The Environmental Protection Agency ranked Northwestern University fifth in its most recent list of top green power purchasers. The list rates higher education institutions within the Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program that encourages organizations to help offset the impact of electricity usage.
Northwestern moved up three spots from the EPA’s previous ranking, published last fall, after purchasing more Renewable Energy Certificates (REC), which support the growth of renewable energy market initiatives such as wind farms and solar panels.
“This is one of the things that the university is doing that is a big commitment,” said Julie Cahillane, Manager of Recycling and Refuse within facilities management. “It’s something that we are doing because we see this as a way to help benefit the market of renewable energy.”
This REC purchase began on Feb. 1 and represents 30 percent of the total energy used on campus, which maintains the university’s position in the Green Power Leadership Club.
The university has been buying RECs since 2006. These purchases have been the effect of the university’s Commitment to Environmental Sustainability that went into effect in 2004 to improve awareness of sustainability issues, according to Cahillane.
“I think Northwestern has been working hard for many years on these efforts and slowly building and figuring out what we can do next, what’s a good fit at Northwestern and what else we can add on to our efforts,” Cahillane said.
Green Cup co-chair Mike Giannetto believes that these purchases are a big deal and will attract more “green thinking” on campus.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster for students on the fence about Northwestern’s sustainability,” the McCormick senior said. “It might spark their interest a little bit more and hopefully make them look into other groups on campus to get involved.”
Both Cahillane and Giannetto recognize this as a step in a greener direction, but still hope to see more renewable energy initiatives on campus.
“I am definitely not satisfied,” Giannetto said. “I am waiting to see what comes next. There are a lot of issues and nobody to blame.”