OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

energy and sustainability

Wave Energy Moving Forward, Update to Congress Planned

CORVALLIS, Ore. – University research programs, private development and political interest are all continuing to move forward in initiatives to make the United States, and Oregon in particular, a leader in the development of ocean wave energy – a renewable power source seen as environmentally friendly, cost effective and increasingly practical.

A range of efforts are under way at Oregon State University to improve the technology of wave energy generation. Significant outreach programs with coastal communities are helping to integrate them into the development process. Multiple partners hope to create a national wave energy research and demonstration center in Oregon.

And on May 17, at the invitation of U.S. Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, one of the OSU scientists leading these efforts will discuss the issues with the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, a part of the Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Congressional leaders want to find out more about how wave power could help address the nation’s energy needs, and what the federal government might do to help,” said Annette von Jouanne, a professor of power electronics and energy systems in the OSU College of Engineering.

“Things are really picking up speed now,” von Jouanne said. “The public, political and agency leaders are understanding how electricity produced by waves could be a significant contributor to our energy portfolio, and people are beginning to see the value of a focused, national center to move research forward.”

In her Congressional discussion, von Jouanne said she also hopes to outline the technological obstacles that must be overcome to commercialize wave energy, the ways that streamlined permitting and agency cooperation could help, and the need for more environmental and ecological studies.

In other recent developments:

  • OSU scientists are already working on a fifth and sixth prototype of novel, direct-drive wave energy generators, with both laboratory and ocean testing anticipated this summer.
  • Preliminary applications by private industry for wave parks off the Oregon Coast have already been submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
  • OSU, the Oregon Department of Energy and other stakeholders are promoting Oregon as the optimal location for the nation’s first commercial wave park.
  • Studies have begun to examine the sociological, biological and ecosystem effects of wave energy systems, and the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center is coordinating plans for a workshop this September.
  • A Wave Energy Linear Test Bed research facility is being completed in the OSU College of Engineering, funded by multiple partners, to facilitate studies on this technology.
  • Oregon political leaders are assisting in efforts to obtain federal funding for wave energy research and a national wave energy initiative.
  • An international ocean renewable energy conference will be held at OSU this summer.

Experts say wave energy should be able to provide clean, renewable energy with minimal environmental concerns. However, challenges remain in developing ways to tap wave power with systems that are reliable, maintainable and able to survive a tough ocean environment.

Electrical engineers at OSU have been pioneers in the development of new technologies and advanced solutions to these challenges. And Oregon should be a lead player – an independent study has determined that the state is an optimal location for wave energy demonstration. It has an excellent wave energy climate and existing electrical transmission lines that would facilitate bringing power onto the grid.

OSU also has the highest-power energy systems laboratory of any university in the nation, one of the leading research programs on wave energy in the country, and the unique capabilities of the university's O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, including a 340-foot-long wave flume and the world's largest tsunami wave basin.

In the past nine years, OSU has built its wave energy program through strong collaboration with state and federal agencies, private industry, utility companies and coastal communities. Outreach to fishing and crabbing industries has been a key part of the work, and a Port Liaison Project team composed of commercial fishing experts has been involved in wave energy device siting and ocean technical expertise. OSU has also worked with a group called Fishermen Interested in Natural Energy to enable ocean testing in the late summer of 2007, and has located a low impact site for this testing.

“Our commercial fishermen are what you would consider ‘practical’ ocean experts, and they’ve been valuable partners in identifying sites that would cause the least disruption to the state’s economically-important seafood industry,” said Flaxen Conway, a Sea Grant Extension specialist. “They also have been consulted on local ocean environments, the waves, currents, debris and climate history. We’re working together with them to plan a mutually beneficial, future use of the ocean and its resources.”

Research and development of wave energy is still very young, in comparison to other forms of renewable energy such as wind power. But wave power, most likely produced by buoys that are anchored two to three miles offshore and move gently up and down with ocean swells, could produce steady and large amounts of electricity.

Studies have suggested that network of about 500 such buoys could power the business district of downtown Portland. Systems could be scaled up or down in size, whatever is needed to meet demand.

Theoretically, estimates suggest that 0.2 percent of the ocean's untapped energy could power the entire world.

