Staff Eco-Reps champion University environmental goals

Reduce, reuse, recycle message

More than 40 staff members from schools and offices throughout the University came together on March 4 to learn about the Green Campus Partnership’s new Staff Eco-Reps Program.

Eco-Reps are self-selected Penn employees who are volunteering to reduce Penn’s environmental footprint through improved awareness, behavior changes and peer advocacy.

An Eco-Reps pilot program began last fall with undergraduate students and has expanded this semester to include staff. The aim is to develop staff leadership and knowledge in sustainability and to empower the Eco Reps to champion Penn’s environmental and conservation goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan.

Those in attendance on March 4 listed various behavioral changes they believe could aid in minimizing waste and costs, as well as improve sustainability, including replacing bottled water service with bottle-less filter systems; supplying staff with reusable water bottles to discourage the one-time use of plastic containers; replacing single-serve coffee and tea systems; and purchasing copy paper with high recycled content.

Tracy Hawkins of Business Services says she came to the meeting because of her desire to help make Penn more sustainable. “There are lots of things we could be doing, [there are] a lot of missed opportunities.”

Others attended to inform the Penn community about initiatives already in place. Marta Bartholomew of the Annenberg School says the collaborative effort at her school is successful. “I want to share our best practices,” she says.

Penn Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Dan Garofalo says he was excited to see so many staff members eager to learn and lead. “What we anticipated as a small, intimate group gathering to learn about becoming advocates for sustainability, had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate everyone.”

The group will meet monthly to learn the “how-to’s” of sustainability and exchange information. This isn’t a closed group, Garofalo adds; staff Eco-Reps will continue to recruit members throughout the spring.

Staff or faculty interested in taking part or in scheduling an informational presentation for their office should email sustainability@upenn.edu.

Originally published on March 11, 2010