth Day!

LLG_stackedCelebrate Earth Day (April 22nd) come to the Rotunda between 12-2pm and learn and have the opportunity to question sustainability at the University of Puget Sound. Hear President Ronald Thomas speak about sustainability in relation to the campus at 12:15 then stay and enjoy local treats and learn about sustainability on a running Powerpoint.

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Electronics Waste Collection Drive

Looking to recycle some old electronics you’ve had lying around? Want an easy, responsible way to unload an old iPod or TV so you never have to worry about it again? Or maybe you’re just interested in learning more about electronic recycling and processing in the Puget Sound area? If any of these sound appealing to you, you may want to participate in Sustainability Services’ e-waste collection event from April 24-26.

EWaste1 This will be the University of Puget Sound’s first e-waste collection event, and a landmark in the evolution of our sustainability program. It’s an excellent opportunity to recycle any of your unwanted electronics, whether they’re new, old, functional, or completely busted. Everyone knows an iPod from six months ago is already pretty much obsolete anyway, so why not do something useful with it? You’ll have a few options for recycling. The first option is to bring them over to our collection station on April 24, 25, or 26. This will be open for three windows of time each day: 7:30-9:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and 3:30-5:30 p.m. We’ll have signs around campus to point you to the main collection station, which will be located in the facilities complex behind the Fieldhouse. A second option is our satellite collection bins, which will be placed in the lobbies of all residential halls including Union Avenue (“Greek Row”). A third option is to sign a pledge sheet for those electronics that we can’t wrench out of your hands quite yet.  We will use these pledge sheets to coordinate with you during move-out and make sure that your electronics get recycled appropriately.

What makes this method better than just throwing them in the garbage or using another e-cycling resource? Aside from the obvious facet, that is, you getting to interact with Puget Sound’s wonderful sustainability crew, the issue goes quite deep. As far as electronic waste processing organizations go, many will be willing to take e-waste off your hands for a low price, but very few are certified to prove they will actually process it in a way that is both efficient and humanistic. Oftentimes, processors only harvest all of the most valuable EWaste2components of the electronics they receive and ship the remainder to other countries. At this point, the waste still contains recyclable materials and a variety of harmful elements, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. This means when e-waste arrives in third-world countries to be scrapped, the workers who deal with it (as well as the environments around them) are exposed to dangerous materials. Think about it: a toxic, mutated landscape of dead trees and animals, all because you gave your e-waste to the wrong people. Even Ayn Rand couldn’t evoke such a horrifying reality. Beyond environmental and health concerns, many of the materials that could be recycled in the U.S. are disposed of in favor of components that can be sold for a profit. All in all, this makes e-waste processing a careless, unsustainable practice for many uncertified processing facilities. If your electronics end up in a landfill instead, these same toxic elements adversely affect the entire landfill and its surroundings. Climb in a landfill and up-end a bucket of cadmium in it, and chances are you’re gonna get some sour looks, too – it’s not necessarily illegal, but don’t come running to us with your tail between your legs when you get in trouble for dumping your old PC. We tried to help you. Plus, all valuable and non-valuable materials alike go to waste and can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose. We like to at least THINK Earth is going to be useful for that long, so let’s try and keep it kind of pretty.

EWaste3 Green PC, the company that processes our e-waste, doubles as a computer sales and repair company. Not only do they collect our school’s electronics, they cut out the proverbial middle-man of the recycling process by re-using functional parts of the electronics they receive. Re-used materials mean less waste and less energy expenditure from processing. Green PC also uses a DOD-certified data destruction program to wipe any personal data from your devices, so intricate parts like hard drives can be put right back to use and you don’t even have to worry about strangers reading your old e-mails or text messages.  Green PC breaks down and recycles all electronic equipment in accordance to the environmental and safety standards of E-cycle Washington, through which the company is certified. Metal, plastic, and glass are separated and sold for reuse as commodities, and only about 2% of the materials end up in landfills. Among Washington’s recycling companies, Green PC is outstanding in their ability to handle e-waste both responsibly and efficiently, which is why we trust them with our electronics.

Start thinking about what electronics you might want to bring by. Computers, phones, mini-fridges, video game consoles, printers, appliances, and just about anything else that uses electricity is fine to drop off. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have, so feel free to drop by our table in the Wheelock Student Center when you see us, send an e-mail to, or visit our website: Happy recycling!

Brady McCowan ’15 is Sustainability Program Field Lead for Sustainability Services, a division of Facilities Services.

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Island President

Island PresidentJoin us for a national day of action focused around political corruption and climate stalemate. On April 17th, be part of a nationwide screening of the powerful film The Island President – “as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.” The film will be followed by a national webinar with the Director, Jon Shenk, Former UN Deputy Permanent Representative to the Maldives, Thilmeeza Hussain, and May Boeve, head of, and is sponsored by C2C Fellows and the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.

The Island President links the struggle for democracy and human rights with the fight to stabilize the climate. This is the exact challenge facing us right here in the United States. Billons of dollars in fossil fuel money is corrupting our democracy and poisoning the future. Click here for a review of the movie.

