Earth Day at the Medical School 2011

See video from Earth Day

By one measure, the Medical School’s Earth Day celebration this year was a truck-load of success. Better yet, make that two truck loads.

On April 20, both Medical School lobbies were filled for much of the day as more than 1,000 people streamed through the sixth annual Earth Day celebration. Among the most active spots at the event this year was the drop-off for old home electronics. “The electronics recycling was an incredible success,” noted Melissa Lucas, UMMS sustainability and energy efficiency manager. “We collected more than 9,000 pounds of equipment.”

Northeast Materials Handling, a Lowell-based company, is the Medical School’s vendor for recycling or reusing many bulk items like furniture and fixtures, old freezers, computers and electronics the school no longer needs. This year, the company agreed to set up a free collection station at the Earth Day event so members of the Medical School community could bring in those hard-to-dispose-of items they’ve been keeping around the house.

“It was bigger than we expected,” said Patti Costos of Northeast Materials Handling who coordinated the drop-off program. “I had to send for another crew.”

The company breaks down most of the items they collect, and aggregates the reusable elements like metals and plastics to sell them as commodities. The Earth Day collection was so popular, Lucas decided to stage a similar event in May for school employees at the South Street building in Shrewsbury. “We collected more than 8,000 pounds of electronics at South Street,” Lucas said. “The sustainability committee is now planning to do these collections events at least once a year.”

Also at Earth Day, visitors saw a display of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric conversion vehicles; had the opportunity to buy steeply discounted energy-efficient light bulbs; enjoyed pop-corn from the Bancroft School’s solar-powered popcorn machine and sampled other locally grown foods. One vendor had a selection of clothes made from recycled materials. Polar Beverages of Worcester handed out free samples of their popular sodas.

Earth Day featured a contest to name Growing Green’s new iconic mascot, a stylized firefly created by Brittany Armington, a junior at Montserrat College of Art, and daughter of Mark Armington, the senior director for facilities engineering and construction at the Medical School.

The winning name, as judged by the Medical School Sustainability Committee is “Luminous Lu” which was submitted by Carolyn Kelly, who works in the Emergency Medicine department. “The image reminded me of the fireflies we used to chase as kids, and the name just sort of popped into my head,” Kelly said. “It looked very luminous, so I just thought ‘Luminous Lu’.”

For her winning sobriquet, Kelly received a “green” basket filled environmentally friendly products, including green cleaning supplies and efficient light bulbs.

Overall, some 47 vendors and campus departments participated in the Earth Day event. “We were very pleased with all the support and the turn out from the Medical School community,” said Rebecca Chlapowski of the school’s auxiliary services department who helps coordinate the Earth Day program. “Each year the event brings something new to campus, and we hope that what people learn from the displays and information is helpful for them to make more sustainable choices in their daily lives.”