Studies suggest the average American has an attention span of about 20 minutes, according the American Journalism Review. So, engaging students through nearly two months of conservation competitions might sound like a lost cause to many.
But thanks to Eco Reps, a mentoring program through the Office of Sustainability, the seven-week long Residence Challenge appears to be holding the attention of its more than 8,000 on-campus housing participants. Just one week into the competition, more than 8.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided.
"We recognize that the best way to teach residents about a green lifestyle is a peer-to-peer program like Eco Reps," said Damien Snook, a graduate assistant in the Office of Sustainability who coordinates the Eco Reps and Residence Challenge programs.
In collaboration with residential housing, Eco Reps advocate ResChallenge, Ohio University's flagship energy conservation challenge. In its 10 years of existence, the competition has saved between $70,000 and $100,000 in annual electricity costs, as well as averting thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Office of Sustainability.
Eco Reps are committed to making on-campus living environmentally friendly, serving as mentors within residence halls. Since the program's start in 2008, the group has sponsored a conservation dinner, replaced outdated lighting with CFLs and assisted with other recycling competitions, such as RecycleMania.
This year, the group is trying to amp up its influence. Its agenda for 2010 includes becoming an official student organization, attracting new members to eventually place an Eco Rep in each residence hall building complex and teaching residents through a new training presentation, which features a homemade video.
"People who enjoy sustainability and social justice issues are drawn out by programs like Eco Reps, so this year we want to get our message out and hopefully in the process find new members," Snook said.
Eco Reps meet weekly at 6 p.m. in Baker University Center. For highlights on a few of the Eco Reps founding members, read on.
Allison Potteiger, Atkinson Complex Eco Rep (South Green)
Major: Junior public relations major with environmental studies certificate
Hometown: Avon Lake, Ohio
Eco Rep roots: I joined the Ohio University Green Network, a network of students, faculty and staff working towards campus sustainability. I feel like it's the heartbeat of the environmental movement in Athens. From there, I learned about Eco Reps and how it may be helpful for my work as a resident advisor.
Favorite aspect of Eco Reps: We are all working together. It's positive energy like I've never experienced with another student group.
On why you should recycle: A lot of people don't take recycling seriously. Eco Reps is shining a light on how recycling can be fun.
Damien Snook, GA in Office of Sustainability & Coordinator for Eco Reps and ResChallenge
Major: Student affairs graduate student
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Eco Rep roots: My job is to provide organization and resources to the Eco Reps program, while the Reps do most of the legwork and implementation.
His key message: One person doing something can make a difference. The most important thing to remember is that it's not difficult to live sustainably.
On why you should recycle: It's so easy to forget that when you keep your lights on, it's really using up more coal and resources. Last year in ResChallenge, students turned out their lights and saved more than $23,000 in electricity over seven weeks. It's so simple, and we can do it every day!
Scott Eardley, Atkinson Complex Eco Rep (South Green)
Major: Junior chemical engineering major with focus on alternative energy
Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio
Eco Rep roots: It's not only my major but a life goal of mine to promote sustainable living.
Favorite aspect of Eco Reps: We are flexible for students. We have designed an a la carte program about recycling for Residence Housing to pick and choose from. We can come in and do our presentation, or we can just provide you with materials and the links to learn yourself.
#1 tip to the Ohio community: Turn off your lights. More than 75 percent of energy consumption is a result of lighting.
Lori Gromen, GA in Office of Sustainability & Coordinator for Eco Reps and RecycleMania
Major: Environmental studies grad student
Hometown: Athens, Ohio
Eco Rep roots: I work in the Office of Sustainability as a coordinator for Eco Reps and RecyleMania.
Favorite aspect of Eco Reps: We provide resources to Residence Life like CFLs to replace light bulbs and programs for resident advisers to use.
#1 tip to the Ohio community: Walk or ride your bike. It's healthy for you and you'll emit less carbon emissions than driving.