October 2012, Vol. 24, No.10


University commits to reuse

Michigan Technological University (Houghton) took its commitment to being “green” to a new level for its 2012 spring commencement ceremony. The graduates’ black caps and gowns were made of Repreve, a 100% recyclable yarn made from plastic water bottles, according to a university news release. 

And at a cost of $32, including tax, when traditional cloth caps, gowns, and tassels cost $32 plus tax, the purchase also makes financial sense. This new initiative now will be the standard for commencement ceremonies, the university says. 

To create a single gown, 27 plastic water bottles are needed. With about 1000 graduates this spring, 27,000 discarded bottles were put to use instead of ending up in a landfill. Following the ceremony, graduates were able to donate caps and gowns to be recycled again, the news release says. 

Repreve is made by Unifi Manufacturing Inc. (Greensboro, N.C.), which recycles about 900 million water bottles a year. The caps and gowns were made by Herff Jones (Indianapolis). The resulting cap-and-gown material is soft with a flat look, the news release says.  

“It’s part of our strategic plan to enhance our commitment to sustainability, so this is a great demonstration of our efforts,” said Beth Pollins, university assistant to the vice president of student affairs, in the news release.







Bob Marley’s legacy lives on underwater

The late reggae singer Bob Marley’s name lives on through his music and now also through a crustacean. 

Paul Sikkel, Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) assistant professor of marine ecology and field marine biologist, discovered a new species of the gnathiid family. He named it Gnathia marleyi , after the singer, according to a U.S. National Science Foundation news release. 

The gnathiid isopod is a small parasitic crustacean that feeds on fish living in the eastern Caribbean’s coral reefs. Juveniles conceal themselves in coral, sea sponge, or algae and launch surprise attacks on fish and infest them, the release says.  

After juveniles reach adulthood, they are believed to live for 2 to 3 weeks without feeding before they die, Sikkel explained in the news release.  

Similar to ticks or mosquitos, gnathiids are a common parasite in coral reefs. They are believed to cause or transmit diseases between fish. Funding through the National Science Foundation’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases initiative and Biological Oceanography program enables the team to study which species of fish in the Caribbean host these parasites, the release says. 

Sikkel discovered Gnathia marleyi about 10 years ago and, with the help of his research team, raised an isopod specimen from its juvenile stage through adulthood to provide a full taxonomy description of the species. The team’s description of the life stages of the species can be found in the June 6 issue of Zootaxa . Specimens will be housed indefinitely at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.








Advanced denim makes jeans manufacturing green

Manufacturing a single pair of jeans requires more than 9463 L (2500 gal) of water, 0.45 kg (1 lb) of chemicals, and a large amount of energy. Multiply this by the approximately 2 billion pairs of jeans produced every year, and the numbers add up, according to an American Chemical Society (Washington, D.C.) news release. 

But the advanced denim process developed by Clariant (Muttenz, Switzerland) uses 92% less water and up to 30% less energy than conventional denim manufacturing methods, explained Miguel Sanche, a textile engineer at the company. The process also generates up to 87% less cotton waste and produces virtually no wastewater. Also, while conventional denim manufacturing requires up to 15 dying vats and uses various chemicals, the new process uses only one vat and concentrated liquid sulfur dyes that require only a single, sugar-based reducing agent, the news release says. 

Sanchez estimated that if 25% of the world’s denim producers used this process, it would save about 9.5 billion L (2.5 billion gal) of water per year, reduce the amount of wastewater produced by 8.3 million m3 (2.2 billion gal), and save up to 220 million kWh of electricity, the news release says.







Oregon’s wastewater treatment plants remove caffeine

Researchers have identified elevated levels of caffeine along Oregon’s coast, but not where expected. Wastewater treatment plants were not a major source contributing to caffeine in coastal waters, according to a Portland (Ore.) State University news release. 

University researchers initially believed that identified areas near wastewater treatment plants, large population centers, and rivers and streams emptying into the ocean would be the locations most likely to have high levels of caffeine, the news release says. But in spring 2010, after collecting and analyzing samples from 14 coastal locations and seven adjacent waterbodies, the researchers found high caffeine levels near Carl Washburne State Park (Florence, Ore.) and Cape Lookout (Tillamook, Ore.), neither of which sit near potential pollution sources. More high concentrations of caffeine were found following storm events that triggered sewer overflows, the news release says.  

These results indicate that wastewater treatment plants effectively remove caffeine, but overflows flush contaminants out to sea. Septic tanks, such as those used at the state parks, may be less effective at containing pollution, the news release says. The researchers will conduct further studies of septic tanks in coastal areas to assess their contribution to contamination in Oregon’s marine waters, the news release says.  

Study results were published in the July 2012 Marine Pollution Bulletin article “Occurrence and concentration of caffeine in Oregon coastal waters.”







High-efficiency toilets translate to big savings

In 2011, the Elsinore Valley (Calif.) Municipal Water District (MWD) launched a pilot program to help its customers use less water per year by installing high-efficiency toilets, showerheads, and aerators. Elsinore Valley MWD teamed up with local water agencies Western MWD and Eastern MWD — each agency always searches for ways to save water without raising costs. 

Elsinore Valley MWD chose to install ultrahigh-efficiency Stealth ® toilets, manufactured by Niagara Conservation (Fort Worth, TX). The toilets use only 3 L (0.8 gal) per flush, which can save homeowners up to 68,140 L/yr (18,000 gal/yr). This volume represents up to 60% savings in water use and utility bills. 

The program began on Jan. 27, 2011, as Eastern MWD installed 40 toilets in residences and Elsinore Valley MWD installed 42 units in 21 homes, a homeowners association clubhouse, and a hotel. The residents also received water-saving showerheads and aerators. 

In 2 days, the toilets had completely sold out; more than 2500 applications for installation were processed within the first 24 hours. At the end of the pilot program’s 3.5-month run, municipality residents saw an 11% decrease in their water bills. 

During the 20-year expected life of the toilets, the program will save about 2.9 million m3 (2350 ac-ft) of water. To put this in perspective, a typical suburban family uses about 1235 m3 (1 ac-ft) of water per year. Total savings for all of the participating homeowners will be approximately $2 million. 


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