Warren Wilson Recognized as a Top Sustainable College

Sullivan Foundation partner school Warren Wilson College has been recognized as a top sustainable college in the 2020 Sustainable Campus Index.

A publication from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing sustainable colleges and universities across the country for sustainable practices. The publication ranks the colleges overall and in 17 impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

Related: How Warren Wilson College remained COVID-free in the Fall 2020 semester

Warren Wilson College ranked third place overall among baccalaureate institutions. It also ranked third place in the area of investment and finance. It was especially recognized for its civic identity framework, a framework that prioritizes civic responsibility and sustainability as the core ethos for each student.

“Sustainability is foundational to who we are—it’s wrapped into our mission and into everything we do,” said Warren Wilson College President Lynn Morton. “We are proud to be recognized as one of the top sustainable campuses in the country by AASHE. It reflects the depth of our commitment to sustainable practices.”

Click here to view Warren Wilson College’s Sustainable Practices Guide.

In 2015, Warren Wilson became one of roughly 25 colleges and universities to pledge to divest totally from fossil fuels. As of this year, it is 99 percent divested. The college also follows a Zero Waste Initiative. Currently it diverts two-thirds of its waste from the landfill and has plans to divert 90 percent of all waste from the landfill by 2032.

this photo depicts a pastoral view of a barn at Warren Wilson College, one of the country's top sustainable colleges

The central campus has been named a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, a North Carolina Native Plant Sanctuary, a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation through Monarch Watch and a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Warren Wilson achieved top performer status by earning a gold rating in STARS, a system that measures more than 1,000 individual data points—from diversity, equity and inclusion to environmental stewardship, social justice and economic practices.

Related: Warren Wilson College delves into industrial hemp research

The STARS report also recognized Warren Wilson for its commitment to community engagement, shared governance structure, sustainable dining, practices of conducting species inventories on campus, the number of academic courses that include sustainability content, and the recently completed project that restored campus streams back to their original meanders and natural courses.

“Congratulations to Warren Wilson College for their incredible work in creating a more sustainable world,” said AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “Through the leadership and action of change agents within Warren Wilson College, I’m encouraged and hopeful that a just and equitable society will soon be realized.”

Warren Wilson College’s STARS report is publicly available on the STARS website:

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Warren Wilson College website.

This Sustainable Restaurant Will Top Its Pizzas With Rejected Veggies to Combat Food Waste

A soon-to-open pizza shop in San Francisco has food waste on the menu—and on top of all of its pies.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Shuggie’s Trash Pie & Natural Wine will offer wood-fired neo-Neapolitan-style pizzas and grandma pizzas featuring ingredients and toppings that ordinarily end up in a dumpster—and, ultimately, a landfill.

Scheduled to open in Spring 2021, Shuggie’s will buy produce that local farms would otherwise toss out as well as discarded bits and pieces of ingredients, such as cauliflower greens and snap pea ends. According to the Chronicle, Shuggie’s ricotta is made from a local farmer’s excess milk, and okara flour, which is a byproduct of tofu, will be used in their pizza dough. They will also use blemished but perfectly tasty food-waste tomatoes in their pizza sauce.

Shuggie’s pizzas will be paired with natural wines, which are typically made from grapes that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. The grapes are handpicked instead of harvested with machines, and no additives, such as fake oak flavor, sugar or acid, are used in the winemaking process.

this photo shows Kayla Abe and David Murphy, founders of a sustainable restaurant using food waste as its main ingredients

Kayla Abe and David Murphy are committed to sustainable practices in their new restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Ugly Pickle Co.)

Shuggie’s cofounders, Kayla Abe and David Murphy, also own Ugly Pickle Co. in San Francisco. Ugly Pickle uses “cosmetically challenged” produce to make private-labeled condiments like Bread N’ Buttah and Spicy Bread ‘N Buttah sandwich spreads as well as Carrot Top Chimi, Hawt Fry Ketchup, Dilly Carrots and Roasted Root Hummus. As the company’s name suggests, Ugly Pickle also offers Burger Party Dills, described as “that onion-y, stinky dill everyone seems to adore.”

