On Friday, Michigan State University served sustainable tea for Earth Day, capping off an Earth Week full of environmental news from Michigan’s Land Grant University. On Wednesday, MSU reported on two other environmental stories, growing algae for fuel and using grassroots tactics to reduce poaching of endangered lemurs in Madagascar. All three stories show that MSU is green for reasons other than its school colors.
MSU students grew the herbs for the “green” tea in the greenhouse outside of Bailey Hall, then dried, processed, blended, and packaged the tea before selling it to the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center and other students around campus. The student enterprise, known as the Bailey Tea Project, is part of the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (RISE) program, a living-learning program focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship. The Bailey Tea Project, run by what the students call the “Tea Team,” demonstrates student commitment to sustainability and serves as a constant reminder of MSU’s agricultural history.
“Our mission is to take what we’re growing and show that it has added value purpose,” said junior Bethany Kogut in a press release. “We have students in packaging, animal science, education, communication, journalism – all sorts of different majors,” Kogut said. “But in the long run, they all come back to the environmental sustainability side of things.”
The team landed its first sale in the spring of 2015, which included its “zingy blend” of lemon and spearmint, and its “exhale blend” made up of lavender, chamomile and peppermint. The team hopes to create a larger business model for the Bailey Tea Project, with the intention of selling products to local grocery stores, farmers markets and coffee shops in the future.
Earlier in the week, MSU reported that an algae photo bioreactor could capture carbon dioxide emissions from MSU’s T.B. Simon Power Plant and turn those greenhouse gas emissions into algae. This was the first time that such technology was able to capture carbon dioxide and promote the growth of algae in an environment without sunlight, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This finding is important because many believe that algae is the renewable, alternative energy source of the future and the technology could also help keep carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere.
“The next phase of testing will look at how effective the photo bioreactor can be for power plants looking to reduce their carbon footprints, and how the technology can be implemented to absorb other airborne pollutants for further algae cultivation,” said William Clary in a press release. Clary is Chief Executive Officer of PHYCO2, a California-based algae growth and CO2 sequestration company collaborating with MSU on the project.
The same day, MSU publicized the results of a study documenting the attitudes of people in Madagascar toward the risks of breaking laws and the value of preserving their environment. The study found that if local residents don’t perceive actions such as hunting lemurs or burning forests for charcoal as crimes or they believe there’s a low risk of getting caught, then poaching and deforestation will continue.
“It’s against the law to hunt lemurs in Madagascar,” Meredith Gore, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “But many local residents’ don’t necessarily see it as a crime, perceive the activity as risky or see it as exploiting the area’s biodiversity.”
Communication and outreach directed specifically to changing locals’ attitudes could be one possible tool in solving this disconnect, she added. “If the goal is to reduce deforestation and charcoal production in a protected area, it is essential to focus on the psychological aspects of the associated risk perception,” Gore said. “This approach could be more effective than focusing on the socio-environmental dimensions such as access to land to grow food or having a reliable source of clean drinking water.”