A place that was once an old fraternity house, offices, or simply storage, Winona State University finally opened the doors of 366 Main Street as the Sustainability Theme House at the beginning of the 2012-2013 semester.
Given the finances to improve housing, Winona State decided to update the Quad, as well as further its environmental efforts by creating a university-owned house devoted to being sustainable.
“The purpose is just to provide options. With the academic focus on sustainability, it seemed to make a lot of sense to make a housing option that was compatible,” said Paula Scheevel, director of housing and residence life.
“It’s a mixture of a residence hall and a home,” explained Aaron Murray, community assistant and theme house resident.
More specifically, the theme house is a home of 10 residents ranging from sophomores to juniors to seniors.
“Having nine roommates is interesting. It’s a very unique dynamic. It’s very rewarding,” Murray said.
Roommates aren’t all that is rewarding; the house’s purpose is also to show how students can live more sustainably.
The house features motion-sensored lights; solar panels used for energy; five-star energy rated washer, dryer, and dishwasher; stoves with power switches preventing wasted energy; environmental friendly toilets; “solar tubes” in the bathroom to lessen light usage during the day; and environmentally friendly paint and other house materials.
It certainly doesn’t all depend on the house, though.
“We all have things that are environmentally friendly, but you have to have people who are also motivated,” said Kawika Asuncion, junior and resident of the theme house.
Murray and Asuncion explained how residents of the house are all assigned to certain tasks and committees.
To live in the house, residents form small committees with a partner. One committee divides house tasks, such as cleaning, to all roommates, another is working on a Facebook page and a blog, while another group focuses on event planning.
Murray explained they hold meetings every Tuesday; they decide each week on a “Living Bravely Challenge.”
“We decide to work together to do something. One week was vegetarian week, one was shower week where we all cut down on shower time, and last week we did light usage,” Murray said.
Living in the house also requires residents to focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling. Residents “are not supposed to be wasteful,” Murray said.
Scheevel said she must look into getting an additional recycling can for the house, since residents are excelling at recycling thus far.
Not only do residents practice sustainability in their home, but they are also taking it on campus and in the community.
The residents have already started to encourage composting on campus, and are currently planning their Halloween Haunted House which will be their first big event welcoming all of the Winona community, Murray explained.
The theme house has been encouraged to put on workshops at Winona State. It is one of many goals.
“There’s a lot of ideas, but right now we’re still just prepping,” said Murray.
The first-ever public university theme house in Minnesota is up and running successfully, and its future only looks brighter.
“I think it’s going to leave its mark. We’re going to try and leave a legacy the first year, so they can build on it the next year.
We are showing people how to live a sustainable life, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Murray.
“The hope is that when they leave and go elsewhere, they will take those skills and knowledge with them and share it with others,” said Scheevel.
For those who are interested in seeing the house, there will be an open house on Oct. 26 from 2-4 p.m.
Contact Julia at [email protected]