Their produce “doesn’t sparkle like grocery store produce, and it probably isn’t sexy enough for your next Instagram post,” Ugly Pickle’s website explains. “What it is, though, is the three-legged carrot, the overgrown squash, the curved cucumber. Slightly misshapen, cosmetically blemished—perfectly edible, but imperfect enough to pass over.” All of these foods would most likely get tossed by farmers since they would be unappealing to consumers.

Abe and Murphy met at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and that’s where their Ugly Pickle products are currently sold. They have also hosted food-waste pop-ups around the city.

In Ugly Pickle’s first year, the company diverted 20,000 pounds of “unloved produce” from the country’s waste stream, according to a Kickstarter page for Shuggie’s.

this photo shows a variety of colorful dishes, made with food waste and surplus vegetables, to be offered at Shuggie's Trash Pies and Natural Wine in San Francisco.

Shuggie’s will offer a wide variety of pizzas and other dishes made with food that would otherwise go to waste in landfills. (Photo courtesy of Shuggie’s Trash Pies and Natural Wine)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says about 30 percent to 40 percent of the country’s food supply goes to waste. That’s food that could have gone to feed families in need. It’s also a bad use of land, water, labor and energy, the USDA notes. In 2015, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined together to set a goal to reduce the country’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

“We want to make it easy for people to take climate action through their food,” Abe told the Chronicle. “And we can do that by making it affordable and fun and really friggin’ tasty.”

This story has been edited from the original version featured on PMQ Pizza Magazine’s website and reposted with permission.

Furman University Announces New Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities

By Sarita Chourey, Furman University

We can have both—a healthy, thriving planet and a basic quality of life for all of humanity—and in fact, we must.

That belief drives the new Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University. The Shi Institute is a regionally centered, community-focused institute that promotes sustainable human flourishing through its centers for sustainability education, research and leadership.

The shift to a more broadly reaching institute culminates 11 years of progress and national renown as Furman’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability. On Oct. 27, Furman announced the new institute—an education, applied research and leadership resource truly unique to the Southeast.

Related: Is your pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out.

“It is our imperative to preserve the Earth’s limited natural resources for current populations, to achieve a just and equitable society for all, and to leave future generations with a planet capable of sustaining life and community,” said Furman President Elizabeth Davis. “The Shi Institute brings a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to our most pressing sustainability and community challenges while providing our students with formative learning experiences through our programs and partnerships within the region.”

Faculty and students, environmental scientists and economists, urban planners and policy experts, sustainability leaders and elected officials will collaboratively pursue sustainable communities at the Shi Institute, which operates in a net zero, sustainable showcase home in the heart of Furman’s campus.

“The Shi Institute fills a critical regional need and will serve as a conduit and crossroads for providing innovative ways to think and learn about sustainability, applying sustainability systems research to contemporary problems, and convening, connecting and educating the next generation of campus and community sustainability leaders,” said Wes Dripps, the institute’s executive director and a professor of earth, environmental and sustainability sciences.

this photo shows a group of students weeding under the solar panels at Furman University's solar farm.

Furman’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity weed under the solar panels at the university’s solar farm.

“The future of sustainable societies requires that we find ways to move forward in a collaborative, holistic way that views societal sustainability through the interaction of various systems—environmental, social and economic,” Dripps added. “This approach requires institutions with interdisciplinary expertise, conceptual imagination and local partnerships like we have.”

Related: Auburn University professor’s research aims to make more efficient use of solar energy.

The Shi Institute will house three centers: The Center for Sustainability Education, The Center for Applied Sustainability Research, and The Center for Sustainability Leadership.

