Archive for March, 2012

Campus FREEmarket Opening

SEAC’s Recycling Campaign hates to see things to to waste. This semester, they have tackled the “Reuse” vertex of the 3-R triangle, in an exciting new initiative to reduce waste on campus.

Members of the Recycling Campaign pose in the FREEmarket room

Starting this Saturday, the Campus FREEmarket will be opening in the SEAC office. The FREEmarket provides a place for students to unload used items, and to adopt and repurpose items that are new to them. The FREEmarket is already home to items ranging from clothes and shoes to mugs and school supplies. The FREEmarket will help to cut down on waste on campus, and will provide students with an alternative to purchasing new items.

The FREEmarket will be staffed by members of SEAC’s Recycling Campaign during the following hours:

8 pm -10 pm on Tuesday
11 am – 1 pm on Wednesday
1 pm – 5 pm on Saturday
1 pm – 5 pm on Sunday

In order to take items from the FREEmarket, students need only present a William & Mary student ID.

On Saturday, 3/31 at 2 pm, there will be a grand opening for the Campus FREEmarket in the SEAC office, located in the Campus Center. The FREEmarket will be officially open for business, and a reception will be held with snacks and drinks. BYOM – Bring your own mug!

To keep up with news about the Campus FREEmarket, join the Facebook page and follow the FREEmarket on Twitter! For specific information about Saturday’s event, visit the Facebook event page.

A view of the FREEmarket

March 31st, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Toxic Algal Bloom on Lake Erie

Image Source: NASA

March 28th, 2012

Water Watch

Algal Bloom in Lake Erie, 2011 - Satellite Image

Algal Bloom in Lake Erie, 2011 – Satellite Image

This semester’s Environmental Science and Policy seminar is all about water, arguably our most precious resource. As we contend with pollution, a changing climate and a growing population, learning more about how to protect our supply of fresh, potable water will be critical to our survival.

The first seminar speaker was Dr. Steven Wilhelm, a professor of microbiology at the University of Tennessee and a researcher of marine and freshwater microbial ecology. Wilhelm predicted that changes in water’s natural distribution will be one of climate change’s biggest effects. Old infrastructure, combined with heavy usage – North Americans, Wilhelm said, use 400 liters of water within a day – will exacerbate this issue. Our current and pending problems with water security make it all the more crucial, Wilhelm argued, to learn how to monitor and protect the water we have not yet polluted.

Wilhelm’s talk focused on the ecology of freshwater harmful algal blooms and their impacts on Lake Erie. He showed that sometimes, the biggest impact on an ecosystem can be caused by something very small. An algal bloom is an overgrowth of algae in a body of water, typically caused by an overloading of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. Organisms in algal blooms can produce toxins that impact the quality of water and the health of people who depend on it. The particular organism Wilhelm discussed is a cyanobacteria called microcystis, which produces a toxin, microcystin, and another unidentified substance with endocrine-disrupting effects. The Great Lakes system contains about 84% of North America’s surface freshwater, so determining the causes of microcystis proliferation in Lake Erie and identifying preventive measures are crucial to protecting our water supply.

To investigate algal blooms, researchers use genetic probes to search out cells that are toxic or potentially toxic. However, the process of studying an algal bloom is not as simple as locating a population of microcystis, or any other toxic cell. The responses of microcystis and other organisms are dependent on the complex interactions of their entire ecosystem. It is no wonder that the scientific methods used to study them must transcend studying the genes of individual organisms, and instead compare whole communities. Through techniques in a field called metagenomics, scientists can study genetic material taken directly from the environment, in all its complexity. Using metagenomics methods, Wilhelm and his research team have been able to determine the relative abundance of microcystis in Lake Erie. They’ve also been able to identify whether these cells have the capability of producing the toxin.

Among their discoveries, Wilhelm and collaborators found that other organisms in addition to microcystis produce the microcystin toxin. They also found that the environmental factors controlling bloom formation are different from those regulating toxin production. Uncovering what exactly these environmental factors are, as well as comparing the presence of different organisms in bloom and non-bloom conditions will help to unravel the mysteries behind bloom formation and toxin production.