Come see the Island President free in Trimble on April 17th at 7 pm to support’s “fossil free” divestment campaign that is taking on the fossil fuel companies, and to learn more about the fight for a sustainable future in the Maldives.

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Local, Organic, or Cheap Produce in the Diner?

459764_10151155080732649_1882202324_o(2)Greetings from the student-perpetrators of research, more research and proposing a new sustainable food-purchasing policy on campus! Behind the scenes of Dining Services this semester, Hayley Gray and I (Emerson Sample) with the support of the Sustainability Advisory Committee [S.A.C.] have been learning about how Puget Sound buys its food, and how we can do “better.”

Our definition of “better” for this project is comprised of the values of the community as assessed by our campus survey, and those that S.A.C. holds. We are currently compiling data from surveys released in March to asses the values of the community, while S.A.C. stands for the purchasing of local* foods, which is to say food grown in the area, and – if the item is a product like cheese – that it get processed locally as well!

Anyway, we students will be going through invoices (yes, it’s a little bit of dirty work) to look through our food purchases here at Puget Sound to investigate all of the possible areas for improvement in terms of our values as a community. So far, I have discussed that as local, but once all our results are in from the rest of the community, we’ll have a better picture of where we’re headed with our proposal to the university.

20121014-205440Why do you care about this? There are surface-level reasons and not so obvious ones. Surface Level: (a) this project shows that through the people in the Puget Sound community, this school supports sustainability in its food purchasing practices. (b) Students get to pursue interests in conjunction with the school.

Less obvious: (a) Purchasing more from local sources will help local farmers who have organic practices. These farmers are an important piece in our food system. (b) Establishing local purchasing practices as a part of policy will put Puget Sound in the position to be a leader, not a follower, in sustainability within higher education institutes. (c) Because it shows that the university is willing and able to work with students and support their endeavor to tie this school closer to the food system in the Tacoma area. Initiative from individuals is what creates sustainability and food justice action on this campus. When presented with student interest and work power, communications master Barb Weist, marketing director John Hickey, professor Dan Sherman, Dining and Conference services team members Terry Halvorson, Mark Stewart and Kenzie Giusti along with many other faculty and staff of this school have collaborated to help make sure this works out.

THANK YOU to everyone who reads this for your interest, thanks to everyone who has helped out. Here’s to good food, Emerson

*Local is defined as within 250 miles in the STARS program, which is the 3rd party sustainability measurement system this school is using.

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Food Justice Panel on April 9th

459764_10151155080732649_1882202324_o(2)On April 9th, the third annual Food Justice Panel will be held in the Rotunda at 6:30. Previously, this event has brought together campus members and the larger community. The question “What is food justice?” will be discussed and the panelists will describe the different ways they think it should be implemented or achieved. The speakers come from different backgrounds, positions, and approaches, so this conversation will be an enriching demonstration of the diversity of programs, policies, perspectives, and persons collaboratively working to achieve food justice objectives.  Our panelists this year will be Dean Jackson, director of Hilltop Urban Gardens, Beth Elliot, executive director of FISH Food banks, Canyon Little farm manager for Mother Earth Farm, and Kristi Lynette, Environmental Policy and Sustainability Manager for the City of Tacoma. Come join the conversation and hear what’s being done around Food Justice in Pierce County!

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Lots of Moving Parts

The phrase “Lots of moving parts” has been my “go-to” word to describe the InSinkerator and my experience managing its installation. I don’t mean to use it lightly or to be facetious. I’ve used this particular adage because it is a very accurate and nice way of saying this project was far more complex than I could have imagined. Its complexity, on a number of occasions really frustrated me. Now, do not misunderstand me, I think the InSinkerator is the right decision for our campus; and I’ll get into why but first let me discuss how we settled on this type of option. I’ll also endeavor to explain the nature of the installation of this particular item as well.

Lots of Moving Parts 1We at Puget Sound are challenged in that actual composting take space, period end of story. The more that you’d need to compost the larger your space need becomes. The traditional way of composting, i.e. windrows pictured to the right, requires a lot of space. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, there is not a lot of space on campus to do a large industrial operation like this (let alone the smell and animals it would attract to an urban neighborhood in North Tacoma).

Thus we are left with mechanical based options; those usually range from dehydrating or liquefying apparatus to pulping options. I’ve seen a lot of critical peer research (see this informative link by LMU) that has shown that drying or liquefying machines and the techniques they employ have a huge potential health problems. Further the “products” that they create are just another form of waste that isn’t reusable in any application.

