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November 24, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Photos by BJ Worley, produced by Chantel O'Neal
The brick, six-bedroom house, nicknamed the Sustainahouse, on East Campus looks like others around it. The paint on the porch has faded, and a few remaining brown leaves are scattered across the small yard. However, the six students who live here are working to show just how different this little house is.
Sustainahouse, a project sponsored by the MU student organization Sustain Mizzou, began in August 2011 to promote sustainable living. Nearly three-dozen students applied to live there, but only six were selected. Each person is responsible for different aspects of the residents’ lifestyle, including energy use, waste reduction, food and community outreach.
For two residents, sophomore Kat Seal and junior Monica Everett, sustainable agriculture majors, living here has introduced new friendships as well as an opportunity to set an example for the community. From little things, such as installing lowflow shower heads, to major changes, including relying on bicycles for transportation, these students demonstrate what others can do to live more sustainably.
What made you apply to live in the Sustainahouse?
Everett: Living sustainably and with intention was really important to me. We all did some on our own before, but I wanted to really make it a priority. I wanted to live with a community of people that were supportive of that, and build a community around living sustainably. I also wanted to learn a lot more about how to live more sustainably.
Seal: You can get a lot more done if you have more people. There’s not as much of an impact if you’re doing it by yourself.
You’ve been living here for almost four months now. How has it been?
Everett: It has been good. There are definitely challenges. That’s one thing people always think; it must be a sacrifice or harder to live this way, but I think it’s really fun.
Seal: It’s interesting, too. We don’t have other distractions, like we don’t have a TV in here. We actually spend time together instead of vegging out in front of the TV.
How hard was it to get the house up and running?
Seal: Being the first people doing it, we’ve had a lot of trial and error. A lot of, “Well, that didn’t work. Let’s keep moving and figure it out.”
Everett: We’re hoping that we can make those mistakes and learn from them. Then let other people know how to do things, so not everyone is going through this process every time they want to start living this way.
What is a trial-and-error situation you have had to work through?
Everett: One thing recently — one girl’s house responsibility is waste, and she took away our trash can. She was like, “Alright, no trash.” We do a lot anyway; we have composting, and we feed a lot of our food scraps to our chickens and recycle everything that the city of Columbia recycles. But there are just little things, like it was Halloween, so we had candy. And we were like, “What do we do with these little candy wrappers?”
What are some ways your lifestyle has changed since you moved into the house?
Seal: Two things I think of that are really specific, for me at least, are not using a dryer for laundry and not using a dishwasher to wash dishes. Just because at home, my parents use the dishwasher and the dryer, so I don’t think about it. But here we just don’t use it. I really like hanging up my laundry, especially when (it’s nice outside.)
What do you hope to accomplish by living this way?
Seal: I think we have a really cool opportunity to generate excitement about this because we’re doing it in a way that’s pretty normal — as abnormal as it may seem. We’re still college kids.