Eco-Reps Encourage Sustainability
Recycling and sustainability efforts at Penn State University Park are gaining traction, and the Eco-Reps are doing their part to spread the word.
The Eco-Reps program, which began in 2009, is a cooperative effort among Housing, Residence Life, Penn State faculty, and the Sustainability Institute, aimed toward making University Park a greener campus. Eco-Reps are first-year students committed to creating a culture of sustainability at Penn State. The position is paid and welcomes students from all majors and backgrounds to encourage sustainable behaviors--such as saving energy, recycling, and composting--in the residence halls and dining commons.
This year, 33 students serve as Eco-Reps, eight former Eco-Reps serve as mentors, and three students are program coordinators. For now, the program takes place only in East Halls, but hopes are to expand the program next year to all residence halls where first-year students live.
"An important component of the Eco-Reps program is to raise awareness," says David Manos, assistant housing director and Eco-Rep program adviser. "We find that often, students come to us with limited knowledge about recycling. A lot of communities either don't recycle or they do it very differently. So when a first-year student encounters a recycling station here on campus, the initial reaction is confusion. We need to tell the story."
Getting the sustainability message across early on is key, Manos says. This past summer, during New Student Orientation, videos focusing on sustainability played in the lobbies of the two buildings where orientation activities took place.
The Eco-Reps focus on changing behaviors through student-to-student interaction. At the beginning of each semester, they go door to door throughout East Halls and introduce themselves to their fellow students. Eco-Reps also set up tables in dining commons lobbies during busy dinner hours, engaging students and sometimes rewarding them with candy for answering a recycling question.
Eco-Reps benefit from expertise at Penn State to enhance their level of training. For example, this past fall, Eco-Reps earned academic credit for participating in a three-day team-building program at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center.