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Annette von Jouanne,
541-737-0831

OSU Students Vote Self-Imposed Fee to Purchase “Green” Energy for Campus

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University students have overwhelmingly voted to assess themselves a fee of up to $8.50 per student each term to pay for “green” energy for the OSU campus. The proposal passed by a margin of 70.6 percent (yes votes) to 29.4 percent (no), making Oregon State one of the few colleges and universities nationally to pass such a measure.

If the maximum fee is assessed, 100 percent of OSU’s electrical consumption can be offset, according to Brandon Trelstad, the university’s campus sustainability coordinator.

“In essence, this will allow us to purchase for the university electricity produced from renewable, more environmentally friendly sources,” Trelstad said. “Right now, about 75 percent of the university’s electricity is from the burning of coal, which is one of the dirtiest, least-sustainable methods.”

Andrea Norris, director of environmental affairs for the Associated Students of OSU, said a task force of students has been actively working on a green energy campaign since last October. During the fall, the group surveyed OSU students to find out how much, if any, in additional fees students would be willing to pay so that the university could convert to renewable energy.

The result: About 68 percent of students surveyed in the fall said they’d pay up to $8.88 per term for OSU to purchase 100 percent renewable energy – results that closely paralleled the official ballot, held during the annual ASOSU general elections in April. The election drew a huge turnout and, in fact, more students voted in favor of the green energy fee than turned out for last year’s election overall, OSU officials say.

“Now the goal of the ASOSU Environmental Affairs Task Force is to reduce the green energy fee for students – or, at least, hold it steady and eventually receive funding for green energy from all stakeholders at OSU,” Norris said.

One option is to offer OSU employees the option of a voluntary payroll deduction, according to Trelstad.

“A lot of faculty and staff are interest in, and committed to, green energy for the campus,” Trelstad pointed out.

The university’s Sustainability Office and ASOSU plan to work with the Oregon Governor’s Office on a proposal to fund the purchase of renewable energy by state universities. They also will work with the OSU administration to seek additional funding from capital construction funds on upgrading energy efficiency on campus.

OSU will have a new $50 million co-generation facility on campus beginning in 2008 that will give the university much greater flexibility in purchasing and using a variety of energy forms. The fees raised by students will be used to purchase blocks of renewable energy, Trelstad said, such as wind energy from eastern Oregon that will be added to the electrical grid.

“If OSU were to purchase this amount of green energy today, we would rank an impressive third in EPA’s top 10 list of college and university ‘Green Power Partners,’” Trelstad said. More information about the EPA program can be found at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/top10ed.htm

“By purchasing such a large amount of renewable energy, we’ll be helping to increase the demand for sustainable energy, making it more attractive for potential power producers to get into the green market,” Trelstad said.

Many green power producers also offer reinvestment projects, including local solar collection or watershed enhancement projects, he added. “These projects result in hands-on learning opportunities for students and on-site renewable energy production.”

OSU recently joined a growing number of universities around the United States in an initiative to make its campus “climate neutral” by establishing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its energy usage. President Ed Ray last month signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledge.

The commitment requires OSU to launch a two-year planning process to outline its path toward becoming “climate neutral,” which essentially means that the university will either emit no greenhouse gases, or it will offset its emissions through energy credits and other methods.

“The commitment by students is an important step in that process,” Trelstad said.

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Andrea Norris,
541-737-6354

OSU Baja SAE team wins international racing competition

BURLINGTON, Wisc. – Oregon State University students in the Baja SAE off-road racing competition roared back in the final event – a four-hour endurance race - to move from fourth place to first, lapped the field and won the national championship for the second time in four years.

The students raced on June 11-14 against more than 100 other teams from universities in the U.S. and around the world, in which undergraduate students design, build and race single-seat, off-road vehicles that can handle difficult terrain. The series of events was sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

“We’re incredibly proud,” said team captain John Fellows. “We showed everyone we’re for real and our car can match up with anyone.”

Fellows said the team didn’t fare quite as well in some early events, such as the sled pull, but scored high in others such as the “mud bog” by tackling it early in the day while other teams shied away. That set the stage for a come-from-behind victory on Sunday in the grueling endurance drive, which also was the event worth the most points.

