Sustainable Living Goes Off-Campus
In 2011, the off-campus student population had, for the first time, a unique opportunity to demonstrate sustainable living. In a partnership with Associated Student Government, the Office of Sustainability developed Living Green in the Neighborhood, a program that helps students in off-campus houses and apartments live more sustainably, celebrates the actions they are taking independently, encourages them to implement more sustainable practices, and rewards them with prizes. The objective: participants carry the ideas of sustainable living with them after leaving Santa Clara and implement them in their future homes. The program first came into being in the late summer of 2010, when the Office of Sustainability and ASG President, Chris Mosier and Vice President, Nhu-nguyen Le built upon the goals of outgoing Vice President, Katherine Quinn-Shea to create a sustainability program exclusively for off-campus students. The result was Living Green in the Neighborhood.
Rules and Prizes
Funded by ASG, participating houses first complete the Sustainability Scorecard and Strategy form, which includes categories such as transportation, energy use, and social responsibility. As they complete each action in the Scorecard, students share a photo or video on the Living Green in the Neighborhood Facebook page. Prizes are awarded based on each houses' overall effort. Prizes include: a ChinookBook (coupons for local sustainability-oriented merchants), gift certificates to Whole Foods, a cookbook to encourage sustainable food preparation. The ultimate prize is a pass to NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences for each member of the top-tier households.
Houses join Living Green during the first three weeks of each quarter, and may remain in the program until their lease ends. The goal is for sustainability to become part of residents' daily lives, rather than simply a quarter-long competition. With five houses currently enrolled in Living Green, the program hopes to expand in the fall under new guidance from both ASG and the Office of Sustainability.
The Future of Living Green
With upcoming transitions in both ASG and the Office of Sustainability for the coming school year, Living Green is poised to remain a solid presence in Santa Clara's student life. "I hope to see Living Green expanded in the future and include many more houses. These first couple years have been successful pilot initiatives in which we have learned a lot about student attitudes toward the program, and have developed an excellent foundation to take the next step. We are looking to possibly combine the program with the highly successful Educated Partier Program [in the coming years]," Student Body President and graduating senior, Chris Moiser said.
A Year in Review
In its first year, Living Green in the Neighborhood has successfully become a large part overall student life at Santa Clara. The participants have implemented creative improvements, such as throwing a party where guests were asked to bring their own reusable cups, buying organic food, growing a garden, and attending yoga classes together.
Junior Lauren Elmets of the Theta House decided to join Living Green to make her 22 housemates aware of sustainability, an issue that is important to her. The girls live in an old Victorian "that's not exactly up-to-date when it comes to being environmentally friendly," reports Elmets. Living Green seemed like the ideal way to push them to lessen their impact. Throughout the quarter, Elmets has found some of the suggested changes "a bit harder than [expected]. Sustainability is very important but also very challenging. It's hard to remember to do things like unplug your microwave and toaster when you are so used to keeping it plugged in all the time." This behavior change was even more difficult to accomplish with 23 people living under one roof.
"In the long run, being sustainable is more cost efficient if you remember to use less electricity and water," Elmets responded when asked what the most important lesson she and her housemates learned from participating in Living Green. The girls at the Theta House, who reached a level of Going Green, successfully met the established goals for Living Green, learning the challenges and benefits of living sustainably, and integrating sustainable habits into their daily lives as well.
Hannah Slocum, Sustainability Intern, '11
Posted by Office of Sustainability