Environmental, Economic, and Social Sustainability at JMU

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James Madison University engineering students Robert McCloud (’12), Timothy Brooks (’12), Jack Cash (’12), Kent Graham (’12), and Connor Heede (’12), are developing a more sustainable method to dispose of food waste on the JMU campus.

Currently, a portion of the food waste generated on the JMU campus is transported to Roanoke for composting through third party arrangements. The remaining waste ends up in a landfill where anaerobic decomposition of the decaying organic material releases methane, a gas with twenty five times the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide. Additionally, transportation of the food waste to off campus areas contributes to carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels in trucks carrying the load.

Under the direction of Engineering assistant professors, Adebayo Ogundipe and Robert Nagel, students are creating an on-site aerobic composting reactor as part of their senior capstone design project. The prototype is inspired by a need to find a more sustainable means of disposing food waste which is generated from on-campus dining facilities and debris collected by the university grounds crew.

The reactor is being designed and optimized for minimal reaction time as well as minimal emissions of greenhouse gases and odoriferous gases. This includes ascertaining the appropriate carbon-nitrogen ratio and designing auxiliary processes for pretreatment, intermittent agitation, water removal and emissions monitoring.

On October 14, students presented details of their senior capstone design project, “Industrial Scale Composting at James Madison University,” at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) 2011 Conference and Expo in Pittsburgh, PA.

In addition, students received the prestigious People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award by the Environmental Protection Agency to design and build a prototype of their design, which will be exhibited at the Annual National Sustainable Design Expo in 2012.

The project, designed for implementation on the campus of JMU, is intended to promote the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of James Madison University and the surrounding Harrisonburg community.

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Published: Saturday, September 24, 2011

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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