Contestants from different Greek Houses like Sophie Davis, '18, representing Alpha Phi compete for the best eco-friendly outfit made out of recyclable materials in the Steps Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. This year's Trashion event is the third annual hosted by Eco Reps. (Toni Isreal/B&W photo)

Eco-Reps hosts ‘Trashion Show’ to promote environmental awareness on campus

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Boxes of Natural Light beer, garbage bags and recycled newspaper were just a few of the materials that appeared on the runway at the third annual Trashion Show on Thursday night in STEPS.

Hosted by Lehigh Eco-Reps, the show gave students the opportunity to design and model outfits made of items normally considered trash. By combining creativity and teamwork, the event intended to engage the campus community and incentivize participants with prizes, including gift cards, tupperware, water bottles and sunglasses.

“The purpose is to think of creative ways to repurpose trash,” Matt Moschella, ’15, an Eco-Rep coordinator, said. “None of these outfits are wearable but there are creative ways to reuse things in actuality that can be functional.”

Each participating group consisted of a model and designer from Alpha Phi sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and Psi Upsilon fraternity. The Greek chapters showcased their designs while competing for nominations in categories of audience choice, most unique, most materials used, most wearable and most likely to be in Fashion Week.

For participants with no previous involvement in sustainability oriented events, the show brought to light issues surrounding waste. Such was the case for nominee winners of “most wearable outfit,” Hannah Cwienkala, ’18, and Caitlin Smith, ’18, of Alpha Omicron Pi.

“There are a few girls in my house who are Eco-Reps, so we are doing this to support them and represent our chapter,” said Cwienkala, who designed a dress made of garbage bags for Smith to model. “I’ve learned there are ways to save the planet and reuse things while doing something for a good cause.”

While Smith found modeling the materials humorous, she said the experience has made her more conscientious about the environment and recycling in general.

The Trashion Show is part of a greater effort on behalf of Eco-Reps to promote environmentally friendly behavior on both an individual and communal level. Started in 2010, Eco-Reps is a peer-to-peer education club where volunteers represent their residence hall or Greek chapter and learn about environmental issues to plan activities for their houses and campus focusing on sustainable living.  From energy and water conservation to recycling, Eco-Reps works on increasing awareness about environmental issues by targeting specific behaviors, such as cold water events for laundry outreach, or activities where people can make recycling bins.

What started as a student organization has also turned into a one-credit course students can register for to explore environmental topics and behavioral change programs.

Maria Cuenca, ’15, has been an intern for the Office of Sustainability, which oversees the Eco-Rep program, since her freshman year. She meets with 11 Greek chapters every week to distribute assignments on how to improve waste reduction.

“Most houses could reduce their waste by 60 percent if they recycle properly and have access to composting,” Cuenca said. “Four houses have on site composters and we are working on getting a campus-wide composter.”

Before purchasing new composters with the Lehigh Green Fund however, it’s necessary that the university makes sure the ones in place are working efficiently.

For staff members such as Sustainability Program Coordinator Katie Klaniecki, it is important that more students become involved in Eco-Reps, and that the program continues to grow as well as develop partnerships with other groups on campus. Throughout her two and a half years as a coordinator, Klaniecki has witnessed the program increase in number of volunteers, attendance and activities.

“Students learn tricks for sustainable living which they’ll continue when they graduate and we hope for a ripple effect extending farther than Lehigh,” Klaniecki said.

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