Dr. Wilhelm’s talk emphasized that ecosystems are immensely complicated. Algal blooms provide a fascinating opportunity to explore new scientific techniques in metagenomics, but they are also an indication that we should be very careful about what we put into our water. Lake Erie, like all other bodies of water, contains delicately balanced ecosystems that are all-too easy to disrupt, and both toxic inputs and a changing climate may cause further changes. In the world of water, nature’s complexity calls for care and, of course, for scientific investigation.

Sharon Hartzell

Image Credit: MERIS/NASA; processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOS. July 2nd, 2013. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Retrieved from

March 28th, 2012

W&M Dining Interns: Staying Busy! Staying Green!

W&M Dining Sustainability Interns are certainly staying busy working both inside and outside of our dining locations. Several initiatives are currently at the forefront of their list of things to do! Increasing participation in the reusable to go containers, available at the Commons FFCo. and the Sadler Center RFoC, has allowed the interns to brainstorm on different ways for this program to work efficiently.

RecycleMania, a recycling competition that W&M placed 1st in the state of Virginia, is currently going on and our sustainability interns held a Recycle Fair in Lodge One of Sadler Center with a chef demo with local soy beans, peanut butter and jam, sustainable crafts and a pledge your commitment banner signing table. This event was a huge success.

Also, maintaining the campus gardens that are outside of the Commons and the School of Business have kept the interns busy! Our newest garden, right along the patio outside of Boehly Café and Java City, was visited by none other than W&M President Taylor Reveley. Interns had the chance to show the President the new garden, help him plant tomato seeds and expound on what other sustainable initiatives W&M Dining is involved in.

March 23rd, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Story of Stuff

Catch the rest of the story at

March 21st, 2012

COS Seeks Students for Steering Committee

Attention, Eco-students!

COS is looking for two undergraduates who are passionate about sustainability to serve on the Steering Committee next year.

As a member of the Steering Committee, students will work with faculty, staff and administrators to implement sustainability programs on campus and serve as faithful stewards of the student Green Fees. As a Steering Committee representative, a student would co-chair a subcommittee and expect to spend about 5 hours per week on COS related activities, as well as attend monthly Steering Committee meetings. Students interested in a Steering Committee position must fill out an application at the link above.

Applicants will be chosen based on their application and interviewed if necessary. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 30, 2012.

March 20th, 2012

Spicing Up Campus with Herbs!

Hello, my name is Michael Curcio and I am a dining service sustainability intern, hired by Aramark to make the college and Dining Services more environmentally friendly. Such projects include managing the to-go boxes, setting up composting in dining halls and residences, participating in Recyclemania, and hosting events of an environmental flavor. Another aspect of sustainability that Dining Services is expanding is herb gardens. Herbs are quick and easy to grow in suitable quantities for cooking. However, they are often expensive to buy and may come from far away vendors. Currently we are working on installing herb gardens in all of the dining halls and food vendors. The Commons, or Caf, has had one for several years and the School of Business recently got a major overhaul of its herb garden. As for Sadler and the Market Place, plans are underway to build herb gardens there as well.

Sad and neglected, the old School of Business herb garden was in need of some work. It was a small plot of land and the cooks at the café there loved using the fresh products grown there. As such, we decided to expand and improve this wonderful location to provide an abundance of produce for sandwiches, salads, and burgers. Three interns, Wesley Meyer, Katie Gehron, and myself outlined three large growing plots, tilled the soil, and added compost and mulch. After several days of work, and adding some brick borders and pathways we neared completion on the project and readied it for planting. Within the next week or two, we shall return to put up a fence and photograph the garden with President Reveley.

Now that it is spring time, we will also be busy with planting. With the large amount of new space, we will plant herbs such as Cilantro, Watercress, Dill, Summer Savory, Sorrel, Chives, Basil, and Parsley. These will hopefully add some local flavor to all sandwiches made at the Café. As for produce to flavor soups and garnish burgers, there shall be Tomatoes, Summer Squash, Okra, Cucumbers, and Sweet Peppers. We are very excited to try out our new gardens and get planting. Swing by the Business School Café in the coming months to sample the food and taste the fresh local produce.

Michael Curcio
Sustainability Intern

March 19th, 2012

Become a RecycleManiac – Tonight!

RecycleMania is a 10 week challenge among campuses nation wide to see which school can produce the least amount of total waste. Colleges and universities report how much recycling and trash is collected each week and are ranked based off of several different categories. The competition began on February 5th and will end on April 6th this year.

