The movement to “go green” is taking over campus and student Eco-Reps are leading the way.
The LU Eco-Representatives (Eco-Reps) program was established by students two summers ago to teach students residing on campus how to live more sustainably, especially through recycling.
Eco-Reps, who receive support from the Lehigh Environmental Advisory Group (LEAG) and Residential Services, also focus on water and electricity conservation, energy consumption and other topics.
Green Action, a student organization focused on environmental activism, established the Eco-Reps program. So far, the initiative has helped educate students in residence halls and Greek houses who may not previously have been interested in environmentalism.
“The Eco-Reps are reaching a demographic that wouldn’t normally go to Green Action,” says Green Action’s president Tyler Tobin ‘12.
Students in the Eco-Reps program perform waste audits, sifting through trash and recycling bins to gauge how well students are recycling in their living quarters.
The results have been positive.
“We’ve proven that there is better recycling in dorms with Eco-Reps,” says Tobin.
A new course in sustainability
Delicia Nahman, who was appointed coordinator of sustainability at Lehigh in 2010, has sought to make the Eco-Reps program a meaningful organization.
“The Eco-Reps see Lehigh as a microcosm,” says Nahman. “They get the chance to see how change occurs and how to make change happen.”
This year, Lehigh launched a new yearlong course called Sustainability in Action (ES 197-198), which was designed and organized by students in Green Action. ES 197-198 is offered through the environmental studies program, which includes courses from 10 departments in all four colleges.
“This course is an extraordinary effort by very dedicated students,” says Albert H. Wurth, professor of political science and course instructor.
Lauren Zell ’12, environmental engineering major and coordinator of the Eco-Reps program, says students in the ES 197-198 decide what they want to learn about.
“We [the student leaders] come up with assignments for the course, and the students get to choose what to work on,” says Zell. “It’s ever-changing.”
One goal of the course is to teach Eco-Reps about sustainability so they, in turn, can teach other students about being more environmentally active.
“Students come to college with some level of sustainability knowledge, but the depth is not as much as an Eco-Rep needs,” says Nahman. “Students take what they learn in the course and make tangible changes on campus.”
Speakers are brought in for half of the two-hour class each week to discuss a special topic. The other half of the course focuses on implementing ideas and planning activities about the weekly subject.
Starting small, says Zell, is the first move toward change.
“Behavior change is slow. Do one thing at a time, and it will change your life practices. The more we show we care, the more change there will be.”