Caitlin O‟Brady, Stella Copeland, Emily Wright, Max Harper, Bim Krunhansl, and Chris Zink
October 9, 2002
Table of Contents:
Experiential and Applied Education
Structure of House
Theme House Component
Fraternity House Component
Case for Moving Beyond Theme House
Community and Garden/Compost
Synergy in Action
Programs and Workshops
Sustainable Living on College Campuses Nationwide
October 9, 2002
Our goal is to create a living, learning community striving to be a center for applied
environmental education, awareness, and action at Colorado College.
Everyone has high ideals, but it a rare few who dare to put those ideals into
practice in daily life. The Buddha reveals, “All that we are is the result of what we have
thought.” By changing our behavior and our interaction with the surrounding
environment, we have the capacity to remake ourselves completely. A living center for
environmental awareness is essential for anyone who wishes to change her or himself.
We do not merely want to learn about these changes, we desire to actively pursue them
through practical implementation. This is an unending process, one that stretches far past
the bounds of class space and block time. Those striving for awareness whether it be
social, environmental, or spiritual cannot go at it alone. History has proven the
effectiveness and joy that comes from living in conscious community. Conscious and
loving community is essential for healthy growth. This house/community seeks to raise
awareness through example and mutual support. It will provide a much-needed space for
students and community members to visualize and practice their ideal of living as
harmoniously as possible with their environment. Residents will come away with
invaluable knowledge of how to live consciously. Applicants should approach this
community with utter seriousness. Their experience here will set the stage for a life of
struggle, both inward and outward. What is being proposed will not be easy. The
mission is demanding but infinitely rewarding. This is experiential learning which, if
taken seriously, will serve as an impetus for progressive living throughout the life of each
resident. Once truth is tasted, it has been argued, one cannot return to ignorance. We
seek to give others and ourselves a taste of living truthfully.
Experiential and Applied Education
The highly academic existence that most Colorado College students lead often
succeeds in prompting high levels of mental activity. It yields the challenges of questions
with which humans have always been faced. It delivers new questions and ideas that arise
with the evolution of our world. It encourages the development of a personal ethic in
relation to the issues addressed. A major facet of the Colorado College mission statement
is its dedication to creating responsible citizens. This concept is also directly expressed in
the school motto, “Scientia et Disciplina”, translated into acquiring knowledge and living
it. Living responsible entails applying the power of our classrooms and our collective
knowledge to our surrounding environment.
Synergy, in its mission to serve as a center for environmental education, would be
a valuable resource in the effort for experiential and applied learning. The education
component of Synergy would entail more than simply the information dissemination.
While providing a source for students to relate their education to their daily existence, it
would also render many supplemental experiences, as is addressed in the “Synergy and
Synergy can also serve as a resource for various faculty and academic
departments. The newly restructure environmental science program involves extensive
community involvement, such as campus auditing. In its first year, the audit was carried
out, but lacked a local model for comparison. Synergy could fulfill this role, in
contrasting the characteristics of conventional and ecologically sustainable operations
and in solidifying the concepts.
In addition, the garden offers a local active classroom for courses such as
Agroecology. Summer students enrolled in this class could witness their lesson embodied
in their own backyard. These are just a couple of the many benefits that the EV
department has visualized.
Synergy is an interdisciplinary resource. With the recent distribution of a query, it
has already drawn interest from the departments of Philosophy, Sociology, Southwest
Studies, and even Romance Languages. This widespread response hints of the
universality of an issue that should and can be addressed in our bathrooms, kitchens, and
backyards as well as our classrooms.
1. Cooperative Living, models adapted from several other schools.
2. Theme House – Fraternity Model Hybrid, developed from existing CC
Theme House Component:
- Living-learning community dedicated to a shared interest or theme.
- Group is cohesive and collaborative in its efforts.
- Striving to create a profound sense of community within the house and the larger
CC and C Springs community.
- Actions aimed to better the CC campus.
- Collectively and cooperatively, the residents develop their own meal
- The group of residents is not a responsibility of the Residential Life
- The residents lease the house from the school for a year and are in
charge of maintaining occupancy.
- The residents may deliver a progress report biannually or annually to whom it
- Residents are fully responsible for that which takes place with in the house, e.g.
The Case For Moving Beyond the Theme House
Agreeing that the theme house model works tremendously well in creating interesting
and exciting living situations for groups of similarly interested students, it has become
apparent that a theme, whose principles are developed around the concept of
sustainability and long-term comprehensive approaches to environmental and social
problems, struggles in an environment of annual instability. The uncertainty of
continued accreditation associated with the theme house structure considerably limits
long-term, sustainable projects. Among these are: Energy and water efficiency
renovations, upgrades and implementations, effective garden/ compost projects,
renewable energy applications and many other projects with initial investments that will
pay themselves off over time, but can‟t be justified in the scope of ½ of a year to a year.
