Compost Heat Recovery System

By Joe Clevenger and Rhianna Hruska, RAD Sustainability Team.

If you haven’t been there already, go and check out the back side of mod 311 on the lower part of campus. It’s a beautiful area with wood and metal recycling containers, but more importantly, it’s home to a large pile of straw, wood chips, and horse manure. This pile is called a compost heating pile and is actually used for space heating in mod 311! This mod uses propane as a back up heating method and we’ve been collecting propane consumption data on the mods to get a feel for how much carbon dioxide our compost heating pile could potentially offset.

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Abstract:

Our compost heat pile consists of 60% wood chips, 30% saw dust, and 10% horse manure. As you can see in the picture above, these resources are piled into a shell of straw bales. The interior resources break down over the course of a year and produce temperatures up to 250˚. The average recorded temperature for the Mod system is between 120˚ and 130˚ F. This heat is harnessed and transferred into water that’s flowing through the pile in PEX tubing. We then take this water and pump it into an in floor radiant heating system that handles space heating in the mod. As hinted at earlier, this heat production slowly decreases over the course of a year and after a full year the entire pile needs to be replaced.

A compost pile is a great way to generate heat without contributing to carbon dioxide emissions. By using compost or other “cleaner” heating sources you can help to offset carbon dioxide. This offset is basically the difference in carbon dioxide emissions between clean energy sources and dirty energy sources. To subvert some of the environmental damages that we’re causing and to maintain a habitable environment on earth, we need to offset as much carbon dioxide as we can.

Analysis:

As stated earlier, Mod 311 uses propane as a backup heating system. For the past two years, we’ve been closely tracking the propane consumption of all the Mods. This has allowed us to compare Mod 311 to Mod 306, which also has an in floor radiant system, but depends solely on propane for heating. After running the numbers, the data showed us that since January of 2015 Mod 306 used about 600 gallons of extra propane as compared to Mod 311. According to eia.gov, every gallon of propane burned emits 12.7 pounds of carbon dioxide (https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.cfm). With that math, that 600 gallons of propane equates to 7,200 pounds of carbon dioxide! Below are some pivot tables generated from our raw data to give you a better understanding of this statistic. The first column represents the date the propane tanks were filled, the second columns show how much propane was added to 306 and 311 respectively in gallons, and the last column is the total of both. The propane tanks we have are filled as needed to a standard limit, so when ferrell gas, the company that supplies the propane, comes out the amount they add to the tank is the amount burned from the last fill date to now.

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If you want access to our full data set feel free to send an email to radsustainability@evergreen.edu.

Significance:

The obvious significance of this project is the ability to use compost heating to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Our climate is becoming more and more unstable as we emit greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. If we can move away from fossil fuels and use more alternative energy sources we can potentially avoid massive storm caused catastrophes, stop different cultures and resources from being eradicated by a rising sea level, as well as avoid conflicts that may arise from depleting global resources.

Another significance of this project is the fact that Gaelan Brown, the VP of marketing at Agrilabs, helped student employees at The Evergreen State College learn about and implement the compost heating pile we now have on campus. Just as we are sharing this information with you now, Agrilabs shared their information with RAD Services and has helped to offset at least a small amount of carbon dioxide. The bigger picture here is that our project and knowledge could be a precursor for other projects like it and we’re planning to collect more data on the compost heating pile to assess the scalability of it.

Our next steps are to install temperature monitors for ingoing and outgoing water for the compost in floor radiant heating system as well as a flow meter for the system. This will allow us to accurately calculate the amount of British Thermal Units (BTUs) the compost pile is producing and to hopefully share that data with students wirelessly.

 

Cardboard Mushroom Spawning

By Joe Anderson, RAD Sustainability Lead Predecessor.

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RAD Sustainability worked on inoculating cardboard with oyster mushroom spawn. Cardboard is a great medium to establish a mushroom colony with because it’s flat and easy to transport. Once it’s completely covered with mycelium, you just slap it down where you want mushrooms to grow, give them some substrate to digest, and they are ready to go.

We used pearl oyster sawdust spawn from Fungi Perfecti to make our cardboard colonies. First, we soaked our cardboard overnight to make it soft and moist, just how our mushrooms like it. Then we mixed up the sawdust spawn with water and shredded it up by hand as much as possible.

