One year after debuting three new sustainability-focused student committees, student leaders are working to boost involvement in District-wide environmental projects.
Members of Campaign GW, a student organization that advocates for environmentally friendly living, created the committees last year to educate students about minimizing their environmental footprints through habits like composting. Student leaders said the committees have bolstered the organization’s on-campus and District-wide presence with residence hall tabling, thrift shopping trips and service projects around D.C.
Junior Colin Medwick, an eco-rep – a student representative assigned to residence halls who works to increase sustainability – and a Campaign GW intern, said he and other eco-reps head the three committees, which focus on sustainable service, sustainable consumption and education and outreach.
Medwick said Campaign GW’s education and outreach committee will focus on drawing students not involved in sustainability into the organization. He said Campaign GW currently tables at events, posts on social media platforms and hosts eco-rep residence hall events to encourage students to become more sustainable.
“They make a large part of our carbon footprint, or you know, just our impact on the planet – it’s essential that we get them involved to make a difference,” Medwick said.
The sustainable service committee works to grow student involvement with sustainability projects in other areas of D.C., like cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, Medwick said. He said increasing students’ involvement in sustainability efforts can maximize the impact students have on the District overall.
He added that the sustainable consumption committee encourages students to cut down on product purchases by shopping in places like thrift stores.
“Students are super busy,” he said. “Everyone seems to be really passionate about everything, which is a great thing but also a challenge when you want to plan things. So I think letting students dive deeper into certain areas they care about has been a useful way to increase engagement.”
The group will continue to table in residence halls and hold environmental documentary screenings to educate students about how their habits impact the environment, he said.
Medwick said Campaign GW will continue to run eco-challenges, during which halls compete to reduce their water and electricity usage. He added that the group will incorporate compost collection into the eco-challenge this academic year, and residence halls will hold events like cooking workshops and classes on how to make “DIY toothpaste.”
“We let the groups within their hall cater their own programming,” he said. “So we’ve seen that come to fruition in really creative ways.”
Erin Powell, a former eco-rep and a junior majoring in international affairs, said sustainability can be as simple as turning off lights when leaving a room and ensuring faucets aren’t leaking. She said green living seems more feasible to students when they know others who have adopted the same habits.
“Being sustainable can feel really daunting to people – and not even necessarily in a foreboding way where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m not capable of this,’ but just like, ‘I don’t know how to do this, I’m not welcome doing this, therefore, I shouldn’t try,’” she said.
Powell said the on-campus sustainability community, which includes student organizations like Campaign GW and the University’s Sustainable GW team, needs more student involvement to continue the climate movement’s momentum.
Members of Green GW and other student organizations on campus participated in the second-ever Global Climate Strike.
“Climate change is a current problem and sustainability is a fun, really exciting part of the century and of our generation,” she said.
Sophomore Nina Clark, an eco-rep and a Campaign GW intern who co-leads the sustainable consumer committee, said educating students about sustainability through the eco-rep program will encourage students to become more involved in environmental activism.
“Eco-rep engagement in the residence halls allows students to educate themselves and their peers about how the choices they make contribute to environmental degradation that affects, not only the planet, but large groups of underserved communities that are forced to deal with the effects of climate change on a daily basis,” Clark said in an email.