The Marriage of Two Long Standing Needs on Campus:
Community and Garden/Compost
The atmosphere of Tenney house last year, its amazing success at bringing together a
large CC community through events such as the Pot lucks, has opened our eyes to the
present and growing need for housing situations on campus that develop and nurture
community interaction. Many students at this school strive to be off campus for a
change of flavor from dormitory atmosphere, and those that don‟t make it off campus
enjoy events in small house atmospheres. It is a challenge to develop and nurture
community in dormitories and even the nature of the word „dormitory‟, from dormitus,
to sleep, implies only the act of sleeping.
It has been a constant struggle to run a continuous garden and compost program at
CC. Many attempts failed because of poor leadership passed from year to year, others
because the systems were not very well integrated in to the campus and were time and
energy intensive to operate, and others because there was difficulty continuing them
over the summer. It is fundamental that gardens and compost systems receive year-
round care and furthermore be completely integrated into a lifestyle, that they become
an extension of the home. We can think of no better housing system on campus for
generating and “continually caring” for a garden/compost, than that of Synergy.
The garden and compost add value to the community of Synergy and the
existence of a cohesive, long term, committed community adds value to the garden and
compost, in a way that strengthens the integrity of both. This is one fine example of
true “synergy” that will come from Synergy.
Synergy In Action: Operation
1) Meetings: Synergy residents must meet at least once a week. Meetings can take the
A) Beginning of the Year- getting to know one another. In these meetings
residents will relate their “life stories” to one another. These meetings will
help everyone know where everyone else is coming from. This will play an
integral role in preventing and mediating future conflicts. It will give
everyone a common understanding of one another and draw deep connections
between individuals. It will also give residents a chance to reflect upon their
own history and re-evaluate their dedication to “The Cause”. In these
meetings, residents will also discuss their vision for the evolution of the house
in the upcoming year, and their ideas for projects.
B) Once a block goal setting- in these meetings, residents will define specifically
their goals for the block. These can be completed projects each block or goals
for progress made on an ongoing project each block. These meetings will
serve as both updates for other residents, and a chance for individuals to
formulate SPECIFIC goals for their own projects.
C) Work Parties- residents can choose a house project that needs to be done and
set aside a time for everyone to join together and work on it. These should be
hands on projects (ie planting carrots, decorating the living room, etc).
D) Heart Shares- In these meetings, residents will describe those things that are
stressing them out, things they need help with, things they are very happy
about, sad about, mad about, what they have been doing with their time.
Residents will be able to give each other support, suggestions, or help.
E) Conflict resolution- When conflicts arise in the house these meetings will be
called in order to develop a general consensus on how issues can be solved. In
these meetings all members will first have a chance to get out all their
opinions, problems, confusions, and possible solutions. After doing so for a
specified amount of time (30 min or so) There will be a 15 min moment of
silence/meditation. During this time residents should clear their minds and
seek the “Greater Purpose” of the conflict. After the meditation members will
then be able to share an y wisdom they gained., and once again try to reach
consensus. If there is still conflict this process can be repeated.
2) Food/Meals: Synergy residents will prepare, eat, and clean up after their own meals.
The house will organize a Colorado College organic foods co-op for students faculty
and administration. Residents will also plant and harvest as much of their own food as
3) Chores: House residents will take care of all cleaning and general upkeep in the
house. Chores will be assigned on a rotating or constant basis depending on the
preferences of residents at the time.
4) House “Offices”- residents will chose an office at the at the beginning of the year
and will be responsible for coordinating efforts and reporting on the progress of these
A) Education- this office will be responsible for maintaining a close working
relationship with the departments of the college, and with local schools. This
office will work on developing programs for integrating the house into the
educational institutions in the surrounding community.
B) Food/Gardening- this office will be responsible for maintaining the house
garden and compost as well as developing a close working relationship with
the Colorado College grounds crew, Colorado College food services, local
Colorado Springs gardening clubs, and other organizations. They will be in
charge of maintaining and organizing the campus organic foods co-op, and
must also find reliable people to take care of the house garden during the
C) Programs- This office will be responsible for designing, organizing, and
advertising for house programs/workshops (see below). This office will also
be responsible for maintaining a close working relationship with Enact and
other student organizations in order to make the house an instrument and
resource for other Colorado College environmental and social movements.