“There are a lot of bright students from engineering and other fields who take part in this competition,” said Robert Paasch, team adviser and an OSU professor of mechanical engineering. “I think what makes OSU special is that we’re really a team in the true sense of the word. We work together to get the best each person has to offer. And we beat the best teams in the world.”

This win adds to finishing in first and third places in a previous competition held in May in Washougal, Wash. Students from many of the strongest engineering programs in the nation participate in these events.

Many of the 16 team members in this competition are from the OSU College of Engineering, but there are also some participants from areas such as marketing and business. The winning car in the latest race was from the senior design project of several students. It featured a completely new power train with two forward gears and a geared reverse, rather than their typical single-forward gear with a neutral and chain-driven reverse. That design, the students said, made it very fast and particularly formidable in the endurance race.

All of the cars in this event are powered by the same 10-horsepower engines donated by Briggs and Stratton Corp., and in various events have to climb hills, maneuver around obstacles, crawl over boulders and endure a four-hour race. Judging also includes a sales presentation, design submission and cost reports.

 

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Robert Paasch, 541-737-7019

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OSU Baja Car

OSU’s winning Baja race car

OSU’s Ed Ray Signs “Presidents Climate Commitment” for Sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has joined a growing number of universities around the United States in an initiative to make its campus “climate neutral” by establishing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its energy usage.

OSU President Ed Ray this week signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledge.

“This is a commitment that we take quite seriously,” Ray said. “We have on our faculty international leaders in research and education on climate change and its impacts, so we have a sense of responsibility as an institution to become leaders in the operational aspects of sustainability as well.

“We have made some important strides already,” Ray added, “but we can do more.”

The commitment requires OSU to launch a two-year planning process to outline its path toward becoming “climate neutral,” which essentially means that the university will either emit no greenhouse gases, or it will offset its emissions through energy credits and other methods, said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s campus sustainability coordinator. The most likely solutions, according to Trelstad, will come through a combination of conservation, offsets, and local renewable energy sources.

Part of the planning process will be to determine a realistic date in the future by which this may be accomplished, Trelstad added, and establishing goals for achieving and tracking progress.

“There are a number of interim steps the university can take toward increasing our sustainability, from construction guidelines to travel and purchasing policies,” Trelstad said. “Part of the planning process will be to solicit ideas from students, faculty and staff, and then determine how these might best fit in with the university’s goals and missions.”

The planning process will be led by a university-wide Sustainability Council, which already is in place.

OSU’s primary energy consumption sources are through its antiquated heating plant and electricity usage. Construction is just beginning on a new energy center for the university, which will reduce the amount of energy used to heat and power the campus by an estimated 38 percent, Trelstad pointed out. Much of the university’s electricity originates in Utah from coal-fired power plants.

“By making electricity on campus and efficiently using natural gas, we’ll reduce our global warming gases extensively,” Trelstad said. “The Energy Center also will be configured to easily transition to renewable fuels – like biodiesel, and perhaps someday, even biomass – when these fuels become more financially competitive.”

Trelstad said that OSU’s participation in the Presidents Climate Commitment positions the university to deal with potential future taxes on carbon emissions.

OSU is engaged in several other energy-reducing projects:

  • A project in Bexell Hall, home of the College of Business, will reduce the amount of energy consumed by lighting by approximately 50 percent. Lighting typically represents about 25 percent of the energy used in an office building. Bexell also is implementing new computer use policies and practices that could contribute to a goal of reducing energy use in the building by 50 percent.
  • The university is exploring new software products that would reduce the energy used by campus computers. The idea, Trelstad said, is to adjust the power settings on individual computers to match the needs of users.
  • OSU has a successful sustainability audit program for campus buildings that not only looks at energy consumption, but water and paper use, and even office furniture.
  • The university also is conducting an audit of its outdoor lighting to make sure that lighting is safe for pedestrians at night, but that lights don’t come on too early – especially since the change to daylight savings.
  • Recent campus buildings have been constructed in a more environmentally sustainable manner, exemplified by the 153,000-square-foot Kelley Engineering Center. Designed to be extremely energy efficient, and constructed using sustainable materials and techniques, it received a “Gold” LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Oregon State also has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a ‘Best Workplace for Commuters’ because we have great support for a variety of alternative transportation modes,” Trelstad said. “Since transportation has an obvious and significant impact on global warming, this is important to us as a university – and we’ve been a leader in this area for a long time.”