The Center for Sustainability Education will offer novel sustainability education programs designed to provide new ways of thinking, collaborating, and problem-solving as well as the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The center already provides a vast array of high-impact student learning experiences, including working on the Furman Farm, living in the Greenbelt Sustainable Living Community, and participating in Furman’s flagship Student Fellows Program, which engages students in real world, campus and community sustainability fellowships. To date the Institute has hosted over 325 student fellows.

The Center for Applied Sustainability Research will be the preeminent place for individuals, groups, corporations, government agencies, nonprofits and universities to find leading sustainability research and assessments. The center will support applied community-based research with faculty, students and community partners aimed at creative solutions for developing communities that are socially just and equitable, environmentally sound and resilient, and economically viable.

The Center for Sustainability Leadership will convene, educate, develop and sustain a strong network of diverse regional educators, leaders and practitioners in the state of South Carolina. The center will support visionary, solution- and action-oriented leadership programs, workshops and events designed to empower this statewide network to advance the sustainability of our communities.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

Two Sullivan Foundation Partner Schools Ranked Among Top 50 Green Colleges

Two Sullivan Foundation partner schools—Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. and Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.—have been ranked in the Princeton Review’s 2020 list of the Top 50 Green Colleges in the U.S.

As a group, the top 50 schools have compelling statistics with respect to their commitment to sustainability, the Princeton Review explained on its website. All totaled, 21 percent of their total food purchases come from local sources and/or are organic, while 49 percent of their waste is diverted from incinerators or solid-waste landfills.

Additionally, 98 percent of the schools on the list offer a sustainability-focused undergraduate major or degree and 100 percent have a sustainability officer.

In roundup articles about why each school made the list, The Princeton Review quoted the students themselves. Catawba College’s students praised their school for its commitment to environmental sustainability. They also noted its 189-acre Fred Stanback Jr. Ecological Preserve, which serves as an outdoor classroom for professors and a relaxing place for getting back to nature.

Students said Guilford College was famous for its “accepting culture” and is “a place where you can express yourself free from judgment.”

“The Quaker college is known for being green (to put it mildly),” the Guilford report continued, “and the administration works to raise ‘student and individual awareness of the environment and everyday life through education and service learning.’”

The Princeton Review, headquartered in New York City, offers tutoring, test preparation and college admission services. It published its 11th annual Guide to Green Colleges in October, which was celebrated worldwide as Campus Sustainability Month.

Is Your Used Pizza Box Recyclable? Here’s How to Find Out

Used pizza boxes are technically recyclable, even if they’re stained with grease or cheese, according to a July report from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), but not all recycling facilities will accept them. Now Domino’s Pizza has launched a new website tool that will help customers figure out if their communities offer the option of pizza box recycling.

A Domino’s-commissioned study conducted by WestRock, a leading pizza box supplier and an AF&PA member, found that “the presence of grease and cheese at levels typically found on pizza boxes does not impact manufacturing in a negative way.”

“Corrugated pizza boxes are successfully recycled every day at paper mills throughout the country, yet consumers remain confused by mixed messages suggesting that some boxes should not be put in the recycle bin,” said AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock. “So, let’s be clear: Pizza boxes are recyclable. Consumers should not be concerned about grease or cheese; simply remove any leftover pizza and place the box in the recycle bin.”

Many environmentally minded consumers still believe that used pizza boxes are not recyclable. And many recycling experts still say pizza boxes can’t be recycled if they’re soiled with grease or cheese. According to Stanford University’s Stanford Recycling Center, the paper in soiled pizza boxes “cannot be recycled because the paper fibers will not be able to be separated from the oils during the pulping process. Food is a major source of contamination in paper recycling.”

Treehugger notes that the high rate of contamination in American recyclable materials is why China stopped accepting most recyclables from North America in January 2018.

