Emerson has strengthened its commitment to sustainability by hiring its first campus sustainability coordinator. Eric Van Vlandren ’90 was selected for the position by the Facilities Management Department at the end of July.
Van Vlandren, who has spent much of his career in the nonprofit sector, said his primary focus for the upcoming semester is energy reduction. He recently established a new campus program, EcoReps, which uses student employees to administer sustainability awareness and education for their peers. Six students will be assigned to the four residence halls, and another two will work with undergraduate and graduate students who live off campus.
Van Vlandren researched best practices of EcoRep programs by speaking with a number of sustainability coordinators at local colleges and universities. In Emerson’s model, EcoReps are paid through Work-Study or Emerson Employment.
“We’ll be designing the programming as we go,” Van Vlandren said. “I’ll have strategies and goals to work toward, but I want this to be a very collaborative process among the students and myself.”
“I want this to be a very collaborative process among the students and myself.”
EcoReps will encourage students to reduce the use of electricity, heating, and cooling in their residence halls or off-campus apartments. They’ll also attend weekly meetings, keep a journal of their experiences, and will visit the wind turbines in the coastal town of Hull, just south of Boston. They also recently attended a retreat on Thompson Island with other student environmental leaders.
Van Vlandren said his long-term goals include possibly switching to single-stream recycling at the College and expanding the current composting program to include residence halls.
Jay Phillips, associate vice president of facilities and campus services, was able to create the sustainability coordinator position through a reorganization of existing positions within his department.
“The role that Eric will play is a much-needed position,” Phillips said, “to harness the already existing passion and commitment to sustainability that exists within the Emerson community and bring structure to the program.”
Van Vlandren said he discovered his passion for sustainability education programs while working as the co-manager of a large compost facility at the Intervale Center, a nonprofit agricultural organization in his native Vermont. In this role, he managed production, sales, and educational programs, which he expanded by partnering with local K-12 schools and colleges.
Van Vlandren has also worked at other nonprofit organizations, including the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Green Mountain Audubon.