Alumna Announced As SmartPower’s America’s Next Eco-Star

Katelyn Romanov ’07 has an innate passion for environmental policy and renewable energy.

On March 16 she was announced the winner of SmartPower’s “America’s Next Eco-Star” Contest.

Recognition for her dedication to environmental outreach, education, and innovation has been a long time coming.

During her time at Laguna, she was recognized with the top Senior Project award for her work with the Community Environmental Council.

As a student at Middlebury College, she founded “Sprout,” a student group dedicated to educating children in local schools about the environment, as well as a Student Chapter of the  U.S. Green Building Council, which allows students to evaluate existing buildings on campus for efficiency retrofits and guides new construction projects to incorporate green building strategies.

As a competitor for SmartPower’s online campaign “America’s Next Eco-Star,” Katelyn received a top percentage of votes in her favor from over 15,000 online voters as well as approval from a panel of experts, which allowed her to advance to the top ten out of 133 nominees.

Katelyn won her voters by not only expressing environmental concern, but also explaining how encouraging the public with positive messages about bettering their lives with sustainable solutions results in greater interest.

“People are more inclined to respond to positive and celebratory messaging rather than feedback that is negative and condoning.

Psychological studies suggest a gap between pro-environmental knowledge and pro-environmental behavior, so ‘Knowledge is Power,’ but only if the dots are connected through a compelling campaign.

Even if your environmental campaign promotes what is ‘right,’ without appealing to people’s values or  influencing behavior changes, your work will be far less effective than it could be,” said Katelyn as advice to other environmental students.

She claims the experiences that best allowed her to rise above the competition stemmed from her position as the Communications & Outreach Lead for Self-Reliance, a solar-powered home, which was designed and built by Middlebury students to be showcased in the Solar Decathlon during fall of 2011.

“My communications role prepared me for much more than just communications work. It gave me the confidence and skills to promote myself and my work. It taught me to develop my ideas thoughtfully and package them creatively.”

The Solar Decathlon is a biennial green building competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that challenges college and university teams from around the world.

Self-Reliance took fourth place after teams representing Maryland University, Perdue, and the country of New Zealand.

As the project’s communications representative, Katelyn played a critical role in the team’s recognition with first place in the Communications Contest, one of three categories which the team placed first in at the exhibition.

Katelyn will spend the summer in Washington D.C. as a Fellow for SmartPower. She will attend the Global Futures Academy, an invitational summit about sustainability in higher education in Salzburg, Austria.