Category: Eco-Ambassadors (page 1 of 4)

Where does Boston’s wastewater go?

This June, the Office of Sustainability organized a field trip to the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. Current and future Eco-Ambassadors spent a cloudy Friday morning touring the plant and learning about the life cycle of their wastewater, from the drain to Boston Harbor. The field trip encouraged mindfulness about water consumption and showed how wastewater treatment is engineered to maximize efficiency, providing wastewater management for decades to come.

In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Clean Water Act. The act, among other things, required cities to process wastewater with both primary and secondary treatment. In 1987, Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) with the goal of updating Boston’s wastewater treatment to comply with the new EPA standards. In 2000, after a decade of planning and construction, the current Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant was completed.

Deer Island services 2.5 million people in the Metropolitan Boston area and processes an average of 370 million gallons of wastewater daily. How does wastewater “influent” make it to Deer Island? Gravity drives influent through conveyance tunnels underneath the city.  Massive pumps lift the influent 80 to 150 feet up into the plant. Deer Island has a wastewater capacity of 1.3 billion gallons per day, and on rainy days more pumps are brought online to accommodate increased influent. 

Process Control Project Manager Timothy Beaulieu explains primary treatment to the group

After arriving at Deer Island, influent undergoes primary treatment. Grit is removed and disposed of at landfills, then clarifiers remove pollutants. At this stage, about 60% of suspended solids and 50% of pathogens and toxic chemicals are removed. Gravity separates sludge and scum from the wastewater – scum sits on top of the water while sludge sinks to the bottom.

Once primary treatment is complete, wastewater continues to secondary treatment. Mixers, reactors, and clarifiers remove remaining solids through biological and gravitational processes. Deer Island manufactures oxygen to feed microorganisms which consume dissolved organic matter. After secondary treatment, 85% of pollution has been removed from the wastewater.

Effluent is disinfected and then dechlorinated before diffusing into Massachusetts Bay

The final step before wastewater “effluent” is discharged is disinfection. Effluent is treated with sodium hypochlorite to kill any remaining pathogens, then sodium bisulfite is added to dechlorinate the water. Effluent is released into the Massachusetts Bay through over 50 individual diffuser pipes, ensuring rapid and thorough mixing with ocean water. The effluent is monitored for appropriate chemical and oxygen levels to protect the local ecosystem.

Egg-shaped digestors use bacteria to break down sludge and scum to produce fertilizer

But what happens to the sludge and scum leftover from primary treatment? The solids are first thickened in centrifuges, then added to egg-shaped anaerobic digestors. The digestors are huge, 90 feet wide and 130 feet tall, and carefully maintain a pH and temperature that mimic the human body. Bacteria already present in the waste break down the sludge and scum into methane gas, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The methane is captured and converted into 95% of Deer Island heating needs and 20% of electricity needs.

Digestion reduces sludge and scum quantities by 55%, and the remaining solids are pumped to the MWRA pelletizing facility in Quincy. The resulting organic nitrogen fertilizer, meeting strict EPA and MA Department of Environmental Protection requirements, is used in agriculture and forestry. Additionally, air from Deer Island is scrubbed of sulfur using filters and activated carbon to prevent sulfur dioxide emissions.

After visiting Deer Island, it’s clear that the plant is designed to operate in the most sustainable way possible. Every output – water, air, gas, solids – is either cleaned to meet environmental standards or repurposed as energy or fertilizer. Residents can rest assured that their wastewater is properly treated thanks to the care and effort of Deer Island planners, engineers, and operators. 

2018 Green Office Certification And Eco-Ambassador Ceremony And Reception

Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

On Thursday, July 12th, the Office of Sustainability held a ceremony and reception for new Eco-Ambassadors and Green Offices. Sustainability-minded employees from all four of Tufts’ campuses convened to be recognized by Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco in the Coolidge Room of Ballou Hall.

Throughout the historic room, attendees could view posters with information about the Green Office and Eco-Ambassador programs as well as information about Tufts’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Offices were also able pledge to reach a higher level of Green Office certification in the future and write down any ideas they had about ways Tufts could be more sustainable. Some submitted ideas included reducing the use of plastic water bottles and the frequency of leaf blowing around campus.

Attendees mingled, exchanged ideas about sustainability, and enjoyed a delicious spread courtesy of Tufts Catering.

Shoshana Blank making her opening remarks (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

Shoshana Blank, the Office of Sustainability’s Education and Outreach Program Administrator,  then gave the opening remarks. Outlining the history and descriptions of the Green Office and Eco-Ambassador programs, she emphasized the important role the employees being recognized at this ceremony play in furthering sustainability efforts and creating a culture of sustainability at Tufts.