But Domino’s and WestRock say their study demonstrates that pizza boxes with food stains are not a problem for recycling facilities. “We proved that the grease and cheese residuals, at the levels that are typically found in a pizza box, can make it through the recycling stream with no issue, and […] there’s no issues with the paper after we recycle the boxes,” Jeff Chalovich, WestRock’s chief commercial officer and president of corrugated packaging, explained to Fast Company in a July 22 article.

this photo shows a young woman eating pepperoni pizza from a recyclable pizza box that has a visible grease stain on the bottom.

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok of Pexels

To help consumers move past the confusing and often conflicting claims about recycling pizza boxes, Domino’s created a look-up tool on recycling.dominos.com. It uses zip codes to tell you whether your community’s recycling centers accept used pizza boxes. However, many recycling centers don’t have a clear policy. Search results on some zip codes state, “Recycling guidelines in your area suggest that corrugated boxes are accepted. However, it is not explicitly stated … Recycling guidelines in your area should be updated to explicitly state their acceptance.”

Recycling programs for pizza boxes are available to an estimated 73 percent of the U.S. population, according to a Resource Recycling Systems access study commissioned by WestRock in the fall of 2019. But consumers have long been told that these boxes can’t be recycled, and many end up getting discarded as trash.

“We have heard a lot of excitement from customers about pizza boxes being recyclable. However, sometimes they were confused about their local regulations,” said Jenny Fouracre, director of public relations for Domino’s. “This new tool on our recycling site should help to clarify the local regulations. We are also really happy to see communities nationwide communicating more clearly to residents that they do want pizza boxes in their recycling bins instead of the garbage cans.”

California Governor Signs “World’s Toughest” Recycling Law Covering Plastic Bottles

The state of California struck a well-aimed blow against plastic pollution on Sept. 25 when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that will require plastic beverage containers to be manufactured with recycled material—in amounts that will significantly increase over the next 10 years.

Companies that produce beverages—ranging from bottled water to sodas and sports drinks—will be required to use 15 percent recycled plastic in their bottles by 2022. The amount of recycled plastic must increase to 25 percent by 2025 and to 50 percent by 2030.

Plastics News said the legislation may be “the world’s toughest” law covering recycled content in plastic bottles, noting that it exceeds the European Union’s standards. But the online publication said legislators, under pressure from special-interest groups like the American Beverage Association, watered down the bill with “what some described as potentially significant ‘off ramps’ for companies to seek waivers that could limit the law’s impact.”

Plastic News reported that early versions of the California law required 75 percent recycled content in plastic bottles, but complaints from the beverage and bottle-making industry convinced legislators to soften the bill.

The American Beverage Association’s membership includes soft drink giants like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Coca-Cola has already pledged to switch to 50 percent recycled materials by 2030. PepsiCo last year said it would increase the amount of its recycled content to 35 percent by 2025.

California currently requires glass bottles sold in the state to be made of 35 percent recycled material, while 50 percent of newsprint must be made from recycled content, according to The Mercury News.

The law’s supporters believe it will help boost demand for recycled plastic, reduce litter in waterways and roads, and lower consumption of oil and gas used to manufacture new plastics. “This is the most ambitious, aggressive recycled plastics content law in the world,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told the Mercury News.

Out of the estimated 12 billion plastic bottles sold in California each year, about 70 percent are recycled, according to state statistics. Still, more than 3 billion bottles are not recycled and usually end up in landfills or as litter.

The problem of plastic pollution has been complicated by China’s decision two years ago to stop accepting many waste plastics for recycling. That left collectors of used plastic with few options for selling the material.

“We are doing a really good job of collecting things for recycling,” Murray said in the Mercury News story. “The difficult part has been finding an end-use market for it. This new law is about closing the loop. Now companies that manufacture the plastic bottles have to buy them back. They’ll have the responsibility.”

In a website post, Californians Against Waste said the law “has some characteristics that have made it a model [of] efficiency.”

“Like all bottle bills, the payment of a deposit by consumers (California Redemption Value or CRV) is the backbone of the program,” the post explains. “Consumers pay $0.05 for containers under 24 ounces and $0.10 for containers over 24 ounces. That money is returned to consumers when they recycle their containers or is ‘donated’ to a curbside operator or nonprofit recycler, depending on how the consumer chooses to recycle the container.”

