This story is the second in a three week series highlighting the 12 senior capstone projects. With Earth Day taking place in the month of April, these stories highlight the work students are doing to promote sustainability and respect for the environment.
Senior capstone students are taking initiative to learn more about the environment, how they can reduce their impact on it, and how they can promote sustainability on campus and in their own lives.
Wanda Knapik, environmental studies professor and co-professor of the capstone class, commented on the benefits of the various projects the students in the class are working on.
"There are many ways for students to learn about the astonishing beauty and abundance of the natural world, to develop a deep respect for the web of life that supports us all, providing humanity with clean air, water and food to survive," said Knapik. "They learn by caring for the plants in the campus garden, by engaging with local environmental non-profits - assisting them with projects - and by helping local organic farmers in the field. They connect with nature and grow, becoming better stewards of planet Earth and helping to regenerate our fragile ecosystems."
The three senior capstone projects highlighted below focus on efforts to promote sustainability both on campus and in the nearby Rahway River.
Reducing Food Waste on Campus
Julie Schneider and Krista Georgalas have partnered with the South Orange Environmental Commission on a public education campaign geared towards showing students on campus the reality of how much waste is produced and introducing ways they can help restore the quality of the air, water, and open space.
They researched ways people, both on campus and in the nearby community, can reduce their use of plastics and waste, focusing specifically on the dining hall and the Dunkin Donuts on campus. They have also been collaborating with members of the Food Recovery Network.
Gourmet Dining Services, and the Student Government Association to gather more information and look at various ways they can further reduce waste on campus and educate students.
They will be working with the Food Recovery Network to perform a food recovery audit at the end of April to get a better grasp on the food waste that occurs on campus and inform their strategy to prevent it. They have connected the Greek community with these efforts as well, and these students will help with the audit and trips to deliver the recovered food being donated.
Exploring Alternative Methods of Gardening on Campus
Sabrina Huresky, Kathryn Garafano, and Olivia Neiman are collaborating with the Pfeiffer Center, which has been farming using biodynamic methods for 40 years. Biodynamic farming is based on the moon cycles and the forces of nature that act on the planet. The group has researched biodynamics in hopes to implement these methods as well as new compost operations on campus.
The group has placed a focus on preps, which are all-natural mixes that go in the soil and on the plants to promote growth and enrich the nutrients in the soil. Professor Wanda Knapik has already purchased some preps to be used on campus in the coming season.
They have established a brand for this initiative as well as a succession plan that will be implemented by the groups that take over the project in future semesters. They have branded their initiative "Green Thumb Dynamics."
To learn more about their efforts on campus, view their blog here.
Ensuring Safe Water in the Rahway River
Emily Backer, Erica Najar, and Louis Bustamante have been working with the Rahway River Watershed. They have been collecting and testing samples in order to determine the water quality of various areas of the Rahway River.
They received data from as far as 20 years ago and have been working on determining how the chemical levels of the water have changed in certain areas over the years.
At the conclusion of this process, they will determine which areas of the river are safe for drinking water and maintaining wildlife and identify the areas with more toxins so they can be addressed, making the river completely safe and habitable.
Categories: Campus Life