We laid down a piece of cardboard and peeled off the first layer and set it aside, revealing the corrugations. Next, we threw on a few heaping handfuls of oyster spawn and worked it into the grooves. Finally, we placed the first cardboard layer back over the inoculated cardboard and repeated the process, stacking up the cardboard spawn layer by layer.

And that’s all there is to it! It takes about three weeks for oysters to colonize the cardboard. When they’re ready, we’re going to sandwich them in towers of straw which they’ll consume in a few months before fruiting. Until then, we have to keep them moist and watch out for mold or any other contamination. I’ve been checking on our cardboard spawn each morning, and I can already see them starting to take hold!

 

Relaunch of the RAD Sustainability Instagram!

Have an instagram account?   Follow us at RADsustainability!  We’ll be posting photos every Tuesday of all the unique and incredible projects that are integrated into Evergreen’s lower campus.

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Want to help us run the RAD Sustainability instagram?  Feel free to send us your photos at radsustainability@evergreen.edu or if you are looking to volunteer and help with our social media feel free to contact us about that as well.

Courtyard Garden Work Party

By Rhianna Hruska, RAD Sustainability Outreach and Chair of the Clean Energy Committee.

20160812_130913Did you know that students can take any of the fruits, vegetables, and flowers in the Evergreen housing community gardens?  These gardens are a convenient way for students to have access to fresh ingredients right outside their apartments/dorms.  RAD Sustainability builds and maintains these gardens for students to enjoy.

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Summer Resident Planting Vegetable Seeds

On Friday August 12th at Noon, RAD Sustainability and three summer residents had a garden work party in the courtyard and in the Mod Gardens.  During the work party, residents had the opportunity to plant vegetable and fruit seeds for the new raised garden beds in the courtyard.  The residents also watered the row of lavenders next to the garden beds.  Gardening was a fun and productive way for everyone to get to know each other and take a break from academic studies.  The residents also learned a lot about gardening in the Pacific Northwest as well as the ways that these gardens will be helpful for their fellow students.

If you are interested in helping RAD Sustainability with the gardens in housing, email radsustainability@evergreen.edu.  If you are interested in interning for RAD Sustainability and working in our gardens and food forest for academic credit, feel free to email us and inquire about potential opportunities!

RAD Sustainability Circus!

By Alana Mousseau, Sustainability House Resident.

The Sustainability circus for the Sustainability house was a huge success!  The event was collaborated between RAD Facilities, RAs and the community, and held on the soccer fields just outside of the HCC. On April 20th from 1pm to 5:30, there were games, events guest speakers, and even a raffle drawing for participants. 
For the sustainability house specifically, between the five of us, we worked with two different booths. Jenna ran the mushroom log inoculation booth, alongside the Olympia Mycelia Network while Cassandra, Ashley and Alana taught people about pollinator flowers and helped people make seed bombs. There was a variety of people set up with stands and booths teaching about Shellfish Club, Clean Energy Committee, Yoga, WASHPIRG Solar Campaign, DIY cleaning supplies and soaps, and more. People were encouraged to learn about products and supplies all while having the experience to do hands on work, and keep the projects they made.

Mushroom Path Work Party

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year Master of Environmental Studies candidate, Secretary/Treasurer of the Clean Energy Committee, and Sustainability Resident Assistant for the Mods.

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Sustainability House after a Successful Work Party

Have you walked through the edible mushroom path between A building and the apartments?  It’s one of the many amazing housing projects created by RAD Sustainability!  For four hours on the morning of Sunday February 28th, the Sustainability house participated in a work party led by Joe Anderson, who is RAD’s Sustainability Crew Lead.  Sustainability residents learned how to inoculate logs with three different types of mushrooms: Lion’s Mane, Oyster, and Chicken of the Woods.  The logs would be drilled with holes in a diamond pattern a few inches apart and the holes would be filled with mushroom plugs.  Once the plugs were hammered into the drilled holes, they were sealed in with wax and set aside to dry.  Once they were finished, the logs were placed in the edible mushroom path.

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Edible Mushroom Path

As a part of the sustainability housing theme, residents are expected to complete ten sustainability volunteer hours.  Work parties are a great way to complete those hours while building community with others and learning from each other.  The sustainability house has beginning and end of quarter meetings to discuss potential projects that the residents could work on either together or individually.  This allows everyone to pursue their own sustainability interests.  If you could see yourself participating in these kinds of events, apply for Sustainability housing next year! Applications are currently open.  The application can be found at: http://evergreen.edu/housing/themes/sustainability.htm

RAD Sustainability Mod Retreat

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year Master of Environmental Studies candidate, Secretary/Treasurer of the Clean Energy Committee, and Sustainability Resident Assistant for the Mods.

