Earth Day for the Eco-conscious
Subdued Earth Day Featured Electric Cars, Biodiesel
May 11, 2006 7:50 PM
Used books, toys, and clothes donated by eco-savvy students drew other students to an environmental fair and gave them a chance to find a good home for stuff that would otherwise end up in the dump.
Founded less then a year ago, Ecostudents has made progress with on-campus composting and consumer waste collection. Burned out from their massive career fair in March, where they attracted more than 40 recruiters, the environmental studies students were unable to make Earth Day a major event but still hosted games and environmental vendors for three days in the quad last week.
Yussef Milburn, a 23-year-old biology and environmental studies major, coordinates the Ecostudents bicycle and alternate transportation group.
“Unfortunately with scheduling and the weather, probably due to climate change, we couldn’t do as much as we hoped,” said Milburn.
“We’re really promoting the reuse idea,” said Ecostudent leader Suzanne McNulty. “Were still getting the word out and people are having fun, which is never a bad thing.”
“Our primary goal is to keep stuff out of landfill,” said Ellen Burns, an art educator with SCRAP: the Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts. A SF State alumnus with a master’s degree in sculpture, she teaches kids how to creatively reuse materials instead of dumping them.
SCRAP, located at 801 Toland Street, has a 4,000 square foot warehouse filled with cards, fabric, toys, magazines, yarn, paper and other recycled items, many of which are free. Burns has used discarded compact disks and their cases in her own personal projects.
“You wouldn’t believe how many CD cases we get, people put their disks in more convenient storage and toss the cases away,” Burns said.
Although the Earth Day event was to be billed as a Green Machine Exposition and seminar the organizers ran into trouble—the administration would not let them have vehicles on the quad. Tuesday they had an electric car demonstration by Sherry Boschert of the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association.
“We had to keep it behind the Franciscan building,“ said McNulty. “She got frustrated and left.”
Chris Marco, a member of the San Francisco Biofuels Cooperative was there, although her 1984 Chevy diesel van was parked off campus. Marco was there to demystify biodiesel, a century old alternative to gasoline that has been used extensively in Europe over the last ten years, Germany has over 1,200 retail biodiesel pumps.
“You don’t have to buy a $30,000 hybrid, you don’t have to wait for hydrogen fuel cells, you can run many existing models on biodiesel,” said Marco. “It’s environmentally friendly and it’s available right now.”
Biodiesel, made from 85% vegetable oil, is refined in a process called transesterification that removes the glycerine from the oil. This is a refined fuel that takes no conversion to be used in a standard petroleum diesel engine—actually as a more powerful solvent it will break down fuel deposits and may prolong the life of the engine and fuel injection pump. While cars can be converted to run off of straight vegetable oil or recycled waste oil they usually use a two tank system, switching to biodiesel when starting and stopping the engine to prevent the engine from sticking up.
“Most people who are running diesel are getting older Mercedes and Volkswagens,” said Marco. “They are really reliable and built like a tank. Just look at craigslist.org and begin to examine the types of diesel cars for sale there.”
She says Willie Nelson is a major national advocate of biodiesel as good for both farmers and the environment. He has recently opened BioWillie pumping stations in five states including two in southern California.
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