A growing number of colleges and universities around the country have off-campus houses dedicated to environmentally-conscious living or to cultivating sustainable practices. Little do most people know, but here at Santa Clara we have one, too! CITRUS house, so named as the Community Initiative To Restore Urban Sustainability, is an unofficial green, cooperative-style, and eco-friendly house for Santa Clara University students located just a few blocks north of campus.
A safe bet as probably one of the only houses around with its own brochure, CITRUS was planned with an articulated vision: its residents must aim to “be good stewards of the earth’s resources and to extend that stewardship to their neighbors.” Sustainable living in the house is achieved using a three-pronged approach: responsible resource management, functional design, and community education/outreach. CITRUS living is also built around values to reduce, reuse and recycle, and to take it on in a serious way.
Where did this house come from?
The idea for CITRUS first began in 2000 with four Santa Clara students who were living at the same CITRUS location as today (a Santa Clara historical home built in 1915). They were already gardening at home and living intentionally, which is to say that they had “chosen to live together with common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values" (Kozeny, Community Catalyst Project). However, it really became an idea after their graduation. Fall of 2004 [was] “when we really started trying to make it happen,” says Lauren McCutcheon, co-founder and current landlord, more endearingly known as “House Mama,” of CITRUS. Thus the house was instated with the aim of creating a hub for off-campus sustainability - a place where students could get together for activities such as hosting speakers, documentary showings, workshops, community dinners, skill-share workshops and gardening parties, all of which strive to build community and sustainable living habits. CITRUS is now going on a decade of housing students who are committed to living sustainably.
CITRUS is more than a house, it’s a living project!
Aside from maintaining a backyard garden full of tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, herbs and four fruit trees, part of living in CITRUS is making a commitment to cultivate sustainable living habits. The most important strategy for successful sustainable living, according to “House Mama” Lauren, is to simply keep a clean and orderly home. Doing so is a stewardship act of the house as a material and community resource. CITRUS residents commit to a sustainable lifestyle through the usual habit changes of taking shorter showers, air-drying clothes, practicing vegetarianism or veganism, using green cleaning products or natural alternatives, supporting local farmers, and composting. Moreover, just as important is a commitment to community.
Off-campus sustainable living is simple
College is one of the most formidable yet empowering times in our lives. It is during this time that cultivated habits translate into a sustainable lifestyle. While on-campus life allows for students to acknowledge energy-efficient buildings and already-existing sustainable infrastructures, some may forget about human engagement, the most powerful element of sustainable living.
Living sustainably needn’t be seen as giving things up or sacrificing pleasures; instead, these behaviors are meant to prompt oneself to understand societal norms and to shape a life that has the most positive connections with the environment. Here a few actions to try:
-Sign up for the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and pick up a full box of local vegetables and surprise goodies twice a month! (when shared between a house of 4 it comes out to about $5 each every other week!)
-Unplug appliances when you finish using them and ward off the phenomenon known as vampire current - which sucks energy even when you’re not using items and heightens your energy bill
-Try eating vegetarian for more meals or more days – there are TONS of recipes on the interwebs (ever tried a black bean burger?)
Interested in learning more about off-campus sustainability and want to meet up with other SCU students who are curious, too? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org about LOCALS (Living Off-Campus and Living Sustainably).
Contributed by Claire Overholt ‘14, Sustainability Intern, Student Initiatives, and Cara K. Uy, Sustainability Coordinator