Author: Chloe Jenkins-Sleczkowski
Launching Residence Life and Housing Service’s (RLHS) new themed housing system at Oxy, David Alpert (sophomore), Nicholas Conti (sophomore), Michael Kralovich (sophomore), Evan Longmore (senior) and Liza Veale (sophomore) moved into a new sustainable-living house at 4863 Stratford Road, dubbed the Occidental Green House (or the OG House) in early January.
Rising student enrollment and the new requirement for students to live on campus through their third year has led RLHS to explore other housing options. Last fall, RLHS decided to use one of the spare school-owned properties in Eagle Rock to develop the themed living space.
In order to support an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, the residents of the OG House grow or purchase local organic food and watch their consumption of natural and fabricated resources. The house residents only purchase food from farmers’ markets or other local stores with fresh produce to lessen their negative impact on the environment and promote diversification of crops.
Attempting to minimize their reliance on energy sources that create greenhouse gases and pollute the atmosphere and water, the students keep track of how much electricity and water they use in the house.
“We try to limit our showers to 5 minutes max,” Longmore said. Furthermore, they don’t use heat or air conditioning. They are hoping that minimizing these daily activities will make an impact on the house’s environmental footprint.
The Student Sustainability Fund supports a program to buy electricity meters that students can use to determine how much electricity each of their appliances uses and determine which use the most power. The residents of the house are focusing this semester on decreasing the house’s environmental impact and establishing a baseline for consumption and living practices.
Last week, the house procured two new amenities – internet service and a kitchen table.
Other plans are in the works, such as the upcoming creation of a blog documenting the house’s progress. They also hope to paint murals around the house.
“These five students will take the lead in creating and implementing new and innovative ideas that will transform the house into a true sustainable house,” said RLHS Community Director Chad Myers, coordinator of all basic logistics for themed housing.
Valianatos is not yet satisfied, however. “We definitely can do more,” he said. “They can try to garden, or compost their food in the garden, or use only green cleaning supplies, or keep track of how much water they’re using, or have low power lights and electricity.”
The house is built on property that includes an expansive backyard which the residents plan to use for gardening and composting. The backyard currently includes a long hill supported by various layers of retaining walls, which has been cause for some safety concerns about the yard.
“The backyard is somewhat strange because it’s on the side of the Rangeview hill . . . I believe the administration is most concerned with people ‘climbing’ up onto the hill and falling or slipping on some loose concrete and so on. While it’s not at all difficult to simply walk up there, I suppose there is a possibility that someone could hurt themselves, especially if there was to be extensive gardening going on,” Kralovich said.
The student residents are excited and hopeful that they can transform the building from a typical residential house into a pilot sustainability program.
Conti is working with Facilities to knock down the fence dividing their backyard with the neighboring one, which happens to belong to diplomacy and world affairs Professor Movindri Reddy.
“[Reddy] is very supportive of the idea of constructing the garden. I would assume she might plant a few crops in the garden,” said Longmore. “The women’s lacrosse coach, a few doors to our left around the corner, is also very supportive of the idea and would like to help in any way possible.”Urban and Environmental Policy Institute Managing Director Professor Mark Vallianatos, who heads the campaign to make Oxy’s campus greener, was a major coordinator in opening the house. He stated that the students are required to fulfill three goals during their time as residents. The first is to follow living practices that are more environmentally sustainable than a typical household.
The second is to hold seminars or sessions in order to educate other students about their sustainable living practices. The third is to research more long-term and large-scale methods for improving the house for future residents.
According to Vallianatos, the effort does not need to stop at simply educating students. “There are hopes that the residents will start a neighborhood sustainability project where they would educate those in the neighborhood on ways that they could be more sustainable,” said Myers.
If these innovations work well at the OG House, they may be incorporated into the rest of the campus. “It just seemed natural that a place like Oxy should have an environmentally sustainable house,” Myers said.
Vallianatos says the long-term goal is to make all of the campus buildings more environmentally sustainable.
The next step the residents are taking to further educate the Oxy community is hosting barbecues and movie nights. They hope that students and faculty will come to these events to witness the progression of the house’s improvements.
“We’re in the process over the next couple of weekends of having faculty barbecues because a lot of faculty live all around us,” said Longmore.
“We’ll be having educational workshops for people on campus and in the community, so they can come over and see how we live sustainably,” he added. “[We might] set up a diorama of what you should compost and what you shouldn’t compost.”
Longmore stated that, ultimately, the goal of the sustainable house is to “lead by example.”
“It’s just about laying the foundation for future years and setting the bar high,” said Longmore. “If we do a good job here and show [the campus] that we can take responsibility and can be trusted to live here without supervision and everything, it’ll open up for them to use other houses for sustained purposes.”
Kralovich said the possibilities are endless.
“Everything’s pretty uncertain right now, but in a way that’s cool, because there’s a lot of opportunities for student-led things that we can do with the house,” he Kralovich. “We came in with nothing here, but hopefully we can set it up pretty well for next year.”
The current working title is the Occidental Green House, or the OG House. However, the student residents are still looking for titles, and would like to invite the campus to offer suggestions for the official house name. Submissions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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