McCormick grad Katrina Kuntz spent most of her fall quarter weekends volunteering with her Green House roommates to engage in ecosystems around Evanston, getting her hands dirty and pulling invasive plants out of the ground.
Kuntz is the Design Chair of Green House, a housing unit on campus of special interest. Although the house has an environmental protection theme, a student council, and a charter, it is not recognized as a residential college. It has no faculty residency, cannot host joint events with other residential colleges, and has no other residential college privileges.
Because of these challenges, Weinberg’s student Julian Zea, President of the Green House, created a petition to convert the house into a college. He said he plans to meet with a housing representative next week to discuss next steps.
“In our current state, we don’t believe we have the publicity, visibility, or community at our disposal to spread awareness (and) collaboration regarding environmental protection within the student body,” Zea said. “By becoming a residential college, we become part of a larger community … that would give us the tools and stronger connections to expand environmental conservation to other residential units.”
Green House promotes sustainability around campus through two main programs: environmental education and composting. During the fall quarter, Green House launched a new composting initiative aimed at collecting leftover food and other compostable items, according to Zea. He said the four bins are “filled to the brim” with compost each week.
Zea added he wants to work with other residential colleges to implement more sustainability programs like the Compost Initiative. He said it could help reduce food waste across campus and make a bigger impact.
“The depots are very small, but everyone contributes,” said Zea. “If I just have to do the math here, if I have to take four buckets off once a week, that’s four buckets over how many months now, so much food has been saved.”
McCormick freshman Annie Ho, a Green House resident, said food waste is a major sustainability issue at NU.
They said that while they hope more food can be composted or donated by expanding Green House’s reach, it is ultimately NU’s responsibility to promote sustainability across campus.
“I’m obviously turning off my lights and conserving energy,” Ho said. “[But]I feel like my focus is more on making Northwestern itself more sustainable…working on a larger scale and not just as individuals.”
Kuntz agreed that the NU needs to do a better job of promoting sustained efforts. She said NU can do this by giving Green House more visibility, as she didn’t know it existed until late last year. Because the home isn’t defined as a dorm or residential college, it’s much harder to find when looking at on-campus housing, Kuntz said.
The sense of community is strong in the Green House, Kuntz said. She said the community is open to discussing tough issues, like climate scares, that she’s struggled with since she learned about global warming in middle school. She said Green House’s mission is one of comfort, something she hopes to expand to other living spaces on campus.
“It’s really important to have active spaces where you can speak up for a sustainable cause so you don’t get lost in all the hopelessness,” Kuntz said.
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