This has been a busy year for the UW EcoReps. To be honest, we’ve already done so much that it’s hard to boil it all down to a few paragraphs. As a new member and first time officer, I’ve learned a lot about sustainability from working with this group. EcoReps started off the year with only two members, and slowly grew to the 15 volunteers that represent us today. It’s been quite a journey, but one that was well worth the effort! So far we've focused on broadening our notion of sustainability, providing professional development opportunities, and creating partnerships with other campus groups.
Right off the bat, Alex Urasaki and I knew that as the club's only members we had an opportunity to create a better mission for EcoReps. We did so by collaborating with the UW Sustainability Action Network (SAN), who helped us gain an understanding of the social and economic aspects of sustainability. SAN is a new campus group whose goal to to advocate holistic sustainability by connecting clubs concerned with either social, environmental, or business fields.
Early on, we also realized EcoReps’ Green Husky Coalition (GHC) project could also help us express sustainability in a holistic way. The GHC connected with representatives from many fields to create an informative speaker series. Meetings will feature speakers from organizations such as Microsoft or the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House, who show students the interdisciplinary side of sustainability (click here for a proper pronunciation of the Intellectual House’s name). Engaging with speakers like these helps students see that no matter what field they’re in, they can find a way to make it sustainable.
The series began through a partnership with our friends at Students Expressing Environmental Dedication (SEED). Together, we hosted Annie Thomas of Sustainable Business Consulting. Annie gave a presentation that taught attendees the ins-and-outs of sustainable business consulting. Consultation exercises also helped the group understand the difficulties of conducting business sustainably. Building on that idea, the coalition will be hosting Holly Beale of Microsoft on April 2nd. She will be giving a presentation entitled "How I Built My Dream Job and Why I'm Trying to Get Fired." Through this talk, Holly will share what it was like to build a sustainable career in a corporate context.
On April 9th, the coalition will host Eliza Dawson. Eliza is an Atmospheric Sciences undergrad and former member of the UW Women’s Rowing Team who wants to raise awareness on climate change. To do so, she'll be rowing 2,400 miles across the Pacific Ocean with 3 other female rowers. The crew will be rowing from California to Hawaii, and aims to cross in less than 50 days! Along the way, Eliza will gather data on the Pacific that will inform the public on how to better care for our oceans.
The coalition is currently reaching out to the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House for speakers as well. Our club feels that, historically, the sustainability movement has failed in being inclusive. It has been successful in promoting green ideas, but often doesn't include marginalized groups. A key goal of the series is to show students the importance of social equity in sustainability, and within society as a whole.
This year, the club is also woking hard to help our members with professional development. As seniors, Alex and I weren't always able to work on our career skills through the clubs we participated in. With the help of our adviser Sean Schmidt, we changed the way the club is ran to offer such opportunities. Projects are now described by the skill sets students can utilize and practice, rather than as just a means to an end. This change in mentality had a cascading effect on how members viewed project tasks. In the past, our members have found it difficult and burdensome to get event permits from administrators. Now, the process is seen as an opportunity to cultivate relationships rather than another hoop to jump through. Members also began making changes to projects that enabled more professional growth. This new sense of control seemed to make people feel more invested in their work.
We've also provided leadership and outreach opportunities to help with professional development. The club has recently settled on five amazing members to serve as officers for the 2018-19 school year. As our fundraising coordinator, Julie Tolmie will be helping the club gain monetary independence. Christina Cameron will serve as our Membership Coordinator by bringing new members into the fold. Emma Wilson will keep internal affairs efficient and orderly as the Administrative Coordinator. Michaela Leung will develop partnerships across campus as the Outreach Coordinator. Tami Grende will keep our social media up-to-date and engaging as the Communications Coordinator. We look forward to seeing what this devoted team of leaders gets done on campus over the next few years.
One of our biggest successes of the year has been the “Succulents for Sustainability” Fundraiser. The fundraiser has gone a long way in teaching the EcoReps the role that sustainability plays in the economic world. By selling plants to the UW community, members have gained valuable sales experience. The fundraiser has helped us teach members and customers alike the value of purchasing sustainably. We buy our potting supplies at a locally owned urban farm, and have marketed the value of investing money into small businesses. We also save glass jars from going to waste by collecting them to reuse as plant pots. This has allowed us to show our volunteers the value of up-cycling resources, while also keeping our process nearly zero-waste! This particular project also has an awesome outreach material and design component. We attach cards to each jar that provide care instructions for buyers. At the same time, these tags relate a sustainable fun fact about the UW Seattle campus. On the back side, we've also been able to detail an EcoReps project for any interested students. Finding unique ways to express these aspects of the fundraiser has allowed members to gain some practice in marketing, while helping the club to make some money.
On April 20th, we will be hosting a special Earth Day edition of our quarterly green market in Red Square. We've teamed up with the planners of the Earth Day festival to promote holistic sustainability. The market will contribute to the food and small business component of the event by featuring local vendors. Representatives from Honest Biscuits, Imperfect Produce, Mystery Bay, Free Barz, Patty Pan, Bean Basket and Brothers Ramen will be on hand to supply attendees with delicious food! We're particularly excited to host our campus' only bulk store, the Bean Basket, who just reopened for Spring quarter in HUB 131K.
Our most exciting development of the year comes as an opportunity for members and the greater student body. Through an exciting partnership with Program on the Environment, we're now able to offer class credits to students! By heading up an EcoReps project, any student can take part in this Credit/No Credit course. The best part is, the hours going toward these credits are at your own availability! Those interested must attend our weekly meetings and sign a learning contract. For more details, you can contact Sean Schmidt at email@example.com. Be on the lookout for updates though, spots are limited!
So, to sum it all up, this year has been a great one for the UW EcoReps. We started out small, but were able to do some pretty big things. We achieved many of our goals in cultivating a strong leadership team for the future, developing innovative new projects, and partnering with other group to have a bigger impact on campus. Still, we'd love to have a more diverse range of opinions and interests, so the invite is always open for interested students to join! This Spring, we'll be meeting each Tuesday, from 3 to 5 p.m.in Room B36 of Gerberding Hall. You can also always get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.