Students and faculty from seven colleges showcase sustainability presentations

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Karen Engates, environmental science professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, looks at the presentation “A Solar Car Park on the St. Mary’s Campus” at the EcoExchangeEdu April 5 inside McCreless. Miguel Valdes, environmental science junior at St. Mary’s, said the cost of the proposal to add solar car panels can reach a maximum of $1,044,799. Andrea Moreno

Hypothetical solar powered car park could save St. Mary’s University $50,000 a year.

By Travis Doyle

Miguel Valdes, environmental science junior at St. Mary’s University, gave a presentation on solar-powered carports during EcoExchangeEdu’s sustainability showcase April 5 in McCreless Hall.

His was one of 18 presentations at the event.

The event had presentations from seven colleges showing sustainability ideas to an estimated 85 attendees.

Valdes’ idea was about installing solar panels on the roofing of multiple carports at St. Mary’s to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

“The carport would be linked up to one of the dormitories here because it’s a dorm with, at least the meter, recognizes 600 kilowatt hours of power, and so we thought that the solar carport would be a major aspect of an area that could really break down on that power use from the city,” he said during an interview April 5.

The presentation explained how the solar car park could cost $1,044,799 to install and would pay for itself after 15 years. Valdes received the estimate from Solar Electric Texas, a solar company.

He estimated the carport would save the campus “about $50,000 a year.”

Midori Flores, biology freshmen at St. Mary’s, had a presentation of surgical gloves sprayed with silver colloidal nanoparticles to decrease the pathogens on them compared to surgical gloves that did not have the spray.

An article on Healthline describes size of the silver nanoparticles:

“The size of the silver particles in colloidal silver can vary, but some are so tiny that they are referred to as ‘nanoparticles’ This means that they are less than 100 nm in size and invisible to the naked eye.”

Camille Florillo, reference librarian at Northwest Vista College, said being surrounded by air cleaning plants can be helpful for individuals at the EcoExchangeEdu April 5 in McCreless theater. To show plants can help reduce indoor air pollution, Florillo created an indoor landscape. Her research was based off the “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement,” which was conducted by NASA in 1989. Andrea Moreno

The Healthline article said it is unknown how the silver works, but “research suggests that it attaches to proteins on the cell walls of bacteria, damaging their cell membranes.”

Flores tested the treatment by mixing a small sample of bacteria and putting it on a glove treated with the silver particles and a non-treated glove.

“I did a series of trials with different bacterial streams, and I actually exposed the gloves that were treated with silver and those that were not treated,” she said in an interview April 5. “I did tests comparing the bacteria that was able to flourish and grow, and I found that from a glove that was just regular without the silver you can see all these colonies here versus the glove that did have silver was just one colony in each.”

The poster showed the silver nanoparticle gloves could be used in the medical field to eliminate growth of pathogens like viruses, bacteria and fungi that typically grow on gloves, she said.

However, Healthline shows small nanoparticles may be absorbed through the skin as a side effect.

The gloves would also have to be individually wrapped to further decrease pathogens spreading, she said.

“I actually found some research that people said that show glove use in the health care field right now, they’re not individually packaged, so when people reach into the box and grab a glove they’re actually contaminating it and that’s actually led to a lot of in-hospital infections,” she said

Camille Fiorillo, librarian at Northwest Vista College, had a presentation about how plants increased the air quality in the library.

“Plants have other value in the home, and that they can actually clean the air,” she said during the presentation. “So I started an exhibit at the Northwest Vista College library, and the purpose of the exhibit was to provide a pleasant atmosphere for study, research and reading to make students and library users aware that they are exposed to air pollutants in everyday environments and to highlight the positive effects of everyday house plants on air quality.”

The library has 24 plants including ivy, weeping fig, spider plant and red-edged dracaena.

Fiorillo wanted to put plants in the library because she believes there is a lack of air circulation in the library and her office.

“I don’t have a window in my office, and none of the windows in the library open, and I suspect that’s true for most places that people work these days,” she said.

Fiorillo based her exhibit on a 1989 NASA study to find the best plants to reduce indoor air pollution.

“The technical paper was based on a two-year study from NASA and the associated Landscape Contractors of America and identifies air cleaning house plants,” she said. “The original concept for the study was to see how plants could be used in space stations and long-term space voyages.”

She referenced an article published on Lifehacker showing how common household plants can filter out trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia from the air. Fiorillo said she hopes her presentation will help people think of what kind of sustainability they can do in their own lives.

Students and faculty from Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, this college, the University of the Incarnate word, University of Texas at San Antonio, St. Mary’s University and Trinity University gave presentations.

Other presentations from St. Mary’s University included the use of motion sensor lighting for the college, waste management at the Diamondback Café and cost benefit analysis of electric hand dryers versus paper towels.

Presentations from Trinity University focused on urban agriculture and crop diversification as a solution to climate-fueled food price volatility and ecological ouroboros.


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