This year the Colorado College Office of Sustainability is revamping with the Eco-RA program. This program provides each residential hall with a Resident Assistant that is focused on making dorms more eco-friendly.

The project was initiated several years ago when the sustainability movement was just getting started at CC. It started as a program for anyone in the resident halls who was passionate about sustainability and wanted to help make their dorms more environmentally friendly.

Eco-RA Mackenzie Murphy.
Eco-RA Mackenzie Murphy.

“It was pretty informal,” said Mike Stevens, the Office of Sustainability intern who has managed the Eco-RAs. “Sustainability wasn’t really a big thing on campus, but it started this way, very grassroots.”

It was also difficult for the Eco-Reps to coordinate with one another without an organized program. “There was no continuity and we didn’t have the connections that we needed to have,” said Stevens.

A couple of years ago, the Office of Sustainability switched the program to residential assistants rather than regular residents, but the system still wasn’t as effective as the Office of Sustainability wanted. “Ian [Office of Sustainability Manager] and I decided that we should just scrap the program,” said Stevens. After putting more thought into the program, it was restarted with new ideas and enthusiasm.

Now the program boasts Eco-RAs in all of the student dorms. The Eco-RAs are residential advisors that are also interested in making their dorm more sustainable.

Lydia Ballantine, the Eco-RA for the Local LLC in Mathias, saw the program as a way to combine her passion for sustainability with her job with Residential Life. “I think sustainability is relevant in all aspects of life, and because people are living on campus that’s where you can have a pretty big impact,” said Ballantine.

Eco-RA Karolina Szymańska.
Eco-RA Karolina Szymańska.

Ballantine and the six other Eco-RAs—Karolina Szymańska, Eileen Kitrick, Anastassia Doktorova, Emma Brachtenbach, Katherine Jacaruso and Mackenzie Murphy—work on several initiatives in the dorms to make on-campus living more sustainable. Some of their projects have been installing shower timers in the dorm showers, as well as providing drying racks and CFL lightbulbs.

“The program is great because they notice a lot of things that I wouldn’t because I don’t live in the dorms anymore,” said Lily Biggar, the Eco-RA coordinating intern for the Office of Sustainability.

Currently, the RAs are working on making Recyclemania a success around campus. Recyclemania is a competition in which colleges nationwide track their recycling and composting and compete against other participating institutions.

Although the program has made leaps and bounds in the last year, there is still room for improvement. The Office of Sustainability has many goals for the future of the program. “We’d like to set up a training program for the Eco-RAs before school starts,” said Biggar, the current Eco-RA manager.

“Sometimes sustainability at CC is top down, policy driven, and involves creating metrics and goals,” said Stevens. “But there’s also a lot of bottom-up action, and the Eco-RA program is an example of bottom-up action.”

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