Becoming America’s Next Eco-Star

EarthzineArticles, Education, Original, Sustainability

Katelyn accepting an award on behalf of her team for placing first in the Communications Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

Katelyn accepting an award on behalf of her team for placing first in the Communications Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

Katelyn accepting an award on behalf of her team for placing first in the Communications Contest at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Courtesy SmartPower.

Middlebury College (Vermont) campus sustainability leader Katelyn Romanov recently won the title of America’s Next Eco-Star in a nationwide contest sponsored by SmartPower and the U.S. Department of Energy. Below, she shares her experience.
Becoming America’s Next Eco-Star is a huge honor and one I intend to use to help turn my passion for the environment into a mainstream concern.
I’m so happy that SmartPower, the nonprofit organization that partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the competition, thought to recognize all the Eco-Stars out there who are leading sustainability initiatives at their schools and in their communities.
Ever since high school and especially since attending Middlebury College, I’ve been extremely active in energy and environmental issues. I was a campus sustainability leader, founding Sprout, a Middlebury student group dedicated to promoting environmental education in local schools, and a U.S. Green Building Council student chapter at Middlebury.
I was first introduced to SmartPower via Twitter when Middlebury’s Solar Decathlon team, for which I directed the crew’s communication efforts, won SmartPower’s Social Media Energy Quiz. My team and I correctly answered the most energy questions from our Solar Decathlon Twitter account: @MiddSD. SmartPower presented a gift basket to us on the last day of the Decathlon as we accepted another award for coming in first place in the Solar Decathlon’s Communications Contest. It was so exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm that my teammates and other young people have for communicating issues of sustainability, and to be recognized for it.

And still, a recent New York Times story laments the fact that today’s college students aren’t as engaged in the environment as was initially believed. The report says that college kids today are marking a steady decline in concern about the environment and taking little action to help it. I was shocked.
But I have a goal to change this. As America’s Next Eco-Star, I intend to make it my personal duty to bring young people back into the environmental equation.
Our job is to take the cause and the message of the environment and make it mainstream. We need to make clean energy and energy efficiency just as popular as March Madness. We need to make the solutions as simple as downloading an app.
When we can bring energy and environmental action to the forefront of people’s minds, then we can create a wave of action unlike anything we’ve seen before. I intend to lead my generation to a more sustainable future so that we, our families and our planet, have a cleaner, greener future.