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By Ian Edwards

In a recent effort to expand undergraduate housing as well as sustainability initiatives, UC Irvine’s Office of Student Housing announced in February the formation of The Green Earth Cooperative, a sustainability-themed house planned for Arroyo Vista in 2016-17 that will contribute to ongoing sustainability efforts campuswide.

Arroyo Vista will add a sustainability-themed house in 2016-17. (Courtesy of UCI Housing)
Arroyo Vista will add a sustainability-themed house in 2016-17. (Courtesy of UCI Housing)

According to UCI Sustainability’s website, the Green Earth Cooperative will provide residents “a holistic, community living learning experience” based on in-house activities designed to promote sustainability on campus, as part of the campus is a living lab program which attempts to give students tools to develop sustainable lifestyles and infrastructures on campus.

Student Housing’s Sustainability Program Manager Rachel Harvey said that programming for the first year of the Global Earth Cooperative house in Arroyo Vista will be student-driven and will focus on community building efforts.

“I envision that students will work together in a democratic, consensus-building process to decide on specific house goals and program interests for 2016-17,” wrote Harvey. “The students will be leaders and potential visionaries, setting an example for sustainable residence hall living.”

This example will be set by the day-to-day activities of the residents. The house has a communal living policy where residents are expected to devote between four to five hours of cooking, cleaning, or household planning work each week.

Each resident of the house will also be encouraged to enroll in a for-credit class to augment their experiences and lessons living in this house. Harvey describes this integrative experience as one that “provides a framework in which students integrate knowledge gained in the classroom with experience provided by the group living environment.”

Of UC Irvine’s four on-campus housing communities, Arroyo Vista is the only one accessible to all undergraduates, save for Campus Village. Arroyo Vista currently has 42 houses with 1,034 residents. Arroyo is home to several Greek houses and has sixteen different academically-sponsored houses in Arroyo Vista.

Arroyo Vista, as well as UC Irvine’s other undergraduate housing complexes, has a history of promoting “progressive houses” the  purpose of which are to enhance students’ learning in four fields: leadership development, connection creation, personal responsibility and diversity and global consciousness.

These tenets form the basis for existing Arroyo theme houses, such the Rosa Parks House intended to support black students and promote black history, the Kaleidoscope House intended for LGBT-affiliated undergraduates and the Ceasar Chavez and La Casa Nuestra houses which create programming for Latino student issues.

The Global Earth Cooperative house comes after years of UC Irvine’s Global Sustainability Resource Center pushing for sustainable housing as a part of UC Irvine’s sustainability initiative. The sustainability initiative encompasses tenets of UC Irvine’s Housing Vision, including “empowering communities to meet needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

With previous “green” housing communities in Mesa Court and initiatives adopted by other undergraduate housing communities, UCI has made progress in streamlining housing communities’ energy, waste and water needs: reducing water use by 30 percent, cutting 990 metric tons from UC Irvine’s greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the installation of 8,000 new, more efficient lighting fixtures, as well as introducing recycling programs into new housing communities, to reach UC Irvine’s goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  

UC Irvine joins the ranks of several other University of California campuses with sustainability-themed housing: UC Berkeley’s Global Environmental House, UC Santa Barbara’s Green Living House and UC Santa Cruz’s Sustainability House.

Currently, UCI’s Global Earth Cooperative house is assigning student staff and residents to the house. Resident advisors all begin their training in August 2016 in preparation for the move-in of residents in September.

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