Peer education, long a well-loved tool in the field of public health, has inspired curiosity from sustainability advocates in recent years. As research in psychology and marketing continues to affirm that environmental awareness alone does not result in environmentally preferable behavior changes, those seeking to foster sustainable behaviors hope to tap into the power of peer influence to affect necessary change.
On campuses across the United States, groups of peer educators, many of whom operate under the title EcoReps, are pioneering peer education programs in collegiate settings. Wake Forest University’s own re-imagined EcoReps program, launched in the fall of 2012, is off to a promising start.
Last fall the EcoReps kicked off the semester by giving a presentation at the Monday Talks series hosted by the Health and Exercise Science Department. Their presentation, titled “A Day in the Life of a Sustainable Student” highlighted the surprising impacts and perks of adopting simple behaviors, like using a reusable water bottle or shopping at thrift stores.
The EcoReps also played an integral role in Energy Bowl 2012, where they performed personalized room assessments and staffed kiosks promoting the competition. In addition, the EcoReps performed educational outreach at events hosted by the Office of Sustainability, Outdoor Pursuits, Residence Life and Housing, and Campus Dining.
Through their participation in the program, EcoReps earn points towards a Peer Educator for Sustainability certification. The Office of Sustainability designed this 100-point certification to ensure that EcoReps develop both sustainability literacy and outreach skills, which are crucial for their success as peer-to-peer educators and future sustainability professionals. Lauren Formica, a first year student, became the first EcoRep to complete the Peer Educator for Sustainability certification at the end of last semester.
This spring the EcoReps gave an expanded version of their Day in the Life presentation as part of the Monday Talks series on January 28th. They will also present at the Sustainability Theme House’s weekly spaghetti supper on February 21st.
Delegates from the Wake Forest EcoReps program will head to a regional conference for EcoReps in the Southeast in February. In March, the EcoReps will support the Campus Conservation Nationals competition sponsored by the Office of Energy Management.
For more information on how to become an EcoRep, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Enrollment in the program closes on February 14th.
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability