Reinventing Eco-Reps: Sustain It Workshop Series

When asked “who are the Dickinson College Eco-Reps?” the popular opinion on campus is “that one kid who takes the compost out in my dorm, right?” Wrong. Eco Reps are so much more.

The Eco Rep program highlights empowered and educated individuals striving to become peer educators across campus. Get lost there? Not a problem. This year The Center For Sustainability Education is rolling out a new program for the Eco-Reps; reinventing the way the campus views the volunteer habit changers. As part of the program, “Eco-Reps” now encompasses students, faculty, staff, clubs, organizations, special interest housing, offices, sports, etc. It is a no-brainer. The mission of the program is to try and educate the campus on sustainable practices in an attempt to change habits, why not create an inclusive environment for anyone with a green bone in their body to become an empowered leader?

The program is two months in and Dickinson is responding well. A series of lectures have replaced mundane meetings notorious for sucking the fun and motivation out of the passionate student body. These lectures are titled the “Sustain It” workshops and highlight frequently asked questions, misconceptions, and even help students turn programming into effective campus climate changers. Our first workshop was on October 21st and was titled “Single Steam Recycling: The Whole Story” helping Eco Reps AND non-Eco-Reps understand where the recycling goes and the process Dickinson is tied into.

What is Single Stream Recycling, Dickinson asks? You know in the HUB how there are different sized slots in the recycling bins, one for paper, plastic, glass? Single Stream Recycling says that the material does not matter for it all goes to the same facility! Those traces of food in the bottom of the parfait container? No worries the facility we partner with is sophisticated enough to overcome the left over gunk. We learned in the workshop that the waste goes from Dickinson’s facilities (when the large bin is full) to Waste Management in York, PA or Waste Management in Philadelphia, PA. From here the materials are sorted and then sold on the recyclables market, nifty.

Cardboard is a different story. When collected and broken down the corrugated cardboard is taken to Project S.H.A.R.E., a local food pantry, where is it bailed and sold on the market. Profits are then used to buy food for the pantry and waste is turned into a way to alleviate the stress of poverty on the community.

Second guessing what you can and can’t recycle, we can help you there as well.

The campus is well postered and on these posters/ stickers it is outlined what should go in the bin. This applies to composting as well. While Eco-Reps should not be known for being the kids who take the compost out, it is still one of their responsibilities. Composting is BIG on campus, with all the collected food waste being transported to the Dickinson Farm for compost.

With all this information now at the hands of those who attended the meeting (and you by extension), where do we go from here? The audience was asked to answer reflection questions and come up with personal goals for spreading the word. The community members came up with some clever ways to address the problems with education such as “Educate First-Years through mandatory orientation workshops,” “Educate R.A. staff and other members with influence,” “Personally become an active advocate.” All fantastic action statements to hear from a newly empowered audience.

In conclusion, the next workshop will highlight how to program in a way that leads to action and will be held on the November 8th in Kaufman 178. Swing by and join the movement.

Here is a link to the powerpoint from the presentation, check it out:

Sustain IT- Recycling

Energy Challenge 2015

2015 Dickinson Energy Challenge Announced: March 16 – April 6, 2015
The 2015 Energy Challenge is being hosted March 16 – April 6, 2015. The theme of the challenge is Spark the Change, and the goal is to reduce energy consumption across Dickinson’s campus. We are striving to reduce our emissions, by changing behavior to reduce electricity consumption. A residence hall competition will be hosted between 15 buildings (starting 3/16) to see who can reduce their consumption by the greatest percentage from baseline data. Prizes will be awarded for greatest reduction (electric heat & non-electric heat). Change your Facebook profile pic to show your commitment, come to our events throughout the challenge, and support the weekly themes:
  • Week 1: Unplugged
  • Week 2: Do it in the Dark
  • Week 3: Power Down and Go Outside
Kickoff Event: Desserts in the Dark, March 16, 7:00 pm on KW Lawn
Finale Event: Bonfire, April 10, 8:00 pm on Morgan Field
We can do this Dickinson. Do you have WATT it takes?
Check out the Energy Challenge Promo Video:

Contact for more information.

