Eco-Reps promote sustainability via community service
The group cleaned up a river path at Woodlands Cemetery on Saturday
March 25, 2012, 9:46 pm · Updated March 27, 2012, 12:34 am·
Instead of sleeping in on Saturday morning, 60 of Penn’s Eco-Reps chose to spend their time cleaning up a local urban cemetery.
The student and staff Eco-Reps spent their time at the Woodlands Cemetery, a national historic landmark located at 4000 Woodland Ave. Here, they pruned trees, weeded flowerbeds and planted periwinkle seeds for three hours.
The Eco-Reps, along with community members and students from the University of the Sciences, were split up into groups to tackle the tasks.
This marked the second service event for the Eco-Reps this year. A three-year-old group consisting of Penn staff and students, Eco-Reps looks to promote environmental sustainability practices on campus.
This was the first year that the Eco-Reps reached out to the community in an effort to give back while promoting sustainability.
“One of our goals was not only to continue education and leadership on campus, but to give back to the Philly region through service,” said Julian Goresko, sustainability student outreach associate for Penn’s Green Campus Partnership. “This will continue to be a theme for us.”
In September, the Eco-Reps held their first large-scale service event, in which they worked with the Schuylkill River Development Corporation to clean up parts of the river path.
This time around, Eco-Reps partnered with UC Green, a local West Philadelphia organization that works with the community to empower volunteers in sustainability. While this was the first time the Eco-Reps have worked with the organization, the Penn community has had links to UC Green for many years, said Winnie Harris, volunteer coordinator for UC Green.
UC Green has frequently worked with the Woodlands, helping to prune and groom the sprawling green space with volunteer support.
“Last year, we estimated through volunteer labor that approximately $28,000 [worth of work] was done through volunteer work,” said Jessica Baumert, executive director of the Woodlands Cemetery. “The cemetery needs more upkeep than we have the budget to do, so having [these] volunteers will get so much done.”
The Eco-Reps were eager to get to work on Saturday, as the cemetery clean-up was vastly different from their normal tasks of educating Penn students about sustainability.
“This is a bit different from what we usually do. I wish they did this more, actually,” Eco-Rep and Engineering sophomore Vignesh Selvakumaran said. “It’s just a good way for us to chip in.”
Fellow Eco-Rep and College junior Jolie Shosfy agreed.
“I feel these service events are good in reaching out to the community,” she said. “This lets us branch out.”
The location off campus gave Shosfy some pause, though.
“I just think it was little bit weird,” she said. “But once I got there and saw how beautiful it was, I was just taking it all in.”
“I think the community service is a really important part of leadership, whether it’s environmental or civic leadership,” Goresko added. “It’s a way for them to make an actual tangible impact and get off of campus.”