D) Facilities- This office will be in charge of conserving energy, dealing with
house recycling, and trash. This office will be in charge of making the house
and other facilities as energy efficient as possible. This office will be in charge
of keeping track of and reducing the house ecological footprint. Finally, this
office will develop a close working relationship with Colorado College
Facilities, and Colorado Springs Utilities.
E) Operation- This office will be in charge of keeping track of the house budget,
organizing meetings, and facilitating the smooth functioning and productivity
of the house as a whole. Also this office will work closely with the Colorado
College business office and residential life office, to make sure that all
expectations are being met.
F) Awareness/Community Service- This office will be responsible for
maintaining the mindfulness of house residents and members of the
surrounding community. This office will organize various community service
projects. This office will maintain a close relationship with the campus
chaplain, student religious groups, and religious institutions in the surrounding
community, as well as with community service organizations at Colorado
College and in Colorado Springs.
Programs and Workshops:
Synergy residents will be responsible for designing and organizing at least 2 house
programs/workshops per block. These may take many forms:
1) Food Events: These will develop a greater sense of community on the Colorado
Campus community, and serve as a forum for discussion and announcements
concerning present and upcoming issues/events.
A) Ongoing organic shade grown coffee shop similar to the one organized by
sustainable living house residents in Mathias this year (2002-2003).
B) Organic food potlucks similar to those organized last year (2000-2001) by the
sustainable living house in Tenney house.
C) Sunday morning brunches, midnight organic ice cream sundaes, etc.
2) Life Skills Workshops: These workshops will be designed to provide educational
opportunities for house residents, Colorado College students, faculty, and
administration, as well as Colorado Springs residents. These programs will seek to
address the needs of those people who want to learn the skills necessary to become
more self reliant, live more creatively, live more mindfully, develop a greater sense of
community, and have less impact on the environment. Here are some ideas:
A) Food preservation- in order to eat more seasonally and not depend on distant
food sources in the winter people need to learn how to can , make jams, make
jerky, make dried fruit, make sourkrout, and perform other types of food
B) Energy Renovations- In order to make houses more energy efficient people
need to learn how to do simple house renovations such as caulking, insulation,
utilizing drapes, utilizing energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, as well
as designing for passive solar gain and utilizing alternative heating methods.
C) Mindfulness training- In order to live more mindfully people need to learn
techniques for focusing and stilling the mind and becoming aware of their
bodies, their environment, and the people around them. Various forms of
meditation, prayer, chanting, yoga, martial arts, and dance could be taught.
D) Community development- in order to develop a greater sense of community
people need to learn how to do consensus decision making, resolve conflicts,
establish open relationships, overcome gender barriers, and organize group
E) Developing Creativity- Various craft skills could be taught including painting
designing, knitting, and woodworking, clothes making
F) Gardening and Compost- Workshops on how to design, create , and maintain
healthy productive gardens with minimal input.
G) Waste reduction- Workshops on how to reduce waste, creative ways to reuse
products, recycling programs, etc.
H) Carpentry and Mechanics- How to build furniture, home repair build additions
on homes, bike repair, biodiesel conversion, etc.
I) Primitive Skills- firemaking, wild edible and medicinal plants, cordage,
toolmaking, survival skills, etc.
J) Holistic healing- herbal healing, massage, acupuncture, reiki, etc.
3) Discussion Groups: The house could also host various discussion groups on topics
related to sustainable living such as Voluntary Simplicity, Deep Ecology, Spiritual
Classics, Ecofeminism, etc.
4) Rallies and Political activism: the house could organize rallies around current
issues, write to local, regional, and national representatives, work with campus and
Colorado Springs planning boards, etc.
Sustainable Living on College Campuses Nationwide
We researched a variety of other examples of environmental houses on college
campuses. Descriptions of several of these are included. While there was much
diversity among the programs, there were also many similarities. A brief comparison is
The number of students living in houses ranged from 8-114. Most commonly there
were between 10-30 students in one house.
Most of the houses had a strong focus on food. Often vegetarian diets were strongly
supported if not the rule. Several groups mentioned a commitment buying local and
organic foods. Almost all of the houses ate dinners together, and cooking for the group
was an important chore.
Chores included cooking, cleaning, gardening and maintenance (sometimes). There
was a strong emphasis on being a self-sufficient house, and working together as a
A majority of the houses stated they participated in house meetings. Many reached
decisions by consensus. One house stated they voted to reach decisions.
Often new residents were chosen by past house members.
