Students Lead ECO Program To Promote Sustainability at Andover

Crowded into the Fuess House common room during Orientation Weekend, the 35 new Environmental Coordinating Officers (ECOs) discussed issues of sustainability as part of a new campus-wide initiative to bring good environmental practice to dorms and buildings on campus.

Last spring, several environmentally conscious students applied to become ECOs to work with adults and house counselors in academic and residential buildings to establish and maintain sustainable trash and recycling programs.

The program plans to use hands-on experiences, such as having students carry their trash and recycling in their backpacks, to draw community members’ attention to their impact on the environment.

“In the long run, we want to see people develop these habits and not want to live any other way because they know that this is the right way to preserve our environment,” said Mark Cutler, Instructor in Spanish and faculty advisor of the ECO program.

The ECOs oversee sustainability in all of the dorms and some of the larger academic and administrative buildings. All dorms have a designated ECO, but smaller dorms may not necessarily have an ECO who lives in the dorm.

“We worked on that a lot during Green Move-In and Opening Weekend, and we made sure that the trash systems were set up. We will also talk to students about recycling things that they didn’t necessarily know that they could, because we realized that a lot of students didn’t know proper recycling techniques,” said Lily Grossbard ’15, Director and Student Coordinator of the program.

Unlike the prior E-Proctor program, which laid most of the responsibility upon the adults and house counselors of dorms and buildings, the students are the grassroots of the new ECO program, according to Cutler.

ECOs will work closely with Paul Wolff, the new Office of Physical Plant (OPP) sustainability coordinator, to carry out the logistics of recycling and trash, obtain supplies and contact custodians. They will also meet every other week to discuss important topics related to sustainability, both at Andover and in a global context, which they will present to their designated dorms.

According to Cutler, the idea of having representatives in dorms to maintain good environmental practices originated in Fuess House in 2010, when house counselors, including Cutler, hatched the idea to assign a proctor for this duty.

“[The house counselors] tried to spread this idea around campus, and some students became involved at different times and places. Last year, several students and I started talking about effective ways to spread this system throughout all the dorms,” said Cutler.

The new program was developed by Cutler, Grossbard, Dan Wang ’14, Jessica Gammon ’14, Alex Tamkin ’14 and Debbie Shepard, OPP sustainability manager.

Looking toward the future of the program, Cutler mentioned discussions between ECOs and other students, aptly named “Trashtalk,” to talk through better environmental practice, focusing especially on younger students.

“We want to have a real presence in the [Junior] dorms, because if we start to educate and train them now and tell them that this is the way things are done, it will make ECO-ing a lot easier in the future, and in two to three years we will see real, significant results,” said Cutler.