Be sustainable: Compost, recycle and the Pee Bus on campus

University of New Hampshire’s Pee Bus is a sustainable project. (Credit: Sam Evans-Brown)

University of New Hampshire’s Pee Bus is a sustainable project. (Credit: Sam Evans-Brown)

College students on campuses across the country are participating in environmental and sustainable projects that involve composting, recycling and growing community gardens and roof gardens. A college in New Hampshire even collects pee! Here are some conservation projects that are enhancing and keeping campus life sustainable as well as the environment—yes, even though Earth Day has ended!

The Pee Bus

When the Durham (NH) Department of Public Works noticed that between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. the amount of nitrogen coming into the wastewater treatment plant spiked, they linked those hours to local University of New Hampshire hockey and basketball games. Wastewater plants work best with consistent waste supplies.

So what do you do if you’re a college town and you have extra urine entering the sewer system every weekend? What else—you divert this perfect natural fertilizer to a place it would do more good. Enter the Pee Bus!

The brainchild of students Elizabeth McCrary, Alyson Packhem and Adam Carignan, the Pee Bus is a specially designed trailer with mobile portable urinals that collect pee into a 265-gallon tank mounted on the trailer. People who “donate” are rewarded with a yellow “I Donated My Nitrogen” sticker!

For now, the bus has only urinals, so women can decide for themselves if they want to participate. The collected urine is given to two local farmers. “It’s an extraordinarily biologically available, nutrient rich fertilizer,” said Dorn Cox, a grain farmer from Lee, NH, but also a Ph.D. candidate at UNH, reported by Sam Evans-Brown in “UNH Students’ ‘Urine Diversion’ Program Cleans Water, Fertilizes Farms,” posted on NHPR March 28, 2014.

Composting, low water usage and community garden

One school, Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, uses a number of proactive sustainable programs to enhance campus life. It composts more than 1,000 pounds of food scraps per week in the dining hall and cafes, hands out reusable to-go boxes in the cafeteria to replace trays, decreased its water usage by nearly 50 percent since 2002 and limits the use of harsh chemicals and solvents in its green housekeeping practices.

Pitzer College is proud of its programs: “Its environmental studies program began in the 1970s and the College has been practicing what it teaches ever since…Pitzer’s campus-wide initiatives—ranging from innovative LEED-certified residential halls to low-water landscaping—reflect the College’s commitment to making sustainability an integrated part of the way students live and learn at Pitzer.”

Track your carbon footprint

Colorado College’s Office of Sustainability helps students audit and calculate their carbon footprint, keeping track of energy usage, fuel usage, food waste, other waste production, transportation and even tracking miles traveled by the food available at the college. Emily Wright noted that the college aims to produce “effective citizens of the world who lead responsible, reflective, and creative lives…By committing to a system that incorporates these ideals, Colorado College is a microcosmic model of a progressive society driven by conscious action and long-term visions.”

Enhance buildings with roof gardens

Allegheny College in Pennsylvania built the state-of-the art Vukovich Center for Communication Arts with a unique roof. The green roof features a garden with perennial grasses, sedums, bulbs, shrubs and trees. Between the garden plots are cedar plank walkways. Roof gardens reduce heat absorption of a building and reduce rain run-off. “The College expects this space to not only add to the interest and beauty of campus, but also enhance the other energy efficiency measures designed and incorporated into the Vukovich Center,” noted the school. Allegheny College also composts, has LEED certified buildings, wind generated electricity and geo-exchange heating and cooling.

Sustainable projects for your college

Generation E: Students Leading for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future, by Christina Erickson and David J. Eagan, offers 35 ways students can create sustainable projects at U.S. colleges and universities. Projects for recycling, transportation, water, food, energy and education outreach are described from more than 160 campuses.

“In rich detail, [the projects] show how students are having a major role in advancing sustainability—and readying themselves for green jobs and a clean energy future. Increasingly, the National Wildlife Federation and other voices for the environment are taking steps to lift up examples like these to show how bright minds in a nurturing educational setting can bring about real change and provide leadership for others.”

What sustainable projects does your college do? Let us know in the comments.

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