The College of William and Mary participates in this competition each year. The College finished number one in the state of Virginia last year and 17th in the nation. This year, we are hoping to remain number one in Virginia and improve our standings nationwide. The Flat Hat recently interviewed several members of our dining staff about this program and what step W&M Dining takes to be more sustainable. (See this entry on Hark Upon the Green!)

In order to spread awareness of this competition, W&M Dining and the sustainability interns will be holding a Recycle Fair in Lodge 1 on Thursday, March 15 from 11:30am – 2pm. Students will have the opportunity for pledge their commitment to recycling and learn more about the competition. We will also have games, giveaways and sustainable crafts available. A chef will be preparing a soy bean entrée for sampling as well as a tasting of two flavors of Jan’s Jams, a local jam purveyor.

We hope to see the campus community there!

March 15th, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

‘Cause and Consequence’ by

Image Source

March 14th, 2012

Raising Awareness About Recycling

The College of William and Mary has become known as a “green” institution, but for one 10-week period, some students become recycling maniacs.

Starting Feb. 5, the College began competing against colleges throughout the United States and Canada in Recylemania, a contest in which schools earn rankings based on the percentage of their waste they manage to recycle. The winning school receives a trophy and a banquet in its honor. The contest ends April 4.

“It’s all about awareness,” Lawanda Hutchinson, location manager at the Sadler Center, said. “The event is meant to encourage students and even faculty members to look at what materials they have that may be recycled or composted.”

The program began in 2001 as a competition between Ohio State University and Miami University to inspire enthusiasm in students to recycle. After the success of the first year, the schools began inviting other colleges to participate. In 2011, more than 630 schools participated, conserving 91 million pounds of materials. The program began at the College in 2007, and last year the school finished in first place in the state of Virginia and 17th in the entire contest.

Director of Operations Larry Smith, who helps supervise the work of sustainability interns for William and Mary Dining Services, attributed this past success to the interns who work on the program.

“The sustainability interns have been great,” Smith said. “What has made us successful in the past is the way that the interns have worked to market the project around the campus. They’re available for anyone who may want to help out the program.”

Dining Services intern Michael Curcio ’15 added that environmental awareness on campus has also been a factor in the program’s success.

“Students at William and Mary are generally very environmentally conscious,” he said. “We have a lot of Wawa food, and people know about materials that can be recycled.”

Many different campus organizations are involved the program. Waste Management helps to collect and weigh the trash from campus, while TFC Recycling does the same for recyclables. Hutchinson assists in submitting the weights and percentages to Recyclemania for recording. William and Mary Facilities Management helps by locating all dumpsters and depositories for items.

“We’ve taken on the whole campus,” Hutchinson said. “At first it was slow, trying to locate all the trash and recyclables for each facility because they were in different locations. Facilities Management was important in helping us find all the recyclables we could get credit for. It was really a one team buy in.”

In recent years, the program has grown and now allows schools to compete by participating in a video contest and by counting electronic devices, such as old cell phones, printer cartridges and used batteries, among recycled items. In order to further reduce the level of waste at the College, the group has created a composting center near Sorority Court. The group at the College hopes to take advantage of these new opportunities.

“One of our interns will be going to [Earl Gregg Swem Library] and other locations this year in order to make sure that we can collect all the waste from the electronic devices,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been getting some nice weights from these. We’ll also be doing a video for the contest’s website.”

The program’s success hinges on whether students at the College can recycle as much as possible. Student leaders encourage their fellow Tribe members to remain conscious of items they may be able to recycle. To boost student involvement, a recycling fair will be hosted at the College March 17.

“The easiest way for students to get involved is for them to make sure that when they have recyclable materials such as glass bottles, they put them in a proper recycle bin,” Curcio said. “This is the easiest way for students to get active in the program, and we will be advertising as best we can to get the word out.”

Despite success in the past, the leaders in the program hope to improve in Recyclemania 2012.

“I want to see us move up more in the national rankings,” Hutchinson said. “When students find out about what we do, they’ll want to get involved and make this happen.”

Written By: Stephen D’Alessio
Published February 27, 2012 in The Flat Hat
Link to article

March 13th, 2012


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