PSU EcoReps Prepare for Campus Conservation Nationals

Claiming to be the biggest competition in the world for water and energy reduction programs, Campus Conservation Nationals is now in its fourth year. CCN has helped motivate hundreds of thousands of students throughout North America to decrease the impact of climate change and reduce consumption of water and energy.

Portland State’s own EcoReps will compete in CCN for the third year in a row this winter.

EcoReps is a yearlong program that PSU residents can get involved in to learn about sustainability and how to help guide other students interested in going green. It was developed in 2011 when the PSU Sustainability Leadership Center hired senior sociology major Danielle Grondin.

Already involved in the housing community as a resident assistant, Grondin helped integrate sustainable activities into resident halls and recruit students to become part of the new EcoReps program.

“The EcoReps program has made very significant strides to get to where it is now in its third year,” said Sustainability Leadership and Outreach Coordinator Heather Spalding. “It has become an important piece of the campus’ sustainability outreach.”

EcoReps are trained in recycling procedures, energy conservation, social equity and other sustainable practices at the beginning of the year. It’s not just about sustainability, though; leadership development is also a key aspect.

In 2012 the EcoReps created the Green Housing Guide, which helps build the program and is distributed at the required sustainability training that all new resident assistants attend.

This year the program has 12 members spread throughout Broadway, Ondine and Stephen Epler Hall.

“The goal is to eventually have an EcoRep in each building,” said Lew Bivona, EcoReps coordinator.

“During fall term, all our new members are still gaining knowledge and beginning to plan events for the rest of the year,” Bivona said. “Once winter starts, we put that knowledge into practice for Campus Conservation Nationals.”

Starting in early February and running approximately three months, CCN allows participating schools to hold three-week competitions on their campuses anywhere during the three-month competition window. At PSU, the EcoReps call their version of the competition the Conservation Challenge.

Before the challenge starts, water and energy consumption is recorded in the residence halls set to be included in the event. The goal is to decrease energy and water use while increasing composting and recycling. Once the challenge officially begins, the EcoReps monitor the water and energy use weekly to see how much it has been reduced.

“The Campus Conservation Nationals program allows us to give feedback to the residence halls so residents can see the impact their actions have,” said Noel Mingo, utilities manager at PSU. “We hope to be expanding our ability to relay utility consumption data to students, faculty and staff in the coming years so the data is available to the whole campus community.”

Last year’s Conservation Challenge included educational events such as the Candlelight Dinner, in which students dined under candlelight while learning how to reduce their electricity consumption.

Throughout the three-week challenge, there were also opportunities that offered students the chance to learn about composting and green cosmetics, play recycling games, make repurposed crafts and participate in a clothing drive and campus swap meet.

Last year’s success set the bar high for this year’s challenge, but Bovina is confident that the EcoReps are ready.

“We plan to monitor Ondine, Broadway and Epler again, same as last year, but also add Parkway, St. Helens, Blumel and Montgomery into the mix,” he said. “This will give us a chance to involve even more students.”

Schools in the top 10 of the competition for the greatest overall percent reduction in electricity consumption will be entered into a drawing for a Building Dashboard, a device for the web that shows real-time and historic utility use, to monitor electricity use in two campus buildings. Similarly, schools in the top 10 for reduction in water consumption are entered in a drawing for a Building Dashboard that monitors water usage, also in two campus buildings.

However, for the PSU EcoReps it’s not so much about winning the competition as it is about helping make their campus a clean, healthy and sustainable place to be.

“We don’t like to put too much pressure on ourselves by comparing with other schools,” Bovina said. “We are definitely hoping to beat our own record percentage, though.”

To learn more about this year’s Conservation Challenge visit