Eastern celebrates Earth Day, environmentally-friendly efforts

John Wills, Staff Reporter

April 22 is Earth Day, a holiday celebrated around the world to commemorate clean energy use and natural resources conservation amidst concerns of global climate change. Eastern is one institution striving to accomplish its clean energy goal.

The holiday was created in 1970 by a group of activists including Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, and was designed to fight the increasingly rapid deterioration of planet Earth’s resources after the January 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.

As a public university in Illinois, Eastern has prided itself in the past on its ability to contribute to the clean energy discussion. Eastern’s Renewable Energy Center was completed in 2011 as a landmark to Eastern’s commitment to providing clean energy for its students.

Eastern’s power is not primarily provided from this center, however. A majority of Eastern’s campus is powered by electricity generated from natural gas generated off-site.

Josh Reinhart, Eastern’s public relations coordinator, said that EIU purchases its electricity through a group operation that includes several other public universities, including ISU, WIU, SIUE, and SIUC. The ability for all the universities to go to bat together means lower prices and fewer expenditures for the campuses.

Electric services company Ameren provides the university transport for natural gas and electricity. This is the source for almost all power that runs through Eastern’s academic and residential buildings.

This is a progression from the power source Eastern used prior to 2012: coal. The transition was made to move away from the pollutants associated with coal power generation.

Eastern has made significant advancements on other conservational fronts, however. Eastern’s Facilities office has been diligent in changing out several parts of Eastern’s infrastructure, to ensure that the university uses the least amount of resources possible while running the University.

“Items like LED lighting conversions, water conservation, window replacements, steam production, and chilled water production and distribution were included in those projects,” Reinhart said. “The campus currently maintains the efficiencies gained through those various projects, allowing the University to benefit from associated reductions in utility costs.”

These reduced costs Reinhart mentioned do have a positive effect on the University’s plans for the future, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous.

The source said that reducing the energy costs on campus has allowed the University to consider possible expansion of clean energy efforts in the future, though no official plans have been made as of yet.

The source also said that there are talks about incorporating new technology inside the upcoming science building, which is slated to house the biochemistry, chemistry, and biological sciences departments. The building will, assuming all goes to plan, have expanded access to both solar and geothermal technologies.

While Eastern’s conservation and clean energy initiatives are a work in progress, the natural elements around campus have earned recognition for the university in the past. Eastern is a four-time winner of

the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus Higher Education recognition award, an accolade to commemorate Eastern’s dedication to plant life on campus.

“The Tree Campus Higher Education program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals,” according to a press release on Eastern’s website.

John Wills can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]