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EcoReps program recruits members to model green behavior

by Denise Fitzpatrick, communications and marketing last modified Sep 25, 2013 09:02 AM

Are you a recycler, bike commuter, local foodie or social justice advocate? If so—or even if you don’t fit into one of those categories—UofL is offering you free training on how to advance sustainable practices on campus.

EcoReps, a program endorsed by UofL’s Sustainability Council, is designed to educate faculty, staff and students in sustainability basics and to give them the resources they need to become peer-to-peer sustainability advocates.

Created last year as an online certification program, EcoReps is expanding this fall to include face-to-face monthly gatherings, said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives.

“The goal of this program is to empower and educate people about the different ways UofL is addressing sustainability so they can help move the effort forward,” he said.

People can sign up for either basic or advanced EcoReps training, Mog said.

Basic training consists of watching a series of six, short online videos covering topics ranging from sustainable eating to energy conservation, reviewing related reading materials and thinking about how to help UofL become more sustainable. Trainees will take a certification exam.

Those seeking advanced training also must develop a specific project to advance sustainable practices at UofL or in the wider community and work on that project under a mentor’s guidance.

“When you become an EcoRep, you’ll be expected to serve as a resource person for sustainability with your immediate peers, your department, your building, your club, your residence hall or any other realm where you live, work and play,” Mog said.

EcoReps are not meant to be “green police,” he added. “We view them as educators and mentors who should always strive to practice what they preach and to lead by example.”

Chelsea Cook, a UofL sophomore majoring in music and biology, was an EcoRep last year. She spent hours helping students lunching at Swain Student Activities Center learn how to use a food composting station in the center’s multipurpose room.

“I think anyone who has the slightest interest in what it takes to be ecologically responsible would really enjoy being an EcoRep,” Cook said. “EcoReps are given the opportunity to teach others about sustainability in a setting intended for learning.”

Brian Barnes, a philosophy instructor who launched composting at UofL in 2011, oversees EcoReps and has produced the program’s training videos.

“We’re training a base of people to serve as a source of leadership and volunteer labor,” Barnes said. “When you become an EcoRep, you can see the big picture and how you can fit in.”

Barnes also is seeking a volunteer videographer to help create more training videos for the program, he said.

Angie Carlson, a first-year graduate student focusing on bioethics and medical humanities, was certified as an EcoRep last year. She says the training has helped her connect people toward a common goal.

“You learn about everything going on at UofL in the area of sustainability, so if someone wants to do something, you can tell them who to call.”

People interested in becoming EcoReps can learn more at a meeting Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. at UofL’s Cultural Center. For more details, call Barnes at 502-338-1338 or go to the Sustainability website.

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