President Monaco recognizing sustainable initiatives at Tufts (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

She then introduced President Monaco, who began by highlighting in detail many of the operational and institutional changes being made to make Tufts’ campuses more sustainable, such as the newly LEED Gold certified SEC and the Central Energy Plant that will help reduce Tufts’ emissions.

President Monaco went on to emphasize that the grassroots efforts on the part of the Eco-Ambassadors and Green Offices are equally important in developing a culture of sustainability and engaging sustainable behaviors in students and other employees. The synthesis of efforts from both the administration and grassroots levels helps further sustainability goals at the university.

 

President Monaco awarding a Green Office certificate to the Fletcher Office of Admissions Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

President Monaco presented all of the offices that were certified or re-certified as Green Offices this year with their respective certificates depending on the level they attained. This year’s new Eco-Ambassadors were also called up to be recognized and for a group photo.

New Eco-Ambassadors group picture! (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

As a part of the ceremony, two Eco-Ambassadors were called up to share their stories about how they have helped make their offices more sustainable. Misha D’Andrea, from the SMFA’s Office of Admissions, explained how she learned about sustainability efforts at Tufts during her new employee orientation. Excited, she immediately started working with her fellow staff member Brianna Florio to get their office Green Office Certified – a first for the SMFA campus. Misha and Brianna also became the SMFA’s first Eco-Ambassadors.

Misha D’Andrea speaking about sustainability efforts at the SMFA (Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University)

Together, they helped make their office more sustainable by promoting compost, green commuting, using recycled paper, and other small sustainable changes staff members could easily make. In addition, they helped make Jumbo Day, the SMFA’s accepted students day, a zero-waste event by purchasing compostable plates, cups and utensils through an Eco-Ambassador grant. They also joined the SMFA Sustainability Task Force, spearheaded by a SMFA faculty member, that is made up of faculty, staff and students who want to make the campus more sustainable.

Freedom Baird from the Medford/Somerville campus Educational Technology Services recalled feeling pleasantly surprised that sustainability was a part of her new employee orientation. For her, this represented the university’s recognition of sustainability as an important issue and part of the campus culture. Excited, she immediately reached out to Shoshana and joined in on the Eco-Ambassador training.

Photo: Nicholas Pfosi for Tufts University

Thinking of ways she could help her office become more sustainable, Freedom noticed that her building purchased large 5 gallon bottles of water that had to be replaced frequently. She began putting together a survey to see if people in her building would be willing to switch to a water filtration system instead, which would greatly reduce plastic waste.

In crafting the survey, she used many of the tips from her Eco-Ambassador training. Freedom demonstrated to everyone at the ceremony how difficult it was to replace the large containers of water every time a new one was delivered through a dramatic performance. She noted that not having to do this anymore was a big sell for purchasing a water filtration system instead.

The event was a great way to celebrate individual employees and offices working to make Tufts a more sustainable place. Learn more about the Green Office Certification program and the Eco-Ambassadors program on our website.

December 2017 Eco-Ambassador Session #2 – Medford

Session Summary:

We started off our second session by hearing from a current Eco-Ambassador, Rachel Brown, on the office sustainability projects that she has worked on over the years. Then we discussed water, including where Tufts’ water comes from, water conservation projects at the university, and ways you can conserve water in your offices. Carlos Robles from MassRIDES joined us to talk about transportation options and resources available to Tufts employees on the Boston and Medford campuses. We reviewed ways to “green” meetings and events and looked at green event resources on the OOS website. We went over energy use and infrastructure at Tufts, as well as upcoming energy projects and ways to conserve energy in our offices. To end the day, we sorted “Eco-labels” and talked about which are reliable and unreliable and reviewed some purchasing tips and resources.

Assignments for next week:

  • Introduce yourself as an Eco-Ambassador to your officemates
  • Meet with your supervisor/Eco-Ambassador team
  • Create a draft community-based social marketing plan using this worksheet. Email to Shoshana by Friday, January 12.

Next Steps:

  • Now that you have more familiarity with these topics, it could be a great time to finish the green office certification checklist that you started before, to get your office green office certified.

