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This year, Mount Trashmore at Northwestern University shared its space with a bike-powered blender. It helped promote Chicago's Bike2Campus competition, where students log their bike trips to win prizes and

Northwestern's Mount Trashmore piles up the waste on Earth Day

by Jade Kolker
Apr 22, 2014


Jade Kolker/MEDILL

Senior Liz Schrier peddles on a stationary bike made by the campus group Eco-Reps that powers an attached blender. Schrier was at Mount Trashmore to promote Bike2Campus, a competition between Chicagoland schools to encourage bike riding.


Jade Kolker/MEDILL

Members of various eco-friendly organizations at Northwestern passed out free giveaways to people to promote recycling not only during Earth Week, but also year round.

Mount Trashmore towered in front of Lunt Hall on Northwestern University's Evanston campus, dramatically displaying the amount of trash collected on campus during a seven-hour period.

Eco-friendly volunteer mountain-builders joined together for the seventh year to build it. Campus groups like Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED), Eco-Reps, and the Associated Student Government's Sustainability Committee teamed up with the Office of Sustainability.

The event raises awareness for the importance of recycling and waste management. Northwestern's grounds crew and custodial services also contribute by collecting and bringing the bags to the structure.


While the garbage collected for the mount came from only three of the main buildings on campus, the visual representation makes an impact on the community each year. Julie Cahillane, manager of sustainability and resource management at Northwestern University, said that it is student-driven, and that people are starting to think of it as an annual event.

"It's an interesting way to engage people on sustainability. People throw away stuff without even thinking about it," said Cahillane.

Cahillane has worked at Northwestern for 20 years and has helped with Mount Trashmore's construction since its inception seven years ago. Members of Engineers for a Sustainable World heard about the idea from another campus, ran the calculations necessary to build a structure strong enough to hold the garbage, and erected the tiered installation. The 8-foot Mount Trashmore would be about 3 feet taller if people on campus did not recycle, Cahilane said.

Signs with sustainability facts lined the area where the structure rose next to Sheridan Road. The campus carpentry shop stores and maintains the wood and wire structure, which is used each year, while the posters are updated reflect changing trends. According to the signs, the campus generates 8.9 tons of garbage and recycles 4.3 tons of garbage each day. Last year, campus generated 9.4 tons of garbage each day.

"It may not be something people think about regularly, so this is a good time to get the word out," said freshman Aimee Arvayo, member of the Associated Student Government's Sustainability Committee.

Next to Mount Trashmore, anyone could try out the stationary bike set up to power a blender for smoothie making to promote the visibility of bikes on campus. The bike, built for the campus group Eco-Reps, was used to also promote Bike2Campus, another event for Earth Week. Chicagoland colleges and universities will log their bike rides to compete for prizes ranging from Top Cycle Campus to Top Pedaler at each campus.

Northwestern senior Liz Schrier serves as the cycling intern within the Office of Sustainability, and is encouraging people across campus to log their bike rides. "People don't even realize they’re being eco-friendly by riding a bike to and from campus," said Schrier.

Volunteers also handed out free water bottles and reusable bags and spoons to people walking by, encouraging them to use ecological items to lessen the waste around campus. "I'm really happy that we can celebrate Earth Day and the beginning of spring outside," said Madeline Miller, the co-president of SEED and a junior at Northwestern.