Environmental improvements to the houses:
There were many houses that were researching, or had in place improvements that
could be made to make the houses more environmentally sound. These included: Heat
recovery systems, low-impact lighting and natural daylighting, reuse of existing
buildings, “kill” switches on heating systems when windows were opened, gray water
recycling, wind towers, photovoltaic arrays, solar panels, composting waterless toilets,
passive solar design, greenhouses.
Almost every house put on some kind of programs for their college, or greater
community. Some examples include: environmental education on a variety of issues,
nature walks, children‟s nature appreciation programs, bird walks, dorm ecology
workshops, speakers community service projects to raise awareness of larger
community dynamics, recycling, picnics, whole campus events, freshman orientation
Additional research/learning experiences:
Northland College has a class “Sustainable Living in a College Community”. Studies
include examining personal living habits in relation to the environment, focus on energy,
water, food, consumption and waste. The Kenyon Center for Environmental Studies
works to bridge the gap between the college community, and rural communities. They
are focused on being an environmental educational center.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Madison Community Cooperative
MCC is a cooperative community of 10 households, most within 1/2 mile of the
University of Wisconsin campus, ranging in size from 8 to 34 members. Each of
our houses has a unique character, but all appreciate a diversity in members'
backgrounds, occupations, and interests. We try to create a safe, supportive family
& community atmosphere. Every house has a complete inexpensive meal plan,
usually vegetarian, which costs an average of $68/month and features home-
cooked dinners prepared by house members.
Affordable room charges include utilities, laundry facilities, household supplies,
local telephone, and funds for repairs and improvements. Charges vary by house,
room size and whether you share a room (most are singles). Each member does
their share of the chores, suited to her/his schedule and abilities: cleaning,
cooking, gardening, bookkeeping, etc.
As a member of your house, you take on your share of the chores: cooking,
cleaning, house finances, or serving as House Rep on an MCC Committee; and
are part of the group decision-making that takes place in house meetings. As a
member of the larger co-op community, you have a voice in issues that affect all
the houses, give your input to the House Rep for the MCC Board, and take part in
the MCC General Membership Meetings.
American School and University
Sustainable Campus Housing Suggestions
Low-impact lighting and natural daylighting
Reuse of existing buildings
“Kill” switches on heating systems when windows are opened
McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center
The two-story design features three wings housing, at full occupancy, 114 students.
Living arrangements feature three styles: regular double rooms, suites, and
apartments. It also includes nine lounge or study areas, and four different
energy and waste management systems.
the goal was to achieve energy and water efficiency at a rate 40% greater than a typical
building designed to code.
120-foot 20 kilowatt wind tower
Three photovoltaic arrays
Fourteen solar panels for hot water
Composting waterless toilets
passive solar design
Sustainable Living in a College Community. In it, students study various
aspects of personal living habits and choices from the perspective of
environmental impacts. Additional studies in sustainable living focus on
energy, water, food, consumption, and waste. The course is part of
Northland's Environmental Studies program and began with the building's
first residents in the fall 1998 term.
Terra House is a co-op of Stanford University. Rated Stanford's "Best Dorm" in Lisa
Birnbach's 1990 Guide to Colleges, Terra offers a community unlike any other. It is
characterized by its uncharacterizability. Terra is a place where Christians and witches
can live together and nobody gets burned. Liberals and conservatives play pool together
in perfect harmony (normal trash-talking aside). Terra is a place where vegetarians and
rabid meat-eaters cheer heartily for the cooks at every meal. We are an odd mix of people
with an important commonality: We like living, cooking, and eating together.
We house 55 students (45 undergrad, 10 grad), and we integrate about 30 additional
eating associates into our community. People here don't seem to differentiate between
grad students and undergrads. Rooms here are all two-room doubles with the exception of
a large one-room double and a single. We do our own cooking and cleaning, serve meals
six nights a week, have an open kitchen, and bake bread most evenings. Terra is well-
organized (running like a well-oiled Hobie), yet has a more laid-back feel than a
As a Stanford co-op, Terra is unparalled in the diversity of its community. We have a
large measure of autonomy, but are supported by the University facilities staff for
maintenance and repairs. Terra runs its house meetings by voting, rather than by the
lengthy process of consensus common among co-ops. We are known for our 70's party,
but most any sort of music can be heard pumping out of the kitchen speakers at any given
time. In addition, we also offer a pool table, computer room, and laundry facilities. We
have a large, comfortable lounge featuring a large fireplace (with cords of wood to
consume) and Terran lounge lizards. We have happy hours each Friday, and go on trips
together. We have a TV lounge with a VCR and stereo.
