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Antioch to Offer “Rethinking the Human Nutrient Cycle: Urine as a Resilience Tool”

The vision of Antioch College is to be “the place where new and better ways of living are discovered as a result of meaningful engagement with the world through intentional linkages between classroom and experiential education.”  In keeping with this vision of “new and better ways of living”, Antioch College has established itself as a national leader in higher education sustainability. In 2014, the College signed the Real Food Campus Commitment and is currently the second highest Real Food campus in the country, utilizing 56% real food; behind only Sterling College. In 2015, the College became a “neonic-free campus”, one of only three in the United States, committing to the Bee Protective Campaign, as recognized by The Center for Food Safety and Beyond Pesticides. Also in 2015, the College signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and in 2016 The White House Educator’s Commitment on Resilient Design.

Antioch College is now ready to support the next conversation in new ways of thinking: closing the human nutrient cycle.  As water becomes more scarce, droughts become more frequent, and dead zones appear in lakes and oceans due to nutrient run-off, we can no longer afford our current practice of using potable drinking water to flush our waste into treatment facilities and on into rivers and estuaries.

Beth Bridgeman, cooperative education faculty member at Antioch College, has received a $4500 grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation for four days of campus and community-wide workshops on advancing the use of human waste as a resource in order to conserve water, prevent pollution, and sustain soil fertility. The workshops will be offered in spring, 2017, led by staff from the Rich Earth Institute, a national change leader in the issue of river and estuary pollution, water scarcity and human waste.  Through research, demonstration, and education projects, The Rich Earth Institute illustrates the positive effect of this approach in important areas including water quality, food security, energy use, soil health, economic sustainability, carbon footprint, public health, and emergency preparedness.

Along with their partner institutions University of Michigan and University of Buffalo, they are the recent recipients of a three million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. The work of the Rich Earth Institute has been featured in National Geographic, NPR’s The Salt, Modern Farmer, and BBC Mundo, as well as in national professional journals such as Water Environment & Technology, Pumper, Planning, and Public Works. Their constituents include scientific research partners, wastewater engineers, environmentalists, and all people concerned with water quality and sustainable agriculture.

They have presented at conferences and symposia throughout New England; at Tufts, MIT, and six other higher education institutions as well as the 2013 New England Water Environment Association, the 2015 & 2016 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association conferences in Boston, and the 2015 WEFTEC conference in Chicago.  Their programming at Antioch College will be their first higher education presentation in the Midwest.

Workshops will include the hands-on building of a prototype urine diversion dry composting outhouse to be used by Antioch to train additional local and regional community members and organizations in this “new and better ways” technique. These presentations and workshops are being co-sponsored by the Ethos Center at the University of Dayton School of Engineering.  They will take place on the Antioch campus and will be open to the Yellow Springs community, public works officials, area institutes of higher education and interested people and organizations throughout the Miami Valley. Look for details in the coming months.

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Beth Bridgeman is an associate professor of Cooperative Education.

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