A sustainable gathering
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
Rebecca Marasco remembers her first few days at the University of South Carolina, walking across campus after purchasing a take-out meal, trying to find a place to recycle her plastic utensils.
A Massachusetts native, she had transferred to USC in fall 2011 from a small school in North Carolina. She had lived in “very progressive, environmental bubbles" all of her life. She found herself excited about the opportunities at USC and looking for an outreach group that shared her beliefs about recycling.
She found it in the USC EcoReps program, a peer-to-peer leadership program in University Housing that works to promote sustainability in residence halls.
“Reducing waste is something that is in the forefront of my mind. It’s something I feel passionate about,” she said. “The EcoReps program is a great outlet for other students who feel like me or those interested in learning more.”
This weekend, Marasco and the rest of the USC EcoReps will have plenty of company on campus. Carolina hosts the second Southeastern EcoReps Conference Feb. 22-24, bringing together more than 70 student sustainability leaders and 14 advisers from 14 schools in the region to learn from each other and talk about successes and challenges they have had on their campuses, said Margaret Bounds, USC’s coordinator for environmental sustainability. Students from schools in North and South Carolina, along with the universities of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Texas and East Tennessee State will attend.
This is the second year that USC will host this conference, offering a chance to showcase the EcoReps program and other sustainability initiatives on campus.
Workshops at the conference will include “How to Start/Improve an EcoReps Program” and “Hot Topics in Sustainability.” Speakers will include Sustainability Director Christina Erickson from Champlain College in Vermont. Students will network with peer sustainability leaders from other universities through ice breakers, games, volunteering at City Roots and even an optional morning run.
The conference will be carbon neutral, meaning any carbon emissions that will go into it will be offset by its participants’ efforts to decrease their environmental impacts. These steps include using reusable glassware and utensils, tree planting and purchasing carbon offsets from providers that are exceeding the current requirements for greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“University Housing’s EcoReps program has provided a way for residents and students campuswide to learn about sustainability in a fun and interactive way from their peers instead of in a classroom. We have focused on easy ways students can change their behavior in ways which help the university achieve larger sustainability goals for energy and carbon emissions reduction, like swapping incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs,” Bounds said. “The Learning Center for Sustainable Futures at the Green Quad is also an ideal location because it is a green building, which helps keep the carbon emissions associated with the conference low.”
For students such as Marasco, this weekend’s conference is a chance to learn more about ways the EcoReps can continue to make a difference in residence hall life. She was an EcoRep in South Quad last year. This year she lives off campus and is doing outreach work with student organizations, including working with representatives of USC’s Greek Village on recycling issues.
She will graduate in December and hopes to continue working in sustainability and environmental work. Ideally, she would like to do outreach with students to help them appreciate the outdoors.
“We have lot of kids in our cities that don’t have a notion that nature is a tangible thing,” Marasco said. “If you don’t have trees in your backyard, you don’t know what it means for them to be gone.”
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