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Sustainability House at Taylor Shellfish

On the bright and beautiful morning of February 22nd, the Sustainability Residents took a tour of Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington.  Taylor Shellfish is one of the largest shellfish farms in the United States and their headquarters in Shelton is about fifteen minutes away from Evergreen.  Our tour was led by an Evergreen Master of Environmental Studies (MES) alum, who studied and wrote an MES thesis on shellfish.  The tour took us through two buildings where the shellfish get brought and processed after harvest.  We also got to step inside a below zero degree freezer where the shellfish are stored before being shipped out to their respective locations.

Along with showing us the infrastructure needed to run a family-owned company that sells its shellfish products both nationally and internationally, our tour guide also described the importance of clean water in the Puget Sound in order to maintain safe and productive shellfish farms.  Taylor Shellfish is conscious of its water usage, especially during drought, and waters a poplar plantation to allow the water that is used on site to be returned to the aquifer that it was drawn from.  Ocean acidification, the decrease in pH in the ocean due to the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is a pressing issue that the shellfish industry has been paying attention to since it effects the success of their shellfish farms.  Sustainable practices help the company prepare for the long-term effects of climate change.

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Geoducks at Taylor Shellfish

The tour ended at Taylor Shellfish’s store that sells a variety of shellfish items, including smoked oysters and geoduck clam chowder!  Taylor Shellfish also has internships available, so if any Greeners are interested it could be a great opportunity to learn more about the shellfish industry.

Part of the sustainability theme is to attend a half day retreat.  So if this type of event looks like something you would want to be a part of, then definitely apply for sustainability themed housing for next year!  Applications are currently open.  The application can be found at: http://evergreen.edu/housing/themes/sustainability.htm

pH Data Logger for Aquaponics

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year Master of Environmental Studies candidate, Secretary/Treasurer of the Clean Energy Committee, and Sustainability Resident Assistant for the Mods.

CEC-Promotion-Flyer-Final-Draft-8.5x11There’s an exciting update in the world of RAD aquaponics!  Tilapia will be put into the system soon and RAD staff wanted to have the proper equipment to make sure the quality of the tilapia’s habitat can be measured as accurately as possible.  Monitoring the local environment that the tilapia live in allows RAD staff to make any necessary adjustments so the tilapia can continue to thrive in the RAD aquaponic greenhouse media-bed system.  For those who have not been in the greenhouse before, the pond for fish (which currently has goldfish in it), is built into the ground, so staff and visitors in the greenhouse walk on a platform above the pond.  This design saves room so the rest of the greenhouse can be utilized for other additions, like the barrels filled with water that passively help to heat and cool the greenhouse.

Funding for the pH data logger was awarded to RAD Sustainability by Evergreen’s Clean Energy Committee (CEC).  The Clean Energy Committee has hearings twice a quarter, where students, staff, and faculty can apply for funding for sustainability projects on campus.  An example of other RAD projects that CEC has funded include: the solar panels on top of Mod 302 and the compost heat recovery system.  Click on the flyer in this blog post to learn more!  Or email cleanenergy@evergreen.edu with any inquiries or questions.

Sustainability-Themed Housing

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year Master of Environmental Studies candidate, Secretary/Treasurer of the Clean Energy Committee, and Sustainability Resident Assistant for the Mods

Did you know Evergreen housing offers a sustainability theme?  Mod 303 is a place for residents interested in living an environmentally conscious lifestyle.  There are two rooms open in the theme for this year!  Current on campus residents interested in the sustainability theme can apply and live in one of the Mod 303 rooms for the remainder of this academic year.   Applications for the theme open on February 1, 2016.  The application can be accessed at this link: http://evergreen.edu/housing/themes/sustainability.htm.  Residents interested in sustainability-themed housing next year can also apply.

What does the sustainability theme entail?  Residents will attend a half day retreat at the beginning of fall quarter and will volunteer for ten hours a quarter in sustainability projects of their interest.  The sustainability housing community will meet together twice a quarter with the Sustainability Resident Director and the RAD Sustainability Crew Lead to brainstorm sustainability projects/ideas for the quarter.  For example, last year the sustainability community helped build a spiral herb garden in front of Mod 303.  I spent my volunteer hours in the RAD Aquaponic Greenhouse.  I did water testing, harvested plants, and fed the fish in the system.  The theme provides an opportunity for residents to get involved and contribute to campus sustainability projects!

