By Ivy Haight ’25: Sustainability Programs Fellow

A photo of a woman next to student belongings with a logo that says "Eco Rep"

This summer working in the Office of Sustainability was more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. Despite my family’s best efforts to keep me home, I couldn’t help but take the 2,400-mile leap out of the nest to pursue sustainability at Amherst - something I knew I was interested in and wanted to know more about. Living at Amherst over the summer has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had, and through this fellowship, I have gained an inside look into the world of sustainability in higher education and developed a (hopefully) long-lasting program at Amherst. I focused the majority of my summer on developing the EcoReps program, which is a program that provides each first-year residence hall with a student EcoRep, who encourages sustainable living and provides programming for Amherst students.

This is a new program for Amherst, so I had the task of building it from scratch, with some of the groundwork research done by Emily Byers in the Spring. While gathering input from my other fellows in the early Summer, I determined what each month of the program would focus on, and from there I began the process of planning a year’s worth of events, posters, Instagram posts, groupme messages, and logistics. Even when I wasn’t involved in every project, I was able to provide input on sustainability features to add to the curriculum, green living certification, thermostat guides, and more. Having the free campus yardsale as an additional project this summer was an eye-opening experience for me as well. We took around 25% of the donations collected from last Spring’s move-out (a huge kudos to facilities, who collected these donations and donated the other 75% to the Amherst Survival Center) and spent two days sorting them and another day setting up a free yardsale in the Orr Rink for when first-years arrive in the fall. Through this process, I realized just how much stuff students accumulate, and how much of it is purchased year after year (like hangers and sheets) in an endless cycle of consumption and waste. I am excited about the buzz on campus already about the free yardsale, and I look forward to hosting it in the Fall.

One of the most interesting parts of my work this summer was when I got to meet with various stakeholders in the Amherst administration. Given that most of the Amherst community had never heard of this program, I quickly developed an elevator pitch to convey what the EcoRep program is all about, and how it will fit into existing programs like Community Advisors and Student Activities. These meetings allowed me to put faces to the names I’ve seen on Amherst emails throughout my first year here, and they gave me an idea of just how interconnected everything at the college is. Working with the people at Amherst made my job even more enjoyable - I remember walking out of several meetings after careful preparation of our presentation, with both Wes and I impressed with how friendly and open to sustainability everyone was.

With the office’s hiatus over the past couple of years, sustainability at Amherst had become something that felt to me as though it was very separate from the student experience. After the arrival and work of Wes and Margot in the spring, I already noticed an increase in student engagement in sustainability on campus (especially through the Sustainable Solutions Lab, which I attended every week in the spring), and I was excited to spearhead the EcoRep program in order to promote sustainable living through students themselves. As one of the EcoReps for this academic year, I know that there are bound to be some hiccups, as there almost always are in the first year of a large program like this. But I also know that seeing my work come to life will bring me even more joy than creating it has.

Ever since being in this position, I have gotten dozens of comments and questions from acquaintances and close friends. “Is this compostable?” “I have this idea for…” “Can I recycle this?” “I’ve noticed there’s a lot of waste from … can we get rid of that altogether?” One of my favorite parts of working in the Office of Sustainability is that not only do I have the answers to these questions, I also have the power and the knowledge to make changes and take action. Plus, it’s fun being the “sustainability friend.”

Through my work this summer and talking with Wes in particular, I realized that there’s more to sustainability than meets the eye. Ultimately, everything is much more than it seems. The EcoRep program is much more than just encouraging students to be sustainable. Amherst’s impact is much more than just the student community on campus. And sustainability is much more than just renewable energy and recycling. No matter what I worked on this summer, our group had constant discussions about sustainability worldwide, the fate of the planet, and other existential topics related to the climate that didn’t discourage me in the slightest; rather, they left me walking out of Beneski every evening with an increased passion for sustainability and solving climate change. I’m thrilled to be working in this office with such incredible people and a common goal of sustainability - sustain the herd!

Go back to Our Green Amherst