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Opportunities to be Green Abound at Northwestern

March 11, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Energy audits of campus buildings, updates to information technology, changes to the recycling policy and participation in the March 28 worldwide Earth Hour event are among efforts to make Northwestern University "greener" and daily operations more environmentally sustainable.

Northwestern is among the top 10 colleges and universities in the country for the most renewable energy purchased. The Green Power Partnership (GPP) ranks Northwestern second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally. (Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, GPP is a voluntary program that supports the procurement of green power.)

Through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), Northwestern offsets 20 percent of the electricity used to power the Evanston and Chicago campuses. This purchase has a carbon reduction impact similar to planting 6,469 acres of forest or removing 5,213 average passenger vehicles from U.S. roadways for a year.

(A REC is a tradable commodity that represents one-megawatt hour or MWh of renewable electricity generated and delivered to the power grid. Each MWh of clean renewable electricity results in one less MWh of dirty power.)

Highlights of Northwestern's efforts and what individuals can do to make the University greener follow:

Facilities Management is conducting energy audits of the major buildings on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. The audits identify energy cost saving measures that are implemented to reduce energy costs and consumption.

Earth Hour is an event where cities, institutions, businesses and individuals around the world will assess their energy usage and make a global statement by turning off lights to demonstrate concern for climate change. From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. (Central Daylight Time) Saturday, March 28, Northwestern is participating in Earth Hour by turning off as many lights as possible for one hour. More information is available at http://www.earthhourus.org/main.php.

Northwestern recycles more than 1,500 tons of materials each year, about 27 percent of the waste stream on both campuses. However, this can be improved upon, and to aid in that goal, additional materials are now acceptable in campus recycling:

  • Plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, plastic cups and to-go type containers, that are marked with a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 on the bottom are now recyclable on campus.
  • Aseptic packaging (i.e., milk and orange juice cartons) can also be recycled in this collection of plastics, cans and glass bottles and jars.
  • Not acceptable: Plastic bags and any plastics marked with a 6 or 7.
  • Paperback books and paperboard (i.e. tablet backs and cereal-type boxes) can now be recycled in paper bins in addition to office paper, envelopes, brochures, newspapers, etc.
  • As a reminder, corrugated cardboard can be mixed with these paper items as well. All boxes should be flattened before being placed in or next to a paper-recycling bin.
To learn more about campus recycling efforts, visit www.northwestern.edu/fm/operations/recycling/.

To help departments "green" their offices, a "Sustainable Office Checklist," including suggestions about unplugging electronic devices, changing light bulbs and recycling is available at http://www.northwestern.edu/fm/operations/recycling/Sustainable%20Office%20Checklist.pdf.

Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) is updating to become more environmentally friendly. NUIT is going "green" with a new Web site. Computing is a large part of campus life, and adopting simple "green" technology habits can save power and energy costs. Go to http://www.it.northwestern.edu/hardware/eco/index.html to learn more.

With simple efforts, everyone on campus can pitch in and help make Northwestern "greener," according to Julie Cahillane, manager of Recycling and Refuse.

"Reduce waste, recycle what you can, turn off lights and unplug electronic items when not in use," said Cahillane. "We can reduce the University's impact on the environment."
Topics: University News