During the Fall of 2018, the University of Virginia’s Office for Sustainability continued to invest in its Green Living Certification Program. This program engages with on-Grounds residents, encouraging the implementation of sustainable actions in students’ lifestyles. The process involves completing an online pledge, where the participant commits to 20 green living actions, such as switching to reusable shopping bags, reducing food waste and hang drying clothes. These simple steps are a good opportunity to educate UVA students on sustainable behaviors. Once a student becomes Green Living Certified, they receive a succulent, a Green Living Certified door decoration, and a sticker to acknowledge the participant’s efforts.
Last school year, 2017 – 2018, 180 students were Green Living Certified. The number of participants has increased to 322 students this semester. This fall, there have been two Green Living Interns, Ruth Checknoff and Shannon Hunter, who have worked on promoting this program. The main engagement tactics were tabling events in well-traveled areas on-Grounds, tabling at sustainability related events, and leading green living programs for residence halls. Since Ruth is a Senior Resident and Shannon is a Resident Advisor, it has increased the communication between Housing and Residence Life and the Office for Sustainability. This is crucial because the topic of sustainability is now a program requirement for each RA, which requires RAs to build in sustainability education for their residents. RA’s have the choice of leading their own program or bringing in a Green Living Intern to run the program. Some of the topics discussed at these programs were green initiatives on Grounds, such as solar panels and automatic lights, and what individual students can do to be more sustainable, such as using reusable to-go boxes at the dining halls and terracycling. This is concluded with everyone taking the pledge online to become Green Living Certified and receiving their gifts.
In a follow-up survey, participants commented on the impact that this program had on them. One student appreciated the certification process because “It’s like a badge of pride! By completing a certification, I feel more empowered to actually act on it and change individual habits of mine.” Another participant said “I have become more aware of my responsibility to reduce my own consumption and be more environmentally conscious.” These comments show that this program has made an impact on participants and have promoted green living, which is the goal of the program.