sustainNU's 2018-2019 Year in Review Sustainability Report
NU Thrift—A Student-Run Pop-Up Shop Driven by Sustainability
Noticing a lack in affordable second-hand clothes near campus, sophomore Sam Liu had an idea—a student-run thrift shop located on Northwestern’s campus. She approached the Student Enrichment Services office to ask about assistance and was connected to Melissa Batz, another student who had a similar idea. Together they worked on a plan for a permanent space, but they knew it was important to pilot the concept in order to gauge student interest and get feedback.
Near the end of spring quarter 2019, NU Thrift was launched. Boxes were placed around residence halls asking for donations and the pair picked up the clothes. The pop-up shop in Norris ran for a few days, and students were excited about the startup.
“A lot of people came up and just said this is such a great idea; you should keep doing this; I’m so glad you’ve done this,” Liu said.
Sustainability was a driving force behind the idea from the start. Liu noted that the Integrated Solid Waste Management Planfrom sustainNU mentions that Northwestern has no source for recycling textiles. Part of the mission of NU Thrift is to become one of those sources. Liu hopes that NU Thrift helps students think critically about their consumption habits, and that it becomes a permanent space as a resource for low-income students.
Read more about this amazing effort here!
Arbor Day Foundation Honors Northwestern University with 2019 Tree Campus USA® Recognition
Northwestern University was honored with 2019 Tree Campus USA® recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.
"Tree Campuses and their students set examples for not only their student bodies but the surrounding communities showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of Northwestern University’s participation air will be purer, water cleaner and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.”
The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Northwestern University achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Currently there are 385 campuses across the United States with this recognition.
Green Office Spotlight: Winter 2020
The Green Office Program engages faculty and staff in the process of adopting environmental best practices in the workplace. The program offers guidance on conserving energy and water, reducing waste, and increasing environmental awareness on campus. The process empowers all of our faculty and staff to become green leaders, and its success is based on broad engagement and collective impact.
Read here about two new initiatives carried out by the Green Teams at School of Professional Studies Facilities/IT and Pritzker School of Law Facilities as a part of their Green Office Certification efforts!
Partnership Explores Funding Measures for Colorado Water Plan
The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organization, partnered with the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Environmental Advocacy Center (EAC) at the Bluhm Legal Clinic last semester to pursue an ambitious research project to explore potential opportunities on the Front Range of Colorado to increase funding for the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan.
Collaborations and partnerships with prominent organizations such as The Nature Conservancy are routinely facilitated by the Institute of Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), which works to build connections with partners throughout the university to provide opportunities and resources. Past projects offered through the EAC program and ISEN have included partnerships with global conservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, but this particular project was a first-time collaboration between the EAC and The Nature Conservancy.
Read more here!
Research Hub at Northwestern Powers Next-Generation Solar Cell Research
Next-generation solar cells might power personal electronics such as watches and backpacks that could recharge your cell phone.
These solar cells are being tested and prototyped in a research hub launched this year by the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University.
The ISEN research hub, named Glovebox Inert Atmosphere (N2) Thin-film Fabrication and Testing or GIANTFab, allows academic and commercial users to explore new materials for solar cells in a set of connected and airtight glove boxes that eliminate air interference. The goal is to find more efficient alternatives to expensive and rigid silicon solar cells, a game-changer for solar energy.
Read more here!
Team of Researchers Awarded $2.5 Million for Sustainable Plastics Innovation
A team of engineers and scientists from Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, and several global industrial partner institutions will receive $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research toward the development of new sustainable polymers, recycling methods, and environmental impact assessment tools. The collaborative initiative, known as Responsible Innovation for Highly Recyclable Plastics, or “ResIn” for short, will initially focus on polyurethanes—a popular class of polymer used in everything from construction and insulation to furniture and textiles.
“Global production for polyurethanes is about 18 million tons per year with market size in excess of $55 billion. These materials have a wide range of applications, but the reality is that their current recycling rate is zero percent,” says Linda Broadbelt, principal investigator for ResIn and Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of chemical and biological engineering as well as associate dean for research in engineering at Northwestern.
ResIn’s research could have far-reaching implications for addressing plastic pollution. “The focal point for ResIn is polyurethanes, but the methodology that we’re test-driving could also be applied more broadly to other types of polymers,” Broadbelt says. Scientists estimate that the world produces about 300 million tons of plastic waste per year, with 80 percent ending up in landfills or the environment.
