Throughout the fall and winter terms, Deerfield has had to sacrifice its sustainability initiatives in order to prioritize the healthy and safety of its community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to these changes, the EcoReps, a student-centered group aiming to advance campus sustainability initiatives, are developing creative solutions to these issues and spreading more awareness about sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Previously, Eco-Reps collaborated with the Center for Service and Global Citizenship on sustainability programs including the Think 80/20 recycling program and inter-dorm water and energy conservation competitions. Accordingly, EcoReps serve as role models for prompting responsible and environmentally-conscious decisions amongst students.
Current EcoReps Advisor and Teaching Assistant Arianne Evans ’16, a former EcoRep, wrote, “I see EcoReps as an exciting opportunity to take initiative on making our campus more environmentally conscious while also learning a lot about starting impactful projects and seeing them through.”
The main driving force uniting the members of EcoReps is their dedication to address the environmental crisis that the world beyond just the Deerfield community is facing.
EcoRep member Stella Kerwin Derrick ’23 said, “I joined EcoReps because I wanted to become more educated on a more diverse range of environmental topics while educating fellow students on sustainability.”
The EcoReps are currently working on four main initiatives: raising environmental awareness through different film showings, encouraging the use of reusable water bottles, launching a clothing drive and an on-campus thrift store, and hosting professionals in related sustainability and environment industries to foster meaningful discussion on campus.
An upcoming documentary showcase will be of the film Purple Mountains, starring Jeremy Jones, a professional skateboarder who funnels his passion for the outdoors into raising awareness about climate change. Other EcoReps are focusing on creating water bottle challenges and initiatives to reduce the use of plastic water bottles from walk-though meals.
Another group of EcoReps created the Deerfield Thrift social media platform where students can buy, sell, and swap used items and clothing on campus. The thrift shop idea aims to address the environmental problem caused by fast fashion.
“Today, people buy and discard clothes faster than they ever have before, and this creates an enormous amount of unnecessary waste. The fashion industry produces about 10% of all carbon emissions, and 85% of clothes made end up in landfills within a year,” EcoRep Caroline Mahony ’21 wrote.
According to Business Insider, this amount of carbon emissions is more than the amount created by international flights and maritime shipping combined, and the fashion industry is responsible for 35% of all microplastic in the ocean.
“I hope more people will be open to buying used items and reusing or repurposing them, as this is a great way to not only reduce your environmental impact, but also to find some pretty cool stuff at a low price,” Mahony continues. Deerfield Thrift recently facilitated its first transaction and is open for any future submissions and purchases.
This year, EcoReps are also working with individuals from other New England boarding schools to discuss issues revolving around climate change. Morsman wrote, “Stella Kerwin-Derrick and I have begun to represent the Deerfield EcoReps in a national prep-school climate coalition started by two Lawrenceville students, which has broadened that aforementioned experience of working with like-minded, driven students.”
For many EcoReps, the ability to create change on campus and working as a group are the most common reasons for participating. After learning from Mr. Calhoun about the magnitude of environmental issues, Erol Barrett ’22, joined EcoReps. “I enjoy the ability to create actual tangible change in my environment here at Deerfield. We are able to actually pull together projects as well as initiatives to incentivize a shift towards sustainability here on campus,” Barrett said.
In the future, Ms. Evans wants EcoReps to work on projects that have benefits not only for Deerfield, but for the greater Franklin County, expand EcoReps’ activities during weekends, and develop a co-curricular that focuses on environmental stewardship and education. Ms. Evans also wants to expand on the concept of sustainability in the Deerfield community.
“I would like students in EcoReps to learn that sustainability is not confined to projects as simple as plastic vs. reusable water bottles, but it is present in every aspect of society from athletics, to the classroom, to the foods we eat and the places we travel. It’s all connected and therefore, my goal for the group would be to one day have every person on campus live and act with an ‘EcoRep’ mindset,” Ms. Evans wrote.