Equity and Justice Working Group- Tufts Eco Reps

Tufts University

Date Posted: May 31, 2023
Submitted by: ShaSha Kingston
Content Type: Case Studies
Office or Department: Sustainability Office

Project Overview

I implemented an Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) within the Tufts Eco Rep program Fall 2022 with the goal to integrate DEIJ principles into the core of the Eco Rep program and develop ideas on how to make sustainability at Tufts more inclusive moving forward. Within a year, the EJWG created an Equity and Justice plan for the program with outlined action steps, presented at the November 2022 Students in Sustainability Leadership Symposium, held multiple meetings with the Tufts Office of Sustainability as partners in advancing equity and justice within the office, and were key contributors in the development of a new sustainability program to proceed the Eco Rep program called SustainableCORE (cultivating our Resilient Environment) Fellows launching this upcoming fall. Multiple campus events emerged from the influence of this group too, such as a Menstrual Health and Sustainability Week and a Cultural Food Fair in collaboration with the Africana Center, Asian American Center, Latinx Center, and Indigenous Center.


The Eco Rep program at Tufts started around 20 years ago with a mission to be peer-to-peer educators surrounding sustainability. The program was known for spearheading personal behavior change campaigns such as “Meatless Monday” and recycling and compost sorting. However, over the years, the environmental movement shifted on campus as recycling and compost became more mainstream, paving the way for intersectional and just sustainability to come into focus. I felt it was necessary for our student sustainability programming to reflect the changing sentiment and needs of the Tufts student community and to better meet the moment of our current climate crisis. In my mind, the first step to make student sustainability programming synonymous with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) initiatives was to form an Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG). This group would be comprised of students in the Eco Rep program to create an actionable Equity and Justice Plan for the current program model, and also discuss what longer term changes to sustainability programming on campus should look like.


The creation of the Equity and Justice Working Group had short term and long term goals. Short term goals were to make shifts in the current Eco Rep Program to integrate DEIJ principles. Long term goals consisted of developing ideas on how to make sustainability programming at Tufts more inclusive overall and what changes would be needed to get there.


I was the newly appointed Assistant Coordinator of the Eco Rep Program. Typically the Coordinator starts working the summer before the academic year to prepare for Eco Rep training at the end of summer and get resources together to ensure the school year runs smoothly. However, our coordinator had a full-time job, so I spearheaded the summer prep in conjunction with the Tufts Office of Sustainability’s Education and Outreach Coordinator. I spent much of the summer brainstorming how to meaningfully incorporate environmental justice education and DEIJ principles into the curriculum and how to diversify our campus partnerships. I made many small changes, but realized that many students in the program were also interested in progressing this work. Therefore, I pitched the idea of an Equity and Justice Working Group that would convene in the fall semester for interested Eco Reps. They would meet every couple weeks to go through larger questions on equity and inclusion on campus and create a plan for how this work could be implemented in the Spring Semester of the program and beyond. The Education and Outreach Coordinator agreed that this would be a good first step for the Eco Rep Program, and so I drafted a possible structure for the group, their goals, issues they could work on and how it would play out in the fall. I launched sign-ups for the EJWG during our summer training and seven Eco Reps joined (our program consists of about 20).


The EJWG has accomplished quite a bit for only having one year under its belt. In the Fall, the first thing that we did was update our event planning sheets and their review system. Before any event, Eco Reps must submit an event planning sheet to the Coordinators mapping out their timeline event logistics. The EJWG incorporated guiding questions on the sheets such as “Whose stories/voices are being highlighted in this event and how does this topic connect with the communities around Tufts?” and setting expectations that every event should have no barriers to access, while also making sure the events are being advertised in diverse spaces on campus. Members of the EJWG also signed up to review event planning sheets that were submitted, leaving comments and feedback that reps needed to respond to before moving forward.

The EJWG also presented at the November Students in Sustainability Leadership Symposium held at UMass Dartmouth. We highlighted our mission, accomplishments and trajectory, and events that have come out of the changes. After the conference, Boston University’s sustainability team reached out to us as they were interested in creating similar changed to their programs, and I was able to meet with them and start a relationship with their campus.

At the end of the fall semester, the EJWG finished a rough draft of an Equity and Justice Plan for the Eco Rep Program (attached below), flushing out goals for the program to implement in the Spring and actionable steps under each. We facilitated feedback sessions with the rest of the Eco Rep Program and the Office of Sustainability staff.

In the Spring semester, we (the EJWG) strengthened our relationship with the Tufts Office of Sustainability (OOS). As one of our goals was to have a reciprocal relationship of accountability, we were able to meet with the OOS and give them feedback and ask questions about their own Equity and Justice Plan.

The EJWG also helped spark the implemetnation of a new sustainability program, SustainableCORE Fellows (mentioned later), launching next fall, and helped to review their goals and gave feedback on the program's development.


The Office of Sustainability funds the Eco Rep program, as Eco Reps are hired students, paid MA minimum wage ($15). Those who were part of the EJWG were compensated for all the work they did, adding the extra hours to their weekly hours total.


There were many tangible outcomes of the EJWG. First, the events the Eco Reps put on the past academic year were a result of this programming shift. One example of an event that embodied intersectional sustainability was a Cultural Food Fair. This was held in collaboration with the Africana Center, Asian American Center, Latinx Center, and Indigenous Center. Each center spoke about culturally meaningful food, and discussed the history of the crop(s) and the small-scale regenerative agricultural practices that were traditionally used. Food samples were also provided for students to taste as they listened to each presentation. Another event example was a Menstrual Health and Sustainability Week where Reps discussed period poverty and equitable access to hygiene products through a series of mini events/workshops, and also ran a menstrual cup giveaway advertised through the identity/cultural centers. They also continued partnering with the Women’s Center afterwards to get cloth pads available for students.

Due to the EJWG leading the Eco Rep program towards offering new kinds of events and collaborating with many different student groups, our social media accounts grew in following by 80%, the program had one the highest retention rates and application rates for the next semester in recent program history.

Another large result that the EJWG played a part in was the development of a new sustainability program at Tufts. SustainableCORE (cultivating our Resilient Environment) Fellows are a new iteration of the Eco Rep program launching next fall that I will be coordinating from the student side. This new program puts equity and justice central to its mission, with the goal of “fostering a culture of sustainability at Tufts by engaging in inclusive community building that emphasizes sustainable action, equity, and celebration.” The EJWG reviewed this new program, gave feedback, helped shape it, and the majority of its members are returning as SustainableCORE Fellows this upcoming fall.

Lessons Learned

I learned about the importance of collaboration and patience throughout this process. Continuous communication with the Office of Sustainability was key to the success of this program, and setting up follow-up meetings helped to move us both forward. Learning from other students was also crucial, and effective leaders and those who want to create change benefit greatly from large conversations with diverse groups of people. Opening up the Equity and Justice Plan to feedback from Eco Reps, Boston University, and The Office of Sustainability was important in smoothing out the kinks.


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