Eco-Rep Meeting

Our volunteers meet bi-weekly to touch base on the status of composting and recycling in the residential buildings and to brainstorm event ideas. Our past meeting we also filmed our organization’s pledge for the Energy Challenge—stay tuned for the release of the promo video. Before filming we all grabbed dry-erase markers and wrote on the board words that come to mind when we think of “Eco-Reps”. Check out our word mural that we created for the backdrop of our video:

ecorep mural

Round table brainstorming:


Follow that Recycling Truck!

Ok, we didn’t exactly follow the truck in live action, but we did head to Waste Management’s nearly 67,000 ft2, LEED-certified, Materials Recovery Facility (WRF) in Northeast Philadelphia, PA. When single stream recycling is collected at Dickinson, it is taken to facilities, placed in a compactor, and then picked up by Waste Management (WM) and taken to the either the York, PA recycling center or the WM Philadelphia MRF. Members of Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education and Facilities Management Team had some questions, so we embarked on an all day field trip to tour the facility.


Waste Management invested over $20 million to create one of the most advanced single-stream technology plants in operation at a former brownfield site. The Philadelphia MRF is the largest such facility in the region and can sort and process more than 20,000 tons of recyclable newspaper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastic each month.

We took the tour, which you can reenact here. I encourage the view! Read on to see what we learned.

I personally, have wanted to follow the truck since I started working at Dickinson. There are always so many questions surrounding what can and can not be recycled. Where does it go? How is it sorted? Can/should plastic bags be used or not? Can we recycle this cup or this plate?

Well, I have created this short list of lessons learned to help you better understand:

1. Plastic bags are the worst! They really clog up single stream sorting and make tons of extra work. Even a $22 million system can’t deal with them, and employees climb into the system multiple times each day to get out the plastic bags gnarled bags. SOLUTION: Collect plastic bags separately to be recycled. Current Dickinson collection sites are Kaufman Lounge, Kline Center across from the trainer, Durden Athletic Center hallway, and HUB near mailroom.

2. Food waste contamination should be kept to a minimum, but doesn’t necessarily exclude and item from being sorted as a valuable recyclable. Food waste (i.e. milk in a carton) can rot/mold and deteriorate the product so washing is recommended- Not washing does not equal item rejection. SOLUTION: Wash jars and cans. Labels can remain on. Lids can be left on as well. Pizza boxes are recyclable as long as not grease soaked.

3. This facility is commodity-based. They seek what they can sell. They don’t recycle, they sort and others recycle. The market varies, and all items aren’t always wanted equally. Mixed color (green/clear/brown) crushed glass (resulting from single stream sorting) is not a hot market item now. No one wants it. They  SOLUTION: Reuse glass containers, then reuse them again and again. Bottle banks (return deposit stations) are a great idea as they keep glass colors sorted making the product much more valuable.

4. The waste from the MRF in Philadelphia then goes to a SpecFuel facility where municipal waste that would otherwise be landfilled is made into alternative fuel pellets. Mind Blown. So many questions around this. Seems like everything we need to know is HERE. I’ll be chasing this rabbit if anyone is interested. SOLUTION: Research

5. They accept paper cardboard, milk, and juice containers! What? I didn’t know. They love these things right now. SOLUTION: Use reusable when possible, then recycle the rest!

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 4.19.22 PM

6. Styrofoam is a NO! Some styrofoam has numbers on it. The $22 million sorter can’t handle it. It can be recycled at specific recycling centers, but shouldn’t be sent through single stream sorter. SOLUTION: Let’s find a local taker of styrofoam and sort it out- or not use it at all!

