Eco-friendly faces: Meet Temple’s EcoReps advocating for a sustainable campus
Students in Temple’s EcoRep peer education program lead sustainability and climate action initiatives across the university.
As part of Temple’s efforts to advance climate action and environmental justice, the Office of Sustainability recognizes students’ role as changemakers. Enter EcoReps—undergraduate peer educators who promote and lead sustainability initiatives across campus. They help the office achieve its goals through programming, outreach, service, research and communication around the university and Philadelphia.
The program is open to those of all majors with a passion for preserving and protecting our planet. To join, students first fill out an interest inventory through Owl Connect.
There are three levels of involvement. The first level is EcoVolunteer, which includes any student that is part of the Sustainability Owl Connect or in the sustainability-associated Living Learning Community. The second level is EcoAdvocate, which seeks further leadership opportunities and increased sustainability literacy. EcoLeads, the third tier, apply for and work in paid positions as peer leaders in the office, focusing on particular areas of interest.
EcoRep projects, events and experiential learning experiences address various sustainability topics including zero waste, food systems, corporate social responsibility, transportation, and environmental science and engineering, among other issues. Specific work EcoReps have done includes founding a student-led, bike-powered organic waste pickup service called Diamond Compost; creating a TikTok series about how to live green; facilitating a teach-in about local environmental justice issues; and coordinating the sustainable move-out program Give + Go Green as well as Temple Thrift, in addition to other activities.
Meet a few of Temple’s highly involved EcoReps to learn about their specific initiatives and what sustainability means to them.
Graduation year: 2023
Major/school: Environmental engineering, College of Engineering
Hometown: Souderton, Pa.
Sustainability focus: Innovation and green living
Sparked by a passion for environmentalism in high school, Juliana Alderfer became involved with the Office of Sustainability as soon as she heard about it at Temple. After attending events, getting to know those in the office and learning more about its mission, she climbed up the ranks of the EcoRep program. She leads Green Living, an eight-week interactive challenge to live more sustainably, focused on topics such as conscious consumption, energy, food and water.
Additionally, as president of Temple’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Alderfer helped conduct a waste audit of trash and recycling from Temple students to learn their waste patterns and determine how to mitigate single-use plastic overconsumption through a Student Green Grant. She’s creating a dataset from this audit to present to individuals who design much of the outdoor infrastructure on campus. Her research in an environmental engineering lab has further fueled her passion for conservation and advocacy as it has allowed her to find the science behind policy.
“The work I’m doing makes me feel like I’m making a difference and affecting the larger system. But what’s most rewarding is meeting people who deeply care about these issues and are passionately fighting for the future. It gives me a lot of hope.”
Graduation year: 2024
Major/school: Supply chain, Fox School of Business
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Sustainability focus: Corporate social responsibility and sustainable business
Since attending an information session from the Office of Sustainability during her first year, Dayja Burton has been committed to a sustainable lifestyle. She joined the EcoRep program soon after that information session, taking an interest in sustainable purchasing. As an EcoLead, Burton has presented on ways that campus partner Aramark can improve its services by offering more vegan and locally sourced options and allowing students to use their own reusable mugs at Temple eateries.
She has also led student excursions to Good Buy Supply, a local home goods store that sells sustainably made products, and is an advocate for buying and shopping sustainably. Her tips for shopping include going thrifting, purchasing glass containers over plastic ones and reusing items already in your possession instead of buying new ones.
“It matters how we treat the earth and how we treat each other. Earth is our only home. Being sustainable is a good way to be conscious of the decisions we make and be kinder to others because every purchase affects another person and the environment.”
Graduation year: 2023
Major/school: Environmental studies, College of Liberal Arts
Hometown: Reading, Pa.
Sustainability focus: Environmental justice and urban agriculture
For Mason Dofflemyer, a big part of sustainability is people—specifically, getting them aware of and excited about fighting for climate action. Interested in making others part of this movement, he first participated in the Service Immersion Program held by Student Activities where he met Senior Sustainability Manager Caroline Burkholder, who recruited him to be an EcoRep.
As part of the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Awards, Dofflemyer has worked with Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies Christina Rosan on a white paper and map outlining places inside and outside of the city where EcoReps have worked on sustainability projects. The goal of the research project is to encourage experiential learning outside of the classroom within both the College of Liberal Arts and the university as a whole so that students can collaborate with others on environmental justice issues.
Another passion of Dofflemyer’s is the Temple Community Garden. The garden helps combat food insecurity and waste by providing free produce to the community every Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s really cool to see change through a coalition of students excited about sustainability. We have a big stake in it. It’s empowering to see how many people care.”
Graduation year: 2024
Major/school: Health professions, College of Public Health
Hometown: Bridgewater, NJ
Sustainability focus: Sustainable food systems/food waste
Riya Shah knew whatever college she chose had to have a strong sustainability program with student involvement, which is what led her to Temple. Even in her first year during COVID-19, she found opportunities to get involved in the Office of Sustainability through virtual events. Shah then started volunteering at them as a sophomore when in-person classes and activities resumed. She now serves as the sustainable food systems EcoLead.
In this role, she organizes and develops low-carbon eating workshops in which she presents plant-based recipes to students and informs them about how our food choices affect the climate, emphasizing the affordability and accessibility of such food. She has also arranged trips to co-ops such as the Kensington Community Food Co-op and is an e-board member of the student club Sharing Excess, which collects food from local organizations to donate to shelters and soup kitchens.
“A lot of people don’t think about the food choices they make or how and why they should be making choices that are more in tune with the environment. Even knowing I’m changing one person’s perspective is the most rewarding part.”
Graduation year: 2023
Major/school: Geography and urban studies, College of Liberal Arts
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Sustainability focus: Sustainable transportation and environmental planning
Kelley Simon was introduced to EcoReps through learning how to fix a bike. From there, Simon participated in the Secondhand Cycle Sale, which collects abandoned bikes around campus, opens pop-up bike repair clinics and eventually sells the restored bikes at a discounted price. Additionally, Simon worked on geographic information systems surveys of bike parking on campus to determine not only availability but also accessibility, location and capacity.
Along with his work in sustainable transportation, Simon conducted a tree inventory for Main Campus to estimate Temple’s progress toward contributing to Philadelphia’s tree canopy and the ecological benefits such as storm water capture, carbon capture and pollution removal. He also helped develop a sustainable campus map.
“Change needs to happen from the inside out, especially at a big institution like Temple. People should be educated about what’s happening to our planet. Sustainability is key to making a difference in the world and preserving it for future generations.”