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Green is the ‘NU’ blue at Northwood University

November 1, 2022

Recycling effort kicks off as other sustainability measures are underway

Northwood University is launching a campus-wide recycling collection as part of a larger effort to be more sustainable.

“Becoming a sustainable entity can be compared to a puzzle in that it takes many small efforts to make an organization more sustainable, just as it takes many small pieces to make a puzzle whole,” stated Professor Chelsea Butcher.

This initiative was first proposed by a group of students in Butcher’s natural sciences class in 2020. The group had a competition to create and market a recycling initiative at Northwood.

“We had the most amazing ideas, of course,” Butcher said.

The winning idea was “Green is the NU Blue at Northwood University.”

But like so many other things, the project was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Lex J. Rutledge, a St. Clair senior, is working with Butcher, Northwood’s Physical Plant Operations, and university leadership to implement this winning idea.

“It has been a long journey,” Butcher noted.

Rutledge is particularly well-fitted for this role, as she works in the sustainability department at Schupan & Sons, Inc., and she is a sustainability minor. 

Rutledge said the main emphasis of this pilot program is to collect and recycle paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum items from around campus. To aid her in her efforts, Physical Plant Supervisor Thomas Pasterz outfitted a large golf cart to help gather materials from bins that will be posted in the DeVos Graduate School; dorms in Dubois and Miner Hall; the Sloan Family Building for Aftermarket Studies; the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center; and the Church Family Administration Building.

Butcher explained the bin wraps and signs for the new project were printed by Jon Perrault, who was an undergrad on the team that came up with the new campaign in 2020. Perrault went on to earn his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Northwood.

Northwood First Lady Mary-Ellen MacPhee is excited to support this campus-wide recycling initiative, and she was impressed by students taking the lead to make this possible.

“Student-led projects like this really show what amazing students we have at Northwood,” MacPhee noted. “We are thankful for this effort — and we’re  proud to say ‘Green is the NU Blue!’”

Rutledge said this is a program that Northwood really needs, and she believes it’s something the majority of the student body will value.

The pilot project will begin its collection efforts in earnest starting Nov. 1, and Rutledge will spend this academic year recruiting a student to take over the program once she graduates this spring.

Butcher, Pasterz and Rutledge believe this project will be an economical benefit to the university. It is being funded with Sustainability Community Grant funds Northwood received from the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

Northwood embracing many sustainability initiatives

Butcher said it takes a collection small efforts, rather than a few, large showy gimmicks, to make an organization more sustainable.

Some efforts that have been implemented at Northwood over the past decade include:

• The construction of electric vehicle charging stations, thanks to Project 100 Funds.

• Additional bike racks to promote bike traffic.

• The incorporation of Bird electric scooters on campus.

• The addition of water fill stations around campus.

• A green roof on the DeVos Graduate School facility. The facility is LEED bronze certified.

• The creation of a butterfly garden.

• The addition of automatic lighting and sensory heating measures on numerous buildings on campus.

• The formation of a Career Closet, which currently is in its development phase.

• The transition to LED lighting, which has saved thousands of dollars while resulting in energy savings.

• A collection campaign to convert old T-shirts into shopping bags used at the Midland Farmers Market, as part of a project with Dow High School and the Go Green Club.

• The addition of a Sustainability Management minor to the university’s curriculum. The Sustainability Management Program is co-lead by Butcher and Professor Christin Greiman.

• The re-establishment of a Students for Sustainability registered student organization.

“These are the small collective pieces that build to a more sustainable university,” Butcher explained. “You can’t change it overnight.”

“But we’re working on it,” added Pasterz.

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