EcoReps Program Promotes Sustainability in Dorms

Through the pilot version of its EcoReps program,
the Pomona College Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) is promoting
sustainability in South Campus residence halls and is considering extending the
program to North Campus. 

As part of the program, six sponsors, one in each
first-year residence hall, act as resources for students on environmental
topics such as energy usage, waste reduction, composting, and recycling.

EcoReps “are eyes and ears in their dorms for
any needs that arise in terms of sustainability,” SIO Director Ginny Routhe

“Since they’re living there, hearing from the
students, they’re really giving valuable feedback to the SIO in terms of how we
can improve the sustainability of these living spaces,” she added.

EcoReps promote monthly themes related to
sustainable living, and work with other organizations such as Pomona for
Environmental Activism and Responsibility to hold events and campaigns.

In the residence halls, EcoReps personally maximize
energy savings by turning off lights and keeping an eye on residence hall
temperatures. The primary goal of the program, however, is to encourage
sustainable habits in the first-year residents.

“One thing that I think is important to keep in
mind is that sometimes making lifestyle changes to be more sustainable seems
like such a huge deal, but once you establish a habit, you can realize that it
actually isn’t that difficult, and it’s pretty easy to maintain,” Wig Hall
EcoRep Madeline Cowen PO ’16 said. 

Although the program is currently confined to South
Campus residence halls, Routhe said, the SIO would like to expand it to include
North Campus. She said that the SIO launched this year’s pilot program in South
Campus to focus on first-years. 

“Freshmen are new to campus, and we wanted to
target the dorms freshmen are in to make sustainability the new normal,”
she said. “There’s no mindset to change yet when they’ve got a blank slate
for expectations.”

This semester, the EcoReps conducted a compact
fluorescent lamp lightbulb exchange in the South Campus residence halls, and
also hosted a screening of the organic food documentary Fresh in
association with Frank Dining Hall’s Food Day Nov. 11. They have a waste audit
planned for Nov. 22, reflecting their next theme of waste reduction over the

Additionally, the EcoReps will help with the Power
Down Challenge this spring. The challenge pushes the Claremont Colleges and
Claremont Graduate University to achieve the highest reduction in water and
energy usage over a set amount of time.

“EcoReps will be vital for getting this pulled off
well,” Routhe said. “I have really high hopes that we can get more engagement
in the Power Down Challenge with the EcoReps on board.”

EcoReps programs are popular at colleges around the
country, Routhe said, adding that the SIO decided to send 2013-2014 sponsors an
application to become an EcoRep after seeing student interest in having the
program at Pomona.

“We opened the position up initially just to
sponsors, and actually immediately, within seconds of sending the e-mail out,
we had a full inbox of enough people to pick and choose for each dorm,” she

“I think they appealed to the sponsors because they
would be living with freshmen and have gone through kind of a selective process
already to be a sponsor,” Cowen said.

Mudd-Blaisdell Hall EcoRep Tom Trieu PO ’16 said he
became interested in being an EcoRep last year after learning more about
sustainable living from his first-year roommate, Aidan Orly PO ’16, who is
Gibson Hall’s EcoRep this year. 

“His influence helped me think about more
sustainable things I could be doing in my lifestyle, like using a drying rack,
when to use electricity, trying to conserve—things like that,” Trieu said.
“That was appealing to me, and I felt like that was a good experience for
me as a first-year. I thought if I became EcoRep, I could help other
first-years have that experience.”

Because the EcoReps program is still in its
early stages, it remains unknown to many students who live on South Campus. 

“We haven’t been approached as much as we imagined at the beginning
of the year; a lot of people haven’t been coming and using the resources,”
Trieu said. “If people have questions, or people are concerned about
[sustainability], we are student liaisons for a reason—our goal is to be as
approachable as possible.”

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