The Oberlin Student Co-operative Association
An organization that involves 630 students, has 8 co-ops, and provides both partial and
full room and board options for students. Students are fully responsible for cooking,
cleaning, ordering food, making decisions about the organization, and organizing events.
The co-ops include a women's co-op, a kosher co-op, and an animal rights co-op.
The Kenyon Center for Environmental Studies
A center that is focused on environmental education, and bridging the gap between
college and rural communities. The nature center has several rooms in which college
students live and cook for themselves. The center has a native flower garden, a medicinal
garden, a box turtle garden, and a Native American Seed Garden. It also takes advantage
of natural areas and gives nature walks in their field, stream, forest, and agricultural
areas. It is the site of faculty and student research on plant growth, genetic diversity, and
Native American crop studies. Community activities, such as Bird Walks and Children's
Nature Appreciation, are conducted by student volunteers.
A bi-college Environmental House called Ehaus. It is located in Haverford College
Apartment 15. This house cooks 6 meals a week and organizes campus speakers and
activities, such as dorm ecology workshops. Decisions made by the house are based on
environmentally responsible living. The decision-making procedure is based on
consensus and participant leadership.
Proposed goals: providing a co-operative living environment for upper-class Mawrters
starting the 1999-2000 year, vegetarian dining for students living in the house, cooking of
dinners (6 nights a week, plus Sunday brunch) by house members, buying food from
local retailers and co-operatives, sponsorship of speakers on environmental and social
justice issues, community service projects done in Philadelphia to raise awareness of the
larger community dynamics, recycling of all possible plastics, glasses, metals, and paper,
organizing community events such as bird walks and tree identification for nature
appreciation, being responsible for the cleaning of the house, having a garden in the
summer and fall, admitting Graduate students or McBrides to the co-operative, making it
multi-generational, composting of kitchen waste, hosting a campus-wide picnic to raise
awareness in the Bryn Mawr community, hosting a camp-out for interested freshmen
during customs week,
Ecology House is a community based, environmentally-aware program house. Its success
is strongly linked to student participation. There are several student-run committees,
which have input to its direction and atmosphere. Each resident is expected to participate
in at least one committee. Remember Ecology House is what you make it.
Ecology House leadership consists of an RHD (Residence Hall Director), four RAs
(Residence Advisors), and EOLs (Ecology House Orientation Leaders).
Davis Student Co-op, Agrarian Effort Co-op, Pierce Co-op
Each house of about ten UCD students functions independently, but we also support each
other and live together as a community. Residents have tended to be vegetarian and
environmentally aware. While these are not rules, current-year residents pick subsequent-
year residents with the goal of creating a harmonious community. We have certain goals,
currently being formulated into a sort of vision statement, which we will use to direct the
future of the co-ops. Our tri-co-op projects include the large garden behind Agrarian
Effort and smaller garden next to Davis Student, which help reduce reliance on outside
food sources; as well as installation of a photovoltaic solar power array.
Davis Student Cooperative Goals/Priorities: Communication and cooperation--flexibility
is very important, Vegetarian communal dinners, 5-10 hours per week of house
responsibilities (cooking, chores, meetings), Decisions by consensus, Low-impact ideals:
reducing, reusing, recycling, composting, gardening, buying organic, Rotating rooms
quarterly between sharing and singles, Cats, kitties, and feline companion animals,
Occasional work parties for gardening, cleaning house, or building projects, Working
together with Pierce and Agrarian Effort, the other two houses in the tri-co-op
Sustainable Development House
Farm House fosters awareness and appreciation of sustainable agriculture and sustainable
living. Members plant and tend an organic garden, offer educational programs focusing
on sustainable living, and host communal dinners.
The purpose of this presentation and packet is a dual one; we both wish to introduce you
to our wishes and hopes for this project and to solicit your advice, questions, and
comments. Obviously there are details that need to be worked out in all aspects of
forming this new living option on campus. If this project meets with your approval and
with the approval of the other interested parties we will construct and furnish you with a
more complete program description by a mutually agreed upon date. This would include
the full answers to questions such as:
1) The composition of the community and its structure.
2) The important physical modifications and elements of the house.
3) The inter-community programs and philosophy.
4) The programs with the community and with academic departments.
5) Any other questions or concerns you have for us.
We ambitiously hope to have this community up and running by the coming school year
of 2003-2004. In order to achieve this goal (and our secondary goal of operating a
garden on the property in Spring 2003), we seek to establish the location of the house and
the specifics of its relationship to Colorado College by January of 2003.