Mt. Trashmore offers a visual for waste production

Becky Olles

Video by Katey Rusch and Sarah Simpson

An eight-foot tall pile of trash stood outside Lunt Hall on Wednesday as a temporary landmark on Northwestern’s campus. This year, students hoped the Earth Day garbage mountain would send a message to students and NU administrators.

The pile of trash, Mt. Trashmore, symbolized the amount of refuse NU produces every six hours. Mt. Trashmore first appeared on campus on last year’s Earth Day, and was resurrected this year by Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, Engineers for a Sustainable World and Environmental Campus Outreach to celebrate the day once again.

Julie Cahillane, NU’s manager of recycling and refuse, said Mt. Trashmore helps the NU community visualize how much trash they generate. About 140 trash bags were used to create the mountain, Cahillane said.

“You can talk about tons of trash, but it doesn’t mean anything,” she said. “So, seeing it has a bigger impact on people in terms of how much we waste and how much we trash. The goal is to get people to waste less and reuse more.”

Melissa Riepe, the publishing and fundraising chair for SEED, said the group was involved with this year’s Mt. Trashmore to encourage students to sign pledge cards asking incoming NU President Morton O. Schapiro to hire a sustainability coordinator.

“We’re going to have them hopefully on (President-Elect) Schapiro’s desk the day he comes,” the Weinberg junior said. “Also, we’re asking students to change their own habits and it shows that as students we’re all willing to make a change.”

SEED Co-chair Sam Eckland said about 600 students signed pledge cards at the event, and said he hopes for 2,000 signatures by the end of the year.

Cahillane said the mountain has decreased in size due to NU cutting back its waste and improving recycling efforts.

“This year (Mt. Trashmore) is 7 percent smaller than last year because we’ve reduced our trash generated and increased what we recycled,” she said. “We’re moving in the right direction and hopefully this reminder helps people to change their behaviors.”

Without recycling on campus, Mt. Trashmore would have been four feet higher, Cahillane said.

Along with a performance by members of Phi Mu Alpha, there were free giveaways including water bottles and tote bags.

Eckland said the event shows a shift from academic discussion to student action.

“Whereas Earth Day in the past has been a day where people were devoted to environmental service,” the Weinberg junior said. “Now we really have the opportunity to engage the student body about environmental issues, and show them that there are student organizations taking action for their concerns.”

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