“The CRV is essential to California’s high beverage container recycling rate and its low beverage container litter rate,” the post continues. “By putting a monetary value on the recycling of beverage containers, consumers are much more likely to recycle” plastic bottles rather than throw them in the trash or discard them outdoors.

The bill also requires manufacturers of beverage containers to pay a fee that goes to recyclers, helping them offset the cost differential between the cost to recycle that type of container and the value that type of recycled material fetches on the marketplace.

“Because the processing fee is much higher for difficult-to-recycle container types, like #3-7 plastic, California’s bottle bill incentivizes manufacturers to design their products with recyclability in mind.”

California State Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, authored the bill.

“The time has come for companies to step up and help us be good environmental stewards,” Ting told The Mercury News. “By boosting the market for used plastics, fewer containers will end up as litter.”

West Virginia Wesleyan College Unveils Solar Canopy With Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

West Virginia Wesleyan College, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, and key partners recently unveiled a solar canopy that will help reduce the school’s carbon footprint and boost its sustainability efforts.

The solar canopy houses four electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and has a solar capacity of approximately 60 kilowatts, which will provide the energy equivalent of the use of six average American homes for a year. In addition, the solar canopy has the potential to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions equivalent to the output of 13 average American cars for one year.

Thanks to the support of the energy sector, including alumnus Charles “Chip” Pickering of Pickering Energy Solutions, “The college is able to expand its solar footprint with the opening of the solar-powered canopy,” Joel Thierstein, president of West Virginia Wesleyan, said.

Related: Recycling cars in the modern world

Thierstein noted that the solar canopy joins the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library as the second on-campus entity with a clean-energy component. The solar canopy was made possible by a gift from Pickering and Pickering Energy Solutions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provided a federal grant to incentivize the investment by Pickering and Pickering Energy Solutions.

“We are very pleased to be able to support the sustainability efforts of West Virginia Wesleyan College,” Pickering said. “From their recycling programs to energy-efficiency projects, adding renewable energy provides support for the development and focus of the next generation of our future leaders.”

Other participants in the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Keri Dunn of Pickering Energy Solutions; Kris Warner of the USDA Rural Development; and Robert Fernatt of the West Virginia Electric Auto Association.

Related: Auburn professor’s research aims to make more efficient use of solar energy

“Pickering Energy Solutions is honored to be able to facilitate the use of clean energy and encourage the use of electric vehicles in West Virginia and specifically here at West Virginia Wesleyan College,” Dunn said.

“Having the ability to produce clean, renewable energy in West Virginia is an important asset that helps the West Virginia economy and rural communities by reducing energy costs and saving money that can be utilized in other key areas of the community,” Warner added.

“This is very exciting,” Thierstein later told a local TV station. “The students are excited to see this kind of thing because it means we are on the cutting edge. We are a state-of-the-art campus, and this is evidence that we are.”

This article has been adapted from the original version appearing on the West Virginia Wesleyan College website.

Scientists from Two Sullivan Partner Schools Lead Research Expedition to Antarctica

Professors from two Sullivan Foundation partner schools will lead a scientific expedition this month to study unexplored Antarctic waters, hoping to improve understanding of biodiversity undergoing rapid disruption due to a changing climate.

Twenty scientists will participate in the 14-week voyage, which begins on Sept. 20. The research will be led by Kenneth M. Halanych, a professor and Schneller Endowed Chair of biological sciences at Sullivan partner school Auburn University, and Kevin M. Kocot, assistant professor of biological sciences at Sullivan partner school University of Alabama and curator of Invertebrate Zoology for the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

Related: Duke University researcher tracks down cute mouse-like creature in the Horn of Africa

Other research leaders are Andrew Mahon, professor of biology at Central Michigan University; Deric Learman, professor of biology at Central Michigan; and Sarah Gerken, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Funded by four grants totaling more than $2 million from the National Science Foundation, researchers will explore the biodiversity, evolution and biogeographic patterns of animals and microbes living in the Weddell Sea. Using data and biological samples collected during the trip, the scientists will use morphological and molecular tools to assess Antarctic biodiversity and unrecognized genetic variation and patterns of relatedness between populations of marine Antarctic species.

