Skip to main content

Eco Reps

Leaders By Example

March 7, 2014

Eco-Reps provide opportunities for the WPI community to actualize a sustainable campus

Liz Tomaszewski first brought the Eco-Rep concept to WPI in 2010 after witnessing similar work being done at Clark University, and seeing how the initiative could bring more student activity to achieving a sustainable campus here. Soon it expanded beyond the student body.

“I thought that we might get more students at WPI interested in sustainability if we developed a student Eco-Rep program where students could teach their peers.” Tomaszewski says. “We launched the student program and almost instantly the staff said they wanted to be Eco-Reps, too. So we expanded it to staff.

Tomaszewski is the sustainability coordinator and facilities systems manager at WPI. She has been involved in widespread efforts toward achieving a more sustainable campus—as well as the Worcester community as a whole—through efforts such as Recyclemania. She is a member of the Worcester City Manager’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, and a 2007 recipient of the Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community.

Without the resources to help the campaign flourish, the program nearly fizzled out, but in 2012 a partnership with GreenerU helped resurrect the campus-wide movement.

GreenerU is an organization that “partners with colleges and their students to solve the campus sustainability and energy management challenges of today and tomorrow.” GreenerU’s Rob Durning is running a project involving WPI’s Bill Grudzinski and Elizabeth Stepien to improve the Gateway Park facilities, making them more energy saving, sustainable, and cost efficient.

With Eco-Reps, Tomaszewski hopes to usher in change by making resources available by which each individual might contribute on a daily basis to a more sustainable lifestyle.

I thought that we might get more students at WPI interested in sustainability if we developed a student Eco-Rep program

These initiatives include the “Save a Watt” and “Take the Stairs” campaigns, which help educate individuals on the unnecessary expenditures of wasted electrical energy and implore different decision making approaches accordingly. WPI Bio Lab manager Abbie White is working on a plan to reduce the paperwork trail with P-card transactions. “And I try to set an example for others by avoiding elevator usage when I can.” White says. She also draws attention to sustainability events by posting signage around her workplace at Goddard Hall.

These sustainability events help spread the message of what changes can be made by the individual, how they can help proliferate the information, and to take inventory as to where the initiative is at today. Tomaszewski adds, “Currently, Eco-Reps are working on a program in Institute Hall and 25 Trowbridge to audit energy use (they did a plug load audit) and they will be reviewing electric meters weekly and comparing the data to electric consumption from a year ago.”

The idea of Eco-Reps first came about at Tufts University in 2001, and as results came out, the initiative quickly spread to campuses far and wide across the country. It is a movement that primarily encourages students to be community leaders by nurturing sustainable lifestyles, helping share that information with others, and leading by example.

To this end, Tomaszewski would like to see the concept of Eco Reps expand fully into the consciousness of the entire campus and allow for the information of what the individual can do to become an ecological representative be available for all. “To have Eco-Reps in every building on campus, in the residential buildings,” she says, “and to have Eco-Reps work collaboratively with RAs and departments to develop more sustainable behaviors: that is the goal.”

Any student, staff, or member of the greater WPI community who would like to become an Eco-Rep may contact Liz at ltomasz@wpi.edu

BY RYAN MORIN