If you have any questions about sustainability themed housing, RAD can be contacted at: rad@evergreen.edu, (360) 867-6132, or by stopping by the RAD Front Office on the third floor of A Building (Room 301).  If you have any questions about RAD Facilities’ sustainability projects or want to hear about ways to get involved, reach out to RAD Sustainability at radsustainability@evergreen.edu.

Using solar tubes as grow lights

Beside the aquaponics greenhouse there is a small shed with a solar tube penetrating the southernmost wall. This solar tube has a dome on the end of the tube outside of the shed. This dome takes in light from all directions and pushes it down the tube. Right below the dome, the inside of the tube is coated with panda film and below the panda film is a six inch aluminum tube. We are collecting data on the light intensity that it being reflected out of the end of the solar tube using a Hobo Pendant that captures light intensity in footcandles. We are also collecting light intensity data outside of the shed just above the solar tube’s dome. Our aim for this solar tube is to find the best way to direct sunlight, so we can give the bottom bed of plants in the aquaponics greenhouse access to more solar radiation. The alternative to this method is buying grow lights and setting them up above the plants. The solar tube method ultimately saves energy as the solar tube requires no energy and just redirects sunlight, but the grow lights require energy to run.

When we first installed the tube, we were getting very low readings for light intensity. We fashioned a twelve inch tube that was coated with panda film. We attached this new tube to the end of the solar tube inside of the shed and, for a while, our readings for light intensity were much greater than without this tube extension. On the 17th of April 2015, our light intensity readings decreased significantly after the twelve inch tube extension was applied. You can see this trend in the graph below. 

This is light and temperature data collected from the end of the solar tube, where we're hoping to push all the solar radiation.

This is light and temperature data collected from the end of the solar tube, where we’re hoping to push all the solar radiation.

In this graph, the blue line represent light intensity, which is calculated in footcandles (luminosity / feet^2). The black line is temperature. (Later in this blog post you’ll see we stopped recording temperature for the sake of using less space on our hobomonitor device. ) In an attempt to fix the drop in production and to increase the projected luminosity altogether, on May 6th we fashioned a six inch tube out of aluminum with no panda film lining. We’d learned about the fact that telescope mirrors are made of aluminum, so we wanted to see if it would reflect more solar radiation than the panda film. The graph below shows the light intensity at the end of the solar tube before and after attaching the new aluminum tube extension. 

This is light and temperature data collected from the end of the solar tube, where we're hoping to push all the solar radiation.

You can see that on May 6th, our light intensity readings increase drastically. May 6th was the day that we installed the new six inch aluminum extension to the tube, we can see that it seems to have increased our light intensity readings on both the 6th and the 7th. The plants we intend to grow in the bottom part of the greenhouse bed need a luminosity of about 1,000 footcandles, but our solar tube was giving us an average of about two-hundred. We uninstalled the solar tube and replaced it with a professionally made solar tube in hopes of increasing our luminosity readings. After collecting data on this new tube for two weeks, we’re seeing a small increase in luminosity. We’re hitting our mark of 1,000 footcandles, but only on some very sunny days and we only hit this mark for about 10 minutes each of these days. Although showing improvement, these readings are still too low to be usable for a growing space. The below graph shows the data we collected over the past two weeks. 

This is light and temperature data collected from the end of the solar tube, where we're hoping to push all the solar radiation.

From this graph you can see that our luminosity spikes at about 1,000, but it only does so for a few minutes at a time. The rest of the time the luminosity readings range between zero and 350.  The grow bed we’re trying to illuminate only has luminosity problems during the spring and summer seasons. During these seasons the sun is much higher than fall and winter and the top bed is shading the entirety of the bottom bed. During the fall and winter seasons, the sun is much lower in the sky and generates a good amount of light in the bottom bed, ranging between about 1,000 to 2,000. Since most of our dips in production are on cloudy days and on really sunny days we’re getting a decent amount of solar radiation, the new solar tube should be able to provide us with the luminosity we need during the summer and spring, but during the winter and fall the sun’s angle will provide the luminosity for us. 

Our next step is to install our solar tube into the side of the greenhouse and then plant some plants and see how well they grow. If these plants grow well, we’ll install a few more solar tubes to illuminate the remaining dark parts of the bed and increase our greenhouse’s food production.

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