Residence hall rooms go green
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
Katie Tessier believes in environmental sustainability. She’s a vegetarian. She recycles everything she can. She hates disposable dishes and bottled water. She rarely turns on the air conditioner. And she limits her shower time to five minutes.
You could say she’s a true greenie – it even says so on her Capstone House residence hall room window. The window cling identifies Tessier and her roommate MaKensie Beliakoff-Schumaker as residents of a True Green Certified Dorm Room. Their room is one of the 130 on the University of South Carolina campus that are certified as green.
That certification means the residents pledge to do everything from conserve water to power down their computers. The university’s EcoReps (peer leaders who work in residence halls to educate students about environmental issue) check out the room before giving it the green stamp of approval.
For Tessier, it’s a continuation of a lifestyle she began researching and living while she was in high school in Greenville.
“I made the switch to being a vegetarian because of animal rights. The more I researched it, I found out it was good for the environment, too, so I got more and more interested,” said Tessier, a freshman majoring in early childhood education. “I saw how easy it was to be green, and I saw how easy it could be to convince others to do it, too.”
She has coaxed her roommate, a lifelong vegetarian, into the green movement, too.
“I’m from a family where it was expected you give back as much as you can to help the environment,” Beliakoff-Schumaker said. “I try to help Katie with this. I want my children to see the same Earth as I did.”
“Or a better one,” Tessier added.
USC started the pilot program last year and it spread across campus in the spring. A total of 130 rooms – out of 153 applications – have been certified green and 463 residents have participated.
“We started this in conjunction with our green office certification program. We thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be really cool if we did something for students,’ ” said Margaret Bounds, coordinator of environmental sustainability with University Housing.
Bounds worked with an independent-study student to develop the program, which allows students to follow a check list of sustainable practices for their residence hall rooms. Points are awarded for various sustainable practices, and a room inspection confirms compliance. Bounds gave a presentation about the program at a recent Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference. Since then, USC has received inquiries from other universities who want to use Carolina as a model for their programs.
One of those is Northwestern University in Illinois.
“I was so thrilled to learn about the University of South Carolina's green dorm program along with their outstanding EcoReps organization at AASHE,” said Allison Potteiger, who works in the sustainability office at Northwestern. “We are a fairly new Office of Sustainability at NU so it’s very helpful to learn from others instead of reinventing the wheel."
The program’s success has also earned USC the Midlands Green Award for green neighborhood/community groups from Keep the Midlands Beautiful.
“The green dorm room certificate program educates students in the areas of waste reduction, greener habits and sustainable living practices and provides a green guide for students who want to develop ‘green habits.’ The program has become a model for other universities across the country,” said Jacqueline Buck, executive director of Keep the Midlands Beautiful.
“Keep the Midlands Beautiful is delighted with the university’s program,” she said.
Bounds said the Carolina students taking part in the green movement like knowing they are doing their part to make their place in the world more environmentally sustainable.
“These students are leaders in their residence halls. They are living a lifestyle aligned with their values,” she said.
Spenser Gilchrist, a freshman from Columbia who is in the South Carolina Honors College and an EcoRep in the Honors Residence Hall, has turned her room in to a certified green one.
“We have a pile of paper by the printer, so we print on both sides. I switch off the power strip when I’m not using it. I unplug the microwave. I use a shower timer,” Gilchrist said. “The good thing about the green dorm certification is it makes you think about incorporating sustainability into your everyday life. It can be so simple.”
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