OSU’s faculty are actively involved in a number of research efforts related to sustainability, including the development of wave energy, passively safe nuclear power, biofuels and other new forms of energy under the Sun Grant initiative; and incorporating these and other new findings into sustainability education throughout the curriculum.

More information on the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment program is available online at: http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/index.php. Information on OSU’s efforts on sustainability is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

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Brandon Trelstad,
541-737-3307

Nike General Manager to Speak on Sustainability

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Lorrie Vogel, the general manager of Nike’s Considered Design, will share why Nike chose to go green – and how the company incorporated environmental sustainability into its practices and designs – in a free public lecture at Oregon State University on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The event is sponsored by OSU’s College of Business as part of the Sustainability Lecture Series. It will be held on campus at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center in Ballroom 110C from noon to 1:30 p.m.

“In the Considered Design, Nike has created a successful business case for sustainability,” said OSU College of Business Dean Ilene Kleinsorge. “Ms. Vogel’s message – that green doesn’t have to equal high cost – will especially resonate in our community.”

The title of Vogel’ speech will be “How Nike is Reducing Its Environmental Footprint and Incorporating Sustainability into Its Products.”

What began at Nike in 2005 with a single shoe – the award-winning Considered Boot – has evolved into a company-wide design philosophy. Nike’s Considered Design ethos embraces environmental sustainability principles without compromising product performance, company officials say, benefiting athletes and the environment. Considered Design strives to reduce toxins and waste, select eco-conscious materials and promote sustainable product innovation.

Vogel will discuss how innovation, performance, and sustainability work together in business. She will share how Nike achieves a culture in which every employee understands the company’s environmental footprint across its entire supply chain. Through specific examples, she will illustrate four key interrelated areas of focus that make the greatest environmental impact: energy, water, toxins and physical waste.

As the general manager of Nike’s Considered team, Vogel is responsible for introducing sustainable products and business models. Prior to this position she was the innovation director for Nike footwear, apparel and equipment.

Vogel has become a leading expert in design innovation. She started out as a toy designer working on products like "Speak and Spell," and then moved into advanced R&D for Texas Instruments where she conceptualized applications and products for emerging technologies.

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Thuy Tran,
541-737-6020

Students in Free Enterprise develop reusable water bottles for competition

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University chapter of Students in Free Enterprise took third place in a new competition for waste management and was recognized at the 2009 SIFE National Exposition held recently in Philadelphia.

The contest, sponsored by Waste Management, was in the Environmental Sustainability Competition, part of the Topic and Special Competitions, a new award category introduced in the 2008-09 academic year.

A total of 107 teams from colleges and universities around the nation competed in the waste management topic competition where the OSU team presented a sustainability project called Think!BLUE, a student-run business that sells reusable water bottles to raise awareness about water-related issues and discourages the use of disposable water bottles.

The teams were judged on how effectively each measured and demonstrated that it helped others to make environmentally sustainable personal and business decisions. Judging criteria included market economics, success kills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, environment sustainability and business ethics. The final criterion was program sustainability, which encompasses a team’s entire program.

Heading the OSU student project were Kelly Fitzpatrick, a sophomore in accounting and finance, and Kim Pendergrass, a sophomore in marketing and art history. “We are very proud and excited of the progress that we have made in just a short amount of time,” said Fitzpatrick.

Pendergrass said Think!BLUE is planning to expand its product line and establish an online presence soon. She added the OSU team plans to return to the competition next year with more projects to help build national recognition.

Profits from the bottle project go toward teaching sustainability and carbon footprint reduction to middle school students in the Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) program. Sandy Neubaum, associate director of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program at OSU and the club faculty adviser, said her students aren’t just looking to make money, “but give back as much as they make.”

Students in Free Enterprise is a non-profit social entrepreneurship club devoted to making a positive, sustainable difference in the global community.

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Sandy Neubaum, 541-713-8042

OSU Research Could Lead To Bio-fuels Processed From Algae

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University are working to find an efficient method of processing bio-diesel fuel and ethanol from one of the world’s most plentiful organisms – algae – which could lead to breakthroughs in reducing the world's dependency on petroleum.

Applying the findings to mass-produce algae and extract its oils could be five to 10 years in the future, but the advantages are worth the wait, according to Ganti Murthy, assistant professor of biological and ecological engineering at OSU.