Joint research by Halanych and Mahon attempts to understand environmental factors shaping patterns of diversity in the invertebrates living on the ocean floor in the Southern Ocean through studying their DNA. The findings will inform predictions about how species distributions may change as Antarctic ice sheets melt and how organisms adjust their geographic range in response to environmental changes.

Scientists from Sullivan Foundation partner schools Auburn University and the University of Alabama will lead a research voyage to the Antarctic to explore how climate change affects biodiversity in the region’s waters.

“An organism’s history is written in their genome,” Halanych said. “We will use evolutionary genomic tools to explore biodiversity in Antarctic marine invertebrates and use this information to inform us on how human-mediated climate change may shape populations of marine animals in the future.”

Antarctica is among the most rapidly warming places on the planet, and some reports suggest the Antarctic environment is approaching, or possibly beyond, the tipping point for ice-shelf collapse. The loss of ice around Antarctica is dramatically changing habitat availability for marine life, particularly invertebrate species living on the ocean floor.

Related: Oglethorpe University senior has simple solution to better protect Hawaii’s dolphins

“Antarctica is changing more quickly than anywhere else in the world,” Kocot said. “Conserving the deep sea and polar regions is really important, even if people don’t see it. Having this baseline of what lives there and having more people who can do that in the future is really important.”

For Kocot, this will be the first of two trips to the Antarctic waters over the next four years to find new species of aplacophorans, a group of poorly known worm-like mollusks with scales or spines, and to use advanced imaging and DNA sequencing techniques to identify and classify them.

Aplacophora is one of many groups of organisms diverse and ecologically important in the deep sea and polar regions, but they have been studied by just a handful of researchers worldwide. Kocot and his students aim to understand the diversity of this group and its evolution.

“If we don’t know what’s down there, we can’t know what we’re losing,” Kocot said. “We have to continue to explore the world.”

Similarly, Gerken is a leading expert on “comma shrimp,” formally called Cumacea, which are small crustaceans living in ocean sediment. Cumaceans are potentially ecologically important, occasionally occurring in high enough densities that grey whales prey on them, yet not much is known about them. Her planned monograph on the Antarctic Cumacea will provide a resource for future work in the region.

“It is a constant surprise how much there is left to learn about our world,” she said.

Work led by Learman aims to better understand how tiny organisms in the sea floor called microbes are impacting carbon cycling in an ecosystem experiencing massive changes. Through studying the genetics and function of microbes collected during the expedition, researchers will determine the species in the community and how they break down organic matter, which drives the distribution of nutrients in the sediment’s ecosystem.

“While microorganisms are the smallest forms of life on Earth, they are the gatekeepers of the cycling of essential nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen, and the foundation of the food chain that support larger and more complex forms of life,” Learman said.

Follow the researchers on their journey through their online blog at Icy Inverts.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Auburn University website.

Recycling Cars in the Modern World

By Carmen Adams

For most of history, humanity has been forced to recycle due to the general scarcity of materials. To make even something as simple as a shirt was hard work. But since the dawn of the industrial age, the production of goods has become increasingly faster, more effective and cheaper. The only thing that separates the modern human from a t-shirt (or a value pack of six) is the click of a button. But it has also become much easier to throw things away without a second thought.

Recycling of a Different Kind
When we usually think about recycling, the first thought that comes to mind is household waste. Recycling bins for paper, plastic, glass and metal have become ubiquitous. While small-scale consumer recycling definitely makes a difference, one of the most important avenues for recycling is something that you won’t be able to chuck in your nearest recycling bin.

