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Northwestern University’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World is not new to green. In fact, these students have been promoting sustainability for nearly five years. It is one of several environmental student groups on campus, but its emphasis on developing and following through with real-world applications of sustainable engineering is what truly sets it apart.
ESW-NU is currently working to power the University’s shuttle buses with recycled biofuels instead of conventional gasoline. The biofuels are to be extracted from the waste vegetable oil generated by the school’s dining halls. Currently, Northwestern’s dining services pay for off-site disposal of the oil.
The project, headed by Northwestern graduate student Aaron Greco, has earned the approval of the University, and talks have begun between the administration, dining services and the shuttle company. With the help of a Walter P. Murphy Grant, ESW-NU is funded to begin building and testing an oil filtration system. The project has even expanded to include plans for construction of an on-campus bus stop made of recycled materials, complete with a solar-powered light and an innovative GPS bus-tracking system that will estimate the time until the next bus.
While ESW-NU has been active locally, some of ESW-NU’s greatest accomplishments have been outside the United States. The group has done considerable work in Panama, where the students helped a community without grid electricity install solar-powered lights at their school. This summer, ESW-NU will return to install solar-generated electricity on individual houses. There are also plans to replace an aging water treatment facility in Portobelo, Panama, with a more sustainable design.
ESW-NU has begun working in developing communities outside of Panama as well. The focus of the newest project is to provide a health center in Ho, Ghana, with reliable solar energy for the center’s vaccine refrigerator.
The main event that ESW-NU organizes to raise environmental awareness locally is Energy Day, the group’s day-long conference. Last spring, ESW-NU brought experts on green technology and climate change to speak at the annual event, which includes lectures, breakout sessions and a poster fair, to spark dialogue about and nurture awareness of what is being done about sustainability and why it is so important. This year’s Energy Day took place Saturday, April 26.
Outside of weekly meetings, the group has used other means of getting the word out about sustainable theory and practice. Its members have produced an educational video and tend their own garden plot in Evanston.
Engineers for a Sustainable World – Northwestern is also active in teaching the concept of sustainability to middle school students as part of the group’s education and outreach. The group presented a program to students at Chute Middle School last spring and plans on returning for another session this year. They hope to engage other middle schools in the area as well.
One of ESW-NU’s primary goals is connected to all of its projects, domestic and international: to stay in contact with each community to ensure that the beneficial changes the group makes are sustained. This is especially true for projects outside the United States.
Northwestern’s chapter of ESW is constantly expanding the ways in which it pursues its mission to make this world more sustainable.
The group is open to new project ideas, whether local or global, and any general feedback or interest from the community would be most welcome. For more information about the group or how to get involved with ESW-NU, contact external relations chair Steven Pals or visit http://msgroups.tech.northwestern.edu/esw.