 Additional Resources

Water:

Transportation:

  • Tufts’ Commuter Benefits: Visit the Tufts Human Resources websitefor information about how you can get transit passes with pre-tax funds.
  • Transportation Incentives & Regional Programs: folks on all campuses can sign up for NuRide to find carpool partners and earn rewards for your “green” trips.  Employees on the Medford and Grafton campuses, can sign up for MassRIDES’ Emergency Ride HomeABC TMA provides incentives to employees on the Boston Campus, including the Guaranteed Ride Home Program.
  • Public Transportation: Visit the MBTA websitefor information on the rail, bus, subway, and commuter boat systems and access to helpful resources such as schedules & mapsreloading your CharlieCard online, and MBTA apps.
  • Tufts Shuttles: Find information about Tufts’ shuttles, including schedules and the live tracker, here.
  • BikingMassBikeoffers a wide range of bicycle safety and maintenance courses as well as extensive online resources about bike laws, local bike clubs, guides for new bikers, and much more. Learn more about bike safety from the Tufts University Police Department. View the City of Somerville Bicycle Routes map here.
  • General Transportation Info: Visit the EPA’s websitefor information about transportation and climate change, regulations related to greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and how to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For guests traveling to campus: Provide information about how to travel to your campus via public transportation.  This page(and its subpages) have some good resources and language.
  • Transportation Brochures and Maps: Visit the Office of Sustainability’s Publications Libraryfor electronic versions of our various transportation-related handouts.

Meetings & Events:

Energy:

Purchasing:

Additional Topics of Interest:

  • The Environmental Studies program organizes weekly Lunch & Learns about environmental and sustainability topics that are open to all members of the Tufts community (free food is provided!) – learn more and see a schedule of upcoming speakers here.
  • There are CSA farm shares that deliver directly to the Medford and Boston campuses.  This is a great way to get fresh produce delivered conveniently to Tufts.  Click here for more information.
  • Meet other Eco-Ambassadors at Tufts – click here for a list(you will be added shortly!).

Contacts

Shoshana Blank

Education & Outreach Program Administrator

Shoshana.Blank@tufts.edu

(617)627-2973

Rachel Brown

Eco-Ambassador

Rachel.Brown@tufts.edu

(617)627-7957

Carlos Robles

MassRIDES

Carlos.Robeles@state.ma.us

Commute.com

 

November 2017 Eco-Ambassador Session #1 – Medford

Session Summary:

During our first meeting, we discussed the history of the Eco-Ambassador program and the role of Eco-Ambassadors, as well as the definition and meaning of “sustainability.” We also went through an overview of sustainability at Tufts and the goals for water, waste, and energy and emissions set forth in the Campus Sustainability Council Report. We then discussed waste and recycling at Tufts.  To round out the day, we talked about behavior change and the steps to creating a Community-Based Social Marketing plan, followed by an overview of climate change, its impacts, and how it will specifically impact the Boston area.

Assignments for next week:

  • Do your personal behavior change challenge! We will report back to each other about how it went.
  • Introduce yourself as an Eco-Ambassador to your officemates, your department, etc. This can be informal in person, or maybe you want to do a cute email?
  • Check that you have the proper Landfill and Mixed Recycling labels on your waste bins and that you have a blue lid on the recycling lid. Also, assess if you want a wall sign sticker to go above your waste bins. Please bring a list of what you need to next week’s session.
  • Start brainstorming behavior change ideas for your office (some of you have some ideas already!)

Additional Resources

Sustainability at Tufts:

Behavior Change:

Climate Change:

Waste & Recycling:

Contacts

Shoshana Blank

Education & Outreach Program Administrator

Shoshana.Blank@tufts.edu

(617)627-2973

Gretchen Carey

Recycling and Organics Coordinator

RepublicServicesGCarey@republicservices.com

(781)560-1412

 

Recycle (General)

Recycle@tufts.edu

Go.tufts.edu/recycle

 

Eco-Ambassador Grant Launches Reusable Cups Initiative, Diverts Significant Waste

Participants in the Eco-Ambassador program are eligible to receive a sustainability grant of $200 towards a sustainability initiative or project in their office or department.

Last year, Lynne Ramsey, an Eco-Ambassador in the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), noticed that participants in the Center’s summer workshops for children were using up to 5 disposable cups a day during snack breaks. So for this summer’s sessions, Lynne used her grant to purchase CEEO-branded reusable plastic cups from a local producer. All workshop attendees, instructors, and CEEO’s undergraduate student workers received a cup. Lynne estimates that the initiative eliminates the waste of over 5,000 disposable cups.

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The cups not only replaced single-use paper cups during the event but also display information about the waste and deforestation created by paper cups every year. In this way Lynne’s initiative fulfilled a key principle of sustainable events: to extend sustainable behavior and awareness beyond the single event and into the future.

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Lynne and CEEO hope to continue the initiative into the future, incorporating reusables into all of their summer workshops.

For more information about sustainable event principles as well as checklists to guide you through hosting your own events, review or download our Green Event Resources ebook.

Learn more about the Eco-Ambassador program and consider applying to become a sustainability leader in your office.

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