For the Pomona College EcoReps, the key to sustainability is education and information.
“We try to consider how we can teach and learn sustainable practices together,” Maria Duran-Gonzalez PO ‘24, head of Pomona EcoReps, said.
Pomona College EcoReps is a student branch of the Pomona Sustainability Office, functioning as a sustainability hub for the 5C community and beyond.
“We are an initiative outside of the office to try to get student involvement regarding sustainable practices in the community,” Duran-Gonzalez said.
EcoReps’ most important goal is to make it easier for students to integrate sustainable practices into their everyday lives, specifically by advocating for sustainable eating, low-waste living and water and energy conservation. The EcoReps efforts consist of sustainable gift giving and eating, offering free and reusable period products, hosting composting workshops and facilitating spaces such as the Walker Flea Market.
“The EcoReps are focused on the scope of the campus, and finding touch points for sustainability,” EcoRep Maya Nitschke-Alonso PO ‘23 said.
“Sustainability looks different for everyone,” Duran-Gonzalez said. The group works to weave identity and sustainability together. To put it differently, they frame sustainability as a matter of individual expression.
Nitschke-Alonso was inspired to become an EcoRep through her proximity to sustainable values.
“Individual sustainability was a casual part of my life growing up,” Nitschke-Alonso said. “EcoReps became an opportunity for me to push those outdoorsy values into a space where they could positively impact others.”
The EcoReps perceive themselves in this unique affiliation within the community as student workers at Pomona.
“We are very much in this bridging position between the student body and administration,” Nitschke-Alonso said.
One educationally-focused event, which united the student body with the administration, was a Divest 101 Speaker Panel, co-hosted with Divest 5Cs on March 22. Divest 5Cs is a club calling upon the Claremont Colleges to discontinue their endowments from fossil fuels and push for a more socially just world.
“We hoped to demystify the concept of divestment by explaining what a financial divestment process entails, how the Pomona endowment is managed and how divestment relates to the broader climate movement,” Nitschke-Alonso said.
The event consisted of a 10-minute presentation about Divest 5Cs, which provided insight into the club’s history and their goals.
The event also fostered a shared learning experience between 5C students and staff panelists.
“The panelists each expressed having learned from each other during the panel and appreciated the audience questions and the audience valued the opportunity to learn about divestment from varying viewpoints,” Nitschke-Alonso said.
“Individual sustainability was a casual part of my life growing up. EcoReps became an opportunity for me to push those outdoorsy values into a space where they could positively impact others.”
One of the Pomona EcoReps most notable recurring experiences is the beloved Walker Flea Market, hosted one Sunday a month at Walker Beach. The flea market is a student-run event promoting sustainability and community across the 5Cs.
“Everyone knows it’s once a month –– it’s almost become a tradition among the student community,” Duran-Gonzalez said.
Thanks to the flea market, students across the 5Cs have the opportunity to sell their handmade products.
Katie Chao PO ‘25, a jewelry vendor, was inspired to become involved with the flea market for its welcoming environment.
“I loved the supportive and collaborative environment I felt at the market and wanted to be a part of it not just as a customer but as an artist,” Chao said.
Nitschke-Alonso understands the event as an effective sustainability event because it attracts a wide audience.
“The market does a great job of showcasing a collective social experience through sustainability,” Nitschke-Alonso said.
For Chao, the flea market facilitates an important space for artistic expression through community support and appreciation.
“The market offers a space where I can share my art with my peers and also find inspiration for new pieces,” Chao said, “I love checking out what my classmates are creating and get so much joy from sharing my projects with others.”
Looking forward, Pomona EcoReps is gearing up for Earth Month in April, which Duran-Gonzalez said will be “huge” for them.
Namely, there will be events catered toward students, faculty and alumni all month long, starting with a fundraising kickoff at the Pomona farm.
The event the EcoReps are most excited about for this upcoming month is the Earth Hike at Chino Hills State Park on Sunday, April 23.
“We’re hosting a hike joined with professors with expertise in geology, water politics, environmental analysis and biology,” Nitschke-Alonso said.
The professors will discuss the significance of the area from these perspectives and facilitate a space for shared conversation with student hike participants.
Moving forward, the EcoReps will continue fostering a culture of accessibility in individual sustainable discourse at the 5Cs. It’s important to note that the EcoReps understand the complex layers of exclusivity in sustainability practice and discussion along the lines of socioeconomic status, race and gender.
According to Duran-Gonzalez, a prominent mainstream view of sustainability is to frequently eat organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables.
“That image is neither feasible nor possible, being a college student, particularly for low income students or students of color,” Duran-Gonzalez said. “What we try to do is give people avenues to bridge that accessibility.”
More information about the Pomona EcoReps can be found through their Instagram: @pomonaecoreps, or through event-specific accounts such as @walkerfreeroom and @walkerbook room.