Algae are versatile organisms that are "plant-like" but do not have a root system or leaves. Plants pull water and nutrients through their roots and release vapor through their leaves in a process called transpiration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an acre of corn transpires about 4,000 gallons of water a day. Because algae do not have such a vascular system, they use water only as a medium for growing.

"In a closed growing system,” Murthy said, “algae require 99 percent less water than any other crop.”

Another advantage to growing algae is that varieties of the organism have been found flourishing in all kinds of environments – from the Arctic to tropical areas – and in both fresh and salt water. Therefore, Murthy said, growing algae "is not a food-versus-fuel issue; algae can be grown using waste-water and in areas that cannot support agriculture."

Algae also are highly productive compared to conventional crops. For example, a productivity model estimates that 48 gallons of bio-diesel can be produced from an acre of soybeans, whereas algae could produce 819 gallons – and theoretically as much as 5,000 gallons – from a single acre.

One of algae's most remarkable qualities is that it can grow using carbon dioxide generated from fossil-fuel combustion, according to Murthy. Greenhouse gases from industry and coal-fired electrical-generating plants can be piped to algae ponds, where carbon dioxide is a necessary ingredient for growth. In fact, research has shown that algae can grow 30 percent faster than normal when fed carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion.

At the OSU Sustainable Technologies Laboratory, Murthy has built two small photobioreactors to grow microscopic algae in a closed system. They are simple, plastic cylinders that have advantages over an open-pond system in greater productivity, reduced contamination and better control of growth. It takes about three weeks for the algae—combined with light, water, carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients—to multiply and turn the water green.

The primary focus of the OSU lab is to discover efficient ways to extract the oils (also called lipids) and process them into bio-diesel fuel and ethanol, with fertilizer and animal feed as co-products. The biggest challenge, according to Murthy, is separating water from the micro algae he is testing (Chlorella and Dunaliella), which must continually be mixed with carbon dioxide and light as they grow. A combination of straining and centrifuging is the current method of extraction.

Of the more than 3,000 known strains of algae, Murthy grows both fresh water and salt water varieties. The photobioreactors hold about six gallons of water and produce about .17 pounds of algae with each batch.

"Depending on the algae growth conditions, we can usually extract 20 to 30 percent oil from it, and up to 60 percent is possible," he said.

Commercialization of algal bio-fuel and ethanol is a long way off. Yet, with many questions to answer and challenges to overcome, Murthy is undaunted. "A lot of people are working on it," he said, "It's just a matter of putting it together, making it work."

Murthy's work at OSU has been funded by a grant from the Agriculture Research Foundation.

 

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Ganti Murthy,
541-737-6291

New OSU Program Designs With Nature

CORVALLIS, Ore. – This year, students at Oregon State University are learning to design with nature through a new undergraduate program in Ecological Engineering.

Combining the tools of engineering design with an understanding of how complex natural systems interact, the new program is part of both the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering.

"Agriculture is where ecological engineers can contribute in many ways to a sustainable system that integrates human values with natural structures and functions," said John Bolte, head of OSU's Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering.

Citing examples of using plants to clean water, air and soil, Bolte said ecological engineering "is a new and rapidly growing industry that needs professionals who understand agriculture, plant systems and engineering design."

The program is taking education out of the laboratory and into the field, where large-scale, interconnected systems interact in unpredictable and sometimes unruly ways. Students study river systems, wetlands, agricultural lands and other places in nature to learn how to design functioning ecological systems to meet human needs.

"There is no other institution teaching this approach, and no better place to do it than Oregon State," said Lou Licht, president and founder of Ecolotree, Inc., the nation's oldest phyto-remediation business. "For the past 17 years, we have had to train 'conventional engineers' ourselves through internships. OSU's new program of ecological engineering has the potential to provide industry, communities and government agencies with off-the-shelf, work-ready ecological engineers."

In his business, Licht, a 1978 OSU graduate in agricultural engineering, uses poplar and willow trees with other plants to accomplish the remediation required by law in places such as landfills, brown fields, chemical spills, contaminated soil and groundwater sites, and municipal and industrial wastewater treatment sites.

