The search for the green machine

By Sonya Kovacic

With environmental issues on the rise in national media, attention to the Earth has gained prominence on college campuses. At Northeastern, a variety of ways have arisen to find green alternatives.

General Electric (GE) is partnering with mtvU, the MTV channel catered to college students, to host a nationwide competition called “The Ecomagination Challenge.” The Graduate Environmental and Geo-environmental student group (GEGES), the group stewarding the event at Northeastern, is calling for students to participate.

Stephen Friedman, general manager of mtvU, said the competition will provide an outlet for students to address environmental issues – an issue they already care about.

“MtvU is geared toward what college students want,” he said. “Lots of college students wrote to us and said that the environment was becoming more and more of a problem, and so we responded to it.”

The idea grew out of a “meeting of the minds” between mtvU and an environmental consultant at GE, where they discussed the best way to address students’ concerns, Friedman said.

The premise of the contest is a way to “green” college campuses, or make them more ecologically and environmentally friendly, by developing original projects that are cost-conscious and practical “green thinking,” according to a release.

Entries will be accepted until December 1.

At the close of the contest, GE and mtvU will choose 10 finalists and profile them on mtvU and on mtvU.com.

Students will choose the winner by voting for their favorite projects online based on creativity and economic feasibility.

College students can work individually or in groups and submit a project through the website, www.ecocollegechallenge.com.

The winning team will receive a $25,000 grant towards the implementation of the idea and the winning school will have an Earth Day Concert in the Spring of 2007 with a band to be announced.

Northeastern will have an advantage in the competition due to the co-op system, said David Bedoya, vice president of GEGES and a second-year graduate student of ecological and hydrological modeling in environmental engineering.

“Because of co-op and experience working in companies, students know what can be done,” Bedoya said. “They are more realistic, more real-life. It is easy to come up with creative and cool projects, but making it work is the hard part.”

Not only are engineering students and others with scientific or technical backgrounds invited to partake, but anyone who cares about the environment and wants to help can be involved in the competition, Bedoya said.

“Great ideas are cross-discipline,” Friedman said.

Biologists to English majors to film majors could work together with the common goal of making a more environmentally friendly college, he said.

Bedoya said two projects are already underway on campus.

One is being worked on by the students in the hydrologic engineering course with Professor Dr. Vladimir Novonty. Their project deals with what happens to rainwater at Northeastern University, said the course’s teaching assistant, Joseph Farah, a first-year graduate student in environmental engineering.

“Today’s cities are large impervious spaces that drain rainwater into sewers, Farah said. “Rainwater gets polluted and eventually ends up in the neighboring rivers and seas.”

The students’ goal is to find ways to stop such pollution by mimicking natural hydrologic processes, Farah said. The groups of five to eight students working on the project will present their project to class on Dec. 1, at an event where outside experts will lecture about the subject.

The second project on campus is by students of Professor Jennifer Cole’s organic eating class. They are developing a project about the food served on campus, Cole said.

According to Cole, the director of the environmental studies program, the project is still in its initial stages, and remains open to students who would like to help.

If there are any Northeastern students who are interested but don’t know how to help, they should go to the ecomagination challenge website for possible ideas and the official rules, Cole said.

However, you do not have to enter a contest to care about and help the environment. There are many ways college students can help “green” their campus and contribute to a sustainable future, all while saving money.

Martina Hahn, a sophomore international business major, said she has a high electricity bill and would gladly help to save the environment if it meant saving money, too. Living in an off-campus apartment, she does not get utilities included in her rent and said the bill each month was around $200.

“Saving even five bucks a month would be helpful,” she said.

When she heard using less energy would not only save money but also contribute to emitting less C02 into the atmosphere, she said, “I guess I’ll try and save even more money.”

To avoid high energy bills, consider following some of these tips from the U.S. Department of Energy to lower energy costs.

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