Thus we are left with pulping, which simply grinds up the material and depending upon Parts 2the model may also dehydrate (what separates it from the dehydrator above is that it doesn’t use a specialized process/bacteria/enzymes/etc. to do it). What comes out is this gross junk:

This is not fun; not fun for the people who have to grind it, not fun for people who have to sit in the dish room and deal with the smell, not fun for the people who have to haul it out of the Diner, and not fun for the Facilities Services staff who have to do the inevitable disposal of it. That said this solution is usually combined with some form of composting; whether it is on site or off. Again, since we don’t have any on campus application we’d have to contract to haul it out. The closest option is in Puyallup through the City of Tacoma’s pilot composting program. The only problem with the city’s program is that they would only pick it up once a week; the amount of volume that the Diner produces would out pace that by several times.

Thus, using the InSinkerator is a great option because it grinds it up and then flushes it down a sewer line and it gets mixed with other bio-solids and gets turned into compost via the City of Tacoma’s Tagro program. If you’d like to read more about exactly how it is digested follow this link. Thus no fuss, no smell, and no mess for Puget Sound staff to deal with.

Parts 3Getting through all of the above methods, understanding why we needed to go with something like the InSinkerator, and then getting the product has taken awhile. Some, myself included, ventured to believe that the hook-up phase would be easy and take only a week. As it turns out I was off by three weeks and a whole lot of heartache. Let me explain why:

Step one: find a waste line. The majority of the waste water lines in the diner go through a grease interceptor. What this does is separate out the grease that is sometimes present in larger kitchen operations from going down the sewer system and clogging it up. Heavier solids sink to the bottom the oil stays on top and the water flows out to the sewer system.   Since the whole idea of the InSinkerator is to send the ground up bio-solids to the waste water treatment plant, it would make sense that the city and the univerity wanted this to go directly through a sewer line. The only problem with that is trying to locate such a line. I spent an entire day crawling around mechanical spaces until I found a line that got us in approximately the right area.

Step two: bring electrical, plumbing, and water within 3 feet of the machine for hook-up. On face value a simple 3 inch pipe connection line and 120 volt 2 phase electrical connection sounds relatively easy, in reality it wasn’t. The reason for its complexity was due to the nature of the project. That is to say coordinating four different groups each with their own needs: The Facilities Services Department on plumbing and electrical work, the City of Tacoma for testing of the water qualities prior to installation, the vendor to get them to deliver the machine and fabricate a new stainless steel sink to house the unit, and finally the Dinner so that we could shut off the dish return to weld in the new sink as well as preform the other hook ups. If you can, try to imagine the number of meals that go through the dish return, now try to find a “good” day to go completely paper products only. Thus finding days to get the necessary items completed to just prep for final hook up took several weeks to coordinate.

Step three: finally hook the darn thing up. I didn’t have a big hand in this part. That said I was still on call making sure everyone had what they needed and handled any potential problems that arose. The hook up went smooth-ish sure it had its own set of unforeseen circumstance. Yet, through extra cylinoids, piping questions, changes to the stainless steel trough, and moving equipment we thought we wouldn’t have to move we got the thing connected as of Friday of break.

All and all I’m very excited. Mostly for my part to be done in the project; there was a lot to do and some days I felt like I was drawn in three different directions. From this point on the Diner, City of Tacoma and Kina Fox-Dobbs’ Envior 101 will be doing a study on the fats, oils, grease, suspended solids, oxygen present in the pulped liquid waste and the total volume divert from the landfill. I will look forward to the results and hopefully less solid waste coming out of the diner.

Travis Freidman is the University of Puget Sound’s Sustainability and Energy Manager

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Important Update Regarding Eco2go Reusable Food Container Program

Unfortunately, we must immediately discontinue our pilot eco2go reusable food container program, which was approved by our local health department and introduced to campus last fall.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring colleges and other dining operations to discontinue this program.  The FDA is concerned that reusable containers may be outside of dining operations for long periods of time in an unwashed condition and may present a risk for the transmission of communicable illnesses, although there have been no such reported incidences.

We regret the need to terminate this sustainable to-go program and will certainly consider reintroducing it if the FDA changes its stance in the future. You may keep your eco2go container for personal use outside of university dining facilities.

If you have questions, please send an e-mail to Terry Halvorson, Director of Dining and Conference Services, at


Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

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Tapped Documentary on April 2nd

Students for a Sustainable Campus will be screening Tapped on Tuesday April 2nd at 7:30 in Rausch that examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. This screening is a component of the Why Bottled Water campaign that has been working on educating students on the environmental impacts of single-use plastic water bottles.

Read the press release to learn more about Tapped: Is access to clean drinking water a basic human right, or a commodity that should be bought and sold like any other article of commerce? Stephanie Soechtig’s debut feature is an unflinching examination of the big business of bottled water. From the producers of Who Killed the Electric Car and I.O.U.S.A., this timely documentary is a behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world of an industry that aims to privatize and sell back the one resource that ought never to become a commodity: our water.

From the plastic production to the ocean in which so many of these bottles end up, this inspiring documentary trails the path of the bottled water industry and the communities which were the unwitting chips on the table. A powerful portrait of the lives affected by the bottled water industry, this revelatory film features those caught at the intersection of big business and the public’s right to water. Click on this link to watch a promo for Tapped.

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