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The SEED House: Students Experimenting in Ecological Design (Fall 2009 Article)

I currently live in the SEED (Students Experimenting in Ecological
Design) house, which is the old Asbury House on
Peavine Creek Road, next to the Black Student Alliance and
the Spanish Houses. This is the first semester of the SEED
house at Emory. The theme, however, is based off of the
SEED house at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. The house
is an environment where students can experiment with different
“green-living” techniques that people can practice in
their own homes in order to decrease their environmental impact. Our goal is
to “lead by example,” and pass on our successful sustainable ways of living
to Emory students, staff and faculty as well as homeowners in Atlanta, who
can then pass them on to their families and friends.
RA and EEA President Chloe Ekelem explains, “Really the theme is designed to
educate and excite those who are involved and others about the environment and how we can best adapt to a new wave of awareness.” Chloe further explains, “Since the house’s progress has so much to do with the residents living in it and the funds available to us, the life style changes take president to technological
changes, such as insulation and solar heating. These life style habits are by no means mandatory, but rather designed to excite and influence voluntary and innovative life style changes that work best for each resident.” Water and energy conservation practices are the basics of our eco-friendly living. We conserve water by hand-washing dishes instead of using the dishwasher and are mindful
of how long our showers are; we also live by the following phrase: “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
We practice energy conservation by using energy-efficient
compact fluorescent light bulbs, and turning off the lights and
unplugging chargers when they are not needed. We also eat
local and organic foods at monthly house dinners, and recycle
and reuse everything possible.
Our main project this semester was making an indoor and
outdoor vermicompost, which is compost with worms. Compost
is a great way to dispose of organic food wastes. When
food scraps go into the landfills, they do not return the nutrients
that they received from the soil as they grew. More so, as organic materials decompose in sealed landfills, they release methane, a strong greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. On the other hand, when food is composted, no methane is produced and nutrients can return to the soil, with or without worms. The worms increase the decomposition rate of the food as they eat the food and then excrete it into the soil. Their excretion provides the compost
with a natural fertilizer that is rich in nutrients. A vermicompost reduces food waste and produces fertile soil that can be used for gardening and growing other food. We plan on using the compost to grow a garden outside in the spring.
As with any new endeavor, the SEED house is, in fact, merely
a seed. There are so many ways we can take more steps
to be even more eco-friendly, yet that is just what the SEED
house is about: experimenting with new “green living” techniques.
Chloe adds, “Of course another very important part
of keeping a living space environmentally sound is weathering
the house, flow diffusing faucets, insulation, better wiring,
etc. These are projects that we hope to petition and earn
funding for.”
Before living in the SEED house, I knew what compost was,
but I didn’t know why it was so beneficial, and I definitely
didn’t know how to make my own compost. I’ve found that
living in the SEED house is a great way to learn small, yet
powerful eco-living practices that I can take with me for the
rest of my life. I feel very good knowing that I am trying to
“practice what I preach.”
The SEED house is also a special place in that it is tucked
away in the trees on a hill, surrounded by natural land. I
find that being surrounded by the natural environment really
inspires me to live more sustainably. Living with a group of
students is also empowering in that I feel more responsible
for my individual actions, as I am conscious of our collective
action. Yet on a much larger scale, all of our individual
actions impact the collective action of the human race; the
more sustainable we are in our own lives, the more sustainable
humans are as a whole. The SEED house reminds me
of that everyday.
If you are interested in applying to live in the SEED house in
the 2010-2011 school year, learnlink RA Chloe Ekelem.
– Jenna Shweitzer

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