This past weekend I, along with four other Stonehill Students, got the chance to attend the 2014 Eco-Reps Symposium at Tufts University! It was an extremely engaging and enlightening experience, and seeing so many young adults who are passionate about the environment all in one place made me SO proud to be a part of Eco-Reps! I found that a major theme running through all the talks I attended was the importance of effective communication in trying to get your ideas across and persuade people to change their behaviors for the betterment of the environment and the world.
The program started off with a talk from the Key Note speaker Suzanne Shaw from the Union of Concerned Scientists all about effective methods of communication when it comes to addressing an audience who may not care about environmental issues. According to Shaw, by following her methods, we could become “Communication Heroes!” Later on, she outlined her “4 Keys to Success” and stressed their importance very frequently:
- Be Frequent
- Be Relevant
- Bridge Understanding Gap
- Provide Hope
She then mentioned that the top three gaps in understanding climate change between someone who is environmentally conscious and someone who is not are:
- It’s happening now
- It’s us
- Scientists agree
After the Key Note speech, we were set free to choose which program we would like to attend. During the next hour, I attend the Skill Building: Tracking Campus Trash program and gained a lot of insight into how to perform a campus waste audit and ideas for how to lower waste production by massive amounts. One proposed idea by the speaker Rob Gogan, was to reduce the amount of empty trucks on the road by having companies change their policies so that when, for example, W.B. Mason brings a shipment to Stonehill, they have to take our used materials back with them so that both legs of their journey are productive ones. There’s no reason for an empty truck to be driving on the road!
One of the most insightful parts of the experience was getting to talk to students from various schools all over the North East and see how their schools are working towards sustainability. Did you know that Stonehill is actually very unusual for having Eco-Reps as a class? Within all of the other colleges, being an Eco-Rep is a paid position, and the program is run through the school. In fact, most of them are hired by their college’s office of sustainability! I think this is a great idea that we should consider here at Stonehill. I came up with many ideas I’d love to share with everyone just by listening to how other schools go about being more sustainable.
The second program I attended was called “Innovative Programs:Engaging the Student Body” wherein students from University of Vermont and Boston University discussed their own sustainability programs. UVM had a very interesting Eco-Ware program wherein you could do a one-time purchase of a green to-go container, a green to-go soup container, and a spork. You’re given a cow tag a proof of purchase so when you go to the dining hall, you show the cashier the tag, and they hand you the Eco-Ware on the spot! In their system, you don’t even have to remember to bring your green to-go container. According to UVM, Eco-Ware is a Sodexo Pre-Approved program, so it’s possible if we wanted, that we could implement a similar system here at Stonehill!
On Sunday, we were extremely lucky to be able to attend a Work Shop hosted by Environmental Psychologist Doug Mckenzie-Mohr. (According to the people of Tufts, attending one of his programs is very difficult and usually costs you upwards of $100 dollars.) Additionally, Mohr was kind enough to give each of us a copy of this book! (I have an extra if anyone wants one!)
For the entire day, we got to listen to so much good information on what Mohr referred to as “Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM). ” In other words, effective methods for persuasion and ways to get people to change their behaviors to be more sustainable. Essentially, the 5 steps to CBSM are:
- Select Behaviors
- Uncover Barriers and Benefits
- Develop Strategy
- Pilot Strategy
- Implement Broadly and Evaluate
The major ideas that Mohr stressed were to spend time identifying which behaviors on campus are creating the greatest challenge against sustainability, and tackle those. He taught us numerous ways to make a change in behavior seem more enticing, and ways to hold more effective programs on campus to elicit permanent change.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at Tufts University and learned a great deal of information that I am more than willing to discuss and share with anyone who is interested (I took loads of notes!). I’d highly recommend attending this event in the future!