With help from L&S, access to greener housing options grow

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Going green is a popular movement among University of Wisconsin-Madison students. Some rank their love for the environment so high that it affects where they choose to live on campus.

Students can opt to “go green” by becoming a resident of the new GreenHouse Residential Learning Community in Cole Hall.

GreenHouse opened in 2010 and provides opportunities for students to learn about sustainable environmental theories and delve into the challenges facing our world. This year, a second crop of about 50 students are learning ways to promote sustainability in their own lives and communities.

Kevin Kousha, a returning resident and student intern of the GreenHouse, said he valued his experience during the program’s pilot last year.

“It introduced me to new perspectives on food, how damaging the environment damages us, and how some of the fads that have sprung up from the environmental movement do more harm than good,” Kousha, a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies, said.

The GreenHouse is an initiative of the College of Letters & Science and was made possible by the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates (MIU), a supplemental tuition surcharge that is providing new opportunities for students on campus as well as a $200 fee that residents must pay.

L&S is proud to provide additional support each year to GreenHouse thanks to the support of alumni and friends. Many small gifts to the college’s discretionary fund – the Letters & Science Strategic Initiatives (LSSI) fund – are used by Dean Gary Sandefur to support educational opportunities and activities like GreenHouse.

One of the community’s unique features is that it connections faculty and students through one-credit seminars which comprise the core of the program. Each seminar focuses on a specific environmental topic and is limited to 10 students.

One of the seminar leaders from last year—Jordan Rosenblum, Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Studies— said he used funding from the Dean to conduct research for his seminar about food regulations in religion.

“I usually teach from the perspective of social history and religious studies,” Rosenblum said. “However, the GreenHouse allowed me to explore some things from a different perspective,”

This year, GreenHouse is sponsoring another series of seminars including “Bottle Biology: Repurposing Trash for Growing Plants” and “Hands-on Green.”

In Bottle Biology, students will join an outreach initiative started by the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program. They will create mini ecosystems using recycled 1-liter soda bottles and will then have an opportunity to share their knowledge with a local elementary school.

Hands-on Green asks the questions, “What is ‘green’?” and “How do you design and build ‘green’ systems?” Students will study renewable energy sources before designing their own “green” project with guidance from professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Soil Science.

The GreenHouse has big plans for the future.

Kousha said the GreenHouse will be moving into a newly built residence hall with LEED Gold certification in 2013. The certification means the building complies with certain environmentally friendly standards.

He also said that the GreenHouse’s mission extends beyond the borders of Cole Hall.

“The GreenHouse last year was a resource and important force for its members, but now, we're aiming for something no other learning community has yet—to make Greenhouse a visible force around campus, impacting student life daily,” Kousha said.