New Jersey’s universities have been making significant strides to become greener facilities, and Kean University (Kean) prides itself on being at the forefront of that effort. Kean has signed an agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enhance sustainable environmental practices at the school. As part of the agreement, Kean has pledged to reduce energy, water, and fuel usage. They will also increase recycling on campus, and use more environmentally-friendly landscaping practices.
“In signing this agreement to improve its environmental practices, Kean University is setting an example for other colleges and universities in New Jersey,” said Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Kean University is setting an example for its students and demonstrating that it understands the connection between a healthy environment and their future.”
Perhaps the most significant improvement Kean has made to become greener is its fledgling industrial-scale composting system. Built in 2009, the Kean University Composter effectively takes all the food scraps from campus dining halls and elsewhere, and transforms them into fertile sediment for use in landscaping. Kean University’s “Green Machine” has become the pride of the school and sets it far beyond NJ’s other state colleges.
Created by Dr. Nicholas Smith-Sebasto, the composter can churn 1,000 pounds of food per day. It is estimated to turn 150,000 pounds of food scrap into compost for every academic year. The composter mixes the food waste with natural wood pellets which absorb excess moisture and feed the microbes that breakdown the organic material.
The whole process from food to compost takes a lightning-fast 5 days. Meanwhile, the system only uses $4 worth of electricity per day. Plus, even though the composting chamber is 130 degrees F, the system does not employ a heating unit. In the end, it serves two main functions for the university. It cuts down the cost of garbage removal and cuts the cost for fertilizer. It is a spectacular beneficial-use project, the kind that EPA loves to see.
According to Will Heyniger, supervisor at Kean’s Geology/Meteorology Department, such projects are not possible without the integration of several disciplines. Involving a broad range of people is necessary for solving any of our environmental challenges. “People have to start thinking whole circle instead of [just] pieces of a circle. It is important to remember that we couldn’t do this without the facilities taking our final product, the kitchen staff helping us, and students volunteering. So it makes it urgent as to learn that every generation has to learn to build the relationship bridges.”
Other aspects of Kean’s pact with EPA include the following:
Join EPA’s WasteWise program — technical assistance to determine quantity of garbage produced on campus and find ways to reduce it. The Kean University composter goes a long way towards that goal.
Participate in EPA’s RecycleMania — a competition among North American colleges to see who can recycle the most.
Become an EPA Energy Star partner — reduce energy consumption by ten percent and increase use of renewable energy sources.
Consult with EPA’s Greenscapes Program to improve sustainable landscaping, water conservation, and stormwater management. Again, the composter will come in to play here.
Join EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign and Clean Construction USA program. Kean will be required to use equipment with controls that reduce diesel pollution on future construction projects.
Article by David A Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.