Northwestern only university to receive 2015 EPA award

Fathma Rahman, Reporter

Northwestern earned the 2015 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, becoming the only institution of higher education to receive the award this year.

The Green Power Leadership Award recognizes exceptional achievement and leadership among Green Power Partners and green power suppliers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press officer Enesta Jones said. The honor, in the Green Power Purchasing category, recognizes organizations that make significant contributions to sustainability by purchasing green power from a utility green-pricing program, a competitive green marketer or a renewable energy certificate supplier, Jones said.

“By using green power, college campuses can help lead the way in advancing the renewable energy market and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” Jones told The Daily in an email.

Renewable energy certificates are presented for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy — a unit of measuring power — produced. The certificates provide buyers different options in creating green power across a geographical area and applying that renewable energy to electricity use at a facility of their choice, Jones said.

Many of the initiatives that earned NU the award were pursued by several groups across the University, including the Office of Sustainability and Engineers for a Sustainable World, said SESP junior Christina Cilento, ASG vice president of sustainability.

“The Office of Sustainability was involved in coordinating the purchases of renewable energy certificates. Engineers for a Sustainable World implemented projects including solar panels on the roof of Ford Center, as well as their SolarTree project — a tree-shaped, solar-powered charging station for laptops and cellphones — that the group is currently trying to place in Norris,” Cilento said. “Northwestern Students for Sustainability and Energy, which promotes solar research on campus, also aided in the establishment of the solar panels on the roof of Ford.”

McCormick senior Hassan Ali, president of Engineers for a Sustainable World, has been involved in both the solar panels and SolarTree projects on campus. The group received about $26,000 in funding for the SolarTree project, which will be placed in Norris University Center before the end of the year. Ali said the group has another major focus this year: banning plastic water bottles on campus.

“We’re currently trying to get Northwestern to ban the sales of plastic water bottles entirely so as to promote the usage of reusable water bottles and to reduce NU’s carbon emission impact as well as generally being more environmentally-friendly towards our local environment so that there’s less littering around here,” Ali said. “That’s the next big step that Northwestern has to take if they really want to be committed to improving their sustainability standards.”

Cilento and Ali agreed that, because NU has set itself apart as a nationwide leader in sustainability, it must continue to improve.

“Being an environmentalist means that you have considered what your own impact is on the world around you,” Ali said. “That’s why it’s important for Northwestern to have this mindset that shows that they’re thinking more than just about the present, but also about the future.”

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