Related: 10-year-old Ryan Hickman leads global recycling effort

More than 25 million vehicles reach the end of the road (no pun intended) every year. In the European Union alone, end-of-life- vehicles (ELV) generate close to 8 million tons of waste. That is a lot of waste! And, more importantly, a lot of potential for recycling.

In some parts of the world, ditching your car all together is an environmentally friendly move that is also realistic. Many European cities boast ultra-developed public transport systems that make a car-free life practical. Even commuting by bicycle is easy and more common. But for many, life without a car is not really an option, and the second best thing is recycling.

Recycling Vehicles
Recycling cars is not new. The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) was established in 1943 and is “an international trade association that represents an industry dedicated to the efficient removal and reuse of automotive parts and the safe disposal of inoperable motor vehicles.” Car recycling is a massive worldwide industry, and recycling technologies and techniques have developed in parallel with the technologies of the manufacturing industry.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Benefits of Recycling Cars
The environmental impact is obvious. To manufacture one large car creates about 55 gallons of dangerous waste. According to a report by the State of Washington Department of Ecology, recycling saves on an annual basis around:

  • 8 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel
  • 24 million gallons of motor oil
  • 8 million gallons of engine coolant
  • 5 million gallons of windshield washer fluid
  • 96% of all lead-acid batteries

In addition to reducing dangerous waste, around 18 million tons of steel is recycled from ELV’s on an annual basis. If you take into account that every ton of steel that’s recycled conserves about 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone, it becomes clear that recycling cars definitely makes a big impact.

Related: Art project featuring old bike wheels gives new meaning to “recycling”

The environmental impact is not the only benefit. I looked for a car recycling service to get the inside scoop, and I ended up making contact with the SellMax office in San Diego to find out more about the economic benefits of car recycling and to speak about the industry.

Their website lists an impressive collection of statistics:

  • In addition to its environmental impact, the car recycling industry generates over $25 billion a year in revenue. That’s a lot of money—and a lot of jobs!
  • It also turns out Americans are really good at recycling cars. In fact, cars are the most recycled item in the country, with around 12 million vehicles being recycled each year.
  • Every year, car recycling in North America produces enough steel to produce 13 million new vehicles and saves about 85 million barrels of oil.

How Does Car Recycling Work?
A surprisingly large percentage of a car can be recycled—more than 75%. When a car reaches the end of its life, it enters the recycling stream by either being taken to a junkyard or to an auto-recycling facility specifically meant for cars. It then undergoes a few basic steps:

  1. Inspection. The first question is one of economics: Would it have more value if repaired or recycled? If it’s clear that repairing it would not be profitable, the car is recycled. The vast majority of cars in a junk yard undergoes recycling.
  2. Draining. There’s a lot of juices flowing around in a car: oil, gas, brake fluid, transmission fluid etc. The car is drained, and dangerous waste is disposed, while other liquids like gas are salvaged.
  3. Dismantling. The usable parts of the car are removed. This includes the engine and transmission (if in suitable condition), and smaller items like tires, batteries, etc. Some of these parts are cleaned and sold as is or used to remanufacture components.
  4. Crushed. Once all the good stuff has been removed, the only thing that remains is the body, which is about 75% metals. The car is crushed, and the metal is recycled.

What about the remaining 25%? After the metal has been removed and the car is crushed, the part of the car that remains is known as the “shredder residue.” Usually, this ends up in landfills, which is both an environmental and economic concern. The issue is becoming increasingly worrisome since modern car producers are starting to employ more lightweight materials and moving away from heavy, composite metals, leading to an increase in shredder residue. However, the good news is that many institutions, like the United States Council for Automotive Research, are creating advanced technological processes for salvaging various items from the shredder residue.

Related: The Plastic Bank turns plastic waste into currency for the poor

With the help of salvaging processes, many valuable materials are salvaged from the residue, including plastic, polyurethane foam, polymers, even nylon from car carpets. More and more ingenious methods are invented to salvage materials in a way that makes it economic enough to validate reuse.

