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Eco-Reps promote sustainability efforts through Campus Conservation Nationals

Concordia prides itself on its sustainability efforts, but living sustainably as a student in a residence hall with limited time and resources can be difficult. That is where the Concordia Eco-Representatives, or Eco-Reps, step in.

The Eco-Reps program at Concordia “enables students to take a leadership role in their own dorm, giving them support as they work to promote sustainable living among their peers,” according to the Eco-Reps website. They have been a fixture at Concordia since the 2012-13 academic year. Throughout the year, they coordinate various activities and events that promote sustainability and can be easily completed in a dorm setting, such as make-your-own laundry detergent or planting flowers in small pots.

Sophomore Ellie DeVos, a biology and environmental studies double major, represents Brown Hall on the Eco-Reps team. It is her job to bring sustainable living to the students in Brown and make them aware of the variety of ways to live sustainably.

“I bring sustainability practices into the dorms and try to get students more involved and enthusiastic about sustainable practices. And it’s also about making them aware of things going on around campus. I do bulletin boards every month with new information about different things, like the Free Store,” she said.

Junior Alyssa Armstrong, an English writing and environmental studies double major, is the student coordinator for the Eco-Reps. She organizes, plans, and supports her fellow Eco-Reps as well as coordinating with staff supervisor Nathalie Rinehardt.

“A lot of my position is involved in managing the Eco-Reps, like at weekly meetings, I lead those,” Armstrong said. “But beyond that, I help the Eco-Reps individually or on a group basis to support them and what they’re working on. I meet weekly with Nathalie. I do a lot of the background work, like planning the agenda for the next meeting, and budgeting.”

For students looking to get involved with Eco-Reps, there is a wide variety of ways to participate. There are many smaller events put on throughout the year, such as creating reusable beeswax wrap as a substitute for plastic and the aforementioned detergent making and flower planting. At the end of each semester, the Eco-Reps facilitate Sustainable Move-Out, which encourages students to donate items they no longer need instead of throwing them out when leaving the dorms for the summer.

Both Armstrong and DeVos chose to join Eco-Reps for the emphasis on sustainability and the chance to be more involved with environmental studies.

“I’ve been very involved with sustainability on campus. I came in as an environmental studies major, so I knew I wanted to focus on that,” Armstrong said.

DeVos highlighted the impact the Eco-Reps can have on dorm life.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on sustainability on campus at Concordia, but it’s hard to translate that into dorm life because you’re kind of limited. So I was really interested in trying to incorporate sustainability into the dorms and make it easier for students to know what they can do to be more sustainable,” DeVos said.

Right now, the Eco-Reps are coordinating Campus Conservation Nationals, an annual conservation challenge posed to campuses across the country and better known on Concordia’s campus as the “It’s Electric” energy competition. This year, the competition runs from March 8-23. During the three weeks of the event, the Eco-Reps track the energy used by each residence hall and compare it to a baseline figure.

“It’s an awareness project. If you win the competition, your school gets the reputation for being one of the most sustainable in their area,” DeVos said.

This year, they have seen reductions in energy across nearly all of the residence halls. Boe-Olsen is currently in the lead, followed by Bogstad, the Townhouses, Brown, Park Region, Hoyum, Erickson, Livedalen, and Hallett, respectively.

For Rinehardt, director of Student Engagement and staff advisor of Eco-Reps, the advisor position was more by default than by choice, due to the lack of a Sustainability Coordinator who would normally oversee the program. Due to personal reasons, the previous Sustainability Coordinator stepped away from the position earlier this year. However, Rinehardt still places emphasis on the importance of the program and takes her position seriously.

“Eco-Reps is one way that Concordia lives out its vision for sustainability, especially when it comes to living on campus. It’s a way for students to consider sustainable living. It’s also leadership development,” she said.

Rinehardt invites students to apply for an Eco-Rep position not just for the impact they can have on campus, but for the professional impact the role can have on them.

“It’s a good introductory leadership role for students. We have spots for over 16 students to have an employment or leadership role in sustainability. It’s a really good way to get some baseline knowledge about the way that Concordia is committed to sustainability and how students can be involved,” she said.

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