Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, ESW and Sustainable Minds have run the life-cycle assessment plus universities (LCA+U) challenge. LCA+U has students work with campus staff and sustainability life-cycle assessment software to identify solutions or improvements to campus operations that have quantifiably lower environmental impacts.
LCA+U provides a way to engage students and staff on campus and arm them with tools to investigate whether popular options will be what has the most potential environmental impact. If you're interested in learning more about the challenge, contact Tim Hoang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 Challenge Winner
The ESW Chapter at Texas Tech was awarded this year's LCA+U Challenge Winner. Their project involved examining biodegradable clamshells as replacement for styrofoam containers in campus dining halls. Currently, the containers that the campus uses are made from Styrofoam, and they proposed replacing this with a biodegradable container made from polylactic acid (PLA) sourced from corn starch and other rapidly renewable materials. Recent research suggests that transition of such materials to PLA can reduce global warming relative to a baseline with petroleum based plastics. The team examined different disposal scenarios of PLA including cradle-to-cradle reuse via composting and disposal in a landfill with subsequent breakdown in an anaerobic environment. Working with the dining hall and faculty advisor Dr. Hong-Chao Zhang, the team collected data on current consumption patterns and examined the environmental and financial implications of making the switch.
Stay tuned for their final results and report very soon!