Temple University students need to be more sustainable

Two students argue that their peers must get more involved in sustainability efforts on campus.


Temple University recently released its 2020-21 Sustainability Annual Report, which outlines the university’s progress in fulfilling its sustainability initiatives. 

Students, staff and faculty helped develop the goals and priorities for the report, said Rebecca Collins, director of sustainability. City officials and climate change experts also helped develop the plan.

Although students played a key role in forming these goals and priorities, there are only 54 EcoReps, according to the report. EcoReps are members of the Office of Sustainability’s program that train other students to lead sustainable change and climate action on campus.

Though helping the university prioritize sustainability is beneficial, collective action through this program advances Temple’s sustainability mission. 

Sustainability is  fundamental for everyone to consider in their daily habits and students should get involved in campus sustainability however possible, said Vanessa Williams, a Sustainability in Action adjunct professor. 

Students can work in Temple’s community garden during garden hours, take public transportation or have conversations with others about sustainability, Williams said. 

“Whether it is a tiny engagement or a full-scale, year-long commitment, whatever it is, however folks can get engaged is really important,” Williams said.

The EcoReps program consists of EcoVolunteers, EcoAdvocates and EcoLeads. 

While EcoVounteers are students who want to volunteer their time promoting sustainability, EcoAdvocates are students who are seeking leadership positions and to further their sustainable literacy. EcoLeads are paid team members who lead other students in actions related to their focus areas. 

As EcoReps, students can help promote climate advocacy by organizing and hosting different events relating to these issues.

To become EcoVolunteers, students must join the Sustainability Owl Connect. EcoAdvocates must complete an Interest Inventory and attend six Office of Sustainability events during a semester. EcoLeads must fill out an application, according to the EcoReps website.

Since the report was released, the number of applicants interested in the program has grown to about 110 members total, said Caroline Burkholder, the sustainability manager.

College students have shown that sustainability is one of their top priorities for the future. Ninety-two percent of students agreed that all colleges and universities should incorporate and promote sustainable development, according to an October 2020 survey from Students Organizing for Sustainability International, a youth sustainability group.

“There’s a lot of people thinking about this and working on solutions, and every student is a part of that,” Collins said.

For those who aren’t EcoReps, there are still opportunities to participate in campus sustainability through  educational workshops, which help them to understand the importance of fighting climate change, and buying items secondhand, like textbooks. 

“Any student, regardless of if they’re an EcoRep, can definitely be involved with volunteering, with shopping at the thrift store, going to the Temple community garden and participating in fun workshops,” said Olya Zhugayevich, a junior environmental engineering major and EcoAdvocate since 2020. 

The Office of Sustainability offers volunteer opportunities for students, like off-campus cleanups and their annual Give + Go Green event where students donate food and clothing during move-out.

It’s important for students to address sustainability issues however they can, Williams said.

By becoming EcoReps, students can assist in campus sustainability efforts and push Temple towards a more sustainable future.

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