In a report by the Argonne Laboratory of the University of Chicago, it is explained that the recycling of these plastics and other organic material in the shredder residue saves the equivalent of around 23 million barrels of oil annually, resulting in a reduction of 12 million tons of greenhouse gases.

Recycle that Hunk o’ Junk!
As we move forward into the 21st century and recycling goes from just being the concern of the green-minded environmentalists towards a global problem that is imperative for the sustained wellbeing of all humans on the limit, the role of vehicle recycling will certainly continue to play an important part. So, if it’s time to start looking for a new ride, be sure that your old one ends up where it should!

Carmen Adams is a master’s student at San Diego State University. She has been passionate about bettering the environment since a young age. When she’s not studying, she’s spending much of her free time working with the Surfrider Foundation in San Diego.

Pioneer of Slow Money Movement Launches Beetcoin to Boost Small, Local Farms

When it comes to funding local farms and food startups, social entrepreneur Woody Tasch believes slow and small wins the race. That’s the principle behind the Slow Money Institute, which Tasch founded in 2009, and his latest initiative, Beetcoin.

The Slow Money Institute connects investors with independent farmers, thus “catalyzing the flow of capital to local food systems, connecting investors to the places where they live and promoting new principles of fiduciary responsibility that ‘bring money back down to earth,’” according the nonprofit’s website.

The institute promotes the formation of self-organizing local groups with a focus on local sustainable farming. The groups host public meetings, on-farm events and pitch events and help facilitate peer-to-peer loans, investment clubs and nonprofit clubs making no-interest loans. According to the website, the institute’s work has generated more than $73 million for 752 food enterprises “in deals large and small.”

this photo shows the family that owns Ollin Farms, a recipient of a SOIL group loan connected to the Slow Money Institute and Beetcoin.

Ollins Farms in Longmont, Colorado, received a zero-percent loan from a local SOIL group.

According to Denver publication 5280.com, Beetcoin, which grew out of the slow money movement, allows individuals “without deep pockets” to invest in locally owned agricultural businesses “committed to doing the right things for the earth.” These small donations from microinvestors are pooled, and the money goes to support  local Slow Money’s SOIL (Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally) groups, which give zero-percent loans to small farmers and startups.

“Our hope is that a large number of people chip in $10, $25, $50,” Tasch told 5280.com. “In the greater scheme of things, it’s small. We hope that, over time, it will grow.”

There are presently five SOIL groups in the U.S.—four in Colorado and one in Virginia. Those five groups thus far have received $1.25 million from 304 members and issued nearly $800,000 in zero-percent loans to 60 agricultural entrepreneurs. There is a membership fee of $250 to join the group, and all members get an equal vote on which projects to fund.

Recipients of loans have included Two Roots Farm in Basalt, Colo.; Ollin Farms in Longmont, Colo.; and Native Hill Farm in Fort Collins, Colo.

pictured are the owners of Two Roots Farm in Colorado, recipient of a loan from a SOIL group connected with the Slow Money Institute

Two Roots Farm, located in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, received a no-interest $7,500 loan from a SOIL group to help purchase materials for a mobile walk-in cooler and a drip-irrigation system.

To receive funding, farmers and food startup owners pitch their projects to the group and explain how they will make a positive impact on local food systems. The loans might be used to pay for a new tractor or a drip irrigation system, whatever is needed to improve the operation. Once the loan is repaid, the money goes back into the pool for future loans. “The money you put in stays in and recirculates indefinitely,” Tasch told 5280.com.

“We’re not kidding about the slow part,” Tasch added. “The idea is to very slowly grow this thing. We’re trying to build a movement of people who see that banding together with your neighbors to invest for the long-term health of the community is important … If we’re going to do what needs to be done in the world today, it’s going to take a lot of small local actions.”