During the 2013 Spring semester, Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Kleindienst proposed the idea of an Eco Facilitators (EF) program. Working with the University’s Sustainability Interns, she designed the program over the summer and announced the launching of the program on Feb. 25, 2014. The EFs will begin working this fall.
According to the Wesleyan Sustainability website, EFs are peer-to-peer sustainability educators. Their main goal is to endorse energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable lifestyle habits on campus. The goal of the group is to bring together faculty, staff, administration, and students to take action on sustainability projects on campus.
“In summer 2013, [we] began to research programs at other schools and to design one that would work for Wesleyan,” Kleindienst said. “In fall 2013, [we] collaborated to develop a course and framework for the [EF] program.”
The EF program will seek 12 students to help raise awareness about ecological issues and promote environmentally responsible behavior in a first-year dormitory. EF positions will last one academic year.
“At Wesleyan, we hope the Eco Facilitators…will foster an enduring culture of environmental awareness amongst the student body,” Sustainability Intern Rebecca Sokol ’15 wrote in an email to The Argus. “The main goal is to inspire sustainable behavior change among students who may not be otherwise involved with the environmental scene on campus.”
The EFs will also organize group activities and projects. These students will be responsible for attending a multi-day training retreat in August, weekly classes in the fall of 2014, and weekly meetings in the spring of 2015.
“This program aims to motivate sustainable behavior change within the Wesleyan student community,” said Rachael Metz ’16, one of the organizers of the EF program. “Eco Facilitators will promote sustainable practices and encourage these environmentally-conscious behaviors amongst their peers in dorms. Eco Facilitators will…also work on small- and large-scale projects to focus on changing the student body’s attitudes towards waste, food systems, energy, water, and overall resource consumption.”
Each EF will be required to participate in a half-credit seminar in the fall called ENVS 300: Sustainable Behavior Change, a course that will meet for an hour and a half each week and that can count toward the Environmental Studies linked major and certificate. The goals of this course are to learn about social and environmental sustainability issues, to introduce effective behavior techniques and strategies in a dorm-based project, and to learn about campus sustainability practices. Students may also attend course field trips.
“Successfully promoting sustainable behavior change is something that takes a lot of time; I do not expect the program to transform the entire student body into compost enthusiasts within the first semester,” Sokol wrote. “However, I’m hoping our pilot semester will get the ball rolling towards an increasingly sustainable student community.”
After their first semester in training, the EFs will be paid at a rate of nine dollars an hour, working to implement campus-wide sustainability projects.
The organizers expressed their excitement for this project.
“Eco Facilitators programs exist at other colleges (many of them call it ‘Eco-Reps’) and have been very successful in helping student communities live and think more sustainably,” Sokol wrote. “[…]I’m extremely excited about this program, even as I am currently studying abroad in New Zealand. I can’t wait to come back and work with Rachael, Jen, and what I’m sure will be an amazing team of Eco Facilitators.”
Metz also anticipates great success with this program.
“Next year might not be everything we hope it will, but it’s the pilot year, and we’re supposed to be figuring out all of the details and best ways to manage everything, so that’s O.K.,” Metz said. “I feel that once Eco Facilitators create a presence on campus, they really have the ability to change the scope of sustainability at Wesleyan and promote incorporating it into our everyday lives.”
Metz hopes that all students will realize how much of a change they can make on campus and in the world with small actions on a daily basis.
“People at Wesleyan are well-informed about recycling and other environmental practices, but sometimes these thoughts become a default and people don’t consider the most sustainable options, such as reducing and reusing first,” Metz said. “I believe it is important to create a sustainable mindset on a university scale, and get students to consider that every day in order to effect change.”
Students may attend an information session in March to learn more about the EF program. Applications are available online from Monday, Feb. 24 through Thursday, April 3.
“I personally hope that the [EF] program will both streamline and strengthen sustainability efforts on campus,” Sokol wrote. “Though I am generally impressed by the variety of Wesleyan’s environmental initiatives, I think the challenge of changing public behavior is often overlooked or not fully tackled. I sincerely hope that, after some time, Eco Facilitators will positively and permanently influence our campus culture.”