EcoReps promote green living in dorms
The EcoRep program, new this year, will make you think twice before you print one-sided, leave your computer plugged in overnight, throw your empty water bottle into the trashcan or even purchase bottled water in the first place. At least, that is the plan. The program is designed to promote sustainable living and encourage environmentally friendly habits through its representatives in dorms across campus.
Emma Gildesgame '10 developed the idea for the EcoRep program while working as the environmental studies program assistant over the summer. "One of my tasks was to look at what the other schools were doing for campus sustainability and look critically at what Colby was doing and identify areas where Colby had room for improvement," she says.
After researching sustainability programs at other colleges, including Columbia University, the University of Vermont, Oberlin College, Bates College and Bowdoin College, Gildesgame submitted a proposal to the Office of Campus Life and the environmental studies department in July advocating to start an EcoRep program on the Hill. "Tufts had started an EcoRep program a few years ago, and many other schools around the country have followed their lead. I looked at what all these other schools were doing and developed a proposal for a program at Colby, with guidance and input from [Oak Professor of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies Program Director] Russ Cole and [Environmental Studies Program Coordinator] Beth Kopp," she says.
"We looked at how EcoReps will fit into existing sustainability and residential life programming--it fits perfectly with the Colby 360 plan as well as the CL-6 model used by CAs!"
This year, Gildesgame and assistant coordinator Rachel Baron '11 plan to "raise student consciousness of the environmental impacts of everything we do in daily life, and help students figure out what works for them in terms of campus sustainability," Gildesgame says.
EcoReps are assigned to each dorm on campus and plan projects to increase environmental awareness in these residences. Due to a slight under-representation of EcoReps, some students oversee dorms in which they do not reside. "Each EcoRep is meant to be a presence in their dorm and be approachable and knowledgeable about sustainable living [and] how they could reduce their impact on campus and live more sustainably," Baron says. "[EcoReps are] meant to have their own projects, for example reducing paper towel [use] in dorm bathrooms [or] using less energy while doing laundry."
Although the EcoRep program started only three weeks ago, representatives have already started planning several projects for their dorms this year, Gildesgame says. "We have EcoReps working on getting hooks in the dorm bathrooms, most likely attached to the cubbies, for students to leave their individual hand towels on to encourage people to use reusable towels rather than paper towels in the dorms," she says. "EcoReps have also been writing 'green living tips' on their residents' doors, putting up posters about sustainability, holding open office hours [and] working with their CAs."
Sarah Flanagan '12 lives in Heights and serves as an EcoRep for Grossman this year. In addition to her role as an EcoRep, she continues to advocate green living campus-wide. "I'm working on reducing printing waste and increasing awareness about how to print double-sided and thinking before you print," she says. "I work at the information desk in Pulver, so I see a lot of paper get wasted there. I'm also working on making Pulver a little bit greener by encouraging people to turn off the television when they're done."
Lauren McCrary '12 is the EcoRep for Woodman this year. She has already begun to encourage her fellow residents to use drying racks rather than dryers in order to save energy. McCrary writes messages on their boards to inspire discussion about the environment. "I'll write on [residents' boards], 'What environmental issues are most important to you?'" she says. "My big project is providing drying racks in my dorm. Students in Foss and Woodman can come to my dorm and check out drying racks for as long as they need them."
McCrary believes that talking about the problems facing our planet is one of the best ways to increase awareness about them. "I'm interested in living green because I know we only have one planet to live [on]," she says. "It's really important that every student engages in conversation about the environment. Talking to people really increases my education about the issues and what people can do to make the world a little bit greener."
Many of the College's current sustainability programs go unnoticed by students, Gildesgame says. "The vast majority of Colby's existing sustainability programs happen behind the scenes and don't ask students to think about their environmental impacts or ways to reduce them," she says. "For example, the College purchases 100 percent green energy, and all pre- and post-consumer food waste from the dining halls is composted. When students turn off their lights or put their dishes on the conveyer belts in the dining halls, they're participating in Colby's sustainability programming without even thinking about it."
Over the years, an increasing number of student-led projects inspired change on campus, McCrary says. "Things like the organic garden and tray-less dining halls...are all things done by students who wanted to see changes in everyday life."
Those involved in the EcoRep program hope that the ongoing focus on the environment will increase students' awareness and enthusiasm about green living. "We have a new approach to campus sustainability that will hopefully draw in the many people on campus who haven't previously thought much about or been pulled into discussions of campus sustainability and sustainable living," Gildesgame says.
Working collectively to promote more sustainable living can have a significant impact on campus, Baron says. "Every student has the ability to reduce their impact in the way that they live, and it's just a matter of knowing how to do it and what to do. The EcoReps are going to hopefully make that more accessible."