Sustainability and the student body: U Penn pioneers resident advisor program

The University of Pennsylvania figures the best on-campus advocates of sustainability are its students.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Chances are you were alternately friends and enemies with the student resident advisor who was posted in your college dorm. Now, students at the University of Pennsylvania may also receive friendly visits from the university's new student Eco-Reps.

The program was established earlier this semester when the university publicly released its Climate Action Plan, which was drawn up to conform with the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment pledge. Approximately 600 colleges and universities have signed the pledge, which calls for various environmental and carbon emissions reduction goals. The complete outline of its plan can be found here.

The Eco-Reps program calls for the appointment of a student volunteer on each floor of every residency who can serve as a steward about environmental issues and policies related to energy use, recycling policies and the like.

There are close to 30 students being trained in the first wave of the program, who will serve as "sustainability ambassadors" in four different campus housing buildings. The students meet every week with a program coordinator, and they are current planning their first event: an energy conservation challenge that will challenge residents to think responsibly about how to reduce consumption during the upcoming year-end holiday.

Here's a page with more Eco-Reps information, in case you're thinking about modeling your own program in your school or business or anywhere else for that matter.

Overall, Penn is aiming for a 5 percent reduction in energy consumption across the campus by 2010; it hopes to cut power usage by 17 percent by 2014. It has appointed a sustainability coordinator to manage this effort, along with major changes to its recycling programs, facilities management and building redesign (which will be phased in over the next 30 years) and development of a sustainability curriculum.

Incidentally, Penn's commencement caps and gowns are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled bottles.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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