Mr. Eco puts a twist on educating people about ways to be eco-friendly by doing parodies of popular rap songs. Photo illustration by Maggie Kaiserman.

Mr. Eco is difficult to miss. Wearing a green cape, bright yellow T-shirt, green basketball shorts and “bling” adorned with a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb, students might have seen him at football games, soccer games, during Week of Welcome (WOW) or at the SLOBound event downtown.

People around campus also might see him in a black T-shirt and a bucket hat. Outfitted like this, he can be recognized as himself, Brett Edwards.

Though Edwards refers to Mr. Eco in the third person, they truly are the same. Both Edwards, a business administration junior, and Mr. Eco, a rapping superhero, share a love for the environment and fight to spread the word about how to be eco-friendly.

“Brett is very environmentally friendly in his everyday life, his habitat, and tries to influence his roommates and the people he’s around,” Edwards said of himself.

Mr. Eco takes the ideals that Edwards said he cares so much about and spreads them in a fun, interactive way. He does this through parodies of his favorite rap songs, with a green spin to them.

Edwards first found success as Mr. Eco last year when he partnered with the Living Learning Program in residence halls and their energy saving competition, but didn’t want to stop there.

During summer break, Edwards was determined to expand Mr. Eco’s influence and fan base at Cal Poly and beyond.

“This summer, I was really serious and focused about getting all this done,” he said. “So I approached Shaun Russell, who is the marketing assistant athletics director, with kind of an idea of how Mr. Eco could become a part of athletics.”

Russell and Edwards came up with the idea of having Mr. Eco give energy saving tips on the Alex G. Spanos Stadium screen before and during halftime at football and soccer games.

“Brett piqued our interest enough to bring an effort that everyone is aware of to the forefront of our attention,” Russell said.

Edwards then worked to secure a sponsorship through Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to pay for the video spots. Debora Wilhelm, a marketing manager at PG&E, said she was immediately supportive of the idea and signed Mr. Eco for a $5,000 sponsorship.

“I think Mr. Eco is great,” Wilhelm said. “I love this because it’s much more grassroots than something a corporation would think up. It’s much more community-oriented.”

While half of that money went to producing and airing the tips at athletics events, the other half went to the Alliance to Save Energy’s Green Campus program, where Edwards is an intern. Green Campus is a program at 16 universities in California that works to promote energy and water efficiency.

Dennis Elliot, the assistant director of energy, utilities and sustainability at Cal Poly, is the staff adviser for Green Campus. Elliot worked with Edwards from the beginning, as he began to develop Mr. Eco.

“Brett came up with the idea completely on his own,” Elliot said. “We thought it was an innovative way to do outreach and get people thinking about the environment. Since then, he’s really gotten the ball rolling on it.”

Elliot manages the $2,500 from the PG&E sponsorship that was sent to the Green Campus program.

Green Campus will spend that money on education outreach materials such as T-shirts and reusable water bottles, he said.

Edwards attended two summits during the school year for Green Campus interns. At the last gathering, Mr. Eco performed two of his songs: “PSA” and “Power Energy Remix.”

Both were extremely well received, Edwards said.

“The coolest thing about (Green Campus) is the networking among the different students,” Edwards said. “Because of it, I’ve gotten to meet so many like-minded people from different universities.”

But Edwards isn’t satisfied with just working through athletics and Green Campus. He wants to expand Mr. Eco and make him into a well-known hero all throughout California.

Edwards recently met with administrators of Clovis Unified School District in Fresno, Calif., where he went to school. He talked to the head of science curriculum development about creating a series of mini-documentaries that cover different environmental topics.

He plans to make a different video for fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. Each will be implemented as part of the state science curriculum.

After watching the videos, the students will write elementary-level essays on them to submit into a school-wide contest. The winners of the contest, one from each grade level, will accept their awards at an assembly that features a live performance from Mr. Eco.

“It’s a win for everybody because it covers the (science and English) state testing standards,” Edwards said. “And it’s do-able because I have to make these three videos, but the only times I have to be there is when the assemblies are. And I get to then promote my vision of sustainability in a fun, cool, interactive way.”

Even more ambitious is Edwards’ plan to make a documentary chronicling his trips to perform at different elementary schools throughout California.

“It’d be kind of like ‘An Inconvenient Truth,” he said. “It’d show me performing in Fresno, and then in the school district in San Luis Obispo and what Mr. Eco is trying to do to educate.”

Educating youth is important, Edwards said, because they don’t have preconceived ideas about the environment yet. He said that though his ideals have been around for a long time, they haven’t been on the forefront of education.

“I know that I look ridiculous wearing a cape, but I think that little kids will really think Mr. Eco is cool,” he said. “And not that it’s not important to educate college students, but I think it’s more beneficial to educate kids.”

Though Edwards has several ideas about what he wants to do off campus, he is still focusing on Cal Poly and work he can do here. During WOW, Mr. Eco made an appearance in an awareness video that nearly every freshman student saw. He also was  in downtown San Luis Obispo taking pictures with students participating in WOW during SLOBound.

Edwards hopes these appearances increase his fan base and the amount of people in San Luis Obispo that recognize him.

Edwards also plans to have more educational spots that will be performed during basketball games and is working on a five-song EP titled “Get Green Or Die Trying.” Two songs on the EP are already recorded, including his first professional music video, “Turn ’em Out.”

The video, along with merchandise, “Eco Tips” and Mr. Eco news, is available online.


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