Launched in Fall 2009, through the leadership of Rayna Oliker (’10), the University of Rochester EcoReps program prepares successive waves of undergraduate students for sustainability advocacy and activism. Twenty-eight incoming freshman come to campus ahead of their class to train in sustainability principles such as waste reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation, then apply their knowledge to create learning events and initiatives in the freshman dorms that increase awareness and encourage sustainable living. The EcoReps are also a learning community, meeting weekly throughout their freshman year in a 2-unit course whose goals and learning activities they design themselves.
In 2010-2011 the EcoReps elected to tackle sustainability issues extending beyond the dorms to the broader campus. Working with guidance from Earth & Environmental Sciences faculty member and EcoReps advisor Karen Berger, they undertook six projects:
The Green Corps
Proposal to develop a cadre of sustainability representatives from each academic department, drawn from faculty or staff, who become the “sustainability rep” for their unit, available to answer questions, initiate projects, and share information on sustainability issues.
Eliminating Plastic Bags on Campus
Investigation of the feasibility of replacing plastic bags (from the bookstore, dining services, campus markets) with bags for purchase or incentives for bringing one’s own bag.
Students and Educators for Environmental Design and Sustainability (SEEDS)
Exploration of the economic feasibility and environmental benefits of creating a “green roof” on select campus buildings
Sustainable Freshman Orientation Program
Inclusion of educational materials and programming on sustainable living in the orientation for all incoming freshmen.
Dorm Room Recycling Bins
Recommendation to adapt existing recycling bins in dorms rooms so that students can easily separate bottles and cans from paper products.
Study of dual-flush toilets and a proposal to introduce them whenever toilets are being replaced on campus
In academic year 2011-2012 the EcoReps will work to further develop their leadership skills in managing group learning and expanding participation through a new collaboration with Vicki Roth, Director of the College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. For more information on the UR EcoReps program see: www.rochester.edu/sustainability/ecoreps/.