By Christina Fuleihan
Over the years there have been many environmentally-oriented campaigns and organizations established at Rollins College. EcoRollins, the Rollins Coalition for Sustainable Investment, and the Sustainability Program are just three different on-campus organizations that often collaborate to encourage a more environmentally-friendly campus and a more environmentally-aware student population. For instance, just last year, the Rollins Coalition for Sustainable Investment was formed in an effort to launch a campaign encouraging the divestment of fossil fuel investments. While many of our on-campus organizations are special, EcoRollins stands out as being one of the most active and longest-running organizations on campus. Founded in 1997 by Melodie Malfa, EcoRollins is Rollins’ longest standing student-run environmental engagement organization. The organization strives to advocate environmental activism, promote environmental awareness, and encourage environmental stewardship through learning and the implementation of various enterprises.
Rollins College prides itself on the diversity of student interests and the promotion of a liberal arts culture that encourages students from a wide-range of disciplines to pursue their passions. For the incoming freshman class, these clubs allow them to find their anchor and their home on the Rollins campus; for our graduating seniors, the skills they developed and the friendships they formed because of their membership in specific organizations can become lifelong memories, networks, and lessons that will help them excel in life after college, regardless of their chosen career path. Morgan Laner is one of the many Rollins students who has found her anchor through her participation in one of the many diverse organizations at Rollins. Her participation with EcoRollins has changed the entire trajectory of her college career. “Words cannot describe how much I am happy that I am a part of EcoRollins! Joining this organization has allowed me to find some of my best friends and really embrace and find my voice on campus. I’ve connected even more to my major and my interests and I can’t think of what it would be like going to Rollins and not being part of EcoRollins.” Laner began attending EcoRollins meetings as a freshman; she would first come to serve as a board member in her sophomore year, and was then elected as President of EcoRollins as a junior. She is also currently an EcoRollins liason working with the Sustainability Program.
EcoRollins’ mission has inspired many students around campus to make a positive impact in the community and in the world around them. Just last year, an environmental studies major, Courtney Banker, based her thesis on the recycling system in place at Rollins College. Due to high contamination rates, it was discovered that haulers were discarding all recyclable materials directly into landfills, rather than the proper facilities. EcoRollins played a large role in addressing the issue of high waste contamination levels by launching several campaigns to educate the campus community on the reality of recyclables. Through the efforts of EcoRollins and the Sustainability Project, the issue has since been addressed.
EcoRollins has continuously promoted proper waste reduction practices across campus, the promotion of to-go containers, and the promotion of environmental education. Upon its founding, one of the first initiatives EcoRollins sponsored was the development of a campus recycling program. Over the decades, EcoRollins has also sponsored the Take Back the Tap initiative, the installation of solar panels on the previous Bush Building, the promotion of off-campus student hiking and camping trips, and litter cleanup events. Whether it be through the distribution of informative flyers or tabling at various events throughout the year, EcoRollins is felt as a constant presence on campus. According to Laner, EcoRollins hopes to “enrich the appreciation for the environment, we hope to inspire the campus community to gain an understanding of our environment, to care for it, and to identify our active role within it. This organization has continued to grow lately due to our accountability and dedication to collaborative efforts on campus.”
EcoRollins has been so effective in propagating positive change in our community by inspiring more and more students to join in the effort of environmental sustainability. Regardless of one’s commitment to the organization, EcoRollins is constantly seeking out new ways to inspire various facets of the campus to take action. Whether it be through collaborative projects with other clubs or tabling at large events, EcoRollins continues to make an active effort to makes its presence known and its mission clear. And, the door is always open: all are always welcome to join and participate in EcoRollins programs. It is especially impressive that the organization’s activity has not dwindled over time, and EcoRollins is still going strong twenty years after its initial founding. Upcoming EcoRollins events include a bioluminescence kayaking trip, “Tubing at Kelly Park,” and other off-campus hiking and camping trips. Throughout the month of April, EcoRollins will be working in collaboration with Pinehurst to run an environmental education service event as a part of the “Sustainable Settings” series. This speaker series promotes the discussion of local environmental topics, such as solar energy and sustainable agriculture.
Dr. Grant Cornwell, the President of Rollins College, encourages activism of all kinds in keeping with Rollins’ mission of promoting responsible leadership and global citizenship. Sequestered in Winter Park, Florida, Rollins College is a haven where natural beauty and suburban life conglomerate. Situated beside Lake Virginia and near the Genius Preserve, open to the lively grandiosity that is the Floridian sky, the college community is very aware of how fortunate we are to enjoy the best that nature has to offer. Dr. Cornwell says, “Environment awareness is an essential quality of global citizenship. The central idea here is that we all have an ethical obligation to make sustainable choices in how we live, what we buy, how we manage the waste stream we are responsible for, and how we consume energy. A global citizen thinks beyond the borders of one’s immediate surroundings, recognizing that we each have responsibilities towards all of humanity and the biosphere that sustains us.” EcoRollins has served as a catalyst for increasing environmental awareness around campus and the neighboring community. Ultimately, whether it be through creating wearable items made out of used plastic bags, recycling torn t-shirts into reusable carriers, or launching campaigns to encourage environmental consciousness, EcoRollins is on a mission to inspire both creativity and sustainability.
The article has been published as a part of the project Impact Journalism Day Universities.