MU students live the sustainable life

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | 3:44 p.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Sustainahouse resident Monica Everett retrieves her cup of tea after picking up an egg from the hen house. Everett and other residents live in the Sustainahouse, a property on College Avenue in which tenants apply to live in an environmentally friendly home.

COLUMBIA — Instead of turning up the thermostat when it gets cold, the residents of Mizzou Sustainahouse put on more clothes. 

The project began in 2010 as an effort to provide space for students to live sustainably. For the residents of 210 N. College Ave., who moved in this August, this means conserving household energy, reusing and recycling, and eating natural food to reduce their environmental impact.

Tips for living sustainably

Sustainahouse members suggest there are practical ways for college students to live sustainably, such as:

  • Recycle plastic, glass, metal, fiber and cardboard.
  • Reuse water bottles, silverware and grocery bags.
  • Write on the back of notebook paper and purchase thrift store clothes and furniture.
  • Spend less time in the shower, turn off lights when leaving a room, hang laundry to dry and reduce thermostat usage by shutting shades to keep the room cooler.

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Junior Monica Everett, who is one of the six residents, thinks that choosing to live sustainably is all about planning things out.

"It takes a little investment in the beginning," Everett said, "and once you establish your habits, it's really easy."

One of the project's goals is to reduce household energy consumption in the six-bedroom house by 20 percent. To figure that out, they will need months of data, said Henry Hellmuth, a sophomore and resident of the house.

The average electrical usage in city households is 1,500 kilowatts, said Terry Freeman, supervisor of residential energy services with Columbia Water and Light.

But even though the Sustainahouse residents don't have a clear goal yet, they are trying to rein in their energy consumption.

One way they plan to accomplish this is by keeping the thermostat at 55 degrees throughout the winter. They also use clotheslines for drying their clothes and limit their hot water usage in the shower with a higher-efficiency shower head.

Another goal is for the house to become an outlet for people to learn how to live sustainably, Everett said.

The house also welcomes anyone in the community interested in sustainable living or simply curious about the project to stop by for group dinners held twice a month. These potlucks are held every other Wednesday, resident and junior Sally Waldman said.

"I hope we can be a visible part of the movement for more sustainable living and make it easier for especially college students to live this way and realize that it's a rewarding thing and an important thing for environment and for people," Everett said.

Everett is in charge of buying food for the house and gets it in bulk from Blue Planet, a nonprofit buying service operated by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks out of the Peace Nook. She also shops at farmers' markets where she buys food that is "as sustainable as possible." This means affordable food with the lowest environmental impact.

House members also bought two chickens, Gertie and Gladys, who provide the household with eggs and are fed a diet of food scraps such as apple cores and egg shells.

Inside the house, there are recycling bins for glass, plastic, metal, fiber and cardboard, and a compost bin that contains food that cannot be fed to the chickens.

To be considered, the students submitted online applications through Sustain Mizzou, an MU student organization. They were chosen based on their interests, year in school and the diversity of their backgrounds. They also had to submit a proposal for a research topic they want to complete while living in the house.

Waldman first learned of Mizzou Sustainahouse before Christmas break last year.

"It sounded like a really cool idea to promote sustainable living for college students," Waldman said. 

The sustainable lifestyle is simple yet challenging, she said. "It's just a very analytical way of living so that everything you do, you wonder if there is another way you could be doing it that would be more efficient."

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Mark Foecking October 4, 2011 | 6:34 p.m.

I don't know that much about nutritional requirements for chickens, but it's likely that feeding them exclusively table scraps isn't the best thing for them. Especially in the winter, when they can't find many bugs, they'll need the protein of a commercial feed to continue laying.


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle October 4, 2011 | 7:07 p.m.

I'm curious about their transportation budget. I'm not knocking what they're doing; conservation is cheap, easy, low-hanging fruit and I think they're headed in the right direction. If they stick to self-powered transportation, 20% is quite achievable. Good luck peeps!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 7, 2011 | 3:45 a.m.

I believe this house is close enough to campus that they could easily walk or bike to school, and Blue Planet operates out of the Peace Nook, which again is in easy biking distance of the house.

They could easily share one car and a couple of bike trailers, and lack for nothing in the transportation department.


(Report Comment)

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