The close of the 2013-2014 school year marks the end of the second Eco-Representative pilot program here at Oregon State. Eco-Representatives are a new trend popping up in colleges and universities all over the country to promote sustainable behaviors within residence halls.
Eco-Representatives (Eco-reps) are responsible for advancing and institutionalizing a culture of sustainability in the residence halls in which they live. Overall, this position is responsible for educating residents about sustainable lifestyles and resources, assisting with marketing and outreach efforts for sustainability programs, and planning and executing sustainability-focused events. Eco-reps report to staff in the OSU Sustainability Office, but work with multiple departments and organizations on campus to meet program goals.
Eco-reps work an average of 5 hours per week for 11 weeks during each term with the exception of fall term since recruitment and hiring take place at the beginning of the term.
OSU’s Eco-reps are supervised by Sonja Mae, Sustainability Program Specialist, and in conjunction with them she supports cross-departmental accountability on sustainability related projects. During this last year there was an Eco-rep for Halsell, West, and Wilson residence halls.
One of the main focuses of Eco-reps this year was the composting pilot program. In total, the 3 halls composted 2,797 lbs in winter and spring terms. West collected more compost than all 3 halls last year combined! Each hall’s Eco-rep is in charge of educational outreach on compost management and the day-to-day oversight of the bins.
Below is a graphic showing the breakdown of composting in each hall.
†As of 4/24/14
FY13-14 Halsell West Wilson # floors 4 5 6 # residents† 217 204 346 # of occupied rooms† 174 118 197 # participating rooms (# pails) 27 68 7* Total weight - winter (lb) 199 729 293 Total weight - spring (lb) 161 1015 400 Total weight (lb) 360 1744 693 Av. weight per week (lb) 18.9 96.9 38.5 Av. weight per room per week (lb) 0.7 1.4 unknown*
*Eco-Rep Only issued pails to 7 people on 1 floor but all floors contributed to compost
West and Halsell halls also gained a lot of recognition through their Eco-reps. West Hall received hall program of the year for Eco-Month and Halsell Hall won the RecycleMania competition this academic year. All halls with Eco-reps had the highest percent of participation in the competition. Lastly, for the fall event Electric or Treat, where SSI staff and Eco-reps handed out CFL bulbs for Halloween, the West Hall Eco-rep gave away 81 CFL bulbs in one afternoon in her hall, the highest of any staff.
So far the Eco-Representatives have been very effective at furthering sustainability goals in their residence halls and, therefore, campus at large. Eco-reps fulfill an important and unique need at OSU; Eco-reps work in the same place where they live and play and therefore are able to reach their peers more effectively than posters, handouts or regular staff.
The goals for Eco-reps in the upcoming years are to expand the program to more halls and also to have the previous year’s reps available to train new students coming into the position.
If you are interested in the program or want to become an Eco-rep yourself, contact Sonja!