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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Res life encourages students to live sustainably

A+look+at+the+recycle+bins+inside+the+Arizona+Sonora+residence+dorms.%0A%0APhoto+by+Jesus+Barrera
Jesus Barrera
A look at the recycle bins inside the Arizona Sonora residence dorms. Photo by Jesus Barrera

The Residence Life community promotes sustainability with programs both throughout campus and within individual residence halls. While the UA has had a recycling program since the early 2000s, Residence Life stepped up its commitment to sustainability with the addition of an Eco-Rep to every hall council in 2007 and is continuing this commitment with upcoming events like the Battle of the Utilities, which takes place Oct. 25 through Nov. 24.
The Eco-Rep is a position on each residence hall’s hall council that advocates for increased sustainability within the dorms. The representatives meet with Jill Ramirez, the coordinator of sustainability education for Residence Life, for an hour and a half each week and bring the knowledge they gained during their meetings back to their hall.
“[The Eco-Reps] help work with [their hall] to make their social programming more sustainable, so maybe that means residents bring their own bowls or plates or maybe that means they go and get a cardboard box and use that for recycling,” Ramirez said. “Things like that where, no matter what program it is, they can make it sustainable even [if] it’s not teaching about sustainability.”
This idea that sustainability can be applied to any program is echoed by sophomore Valery Santacruz, a resident assistant at Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall who is also on her hall’s council. In Graham-Greenlee, Santacruz said there is an emphasis on finding paperless forms of advertisement for hall programs. The hall has invested in a reusable banner for its annual Hoggoween event and often writes on mirrors as an alternative form of advertising. For programs in which food is involved, the hall also incorporates composting bins.
“We try to incorporate sustainability within our entire hall, whether that’s with hall council or just with my residents. That’s something we’re always trying to incorporate into our programs,” Santacruz said.
These efforts for sustainability are spearheaded by Eco-Reps within each hall and can involve creating programs or putting up wall decorations that educate people about sustainability issues, as well as just teaching students about more sustainable ways to live their daily lives.
“I think it’s hard to tell someone ‘your practices are wrong,’ and we don’t try to do that. We try to encourage people to conserve more, recycle this, thrift something instead of buying it new,” said Lucette Peralta, a pre-business freshman and the Eco-Rep for Yuma Residence Hall.
Ramirez helps the Eco-Reps with their sustainability education. According to Ramirez, out of the entire country, the UA was the second school to have a sustainability education coordinator. The position has since become part of other schools throughout the country, and Ramirez herself has helped institute her position in two other schools.
“It’s really unique to have a person in Residence Life dedicated full time to sustainability. There may be folks who have sustainability as one of many things that they do, but my position is very unique,” Ramirez said. “The deal is, with someone doing it full-time, there is energy dedicated and there is money dedicated [to sustainability].”
With this dedication come campus-wide programs like the Earth Hour celebration and the utility reduction competition Battle of the Utilities, as well as online programs like LEAD certification. Ramirez said she feels like her sustainability efforts are supported within the UA community.
“I’m so lucky. I have the best job in the world because I get to work with students who get really excited about sustainability and I get to work with this staff that’s really open. Residence Life really values sustainability,” Ramirez said.
Those students who are interested in sustainability can channel their interest into competing for the Sustainable Hall of the Year award, which Ramirez said Yuma Hall has won more often than other halls over the last five years. Peralta credits the collaborative nature of the community there for the hall’s success in winning the award frequently.
“Because we have that strong tie to each other, wanting to improve Yuma is something that everyone wants to do, so people are ready to do it and ready to help you, which I think is really nice,” Peralta said.
By participating in these competitions and improving their respective halls, students are taking part in forming new sustainable habits, which is why Ramirez said she thinks Residence Life sustainability is so important.
“I think that this is a really critical time in folks’ lives because they are figuring out how they want to live independently,” Ramirez said. “This is their chance to create their own habits, and so this is the perfect time to start thinking about sustainability so that, as you’re forming those habits, you form good habits.”

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