Bolte sees other opportunities for ecological engineers, including the burgeoning field of biofuels, which requires an understanding of processing engineering, agricultural production and ecological systems impact. He sees innovative industries emerging that will use new technologies, such as high-speed fiber optics, to probe the natural systems that humans depend on.

"Society has been very good at breaking down the individual parts of a system to understand how each part works," said Thayne Dutson, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "But, as Albert Einstein said, we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. We have seen the unintended consequences of looking at the parts without considering the larger whole. Global warming, endangered species, contaminated water supply are a few of the hard problems of society that will require new, integrated thinking to solve."

"This new degree sets Oregon State apart from other schools in the country," said Ron Adams, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. "Many students study engineering because they want to solve complex problems that move the world toward a healthier, more sustainable place. This new degree is a major step in offering our engineering students another option that will impact the future in a positive way."

For more information on the OSU undergraduate program of ecological engineering, see http://bee.oregonstate.edu/undergrad/undergrad.htm.

 

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John Bolte,
541-737-6303

OSU Extension-trained Composters Perk up Ground with Coffee Grounds

EUGENE, Ore. – Every day thousands of yawning commuters, sleep-deprived college students and caffeine-addicted office workers in Lane County fuel up at coffee shops. But what happens to the dark, steaming, gritty coffee grounds that are left over from each latte, espresso and mocha?

The majority have been trucked to the Short Mountain Landfill, Lane County's only municipal solid waste disposal site. But now some of the county's aromatic grounds are ending up in area gardens, thanks to a composting program launched by the Oregon State University Extension Service in Lane County.

Since 2004, Extension-trained composters have collected almost 200 tons of grounds from 13 coffee shops and kiosks in Eugene, Springfield, Florence, Cottage Grove and Veneta, said Cindy Wise, the coordinator for Extension's Compost Specialist program in Lane County.

That's the equivalent of about 25 large dump trucks, said Dan Hurley, the landfill's waste management engineer.

Last year, the volunteer composters – known as Compost Specialists – collected 53 tons of coffee grounds, Wise said, estimating that coffee shops in Lane County produce a combined 500 tons of grounds each year.

In recognition of their work, Lane County commissioners gave Wise and the Compost Specialist program their Trashbuster Award in 2005.

The coffee ground composting program started when Compost Specialists placed 32-gallon containers at various coffee shops to collect the grounds, which they and other members of the public then used in their gardens.

The system, however, is evolving. In lieu of using 32-gallon containers, Compost Specialists are now hoping to implement a system that uses 5-gallon buckets. They're surveying more than 80 coffee shops in Eugene and Springfield to see which ones would be willing to let the public bring buckets to the shops to retrieve grounds.

"This is something anyone would be able to do at participating coffee shops. Just take a clean five-gallon bucket with a lid, leave it at the shop, and then pick it up at the shop's convenience," Wise said.

Compost Specialists will compile a list of participating shops that will include their addresses and their conditions regarding when and how frequently people must pick up the buckets. Extension in Lane County will publish the list on its Web site and in a brochure, probably in May or June, Wise said. She added that a pilot program is under way at the Starbucks at 801 E. 13th Ave. in Eugene.

Wise said coffee grounds are an excellent addition to compost piles because they add nitrogen, which bacteria need to turn organic matter into compost. She also said earth worms are attracted to the grounds and that the grounds are a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich manure.

"A lot of people don't want to use manure because of concerns about pathogens," she said.

Wise said that informal trials by Compost Specialists in Lane County found that coffee grounds helped sustain high temperatures in compost piles, thus reducing potentially dangerous pathogens as well as seeds from weeds and vegetables that were added to the piles. In the trials, when coffee grounds made up 25 percent of the volume of the compost pile, temperatures were sustained between 135 degrees and 155 degrees for at least two weeks, enough time to have killed a "significant portion" of the pathogens and seeds, she said. In contrast, the manure in the trials didn't sustain the heat as long, she said.

"We were amazed at the results we got with coffee grounds when we did the trial," she said.

Jack Hannigan, a Compost Specialist, is pleased with the results he gets from the coffee grounds he collects from the Fast Lane Coffee Company in Springfield to use on his farm in Pleasant Hill.

"I make hotbeds that run about 150 degrees,” Hannigan said. “It kills the weeds. I can get the piles hotter and break down the compost better with coffee grounds than I can with manure. It works great."