7. There are real people on the line. Men and women. Nice men and women. Don’t put crap, hazardous waste, batteries, e-waste, paints, toxic things, etc. into single stream. Someone- a real person,  has to pull that out by hand, and transport it. It’s unfair, dangerous and rude. I repeat, there is someone on the line pulling out gross, weird things all day! Don’t make their job any harder. SOLUTION: Sort out potentially dangerous items, e-waste and hazardous materials on your own. Stay tuned for a blog post on e-waste soon.

What do you think about these posters? What’s missing? What’s unclear?


Lindsey Lyons
Assistant Director
Center for Sustainability Education
Dickinson College

Single Stream Poster_simplified Single Stream_Landscape_List[1]

Spring Semester is Here!

Spring 2015 is off to an exciting start for the Dickinson Eco-Reps as we prepare for the 2015 Energy Challenge! This challenge kicks off after spring break, so we are feeling the pressure to get out to our residential buildings and communicate ways to conserve energy so that Dickinson students are ready to conserve and compete in the Energy Challenge!

We are excited to have gained new members to our team for this semester that bring great creativity and excitement to the program. As the Eco-Reps Supervisor, it is my semester goal to provide more opportunities of team building for our volunteers to get to know each other better. Spring 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting time for this program and its many volunteers!

Video Project: “Our Habits Follow Us…”

First year Eco-Rep Natalie Cassidy and partner Amanda Brangwynne produced a great video promoting the use of reusable water bottles for Professor Hoefler’s First Year Seminar “Speaking Out About Sustainability”. The video features another fellow first year Eco-Rep, Ivy Gilbert, who lugs around 167 plastic water bottles showcasing the amount that the average  American consumes in a year. Check out the fun, powerful video these sustainability-minded women created:



Water Works: Small steps can protect LeTort Spring Run

Looking for a platform to share your passion for writing? Carlisle’s local/regional newspaper, The Sentinel, has a monthly column called “Water Works”. This is a great venue for Dickinson students and faculty to publish in print paper. Interested? Submit your article to Lindsey Lyons, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainability Education, at:  lyonsli at

Check out this piece by assistant director of technical assistance for Dickinson’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, Jinnie Monismith, the most recent installment in the “Water Works” series in The Sentinel.

Small steps can protect LeTort Spring Run

By Jinnie Monismith, For The Sentinel…

CARLISLE — Situated in the middle of Cumberland County, the LeTort Spring Run is Carlisle’s renowned limestone stream.

Famous for its elusive brown trout, the run is a popular fly-fishing destination for highly skilled and enthusiastic anglers from around the world. The LeTort is among Pennsylvania’s best of the best streams and, as such, need to be protected.

The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, also known as ALLARM, an organization based out of Dickinson College’s environmental studies department, has studied the LeTort for more than 20 years. Research revealed that urban influences and increasing development in the watershed was cause for concern.

When it rains, large amounts of water travel over parking lots and roads, often picking up pollutants before flowing to a storm drain.

In Carlisle, storm drains are connected by a series of underground pipes that drain the untreated water directly to the LeTort Spring Run. Carlisle, and other developed centers, are required to have a stormwater-management program to help decrease the amount of polluted water entering local streams.

In 2007, ALLARM embarked on a partnership with Carlisle Borough to help with their stormwater-management requirements, by educating the Carlisle community about stormwater runoff and ways to minimize the effects on the LeTort, including:

• Avoid using pesticides and minimize fertilizer use on lawns.

• Maintain your vehicle and properly dispose of auto fluids.

• Wash your vehicle on the grass or at a commercial car wash.

• Pick up pet waste.

• Use rain barrels or rain gardens.

The partnership also conducts community events where residents can learn about ways to manage their household stormwater, such as with the use of rain barrels, which can be placed below the downspout of a home to capture rainwater that would otherwise run off to storm drains. Rain barrels are especially useful in urban areas where there is little to no yard space for rainwater to soak into the ground. Carlisle residents can receive a free rain barrel by attending one of ALLARM’s rain barrel workshops.

