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Clayton State pursues sustainability

Clayton State University cook Terry Sargent feeds the dining halls new bio-digestor. The device converts food waste into manageable sewerage that can be put back into the water cycle within 48 hours. (Special Photo: Erin Fender)

Clayton State University cook Terry Sargent feeds the dining halls new bio-digestor. The device converts food waste into manageable sewerage that can be put back into the water cycle within 48 hours. (Special Photo: Erin Fender)

MORROW — Clayton State University’s efforts in environmental conservation continue to mount with its latest sustainability projects and investments.

There are newly-installed hydration stations at water fountains around campus for students and visitors to be able to fill their reusable water bottles during the day.

There is also the bio-digestor stowed away in the kitchen of Lakeside Dining Hall. The device breaks down food waste that is collected from meals and food preparation throughout the day.

Carolina Amero is the associate vice president of auxiliary and administrative services at Clayton State, and she came up with the idea to bring the bio-digestor to the dining hall as some other institutions have done around the country. She said the university is one of the first in Georgia to do it.

Amero, who is also advisor for the Clayton State Go Green Student Organization, said she saw the bio-digestor at a trade show a few years back and learned from a few other Georgia colleges how it has benefited their campuses.

“It’s inexpensive, clean, safe and easy to use and that it is just another step in sustainability,” said Amero.

She said it takes about 24-to-48 hours for the device to digest solid foods into effluent, or “gray water,” that can be used for gardens or put back into local sewer systems.

She said the stainless steel mechanical stomach, about the size of a small freezer, can handle 200-250 pounds of food five days a week. It allows tiny micro-organisms and enzymes to react to the fats, starches, fibers and proteins in food waste and break them down into liquid that can be reintroduced into the water cycle.

Amero said the bio-digestor is proving to be beneficial to Clayton State, helping reduce the amount of garbage the dining staff has to discard and potentially reducing costs for disposal. More importantly, the device is decreasing Clayton State’s carbon footprint.

Already the university has limited its potential water use by going tray-less and using bio-degradable, reusable containers at the dining hall.

She said going tray-less has saved nearly 30,000 gallons per year of water that would be used to clean the trays. It has also saved an average 25 percent on food waste because students and visitors tend to get smaller meal portions without cafeteria trays.

Students save about $1.50 each time they refill their water bottles at 12 hydration stations scattered about campus. The stations provide filtered water through touch-less fountains.

“I like the new stations,” said student Darrain Frye. “I have used them about 20 times and have saved a bunch of money. The water tastes more refreshing than regular tap water.”

Amero said the stations have saved tens of thousands of water bottles over the past several months.

“I really think they fit well into our sustainability efforts as we are trying to make our campus more eco-friendly and not waste so many bottles each month,” said Amero.

“All of these sustainability things are models for being greener,” she continued, adding her belief that students, faculty and visitors alike will model the environmentally-friendly behavior when they leave campus.