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Northeastern University students hauling five-gallon jugs of water around campus

Spotlight on Sustainability

9/30/10

Dozens of Northeastern University students trekked in a loop around campus on Wednesday, hauling five-gallon jugs of water in the sweltering midday heat. No, it wasn’t an innovative new workout regimen—instead, it was an awareness exercise organized by Northeastern’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) that highlighted a clean-water distribution system the group is working on in Uganda.  

The activity was part of a sustainability fair held on Centennial Quad, where student groups and university organizations set up tables highlighting green initiatives and sustainability practices going on across campus.

Kevin McMorrow, a sophomore and EWB member who traveled to Uganda in May, said the “Jerrycan Challenge” was organized so Northeastern students could “shoulder the weight of how people in third-world countries live.” The yellow jugs were similar in size to those that people in the Bbanda village of Uganda used to fetch often-contaminated water.

Elsewhere on the Quad, sustainability tables highlighted efforts by other groups such as the Husky Energy Action Team, the Environmental Law Society and the Student Government Association (SGA).

Caroline Malcolm, a senior and SGA’s director of sustainability initiatives, pointed to several green projects the association is undertaking to promote sustainable living, including new recycling containers in dormitories and the university’s participation in the national RecycleMania competition next spring.

“It’s going to be a great year for sustainability initiatives,” Malcolm said.

Carol Rosskam, sustainability program manager at Northeastern, said the two-day event is meant to showcase the university’s dedication to integrating sustainable practices into campus operations, curriculum, research and education.

Sustainability is also a focus of use-inspired research at Northeastern, along with other critical global challenges in security and health.

On Thursday, a discussion among three faculty panelists focused on sustainability research, education and outreach. Peter Furth, professor of civil and environmental engineering, presented his vision for a network of greenways throughout the Boston area, saying they contribute enormously to urban life and yield the most sustainable form of transportation—bicycling.

Meanwhile, sustainability’s relationship to marine life also took center stage. Matthew Bracken, assistant professor of biology, discussed the causes and consequences of changes in marine biodiversity. Geoffrey Trussell, associate professor of biology and director of Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, explained the affects of climate change on marine ecosystems. “Without a healthy planet, we can’t have a healthy society,” Trussell said.