The LeTort Spring Run is a treasured resource and an important feature of the Carlisle community. We can all help to protect it by following these and other healthy stream habits.

Plastic Bag Recycling

Check out our sweet, new plastic bag recycling signs! Look for them around campus soon in the residence halls, Kline center and CSE. Athletes take note, you can recycle your shrink wrap and training bags. These bags all go to the local Giant grocery store as a part of their “Bags to Benches” recycling program. With your help, we can receive more benches made from plastic bags for campus and give back to the community.


Water Works Series: an opportunity to publish in print

Looking for a platform to share your passion for writing? Carlisle’s local/regional newspaper, The Sentinel, has started a monthly column called “Water Works”. This is a great venue for Dickinson students and faculty to publish in print paper. Interested? Submit your article to Lindsey Lyons, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainability Education, at:  lyonsli at

Check out this piece by Classical Studies Assistant Professor Megan Newell Reedy, the most recent installment in the “Water Works” series in The Sentinel.

Beauty and efficiency of rain gardens
By Megan Newell Reedy, for The Sentinel

Where does all that water go when it rains?

In downtown Carlisle, where I live, much of the water rushes across parking lots and roadways and splooshes into storm drains that carry it to the Mully Grub and LeTort Spring Run. From there, it is carried to the Conodoguinet Creek, then into the old, wide Susquehanna River and on down to the Chesapeake Bay, where it slips into the Atlantic Ocean.

But not all of the rainwater goes that far that fast. Rainwater that falls on gardens and forests and fields and meadows has a chance to sink into the soil where plants use it and clean it. Then some of the water trickles slowly toward streams, and some filters down and down and down into our natural underground reservoir, the Cumberland Plateau Aquifer.

Rain gardens are designed especially to help this process.

A rain garden is planted in a shallow depression — usually just 6 inches or so — to encourage rainwater to gather rather than run off to the street. The soil in the depression is loosened up so that the water sinks into the ground easily and quickly.

Water doesn’t pool, which means mosquitoes can’t live there. It also means that the water in your beautiful rain garden isn’t heading for the storm drains.

So rain gardens not only save water by encouraging it to filter into our aquifer, but they also prevent flooding by helping keep roads and storm drains from being overwhelmed by water when it rains.

What plants do you use in a rain garden? Happily, the plants that do well in a rain garden tend to be sturdy types that can thrive without much attention: native grasses, ferns, flowering shrubs and even trees. All the plants in a rain garden help keep the soil loose so the water can sink in. They also absorb things like extra nitrogen or phosphorous that can hurt fish and upset the balance in streams, which means that rain gardens also help keep streams and rivers clean by filtering rainwater.

As a bonus, rain gardens also attract birds and butterflies because the plants provide them with food and shelter. Maybe the monarch butterflies will stop through. Or a cedar waxwing. Just be sure to hold off on your pruning and tidying until the spring so they have plenty of berries and warm twiggy nooks to sleep in through the winter.

For garden guidelines and lists of plants to use, visit the website for Penn State Extension at For inspiration and information related to the Chesapeake Bay watershed in particular, visit the website for Rain Gardens for The Bays at

Energy Challenge Student Survey Results


This “Energy & You” survey was sent out to all students living in the fifteen residence halls before and after the Energy Challenge (March 17th– April 7th, 2014) last spring.  264 students responded to the first survey, and 215 did to the second.  The aim of the survey was two-fold: first, to see if the Energy Challenge had any statistically significant change on sustainable behaviors in the residence halls, and second, to get a snapshot of their prevalence.  It asked questions about overhead lights, laundry, showers, unplugging appliances, and others.  The results show us what we’re doing well on, and informs what work we still have to do.  It will help us direct our initiatives to best address what behaviors we have room for improvement, and will be a valuable asset as CSE moves forward in building a culture of sustainability.