Program Director Rachel Barron ‘16 pioneered Lafayette’s Eco-Rep Program
Photo courtesy of Rachel Barron ‘16
Colorful, cardboard posters and painted recycling bins have been scattered through residence halls across campus. These additions to Residence Life are part of a new initiative: Eco-Reps.
Found across the country at over 70 schools, Eco-Reps are students who work with Residence Life, resident advisers, and students to create programming related to environmentalism and sustainability.
Eco-Reps Program Director Rachel Barron ‘16 began designing Eco-Rep last semester with the goal of making Lafayette more eco-friendly.
“We’re trying to get the community involved in a larger conversation about sustainability globally as well as our campus,” Barron said “We can, as a group and a collective unit, achieve a greener campus.”
Each residence hall has a designated Eco-Rep who works with RAs to create events based around a monthly theme. The theme for September was recycling, so Eco-Reps lead a craft event in which students created their own recycling bins. October’s theme is food and will be celebrated with trips to the Easton Farmer’s Market.
The first program came with positive reception, Eco-Rep Nora Hand ‘17 said.
“I think that people did enjoy [making recycling bins],” Hand said. “The program mixed creativity with promoting environmentally healthy habits.”
“The response to the programming has been surprisingly positive,” Eco-Rep Bethany Rack ‘16 said. “If you want to make a change, it’s important to start with the little things like telling people to turn off the lights in the bathroom when they are not using it.”
But the success of these programs all boil down to the people that live in the residence hall.
“The response you get from your community is really based off of the people that live in it,” Rack said.
“I’m from Oregon, where people are very environmental,” Hand said. “I came here and realized people aren’t as aware as I was, and I want to make people more aware of little things they can do to help the environment.”
Despite early successes, the program faces challenges. A problem inherent to new organizations is publicity—Eco-Rep has had a slow start in engaging students.
Some students are still unaware of the program.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Claire Hoober ‘17 said
Barron hopes to fix this issue by working more closely with RAs and Residence Life to publicize events.
Modeled after successful Eco-Reps programs at Tufts, Dickenson, and Carnegie Mellon, Lafayette’s program has large goals, ranging from coordinating successful monthly programs to having compensation—either monetary or based on academic credit—for Eco-Reps. Barron hopes Lafayette will begin to mirror successful schools.
“It would be nice to have a clear vision and initiative on how Lafayette can be seen as a leader in sustainability,” Barron said.
Programs that raise awareness and educate students are a crucial first step.
“Ultimately, we need to get students talking about it,” Barron said. “A huge problem with our generation is we aren’t as aware of how we’re effecting the environment.”