Roger’s Community Garden and Living Laboratory, part of the Bioregional Center for Sustainability, Planning, and Design, partner of UC San Diego’s Sustainability Department, and 2018 Winner of the UC San Diego Student Organization Sustainability Award, is raising the bar to reach UC Office of the President goals of carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2020. Through its student-centered approach to experiential learning, Roger’s has been able to support a fully-functioning food waste to food and fuel system that converts food waste into renewable electricity, compost, and nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, which all converge to produce more food to address student food insecurity at the Triton Food Pantry. The electricity generated by this system will feed into the battery storage banks incorporated into the Garden’s nanogrid, modeled after UC San Diego’s own microgrid. All aspects of the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system are also working to be automated by undergraduates majoring in computer science and engineering disciplines using microprocessors such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. This student-created design approach allows this system to close the carbon loop and make a recirculating food production system that uses all of its waste products to produce more food in a sustainable manner. In order to power the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system, 1000 lbs of food waste per week from a dozen Price Center restaurant vendors is collected by student interns and volunteers in collaboration with University Centers.
Through the interdisciplinary collaboration of students studying chemistry, engineering, computer science, speculative design, social sciences, and others, student-managed Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has been able to collect 10,100 lbs of food waste from January 22 to September 3, 2018, which equates to 1.14 tCO2eq sequestered, not including biogas generated or the CO2 sequestered from the resulting plant growth. Unlike other waste management solutions used by the university, which use trucks to transport food waste from Price Center to facilities in Otay Mesa or Oceanside, Roger’s program stays onsite, reducing carbon emissions and the associated costs from transportation. Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has also formed a unique series of partnerships with academia such as the Bioregional Center, local industry and nonprofits such as GRID Alternatives, Food2Soil, Global ARC of Oceanview Growing Grounds, Backyard Fruit Tree San Diego, alumni, and researchers which has provided undergraduates with the opportunity to engage with a variety of stakeholders and foster a interdisciplinary collaborative environment that encourages innovative solutions to climate change, food insecurity, waste diversion, conservation, and energy demands. Looking forward, Roger’s hopes to incorporate its innovations into the University Long Range Development Plan and standard university practices in order to lessen the footprint and improve the well-being of the students of UC San Diego and the people of the surrounding communities.