March is going greener with the Campus Ecochallenge

The KSA is offering prizes to students who compete in the challenge

Campus EcoChallenge action categories: building resilience, waste, food, health, transportation, water, energy, simplicity, nature and community. (Kristen Frier)

St. Patrick’s Day might be on March 17, but that’s not the only thing that’s going extra green this month

The Campus Ecochallenge kicked off this month, a free platform where individuals or teams at post-secondary institutions participate in various sustainable actions, earn points, compete with others, and learn about their environmental footprint along the way.

“We wanted to find a way students could engage with each other and build a sense of community, without having to be on Zoom,” says Erin Pedersen, Sustainability Coordinator for Kwantlen Student Association.

The KSA normally holds on-campus “Eco Days” featuring various events and workshops, but due to COVID-19, they formed their own team to participate in Campus Ecochallenge throughout March, and are giving away prizes to students who participate.

The platform is divided into categories such as transportation, health, nature, and community. Each category features various point-based challenges that range from easy, such as going for a walk, to difficult, like writing to a public official about developing more green space. A user keeps track of the actions they completed, and the points add up.

Each week the KSA is giving away first and second place prizes. The weekly prizes are raffle-based, and participants must have engaged with the platform that week, whereas the grand prize goes to the participant who earned the most points.

Prizes include a $100 gift card to Patagonia, a recycled plastic backpack from IKEA, reusable food storage bags from the Vancouver Aquarium, an adventure box from Explore Magazine, and beeswax wraps. The grand prize is a $500 tuition waiver that can be used for the spring or summer 2021 semester.

“We wanted something that could be applicable for everyone…everybody needs to pay tuition, [so] we wanted something universal as a grand prize,” says Pedersen.

The KSA team currently has 35 members participating in the Campus Ecochallenge, but Pedersen says they’re sending out an email to students advertising the event and expects the team to grow.

“With COVID, I think it’s been very easy to get stuck in routines,” says Pedersen. “There’s various different categories for the actions you can take; some of them are more environmentally based, some of them are more around social connections…and some of them are about getting out in nature, some of them are about being mindful. It’s a way to get out of a rut and learn something.”

Entirely digital, participants do challenges individually or in groups, both indoors and outdoors. The dashboard reveals the environmental impact each team has had, ranging from the amount of carbon dioxide prevented from entering the atmosphere, to time spent exercising, the number of plastic containers kept out of landfills, and gallons of water saved.

“We’ve heard that a lot of students are experiencing Zoom fatigue,” says Pedersen. “So we didn’t just want to put on a bunch of online lectures or something that we would maybe get ten people to show up to. It’s maybe a way to be a little bit more creative about how [we can] interact.”

A total of 500 teams are participating from universities and student organizations around the globe. The KSA is currently ranked number 62, with 3,800 total points at the time of writing.

Pedersen wants people to be environmentally mindful, but her ultimate goal for Campus Ecochallenge is to foster a sense of community.

“Making students feel connected to KPU, to the KSA, to each other, I think that’s almost more important right now in this pandemic time than maybe literally anything else,” says Pedersen. “It’s really hard to feel that sense of connection, and if this helps even a little bit, I will say it’s a success.”