Andrea Tan smiles as she hands students reusable canvas bags in exchange for their plastic ones. She is one of more than two dozen Carnegie Mellon Eco-Reps who decided to take sustainability into their own hands and are working to influence their peers toward greener living.
"Each Eco-Rep is responsible for a certain dormitory or living area, and tries to engage their residents through small events, such as tabling, movies or crafts," explained Tan. "Each month, we focus on a different environmental theme, such as energy, water, food and recycling. We try to educate our peers about everyday decisions they can make that will help the environment."
Eco-Reps has a website where students can learn about the group and apply to become Eco-Reps themselves.
"For me, I became really involved in sustainability after I arrived at Carnegie Mellon," Tan said. "I was inspired by a lot of the green initiatives that are going on at this campus, and wanted to help the cause. I think a lot of students might be unaware of all of the great things that Carnegie Mellon is doing with regard to the environment."
By being responsible for reaching out to students in their living areas and planning each environmental awareness event on their own, Tan said Eco-Reps has helped her to foster leadership skills.
"I guess the key message for me is that the environmental movement on campus is really strengthening, and people should be aware of what's going on and maybe even take the opportunity to join the efforts," Tan said.
This month, Carnegie Mellon is also competing with more than 200 other universities in RecycleMania 2009. For 10 weeks each year, schools and colleges across the country compete to see which institution can collect the most recyclables and the least amount of trash per capita.
"And there are so many other great things going on, like Sustainable Earth's Focus the Nation event, the formation of the Green Practices Committee and the level of involvement of Carnegie Mellon faculty and students."
She added, "It's really inspiring to see so many dedicated people."