Read more about this amazing project here!
Meet Will Schafer: Vice President of Marketing for Beyond Meat
As a Kellogg graduate ('05), Will Schafer learned how to think big picture and recognize system problems, which he applied in his work with Beyond Meat to clarify a cow’s lack of efficiency as a part of the larger meat production system. “We believe by taking the protein that people put at the center of the plate and switching it from traditional animal protein to one that's plant based, you're going to have a huge impact on four major areas,” says Schafer. Those four areas are: human health, climate change, sustainability (in terms of resource conservation), and animal welfare.
“The Beyond Meat mission is founded on a realization,” Schafer says. “By making meat directly from plants and skipping the cow, this piece of technology, you can actually make a piece of meat that's not only healthier but is way more sustainable.”
Read more about his mission here!
Loyola to host Climate Change Conference
STAY HOPEFUL. STAY WITH US. STAY TUNED. STAY IN POWER.
"We refuse to do anything but move forward and ultimately win. Courts do have an obligation to address issues of constitutional, existential crisis, like climate change."
This is the message from 23-year-old Kelsey Juliana after hearing that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case that she and twenty other young people filed in 2015. The Juliana 21 argued that the US government was violating their constitutional right to life and liberty through "its affirmative actions in creating a national energy system that causes climate change."
In mid-January, the court concluded that the case these young plaintiffs were making could not be ruled on by the courts, but needed to be ruled on by Congress, the President, and the electorate at large.
Listen to her story and find out what's next for this important lawsuit during our Keynote Conversation with Youth Climate Activists on March 12, 2020, at Loyola's Sixth Climate Change Conference, which is held on March 12th and 13th.
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Evanston Ecology Center teaches generations about environment
Outside, the wind whips trees and snow coats the ground. But the Evanston Ecology Center has brought nature inside, with lizards and turtles and bunnies — oh my! — among the many animals in its classroom. Here, three- and four-year-old students learn about animals’ winter habitats before having the option to see real-life examples during their first lesson of the “Saplings and Oaks” series.
In sunshine or snow, the center offers programs for children and adults to learn about nature. Dedicated in 1974, the center has taught Evanston residents about the environment for more than 45 years, supported by the Evanston Environmental Association.
Read more about their work here!
The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern Joins the Planetary Health Alliance
As 2020 opens the doors to a new decade, the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) shines a spotlight on the connections between global environmental challenges and human health as a new member of the Planetary Health Alliance.
The Planetary Health Alliance is a consortium of over 200 universities, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, and government entities from around the world committed to understanding and addressing global environmental change and its health impacts.
As a member organization, ISEN will facilitate new opportunities for students and faculty to share Northwestern’s strengths with the global community through research and education, and to interface with members of the organization in new ways.
Read more here!
From Qubits to Climate Change: Northwestern Quantum Experts See Powerful Potential
At Northwestern University, researchers are contributing to the field of quantum computing through the Initiative at Northwestern for Quantum Information Research and Engineering (INQUIRE) — an interdisciplinary consortium harnessing faculty thought leadership from across the University’s top-ranked departments, such as chemistry, materials science, engineering, and physics and astronomy. An illustrative example of the problem-solving power of quantum computing involves one of the most complex problems facing the world today — climate change.
With quantum computers, researchers could flawlessly model complex molecular systems, leading to the development of new materials for higher efficiency batteries. We could more easily replicate processes like photosynthesis and fertilizer production that effortlessly occur in nature but require tremendous amounts of energy to reproduce in the lab. Worldwide industrial production of nitrogen fertilizer alone emits more greenhouse gases than the entire United Kingdom every year, and more efficient methods would be a game-changer, both for the climate and global economy.
Read more about this amazing work here!
Northwestern to Launch Master’s Degree in Energy and Sustainability
Northwestern and The Nature Conservancy Renew Global Research Partnership
Northwestern Students Accepted into Clinton Global Initiative University Program
In this academic year, nine Northwestern University students will participate in a year-round curriculum including an international conference as a part of the 12th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) program. After a rigorous selection process, approximately 700 students from over 100 countries and 280 institutions of higher education were selected to join the CGI U class of 2020.
