2021 EcoChallenge Results, Rylee Mory Wins Grand Prize

May 13, 2021 / By: Ariana Porcello
senior Rylee Mory
Senior Rylee Mory, winner of the 2021 EcoChallenge

To celebrate Earth Day this semester, the Office of Sustainability Initiatives hosted its second annual university-wide EcoChallenge from April 12 - 252021. This event was made possible through partnerships with Undergraduate Student Government, Staff Council, and Changemaking. Over 100 students and employees at St. Thomas competed on 8 different teams to create the most impact over a two-week period, using a web-based platform to track eco-friendly actions for points. 

With challenges in categories ranging from simplicity to waste, food and energy, the EcoChallenge offered participants a wide variety of actions that provided easy ways to advance sustainability. During this period of social distancing, many participants found that the EcoChallenge was also a great way to stay connected to the St. Thomas community while advancing their personal growth and knowledge related to sustainability. 

This year, St. Thomas participated in a friendly competition with 13 other universities in the state of Minnesota and finished in second place in the Minnesota Cross-Campus EcoChallengeIn addition to competing against other schools, St. Thomas had 9 official teams that community members could join for a chance to win prizes: the four undergraduate class years, Dougherty Family College, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff, and alumni. Congratulations to the following St. Thomas teams that finished in the top three!  

  • 1st place: Faculty & Staff5020 points 
  • 2nd place: Class of 20233924 points 
  • 3rd place: Class of 20212938 points 

The Office of Sustainability Initiatives extends its gratitude to all of the individuals at St. Thomas who participated in the EcoChallenge this year. Although the EcoChallenge is structured as a competition, the main goal is to produce a collective impact. Altogether, St. Thomas students and employees achieved the following results over the two-week challenge period: 

  • Reduced 2599 lbs of CO2 
  • Saved 3772 gallons of water 
  • Made 269 meatless or vegan meals 
  • Diverted 322 plastic bottles from the landfill 
  • Spent 3459 minutes learning about sustainability and environmental justice:  
  • Traveled 322 miles by bike 

The top scorer on all St. Thomas teams was Rylee Mory ‘21, with a score of 885 points. Rylee’s strong finish in the EcoChallenge demonstrates her dedication and commitment to advancing sustainability at St. Thomas. Below are some highlights from Rylee‘s 2021 EcoChallenge experience:  


How did you first hear about the EcoChallenge and what inspired you to join?  

I first heard about the EcoChallenge last year during Sustainability Week 2020 here at the University of St. Thomas. As most activities were virtual at that time due to COVID-19, I found it was a great way to stay active and participate in the weekly sustainability campaign. Through the EcoChallenge of 2020, I learned many new aspects of environmental sustainability, and through that gained a few new habits! When I heard through campus postings that this event was returning for 2021, I was excited, as I believe this challenge is a great way to get involved and set new goals. I, personally, have been working towards reducing waste and creating a sustainable lifestyle, and I found the EcoChallenge is a great way to find new aspects to focus on and maintain new habits. This event is a great resource for students who want to make an environmental change in their daily activities! 


What daily actions did you sign up for and which did you complete most frequently?  Which one-time actions, if any, did you complete?  What made you choose these specific actions?

The daily actions that I almost always completed were using a reusable water bottle, using reusable bags, reducing animal products, and turning down the thermostat. I mostly already implemented these actions prior to the challenge, but it was interesting to track and witness the impact each made. Additionally, some other daily actions that I did not complete as much included tracking my purchases and meditating; these actions were new for me to complete each day but gave me a challenge throughout the event! 

Some of the one-time actions I completed were undergoing an online energy audit and finding new ways to prepare meals. The energy audit helped me gain insight on how to save both energy and money in my daily household actions. Also, by finding new ways to prepare meals I explored new culinary methods, such as baking bread and canning produce. 


Are there any new behaviors you have continued to practice since the competition ended? 

I selected to track my purchases daily during the EcoChallenge and now continue to carry on with this action after the competition ended. I found checking in on this each day instead of a few times a month bettered my financial perspective and gave me an increased sense of security. Additionally, I have continued practicing a few one-time actions such as learning about and practicing sustainable fashion and trying new ways to prepare food. Although these were mentioned as one-time actions in the challenge, I am constantly finding new ways to expand upon them.  


How has the EcoChallenge inspired you?  Are there any skills or knowledge that you believe you have gained from the EcoChallenge? 

The EcoChallenge gave me an increased motivation and push to improve myself over the course of this event. As I am trying to create a more eco-friendly lifestyle each day, this platform supplied me with new ideas and resources to explore environmental sustainability further. One of my favorite sections of the EcoChallenge website is the materials linked to each challenge that users can take advantage of to learn more about areas of interest. 


Would you like to see more events like this in the future?  Any specific events that come to mind? 

I absolutely would like to see more events like this in the future! Events like this are simple and tailorable to each individual and allow a large variety of participants to learn and grow. As most in-person events are still limited at this time, this virtual challenge let all individuals participate from the comfort of their homes, and find their own ways to show their impact!