Dance Marathon continues to work towards sustainability


Students dance for 30 hours as part of Dance Marathon. Photo by Lan Nguyen By Francesco Guerrieri

Dance Marathon is one of the largest events on campus, and it is quickly becoming one of the most sustainable. For the past two years, DM has worked with ASG’s Sustainability Committee to make the 30-hour dancing spree more environmentally conscious, and this year they repeated their efforts.

Dance Marathon’s main focus was reducing waste through composting, which Dance Marathon has done for the past three years. The food committee collected and composted all the food waste generated by the event.

This year’s Dance Marathon filled five 65-gallon standard trash bins, and three 35-gallon trash bins with food waste for composting. In addition, they recycled enough cans and bottles to fill six pickup truck beds, and enough cardboard to fill 20.

But Nikki Romane, a member of DM’s food committee and head of ASG Sustainability Committee’s Green Events Consulting project, said those metrics can still be improved. For instance, most of the composted waste wasn’t waste at all, but donated produce and bagels had to be composted because of excess donations.

“There’s a lot of things that are out of your control,” Romane said. “But DM does a really good job for as large scale of an event it is.

Julie Cahillane, manager of sustainability and resource management at the NU Office of Sustainability, said composting and recycling efforts are important not only because they make the event greener, but also because they spread awareness about these efforts.

“There’s 2,000 dancers who might not have know composting was an option,” Cahillane said. “And we tell people that story all the time, but do they hear it?”

Rob Whittier, director of the Office of Sustainability, ran DM’s fourth consecutive energy audit this year, The audit tracked how much energy the event used, from transportation to heating. Romane said these metrics will be helpful in the future for determining how to reduce energy usage at DM. Results from previous energy audits inspired last year’s DM to invest in energy-efficient LED lights because it was an obvious and easy way to reduce energy waste, Romane said.

After Whittier completes the audit of energy use, the Office of Sustainability will make DM carbon neutral by funding the planting of enough trees to absorb the same amount of carbon that was produced.

This year, instead of providing plastic water bottles, DM bought reusable ones for dancers. Organizers then tracked the amount of times they refilled the water coolers they put out and used this number to estimate how many water bottles were saved.

Romane estimates the switch to reusable bottles prevented the use of over 3,000 plastic ones.

Dance Marathon has considered other novel ways to integrate sustainability into their event, such as purchasing a self-powering dance floor. The floor would harness the energy of dancers’ movements and use that energy to light itself. The group looked into getting the floor for this year, but encountered complications with importing it. However, Romane said they do hope to have the floor in future years, and are looking to introduce bike- and solar-powered phone chargers as well.

Romane and the Green Events Consulting team plan to continue to work with DM in coming years to minimize its environmental impact. Next year, Romane said she plans to focus not only on the event itself, but on programs leading up to DM, like trivia nights, where there is a lot of paper waste.

“It’s really about a partnership,” Cahillane said. “Both sides are interested in making the event greener.”

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