For the last two years, I have worked as an intern with UK Recycling through the Sustainability Internship Program offered through the UK Office of Sustainability, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire college career.
While I worked as a general social media/events intern last year, I had the chance to hone in on a more specific position this year: EcoReps Coordinator. The EcoReps program here at UK is an opportunity for students living on-campus to learn about and promote sustainability to the campus community. Although the program has been around for 5 years now, this is its first year being run entirely by UK Recycling. Being tasked with coordinating the entire program certainly seemed like a daunting responsibility at first– looking back now, it has been hard work, but it’s also been a truly wonderful experience.
Over the summer, I worked to reimagine the program from top to bottom and decided that the EcoReps needed more chances to share their passion and put it to good use. I created a guide for them to reference throughout the year, reached out to Resident Advisors about the program, and promoted the program applications to on-campus students throughout August and September.
Once the official cohort of EcoReps had been chosen for the year, we got to work. I led a training session to lay out the expectations of the program, which was also a chance for everyone to introduce themselves to one another. In the fall semester, I held monthly meetings where I would promote campus events to the EcoReps, and help them brainstorm ideas for their own events. These events were all related to reducing waste on campus and adopting more sustainable behaviors, whether that be through gift-wrapping, craft-making, or trivia with prizes.
There have been some hiccups along the way, and I’ve definitely learned to become more adaptable and flexible as a person thanks to this internship. Halfway through the year, my supervisor at UK Recycling and I decided to change the format of the program yet again, to focus it more on educating the EcoReps on issues they wanted to learn about. For the sake of
more efficient outreach, we also added the expectation that they complete 2 sessions of tabling in the lobby of their residence halls. This way, more on-campus students have the chance to be exposed to the work of UK Recycling, as well as how they can be more environmentally friendly in their day-to-day life.
I have loved these last 2 years with UK Recycling, and the mentors and fellow interns I’ve worked alongside in the Sustainability Internship Program. I could not have asked for a better position than that of EcoReps Coordinator, nor a better group of students to mentor throughout my senior year. My EcoReps give me hope that, even though I’ll be leaving UK once I graduate in May, there will be so many younger students who are just as passionate about sustainability and the environment and who will do all sorts of amazing things on this campus in years to come.