Mt. Trashmore puts waste on display

Madelyn Herzog

From a distance, the 8-foot tall pile of trash outside Lunt Hall on Thursday looked like the result of a garbage truck explosion.

This symbolic heap was Northwestern’s third annual “Mt. Trashmore,” the centerpiece of an Earth Day event created by several student environmental groups to educate students and community members about the importance of recycling.

Mt. Trashmore represents the amount of trash generated on campus approximately every six hours, said Julie Cahillane, manager of recycling and refuse at NU and one of the event’s main organizers.

“You hear numbers like tonnage and percentages, but our goal is to provide a visual representation for people,” Cahillane said.

Cahillane said a couple of students in Engineers for a Sustainable World proposed the concept to her in 2008, borrowing an idea they had seen on other college campuses. ESW contacted the other environmental student groups and NU administration, and interest in supporting the event was strong.

The five eco-friendly student groups that are involved-ESW, Sustainability Working Action Group, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, Environmental Campus Outreach and the GREEN House-provide volunteers and spread the word about the event. Cahillane handles logistics, such as transporting the wooden frame that holds up the pile so the garbage is “impressive-looking instead of a mess on the ground.” She said she also communicates with NU custodians to obtain and move the waste.

“You wouldn’t think that students would want to pull on rubber gloves at 10:30 in the morning and haul garbage, but a lot were willing to help,” Cahillane said.

Aside from the featured mountain, students handed out free reusable water bottles and bags, Norris University Center bookstore staff sold “green” books and merchandise and representatives from Citizens for Greener Evanston provided information on living green.

Ron Fleckman, a CGE member and owner of Energy Recovery Technologies in Evanston, was asking people to sign an online pledge, vowing to take small steps in their daily life to be greener.

“Anything that brings attention to the issue of wastefulness and recycling is helpful,” Fleckman said.

Another special guest was the “bag monster,” portrayed by Weinberg freshman Daniel Oh, and later by Communication senior Benjamin Singer. They donned an unusual suit made of 500 plastic bags, providing a visual representation of the amount of plastic bags a typical shopper uses in one year.

Communication freshman Rohan Lewis, a resident in the GREEN House, said the unusual aspects of the event drew the interest of passersby.

“This is pretty out there and radical,” Lewis said. “I think people will stop and look and think, ‘Whoa.'”

A sign placed prominently on top of Mt. Trashmore read, “This would be approximately 3 feet taller without recycling on campus.” There has been a 5 percent decrease in waste on campus since last year, according to Cahillane, but she said there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“Unfortunately, this is the case everywhere, not just at NU-we’re used to a convenient and disposable lifestyle,” Cahillane said. “There are simple, everyday habits that people need to rethink.”

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