Editorial: It’s not easy being green

Northeastern’s grades just came in, and they’re not looking so good. Last Wednesday, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released its College Sustainability Report Card, which measures environmental practices. Northeastern received a (rather average) C-. For such a special and bright young school as Northeastern, this seems troubling.

We fear Northeastern is not working up to its potential – a grounding is definitely in order, but taking away NU’s TV and allowance is not going to be enough.

Perhaps we should hire a tutor. For this, we can look to Harvard, which received an A-. The Harvard Green Campus Initiative has a full-time staff of 16 people and countless student volunteers to explore how they can make their campus greener. This is a far cry from the recently developed Northeastern sustainability committee, spearheaded by part-time volunteers. Harvard’s practices include on-campus solar panels on several buildings, four geothermal projects and green cleaning in custodial services.

While Northeastern’s sustainability committee is no doubt a step in the right direction, it’s clear the school could be doing more to improve environmental practices. However, we’re not the dumbest kid in the class: rival Boston University averaged a D, and Boston College tied us for a C-. Clearly, many of us could be doing better.

President Joseph Aoun has made it clear he envisions Northeastern as a prominent school of the future, so keeping the campus Earth-friendly would seem to be a natural extension. Luckily, we are making slow, but steady, progress in that direction.

NU Goes Green, an environmental project created by five seniors, is a finalist for mtvU’s Ecomagination Challenge. Student groups like the Huskies Energy Action Team (HEAT) kicked off climate action week Monday, an event geared toward raising awareness about global warming. These actions send a message to President Aoun and the rest of the administration that students are looking for a change. Northeastern has a long way to go, and much of that needs to start with the administration.

For starters, the school desperately needs to make a real commitment to cleaning up. We need to start investing in building a campus that achieves both academically and environmentally. Organic and locally grown food needs to be available in the dining halls. The Curry Student Center uses 90 solar panels to supply electricity to the building, but it’s the only one. Perhaps instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an inaugural celebration, we can work toward erecting an environmentally sound building in Aoun’s honor. That would signal a change for the school better than any speech or lecture series could.

Northeastern cannot tout itself as a school for forward-thinking and intelligent minds without employing green practices. The kind of smart, passionate students Northeastern needs to reach the upper echelon of higher education are not going to want to go to a school with archaic environmental practices. Sure, it might not be the first thing on their minds when making a decision, but lacking a substantive policy to make the campus more green seems to highlight the larger issue that Northeastern simply isn’t modern.

As Harvard illustrates, any school that wants to be at the collegiate forefront must take the environment seriously. Although there is no doubt that, thanks to student participation, Northeastern is slowly becoming greener, we can all do more. From making an effort to recycle all bottles and cans to sending a clear message to the administration that the students of Northeastern take the environment seriously. Perhaps, if we can make a change, we could even make the honor roll.

Leave a Reply