Coffee grounds also can be added directly to soil but the grounds need a few months to break down, Wise said. "We're not certain about how coffee grounds act with the soil, but anecdotally people say they do dig it into the soil," she said.

To gather more data about this, in a couple of weeks Compost Specialists in Lane County will start studying the effect that coffee grounds have on soil at test plots in and near Eugene. In each location, one part of the plot won't have coffee grounds mixed into the soil; another will, and a third will have even more.

"We'll let them sit in the soil and come back in six to eight weeks and take a soil sample and analyze for nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and how it affects the pH of soil," she said. "We need to find out how long it takes to break down and how it will affect the nutrients in the soil. Then we'll plant bush beans and see how they look."

Extension in Lane County will share the results with the public on its Web site in the fall, Wise said.

Gardening aside, one benefit of diverting coffee grounds from the landfill is that it helps cut greenhouse gas emissions, Hurley said.

"To keep organics out of the landfill is a good thing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions because organics decompose and produce methane. Methane is about 25 times as bad as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas," he said.

Sarah Grimm, the waste reduction specialist for Lane County Public Works, said she applauds the program for encouraging interactions between community residents and local businesses. She also likes that the coffee grounds are staying in their communities, meaning that fuel isn't being used to truck them from far-flung areas of the county to the landfill near Eugene.

"It's a wonderful program," she said. "As a waste reduction specialist, I can get behind something like that. Sending it to a compost pile is better than trucking it from there to here."

For information about Extension in Lane County, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/.

To learn about the Compost Specialist Program, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/gardens/compost.

 

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Cindy Wise,
541-747-5289

Oregon State University Undertakes Measurement of its Carbon Footprint

ORVALLIS, Ore. – How much carbon does Oregon State University cause to be released into the atmosphere each year?

For those Beavers concerned with sustainability and the environment, that’s a key question. To find the answer, the university’s Sustainability Office recently completed a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for the 2007 fiscal year.

The inventory shows that OSU’s total emissions increased 9.4 percent since a similar survey was done in 2004, for a total of 151,287 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Purchased electricity was the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 61 percent.

The inventory counted emissions resulting from electricity use and steam production, student and employee commuting, air travel, solid waste and several other sources. It is the most comprehensive emissions tally OSU has ever undertaken, according to Greg Smith, one of two authors of the inventory report and program assistant in the Sustainability Office.

Measurement of carbon emissions helps to understand the impact that the university’s actions are having on greenhouse gas buildup and thus OSU’s contribution to global warming. OSU is among a small group of colleges and universities around the nation that have undertaken a comprehensive inventory – fewer than 40 at last count.

But with some 558 campuses now having pledged to work toward carbon neutrality as part of a national compact on sustainability -- the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by OSU President Ed Ray last year -- many more carbon assessments are expected to follow. OSU sustainability leaders say the university is taking its leadership role seriously.

“The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is fine-tuning greenhouse gas reporting rules that will likely take effect in 2009,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s Sustainability Coordinator. “This inventory meets and exceeds the reporting requirements DEQ is currently considering.”

In spring 2007, OSU students voted to approve an $8.50 per student, per term green energy fee following an Associated Students of OSU campaign. Funds raised by the fee purchase renewable energy -- primarily wind, biogas and biomass. The current amount of renewable energy purchased equals about 75 percent of total campus electrical consumption.

Largely on the basis of the green energy fee, OSU was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year as one of the nation’s top five higher education users of “green power,” as well as best in the Pac 10.

OSU’s carbon footprint ought to decrease sharply this year because the 2008 inventory will reflect the impact of the green energy fee for the first time, said Trelstad.

Conservation, said Trelstad, is the primary strategy OSU administration is taking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “Through conservation, we not only use financial and natural resources better, we also lower how much offsite renewable energy we need to purchase to ultimately become climate neutral.”

The Sustainability Office will inventory OSU’s emissions annually.

About Sustainability at OSU: Oregon State University is a campus leader in sustainability through initiatives ranging from its Student Sustainability Center to an electronic carpool system to internationally recognized research in development of green power sources, such as wave energy. Learn more at http://oregonstate.edu/sustainability/.

 

 

Source: 

Brandon Trelstad,
541-737-3307