PHILADELPHIA –- A contingent of University of Pennsylvania students who live in three residence halls and one fraternity house has volunteered to become Eco-Reps, peer-to-peer educators in a program designed to spread awareness among students of sustainability and of Penn’s Climate Action Plan commitments.
This year, 10 students in Hill College House, 10 in Kings Court English College House, six in Rodin College House and one in Tau Epsilon Phi are being trained to be sustainability ambassadors to their fellow residents. They hail from the schools of Arts and Sciences, Nursing and Engineering and Applied Science and the Wharton School. Their major challenge is to educate fellow students about Penn’s environmental goals, outlined in the recently launched Climate Action Plan, and the art and science of living green.
“We believe motivated students who are interested in environmental issues can help their peers make better choices and decisions in their behavior as it relates to the environment,” Dan Garofalo, the University’s sustainability coordinator, said.
The group, which has been meeting for several weeks, is focusing on the University’s environmental commitments, that include reduced energy consumption and carbon production, improved waste reduction and recycling habits, water conservation practices, green transportation alternatives and consumer choices. Overall, the goal is to create a more sustainable campus environment.
The Eco-Reps meet weekly with a program coordinator to learn the science behind the effort, discuss strategies and goals and exchange ideas for implementation.
“Penn’s program,” Garofalo said, “is unique in basing participation in the students’ residences, creating monthly themes to focus activities and supporting the effort with a detailed technical manual and dedicated staff management.”
Penn’s Eco-Reps are building up to their first joint event: an energy-conservation challenge whereby the residents of each building will pledge to “unplug, turn down or turn off” their electronics and thermostats while they’re away during winter break. Energy data will be compared to last year’s to see the reductions.
The program is being piloted in Penn residences selected because of house culture and the interests of house deans, but the University expects to expand the program across the entire campus. A parallel program for staff Eco-Reps is under development.
Additional information about the Eco-Reps program is available at www.upenn.edu/sustainability/eco-reps.html.