WAS Non-Stop

Sustainable Manufacturing Reclaims Contaminated Sites

In WAS News on June 27, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Examples of solar panels sold by Helios. Photo by Anna Ste.Marie. 2011

by Anna Ste.Marie

While the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is most commonly known for baseball, breweries, and its gorgeous location on Lake Michigan, it has recently been earning a new sort of fame: sustainable manufacturing practices.

Eager to be educated about what takes to attain sustainability for a manufacturer, a bus load of students from the World Affairs Seminar went into downtown Milwaukee to tour such places.The first stop that the bus took was at a dilapidated A.O. Smith factory that has not been in service since the 90s. The yard was filled with waste gravel and garbage.  The 1.5 million square feet of buildings were collapsing and rusted. Benji, a representative for the company, stated, “Over the next two years, we are going to demolish all these buildings, and we are going to clean up the environmental contamination, and essentially put in new roads for a new business park.”

The second stop was at Helios, a solar panel manufacturer. This facility has only been open for about six months.  It is incredibly efficient and clean. One way they conserved energy was by not air conditioning the building. Secondly, there were skylights that acted as the primary light source. The overhead lights would only turn on if the light detectors sensed that the room was not bright enough, and would turn off as soon as adequate sunlight returned. The next step that Helios is taking to achieve a higher level of sustainability is having a night shift come in. If they can have workers constructing solar panels 24 hours a day, the machines neither have to turn on nor power down, which consumes the most energy.

The final stop that the students on the sustainable manufacturing field trip was Menomonee Valley Industrial Center. This center houses companies such as Palermo Villa Inc., a frozen pizza company and Charter Wire, a major wire producer.

“We are getting rid of the legacy of contaminated properties,” Dave Misky, Assistant Executive Director of Redevoplment Authority of the City of Milwaukee explains. This industrial center had developed a storm water system that is nationally recognized for its sustainability.

Renovating contaminated facilities was the main message delivered to the WAS students on this field trip. In the future, they will know how to install alternative energy saving into their workplaces, weather it be a family owned business, or a multinational corporation like the ones they visited.

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Students Learn about Fish Conservation

In WAS News on June 23, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Great Lakes artwork at Concordia Center for Environmental Stewardship. Image by Cassie Cherveny. 2011

By Ruisa Hinds

WAS students visited the Mequon-Thiensville Dam in Ozaukee where they learned about the Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program.  Because the dam blocks the passage of fish up and down river, a special thru-way must be maintained to let them through.

The program aims to create “a connection so that fish can get by”, as many of the native fish species, such as pike and walleye, are not able to swim or jump for prolonged periods of time. The fish need to move around streams in order to reproduce and therefore survive.

The group was split into five smaller groups.  Some visited bodies of water, where the oxygen and pH contents, as well as temperatures of the various water bodies were tested, and samples were collected to be taken back to a lab for observation.

Others went to the Concordia Center for Environmental Stewardship, and met up with Dr. Bruce H. Bessert who showed the students an organic bicycle, made from bamboo and recycled aluminium, before leading them outside to be outfitted with waders. One group went to a pond and the others set off in the opposite direction, led by Dr. Bessert, toward a bay carved out by Lake Michigan, equipped with nets and a bucket.

This reporter’s group traversed steep-sided boulders, witnessed the results of a mass fish kill due to change in the water’s temperature, battled the tide, collected samples in two different areas of the coast and with pebbles in buckets, climbed the steep hill back to the University.

The Center’s building is platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, and used renewable energy sources such as hydrothermal and solar energy. The building was made out of materials recycled from an old building at the University and one of the walls displayed a beautiful map of the Great Lakes made from recycled wood. The Center also housed thousands of dollars worth of artwork including an amazing preservation of an owl carrying its prey, done by a faculty member who is a taxidermist.

Together again after their respective trips, the group went through their collected samples, looking for microorganisms that are essential as food in the ecosystem. Crayfish, fly larvae, snails, beetles and worms were among the many finds. Observations were then made of the chemical results the different bodies of water and students learned about possible causes for the results and about the conditions that are ideal for fish survival.

Sustainability News Digest

In Sustainability News on June 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Solar panels. Image by David Blaikie. 2008.

by Kasey Cragg

As a part of their Great Energy Challenge initiative, National Geographic reports on the sustainable power of the Arenga sugar palm, a tree in the southern islands of Asia that can be tapped for energy. The tree would replace the need for palm oil bio-fuel operations that are currently devastating rain forests in Indonesia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 490,000 brownfields, or abandoned industrial areas, exist nationwide. One of the biggest brownfields in the nation, The Philadelphia Navy Yard, will soon be turned into a solar energy power plant, becoming the largest energy facility in Philadelphia, says Yale e360.

Circle of Blue reports that violence between Kenyan and Ethiopian ethnic groups along the border of Lake Turkana has erupted over the issue of stressed water resources. The death toll for the ‘water-war’ has already reached twenty-four between the two groups.

Traces of mixed-tropical hardwood (MTH) and acacia fiber have been found in Mattel Products (the company behind Barbie and Legos).  Greenpeace and Mongabay.com report that this may link the company to large-scale destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.