Over the course of the last several weeks, Island School students spent time kayaking, experienced a hurricane, explored the majority of the island, and additionally, were able to gain intimate knowledge of many of the systems that make the campus run. Most notably, aquaponics, aquaculture, permaculture, and biodigestion were featured as Human Ecology modules during the kayak rotation. During the students’ time learning about biodigestion, they were asked to take a look at the ways Island School falls short of its goals of self sustainability and try to find some solutions. In doing so, students’ learned about the systems that support human life on campus, where waste comes from, how humans get energy, and how we can improve as a community. The focus of their work was mainly turning waste to energy, which led to some hands on work with the biodigestion system. Students learned about the anaerobic process, how biodigestion mimics natural systems, how renewable energy is generated by microbes, and eventually how to put that energy to use. After dinner circle on Wednesday, students ventured to the biodigester to check out some of the applications of biogas. They observed running the gas through a conventional burner system and explored possibilities for how this campus system could develop into the future. [slideshow]
The Island School and The Embassy for the People’s Republic of China celebrated a growing partnership this summer as the Embassy welcomed Bahamian Environmental Steward Scholar alumni (BESS) and Island School alumni Garneisha Pinder (F’10) and Bradley Watson (F’08). Pinder a rising sophomore at The College of The Bahamas and Watson a rising senior at College of Charleston, attended the Training Course on Bio-gas Technology for Developing Countries on May 15th – July 9th. You can hear more about their experiences on Continue reading
Last week The Island School orchard received its first dose of steroids from the biodigester. The Island School biodigester uses naturally occurring bacteria to generate renewable energy and sterilize our septic waste. The outcome? Highly nutrient rich, liquid fertilizer that has the potential to increase crop yields substantially. In some cases, certain crops have increased their yields by up to sixty percent with the addition of biodigestion effluent. A resource such as this could work wonders for both CEI and Island School as we are always seeking more local food sources and readily available, healthy snacks. With a bit of sunshine to go with these nutrients, we could eventually put the marina store out of business. Coming into season right now are sour oranges, guava, mango, sugar apples, cherries, coconuts, sapodillas, and passion fruit. Pick your poison. The next questions to ask are how much food can we make and how fast? What does it take to ween ourselves of imported fruits and vegetables? A large part of the answer is our biodigestion system that is already producing for us on a daily basis.
Water is the most important resource available to CEI and Island School. We drink it, we bathe in it, we cook with it, and it all comes from the rain. Although we can never know what the weather may bring us, we can always be ready to take advantage of what does come our way as weather patterns shift. To that end, we use solar panels, and wind turbines, but most importantly, we catch rain water. Of late, one of the most important issues we’ve been tackling is how to make our water last and how to maximize it’s potential. If we catch water once, how many times can we use it before it’s gone? Last week we took a significant step towards increasing the usefulness of our water.
This spring CEI and Island School put biodigestion on the map for The Bahamas. We’ve found a way to treat our waste and generate more renewable energy, in addition to getting added utility from our water. The process of biodigestion Continue reading
Yesterday we visited a Bio-Gas plant that processed mostly straw into Bio-Gas. Just as straw is more difficult to process for animals than grains, it is also harder to produce Bio-Gas from than manure or sugar filled waste water from breweries. The molecules that make straw stiff also make the energy contained in the straw difficult for the bacteria in a Bio-Digester to access and convert to methane gas and carbon dioxide. This plant takes the straw and grinds it into a fine powder and then mixes this powder with warm water before feeding the mixture into a 500 cubic meter Bio-Digester. Grinding the straw makes it easier for the bacteria in the digester to break it down. The other unique thing about this plant is that they recycle the water used in the digester. The digested straw powder is separated from the water mechanically and the water is recycled through the system. This also maintains a steady population of bacteria in the system and eliminates the need for mixing of the digester contents.
This project’s startup was subsidized by the government and encourages farmers in this semi- rural community to transport their waste straw to the plant instead of burning it by offering them bio- gas at production cost. Continue reading
Many of us “Greenies” have heard of Monsanto and their Genetically Modified crops that can withstand their herbicides and John Deer’s seed dispersal machinery and some of us cringe at the thought of Genetic Modification or Engineering. I did too until I spoke with a gentleman from Tanzania who shared some of the ways he would use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He began by talking about soy bean plants which happen to be a popular crop in Africa as well as elsewhere. The soy bean belongs to the legume family, a group of plants that are capable of taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fixing” it in the soil with the help of fungi that lives in their roots while most other plants rely on fertilizers and other nitrogen sources to keep them green and healthy. So a soy bean field is very fertile. This fertility encourages weed growth and many soy bean varieties are engineered to withstand high doses of pesticides to combat these weeds that compete with them for light, nutrients and water in agricultural systems. Now I don’t like the idea of using any more pesticides than are absolutely necessary because I don’t want to eat them nor do I want them on the water table etc.
Well my friend from Tanzania’s proposition is that we engineer soy bean plants to grow under lower light conditions or alter them in some other way Continue reading
Two Island School and BESS alumni, Bradley Watson (F08) and Garneisha Pinder (F10) have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to China for 6-weeks to study biogas production at the BIOMA Institute. After the Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas, Hu Shan, visited The Island School for the opening of Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Hallig House, he offered for two Bahamian students to travel to China to study biodigestion with all expenses paid by the Chinese Embassy. Below are some of Bradley’s initial thoughts. Check back in a few weeks for another update from China!
On my return from a semester of studying Buddhism and Plant Taxonomy at the College of Charleston I received an email offering me an opportunity to go to China and study Biogas production at the BIOMA institute. At first I was filled with disbelief and then excitement took its place. This course that the Chinese Government offered for two Bahamian students would include people from other developing countries like Dominica, Columbia, Ghana, Niger, Venezuela, Nepal, Tanzania, and others. The last time I heard about biogas production was at the Island School while I was mentoring students during its first summer semester as the first stages of their bio digestion project began. The first time I was exposed to the concept of producing methane gas from organic wastes like sewage and agricultural by-products must have been in some documentary or reading that is now only a foggy memory. I had no idea that I would get a chance to gain a technical understanding of how these systems work from such seasoned practitioners as the professors of the BIOMA Institute who had taught 47 of these courses previously. With my goal of improving the sustainability of the Bahamian lifestyle in mind I could hardly imagine all the benefits of two young scientists being exposed to such a program, and for 56 days!
One of the benefits I could imagine was an improved waste treatment system to reduce Continue reading
By Tyler Courville and Ihna Mangundayao
Did you know that 5.2 million people die every year from waste related diseases? Now you do! This is a result of irresponsible and inappropriate global waste management – 50% of which is organic and 35% is unsorted recyclables. This is becoming a major problem in both developed and less developed countries with the latter usually suffering the consequences. Developed countries like the US often dump their trash in less developed countries that cannot always meet the waste demands. People have been trying to find alternative ways to dispose of waste more responsibly and sustainably. To solve this crisis, scientists turned to Nature for a solution – creating an emerging field known as biomimicry, which copies Nature’s processes to make the world a better place for humans. From this, a solution arose: Biodigestion. Continue reading