College creates Sustainable Living House

Jan. 8, 2010

Luther College will open Luther’s Sustainable Living House, dedicated to building a sustainable lifestyle, in the fall of 2010.   

“The Sustainable Living House began as an idea in Luther’s environmental philosophy class, but it soon became much more,” said Maria Carr, a Luther senior who was instrumental in creating the house proposal.     

The student housing proposal became a central project in the college’s commitment to create a sustainable campus and reduce its carbon footprints.    

“It was too good an idea to simply let fade at the end of the year,” said Carr.  “The idea of a Sustainable Living House had to be carried through.”    

Carr and a group of 10 Luther students soon began drafting a proposal and house constitution.  After a series of revisions and meetings, the students sent their proposal to Luther President Richard Torgerson through the Luther Sustainability Council.    

“Everyone at Luther was incredibly supportive of the proposal,” said Carr.  “It was great to have the help of so many to make the Sustainable Living House possible.”   

The purpose of the house will be to develop projects and research initiatives that will enhance a collective living experience and spread the principals of sustainability to the campus and greater community through outreach education. 

The house will support sustainability, which the Sustainability Council defines as long-term decision-making about environmental issues as well as issues of economic viability and social justice.    

“We want to ensure the house speaks to all three aspects of sustainability: environmental, social and fiscal responsibility,” said Carr. “This isn’t a theme house intended only for environmental studies students; it’s a house welcoming students of all academic majors committed to intentional living.”

The eight to 10 residents selected to live in the Sustainable Living House will plan and implement both small house projects and community outreach programs throughout the year, addressing the living and learning aspects of sustainability. 

The residents will work together to find ways to practice more sustainable living, which could include volunteering in the Luther Gardens, purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning products, harvesting rainwater for watering plants, preserving food and reducing waste through recycling and composting.    

The students will also plan large group projects to be implemented during the school year.  These projects may include starting a bicycle repair service, cultivating a house garden and working towards being a zero-waste household.     

Residents will also be encouraged to participate in an independent study reading program with faculty advisors, to host speakers from the local community or campus that practice sustainable living techniques, and to organize group viewings of films related to sustainability.   

“The options for the house are endless,” said Carr. “We hope to provide an example of intentional living that others throughout the Luther campus and Decorah community can follow.”   

The members of the Sustainable Living House will also participate in community outreach programs to spread the message of sustainability.  Some of those programs may include hosting colloquiums at the house for residents and students to share research, inviting community members for house tours and workshops, creating an environmental education program for local children, and helping with sustainability initiatives on campus.     

House members will also maintain a blog as a way of sharing projects and efforts with members of the Luther and Decorah community.     

“The Sustainable Living House is an exciting initiative that will provide a space for student to engage in a meaningful way with three of Luther’s core values: sustainability, community and education,” says Maren Stumme-Diers, Luther assistant sustainability coordinator.  “Students will grow together as they explore ways to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”   

Applications for students interested in living in the Sustainable Living House will become available to students in February.  The house will be open to sophomores, juniors or seniors during the fall 2010 semester.    

For more information, contact Maria Carr at email address carrma01@luther.edu.