At UMass Amherst, EcoReps Rule Sustainability Both In and Outside the Classroom

Post by Jacquelyn Hynes, GEF Curriculum Intern and UMass Amherst EcoRep

Being an Environmental Science major, I have always had a passion for sustainability and living a more sustainable life. Early last fall of my sophomore year at UMass Amherst, I came across a course called “EcoRep,” advertised as a two-credit peer-facilitated class on sustainability. This program is described as “working towards environmental literacy both within the program, and on the campus at large. [It] builds a foundational knowledge surrounding issues of sustainability and explore how best to raise awareness about these issues amongst our peers.”

The EcoRep class, part of the Campus Sustainability Initiative, inspired me to make permanent behavioral changes relevant to sustainability and to educate my peers. Throughout fall semester I learned about the changes our campus makes to be sustainable, such as adding two permaculture gardens for the dining halls, purchasing local food, recycling all over campus, and much more. By the close of fall semester, I was asked to facilitate an EcoRep class for the Southwest living area on-campus. Since that time, EcoRep and sustainability have become my life! Our classes meet once a week, and are based on 4 units determined at the start of each semester. For example, the spring semester included: Virtual Water, Industrial Agriculture, Responsible Consumption, and Recycling. Each unit requires the involved students to discuss weekly readings, create educational material for the dorms, write a reflection, interact and educate other students on campus and maintain a behavioral change determined at the start of the unit. Along with those requirements, they must attend at least one field trip we set up pertaining to sustainability.

The EcoRep program is not your everyday class; it is discussion based with a fun yet educational atmosphere.  Each of the four living areas on campus, with their own EcoRep section, collaborate to educate the rest of UMass and encourage sustainable behavior. With the fall 2012 semester approaching, the program is improved and expanded; we are expecting more students and more effective outcomes from our work based on this past semesters’ feedback.

Being part of the Campus Sustainability Initiative has changed my college career with more opportunities, friends, and knowledge.  Some of the events we attended as an initiative was: RFK Jr Lecture, Earth Day Festival, the local farmers market, potluck dinners, and much more. UMass has a phenomenal sustainability program and I am happy to be a part of it!

About Green Education Foundation (GEF)

Mission Green Education Foundation (GEF), a non-profit organization, is committed to creating a sustainable future through education. Sustainability Education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems. GEF provides curriculum and resources to K-12 students and teachers worldwide with the goal of challenging youth to think holistically and critically about global environmental concerns and solutions. Visit to register for free and to gain full access to GEF’s comprehensive library of standards-based lessons and activities.
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