Accepted participants from Northwestern include: Saif Bhatti, Hannah Caplan, Amy Drake, Giovanni Gamalong, Simone Laszuk, Ahlaam Moledina, Allison O’Donnell, Nicole Tanda, and Mariel Tang.
Read more here!
Buffett Institute for Global Affairs awards $150,000 in support to ‘Idea Incubation Workshop’ project
The Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs awarded an estimated $150,000 in support to an innovative global research project — “Disproportionate Impacts of Environmental Challenges”— after hosting the institute’s inaugural “Idea Incubation Workshop” this month.
Twelve Northwestern scholars, practitioners and outside experts collaborated on the interdisciplinary project aimed at mitigating climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, deforestation, pollution and other global environmental challenges that will require unprecedented community-based cooperation and research creativity.
Read more here!
Northwestern University Recognized as Collective Conference Champion for EPA's 2018-2019 University Green Power Challenge
Northwestern University announced today that it is one of eight schools in the Big Ten Conference the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is recognizing as 2018-19 Collective Conference Champions for their green power use. With this award, EPA recognizes both the Big Ten and its participating schools for winning the 2018-19 College and University Green Power Challenge. Together, the schools in this conference collectively use more green power than any other conference participating in the challenge, with the University of Maryland leading the way as the Big Ten school that used the largest amount of green power.
Read more about what Northwestern is doing to stay green here!
Expanded Composting at Norris Center
In April 2019, student organization Northwestern University Real Food (NURF) piloted expanded food waste compost collections to diners on the ground floor of Norris University Center. While food waste composting is part of all campus dining operations, most collections take place in prep, serving, and dish room areas. With the help of Northwestern Dining, the Norris staff, and sustainNU, NURF was able to compost 400 pounds of waste from diners over a 4-week period, avoiding disposal in a landfill.
Read more about NURF's wonderful initiative!
Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Wendy Schmidt Discusses Critical Ocean Issues
Our oceans are under attack.
Contaminants pour in from everywhere. Plastic and chemical pollution overflow from cities and farms. Discarded waste materials come from the clothing industry. Trash and netting from fishing boats, illegal fishing and over-fishing create traps. Deep-sea mining and drilling by governments and industry release spills and sludge.
“It’s hard to care about something that you can’t see,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, speaking at Northwestern University on May 7. “It’s even harder to care about something you don’t understand.”
In her speech, “The Low Down on the High Seas: What We Don’t Know About the Ocean Can Kill Us,” Schmidt presented optimistic approaches to address critical ocean issues such as oil spill, micro-plastic, acidification, their impact on industries, and the framework of viewing the ocean as part of an interactive living system.
Read more about this issue here!
Northwestern Student Explores Legal Solutions to Help Protect the Amazon
Beginning in the fall of 2018, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) began working with the Environmental Advocacy Center to determine what opportunities and solutions exist on how to incorporate “natural capital” such as rain forests and human livelihood into infrastructure projects in the Amazon.
This could mean legal and policy changes that would enable WWF to work with local communities to better protect the environment in the Amazon and the interests of indigenous people.
The project emerged due in large part to WWF’s formal partnership with the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).
Read more about it here!
Methane-consuming Bacteria Could be the Future of Fuel
Known for their ability to remove methane from the environment and convert it into a usable fuel, methanotrophic bacteria have long fascinated researchers. But how, exactly, these bacteria naturally perform such a complex reaction has been a mystery.
Now an interdisciplinary team at Northwestern University has found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyzes this reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion.
This finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism.
Working to Preemptively Respond to the Problem of Plastic Pollution
Despite its single-use lifespan, most of all plastic will persist for hundreds of years—eventually making its way into the environment and into the food and water we consume. That is why Cristina Negri, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s environmental science division, called plastics one of the worst misdesigns in history.
Read more about what action ISEN is taking here!
Northwestern Launches Program on Plastics, Ecosystems, and Public Health
The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University (ISEN) is spearheading a new Program on Plastics, Ecosystems, and Public Health. The Program’s ultimate goal is to establish comprehensive scientific understanding of the uncertain environmental and human health impacts resulting from the unprecedented use and accumulation of plastics worldwide, while accelerating the discovery of scalable solutions to mitigate such impacts.