Energy from human waste?
I spent this past summer in Kenya working with Sanergy, a social enterprise that provides sanitation facilities in a slum and collects human waste from them daily. Sanergy uses the “humanure” to create fertilizer through composting and biogas through anaerobic digestion. I know — it sounds gross. But the truth is, not only does this process keep waste out of the sewer system and off the streets of the slum, but it also generates a profitable product and a renewable source of energy. What’s not to love?
Back at school, a group of us from the sustainability office visited Madison County’s recycling center and saw the renewable energy initiatives underway there. While plans to put solar panels on top of the landfill are exciting, the methane extraction program, which turns gas from decomposing landfill waste into energy, was amazing! Large pipes divert methane from the landfill to a combustion machine, where the gas is converted into electricity. It’s used to run parts of the recycling plant, with the excess being sold back to the grid. Besides sequestering methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, this process provides a constant and renewable energy source that doesn’t involve the combustion of fossil fuels, and generates revenue for the recycling center. There’s also a pilot program to turn hard plastics into fuel. Madison County is setting the bar high for the future of trash disposal and recycling. — Sale Rhodes ’16, Green Raider
Prepping for an environmental career
As a communications intern for Environment America in Washington, D.C., last summer, Sara Reese ’16 worked to gain media attention about issues like global warming, protecting national parks, and clean energy and to build relationships with reporters, advocacy groups, and decision makers. She wrote about it on the summer internship blog.
“One of the most rewarding moments was being able to attend President Obama’s climate change speech in late June. Most of my work in May and June was targeted at the president, asking him to act on climate change,” she wrote. “Not only has this internship exposed me to the interaction between advocacy, the environment, and politics, but it has also taught me the toughness, hard work, and passion needed in the environmental field.”
Student interest in green jobs is growing, so Colgate regularly taps alumni working in environmental sustainability fields for its career exploration programs. For example, participants in this year’s SophoMORE Connections event in January ranged from Richard Tisch ’70, an attorney specializing in environmental compliance, to Steve Bosak ’90, executive director of the Society for Ecological Restoration, to Stephen Dickinson ’13, Colgate’s own sustainability program assistant, among others. (Bosak, by the way, administers the Colgate Sustainability Group on LinkedIn, which welcomes alumni and students.)