"I thought it'd be good to have a Green Tip at the beginning of every meeting," Hannah Slodounik, UT's sustainability outreach coordinator, said at the first Eco-Vols meeting Wednesday night.

"What I have today is not earth-shattering by any means ... but it's to bring a reusable bag when you go shopping," she added.

This simple idea is just one of many that Eco-Vols hopes to bring to UT residents this year. The organization, an environmental leadership program, reaches out to any student living in UT housing. Be it a dorm, a sorority or fraternity house, or even an on-campus apartment, Eco-Vols aims to increase UT's sustainability.

David Hayes, sophomore in logistics, has returned for another year with Eco-Vols.

"It gives freshman a good opportunity to get involved," Hayes said. "Myself, I got more involved in other organizations like SGA, and Eco-Vols was a big part of why I went on to do those things. It's a really cool tool."

The meeting consisted of mostly freshmen girls, many of whom were interested in not only getting involved, but also in increasing sustainability awareness on campus.

Linda Tipton, freshman in environmental science, participated in a similar club at her high school. Through their efforts, the club was able to save over 450 trees in a school wide recycling campaign. She hopes to bring that passion to UT.

"I think it's important that everybody gets involved in community projects, instead of just individual people," Tipton said.

Eco-Vols will provide their first community project in October, a program called the POWER (Program of Water, Energy and Recycling) Challenge. Every residence hall competes against one another in an effort to more efficiently manage on campus resources.

Activities like lightbulb exchanges, power-down pledges, recycling "dorm storms" and a game day competition will occur throughout the POWER Challenge, but Slodounik seeks more than just old ideas revisited. She wants student input to drive Eco-Vols.

"This is a program about you guys and what you want to do," she said.

The students proceeded to brainstorm, offering ideas like timed shower races and water bottle exchanges. They also discussed promoting green apps for smartphones, which have become prevalent among college students. Most students do not realize apps exist that could help them save energy.

UT has made strides recently, using composting and recycling to eliminate wasted materials for events (zero waste events). Slodounik hopes to get more students involved and excited about the progress.

"The more people you can get involved in Eco-Vols, the bigger difference you can make," she said.

Tipton agrees, noting the urgency of the energy situation in today's world.

"We really need to move toward a sustainable future," Tipton said.

For more information on Eco-Vols, visit their Facebook page or contact Slodounik at ecovols@utk.edu.