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Celebrate Earth Day at Northwestern

EPA honors University’s green initiatives; Mount Trashmore is shrinking

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April 19, 2012 | by Matt Paolelli
Watch highlights from the 2009 Mount Trashmore event. The mountain of trash represents how much garbage is generated on campus every six hours and raises awareness about campus recycling programs. Video produced by Matt Paolelli

Northwestern University has a lot to celebrate on Earth Day this year, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently named Northwestern the Big 10 Conference champion in this year’s College and University Green Power Challenge.

Several campus events are planned to commemorate Earth Day, and the most visible display will be a giant pile of trash in front of Lunt Hall. But don’t be alarmed: It’s just the annual construction of Mount Trashmore, a pile of refuse that serves as a visual representation of how much trash is generated on campus every six hours.

Sponsored by Facilities Management, NU Recycling and several environmental student groups, the display is intended to motivate people to waste less, reuse more and recycle whenever possible. Mount Trashmore will be on display Friday, April 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Click here to see a full schedule of Earth Day events and activities at Northwestern.

Mount Trashmore has become an annual Earth Day tradition in recent years, and the decreasing size of the mountain is good news for Northwestern.

“The mountain is a bit smaller this year than last, due to reduced trash generation and increased recycling,” said Julie Cahillane, Northwestern’s manager of refuse and recycling.

Northwestern’s victory in the EPA’s College and University Green Power Challenge also shows its commitment to sustainability. Northwestern had the largest individual green power purchase -- 74,311,195 kilowatt hours (kWh) -- among all the Big 10 schools. That figure is 35 percent of the Big 10’s overall total of 213,707,149 kilowatt hours and 30 percent of the University’s annual electricity usage.

According to the U.S. EPA, Northwestern’s green power use of 74 million kWh is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of more than 6,000 average American homes annually or the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 10,000 passenger vehicles per year.

Northwestern purchases renewable energy certificates from 3Degrees and also generates green power from an on-site solar array, helping to reduce the environmental impacts associated with the campus’ electricity use.

Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, EPA’s Green Power Partnership tracked the collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power usage in the nation. The individual conference champion award recognizes the school that has made the largest individual purchase of green power within a qualifying conference.

More information is available at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/initiatives/cu_challenge.htm.

Topics: Campus Life