Holly Elwood ’90

2013 Distinguished Citizen Award

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If you've advocated so much for sustainable technology purchasing policies that The Washington Post nicknames you “the green electronics lady,” something's working. Making IT products more environmentally preferable is Holly Elwood's mission—and last year alone, her team's work at the Environmental Protection Agency was projected to prevent 36 million tons of air emissions.

Now one of the global Green IT movement’s leaders, Elwood began thinking creatively about sustainability back in St. Paul, when she wrote about the ozone layer for one of Professor Chuck Green’s assignments. A political science major, she credits two internships—including one in which she helped pass the first municipal plastic-packaging ban in the nation—with guiding her career. “Looking for innovative solutions has been one of the most important things I’ve done at the EPA, and Macalester really helped me prepare for that,” Elwood told Macalester Today in 2007. She went on to earn a master’s degree in environmental sciences and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.

At the EPA, Elwood helped create the most extensive rating system for sustainable electronics. Federal purchasers must now buy computers, imaging equipment, and televisions listed on a global registry based on standards she helped develop. Elwood has been honored by the EPA and the White House, and was nominated for a Service to America medal, the highest ranking federal civilian award.

“Millions of consumers and thousands of corporations and institutions can thank Holly for making IT products more environmentally safe,” writes nominator Jeff Eagan, leader of electronics stewardship work at the Department of Energy. “She is an inspiration to all of us in the movement fighting to prevent global warming and save the planet.”