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UMBC ECO-AMBASSADOR REPORT FY 2021

What is the Eco-Ambassador Program?

Eco-Ambassadors (EA) play a vital role in the promotion of sustainable living at UMBC. EAs serve a year-long term, working during the Fall and Spring semesters. This peer-to-peer education program was originally designed and funded in 2013 by the Student Government Association (SGA) to encourage environmentally and socially responsible behaviors within the student body as a whole. SGA built the program with the understanding that students are the most equipped to build a sustainable culture amongst their peers. Today the Eco-Ambassador Program is housed in the Office of Sustainability (OoS) in Facilities Management and is funded through an environmental education grant. The Eco-Ambassador approach draws from the idea that sustainable behavior change is most effective when it involves direct contact with people and is carried out at the community level.

Meet This Year's Eco-Ambassadors

This year we were lucky to have four amazing Ambassadors! Learn more about them by learning why sustainability matters to them:

Megan O'Neill, Junior Graphic Design Major

"Growing up on a farm, I was lucky enough to experience what having a personal relationship with the environment around me is like. There's a great amount of power in being able to spend time in nature and be present with all of the animals in it. Sadly, current projections (i.e. rising sea levels, carbon in the atmosphere, oceanic pollution) show us that there is a dire need for society to make lifestyle changes, if we want to be in a position of living symbiotically with nature. Sustainability matters to me because it empowers individuals to make lifestyle changes that collectively counteract the rate at which the environment is being harmed."

Erin Kosloski, Junior INDS Major

Ever since I was little, I've been taught that I had a responsibility to try to "save the earth" through my individual actions, whether it be turning off the water when brushing my teeth, picking up trash in my neighborhood, recycling, etc. As I've gotten older, I've realized that we also need efforts at a larger societal level in order to minimize and reverse the drastic effects of our current climate crisis. I love that even as a student, I have the opportunity to help shape and implement these efforts on the UMBC Campus by working with the Office of Sustainability.

Laura Ventura, Junior Biology Major

Sustainability matters to me because protecting and investing in the world around us helps ensure the health and safety of those who come from disadvantaged communities.

Tarin Wilks, Junior Finance & Economics Major

Sustainability matters to me because I think all people (and animals) deserve a healthy and safe earth to live on, and I think it is everyone's responsibility to do what they can to create a healthier planet.

COVID19 Operations

This year’s EA Program was run completely virtual, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Normally the ambassadors run their individual campaigns year round with monthly EA meetings with the Office of Sustainability. However, this year EA meetings were weekly to promote accountability and more importantly to build a sense of community in a virtual setting. Also, more focus was placed on learning core concepts on how to build successful sustainability programs to give ambassadors the language and tools to evaluate and analyze the efficacy of their campaigns.

Ambassadors spent the Fall semester focused on gaining a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and how to effectively run a Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) program. We read and lead group discussions around readings from Choices for Sustainable Living and Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing (Third Edition). Each Ambassador worked together to create/plan a CBSM campaign to implement in the fall using the steps laid out in the book:

  1. Identify behaviors to promote amongst peers
  2. Uncover barriers to sustainable behaviors by surveying UMBC students
  3. Build a plan that incorporates CBSM strategies

After careful and thoughtful planning, the Spring semester was dedicated to implementing their CBSM campaigns and evaluating the effectiveness in engaging students in desired sustainable behaviors.

Experience & Overall Impact

I think a better understanding is an understatement. I have learned so much over the past two semesters of what sustainability looks like on a personal level, campus level, state level, and beyond." - Eco-Ambassador, 2021
My favorite part about being an Eco-Ambassador was the empowerment it gave me to take the risk in putting myself out there among university staff and grow in my maturity in a leadership position. Especially due to online school, I never thought I would be as interactive and involved in UMBC as I became this year." - Eco-Ambassador, 2021

Explore each campaign's impact this semester!

Goal:

To increase collaboration and knowledge sharing between students working in sustainability at various Maryland institutions with an intercampus student sustainability coalition. The coalition would also build a sense of community between students centered around a common interest and goal of envisioning and creating sustainable campuses.

Campaign Impact:

Held 2 coalition meetings in the Spring semester

13 student staff/Eco-Representative from 8 different institutions were represented and interested in the coalition

  • Stevenson University
  • Towson University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Saint Mary’s College of Maryland
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Salisbury University
  • Goucher College

Goal:

Aims to help students reduce waste, preserve natural resources, and limit pollution, by teaching and incentivizing sustainable skills they can use in their everyday lives.

Campaign Impact:

Trivia Night with Residential Student Association

  • Collaborated with Residential Student Association to run a sustainability/zero-waste themed trivia night during Campus Race to Zero Waste
  • 30 students participated in the event
  • Trivia winner received a Zero Waste utensil kit & reusable water bottle to reduce their waste on campus

Meatless March Social Media Challenge

The Meatless March Campaign was a social media challenge on Instagram to encourage students to reduce their meat consumption for the whole month of March

@meatlessmarch2021_

  • Gained 28 followers
  • 40 likes across 7 posts
  • 10-15 active participates in the challenge

Goal:

To help students feel more confident and motivated to get involved in local environmental political issues by holding educational events and social media campaigns. Also, to start building a culture of environmental civic engagement at UMBC.

Campaign Impact:

Crash Course on the Maryland Legislative Session Event

Hosted a virtual event for UMBC students to learn about the current Maryland Legislative Sessions, hear from student activist, and get more information on how to get involved

Event Attendance: 53 participates

Speakers:

Speakers Included UMBC alumni & student activist, representing six different political organizations

Post Event Survey:

Participates were sent a survey to evaluate the efficacy of the event in educating attendees & how likely they were to become more politically active.

  • 88% of survey respondents said they would consider joining one of the political organizations represented at the event
  • 100% of survey respondents said they felt better prepared to get involved in political activism after attending the event
This (event) was a cool way to learn about the awesome work that student activists in the local community are doing!”- Event Attendee

Environmental NGO Social Media Campaign:

Four information Instagram carousel's were posted every week for the month of April on @sustainableumbc to inform the UMBC community about various local environmental non-profits they can get involved with!

47 people engaged with the social media posts

4 local organizations were highlighted:

  • Sunrise Baltimore
  • Baltimore: Blue Green Just
  • Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
  • Clean Water Action Maryland

Goal:

To locate opportunities, like funding and a location, to start an on-campus Free Store. A free store at UMBC would be a living example of a circular economy and would provide students a space to participate in accessible reuse.

Campaign Impact:

Received approval for an official space on campus to store items that are donated to the free store

Reached out to multiple on-campus stakeholders and cultivated a collaborative relationship, which has built the foundation and buy-in for a free store next semester. Some campus partners include:

  • Retriever Essentials
  • Center for Democracy & Civic Life
  • Shiver Center

Located potential internal funding to start-up the Free Store next semester

Collaborated and assisted Retriever Essential’s in finding more sustainable, affordable, and package free products for their donation wishlist

The Office of Sustainability would like to thank this year's Eco-Ambassadors for their amazing contributions and dedication to making UMBC a more sustainable campus! We have had a wonderful time storytelling, envisioning, and building community with you all this past year.

If you are interested in learning more about the UMBC Eco-Ambassador program, please use the link below & follow the Eco-Ambassadors on Instagram @umbc_ecoambassadors