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University Housing goes green
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: September 17, 2012

This fall, it will be easier than ever for new students living on campus
to go green. PSU EcoReps will be there to guide them every step of the way.

As student sustainability leaders who live in residence halls, EcoReps are trained in a variety of sustainability areas, including recycling procedures, food systems, energy conservation, and social equity. They are often the go-to people for students who have questions about sustainable practices or are curious about getting involved in green organizations and activities on campus.

“We like to start a culture of sustainability at the beginning, when students are new to campus,” said Danielle Grondin, a senior sociology major who started the PSU EcoRep program.

Grondin was hired by the PSU Sustainability Leadership Center to develop the program in January 2011 when she was a resident assistant living in the Broadway Housing Building. Because she was already involved with the campus housing community, she was able to quickly recruit fellow students to be EcoReps and initiate sustainability activities in their residence halls.

This year, the Sustainability Leadership Center hosted a required sustainability training for all incoming resident assistants and provided a Green Housing Guide (pdf)—which was recently created by two EcoReps—for each residence hall floor.

While schools across the nation have similar EcoRep programs, PSU’s is unique in that it focuses on leadership development as a key aspect of the program.

“It’s not just training in sustainability issues, but also in leadership,” said Jennie Sharp, residence life sustainability liaison at Portland State. “All the EcoReps have decision-making capabilities, they’re empowered to build and adapt the program.”

EcoReps organize the annual Conservation Challenge, a series of activities that encourages students living in residence halls to reduce and reuse in creative ways—from having candlelight dinners to clothing swaps.

First year students living in Broadway or Ondine can apply to be one of 15 EcoReps. Because they begin developing sustainability knowledge and leadership skills early in their college career, many EcoReps move into other leadership roles across campus. The current community garden coordinator and the president of the Residence Housing Association were both EcoReps last year.

“They’re role models,” said Grondin. “They walk the walk instead of just talk the talk.”

To learn more about the program or apply to be an EcoRep, visit ecowiki.pdx.edu/about/ecoreps.