Trends may change, but green is still the new black at Bentley. Student leaders aim to make sustainability the social norm among peers. An expanded Eco-Reps program is among the latest salvos in students’ battle for eco-consciousness.
This year boasts the largest attendance at weekly meetings since the program’s launch in 2009. Twenty-five students represent 23 residence halls and aim to change habits in living spaces.
“Eco-reps work together on a regular basis to come up with the best approach,” says Justine Andrews ’15, the Residence Hall Association sustainability coordinator charged with managing the program. “We don’t want to overwhelm people about sustainable living, but to educate them on the importance of making changes and allowing them to accept the changes at their own pace.
The group is well-recognized on campus, thanks to initiatives such as green pizza parties and recycling training for lunchtime diners in the LaCava Lower Café and Dana Center food court. Their behind-the-scenes work includes policymaking for residence hall recycling, and creating a green certification program for student groups, administrative offices and academic departments.
The Eco-Reps program complements work by the Green Society, a five-year-old student organization that coordinates campus-wide projects to promote environmentally conscious habits.
“Both groups have catalyzed behavior change on campus, through dynamic peer-to-peer education and outreach,” notes Amanda King, who was promoted in April to director of sustainability and special assistant to the president. “They are helping make sustainable behavior part of day-to-day practice, so it becomes a habit to recycle and shut the lights off.”
Recent Green Society initiatives have rebranded the annual residential electricity competition – the Blackout Challenge – with incentives like Blackout Challenge champion T-shirts. Additional programs include Earthfest; RecycleMania; and Think Outside the Bottle, a campaign to encourage a shift to tap water.
Campus initiatives have produced impressive stats. During the past three years, the university’s carbon footprint is down 8 percent based solely on energy efficiency projects, sound energy management and energy conservation. Electricity use during 2011-2012 is at the lowest in seven years.
These successes point to a generation that is highly concerned about the environment, according to Andrews. “Years ago, there were indications of damages to the earth that only a scientist could see. But in the past few years – since my generation has grown up – there have been so many uncommon natural disasters that we can no longer ignore the threat.”
The threat was especially close to home for Green Society president Tomas Fuller ’12.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been conscious of environmental issues because my hometown of Woburn was affected by a water contamination scandal that is notable to this day,” explains Fuller, an Economics-Finance major with plans to work in environmental law. “I pioneered green efforts in high school, and Bentley’s Green Society was a perfect venue to continue this commitment.”
For Andrews, the commitment to sustainability is enhanced by seeing eco-reps of different ages, genders and backgrounds work toward one common goal. As she puts it: “Each person contributes to conversations, shares experiences and views, and stays open to many ideas.”
Whatever the exact contours of her career path, Andrews knows it will be colored green.
“I know that, to make a difference, I don’t necessarily need to devote my life to planting trees or making speeches,” she says. “As a business leader, I can make sustainability a priority with office practices and products. Once major companies in the U.S. truly start to act in an eco-friendly manner, the rest of the world will follow.”