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“The challenge illustrates how individual actions collectively impact resource consumption and how education and outreach can motivate conservation,” wrote Jennifer McNamara, sustainability manager of the Campus Sustainability Office, in an email.
During the events, meter measurements will be conducted to determine the energy and water conservation data. Utility bills during the challenge time period will be consulted as well. The data gathered will be compared to the data collected during the same timeframe last year.
“By comparing years prior, we will better understand if we have been successful in achieving our goal to educate participants and facilitate resource stewardship within our residential communities,” McNamara said.
Formed through a conversation between campus sustainability organizations, PSU Recyles!, the Campus Sustainability Office and the Sustainability Leadership Center, the Eco Reps Conservation Challenge is a way for students to become active participants in reducing the amount of resources used by their residence halls.
“The Conservation Challenge is a call to action focused on resource stewardship in the residence halls,” wrote Danielle Grondin, Residence Life sustainability liaison, in an email.
On Feb. 6, eco reps went across the campus handing out brochures, introducing the Eco Reps program and promoting the Conservation Challenge. That night, from 8 to 9 p.m., the first event in the challenge, the blackout board games, was held in the Ondine lobby. While participation could not be measured due to the nature of the event, Grondin said, the day was encouraging. “Many of the eco reps were nervous going door-to-door at first, but by the end of the day, they were really having fun with it,” she said.
The Feb. 15 candlelight dinner in Victor’s Dining Hall was well attended. Eco reps went table to table with a quiz that 164 residents answered correctly and were entered to win sustainable prizes. “People had a lot of fun and actually thanked us for putting it on! It was a great start to the challenge,” Grondin said.
This was the second year of the candlelight dinner, and the eco reps hope to make it an annual event. They have invested in LED candles that have a long lifespan and could be used for candlelight dinners for the next 25 years. The candles are mercury free and will be less harmful to the environment when they are thrown away.
Jenny DuVander, communications director of the Institute of Sustainable Solutions, is helping to promote the events and develop an external audience. According to DuVander, the Conservation Challenge is a good opportunity for students to make a difference on campus. “It is exciting. It is a way for students to make an impact on the university’s conservation goals,” DuVander said.
According to Grondin, the goals of the event are to set new benchmarks for resource conservation and to increase recycling and composting. “Events like the Conservation Challenge are important because we want to create a culture of conservation at PSU,” Grondin said. “We hope to show students that they can, and do, make a difference.”
The eco reps hope that the Conservation Challenge will set the stage for possible participation in a resource conservation competition next year, the Campus Conservation Nationals, which will pit PSU against more than 150 other colleges across the country.
“It is rewarding on so many levels to learn about, and participate in, the little things that make a big difference in this world,” Grondin said. “Conservation is a celebration.”
The PSU Eco Reps program seeks to educate student leaders in the practice of environmentally responsible behaviors. Eco reps live in the residence halls and work to promote environmental awareness within their respective residence halls; they plan residence hall activities and distribute information on sustainability.
The recycling aspect of the Conservation Challenge coincidentally occurs during PSU’s participation in the national recycling competition called Recycle Mania. TrashCo, PSU’s waste hauler, will total the amount of the recycling and garbage collected and submit the numbers to Recycle Mania, who will then calculate the recycle rate per person on campus.