Tucked between the male townhouses and the bustling intersection of East 38th and South Nebraska Streets is a small white cottage that “bursts” the metaphorical IWU bubble.
Autumn Joy Davis (jr), Sydni Hadden (sr) and Megan Ruvolo (sr) are residents of the house, along with house mentor Kayla Johnson (alumna ‘12). Together, they form the 2013-2014 IWU Sustainability Living and Learning Community (LLC).
In many ways, Davis, Hadden, and Ruvolo are typical IWU students, rushing to and from classes, chapel, jobs and study sessions. Yet other activities, like composting their kitchen scraps in a repurposed ice-cream container under the sink, are in stark contrast to other students’ “typical” habits of throwing away waste. Composting is just one way they intentionally practice sustainability and creation care as part of the LLC.
The housemates explained they also aim to reduce their consumption by eating fresh foods, bringing their own mugs to McConn and hanging their laundry up to dry on a maze of clotheslines in the home’s basement. During the growing season, they even help maintain the IWU Alliance Gardens.
But don’t think the LLC members are legalistic or judgmental about their eco-friendly practices.
“Really, we suck at this, but we’re trying,” Ruvolo joked. “Sometimes I forget to bring the reusable bags to the grocery. But there’s always next time.”
The housemates describe themselves as a support group for learning what it means to live sustainably. They agree that the LLC experience has helped them become more mindful about their responsibility to care for God’s creation.
“It’s about taking small steps to live sustainably,” said Johnson, explaining how that morning she used a sock instead of paper towels to clean her mirror. There is also an academic side of the LLC, primarily facilitated by biology professor Dr. Grace Miller.
Once a month, Miller joins the group for a “house dinner” to lead discussion on sustainability theories and international research, such as February’s topic of sustainable apparel. She also provides guidance for the Alliance Garden program and oversees the summer garden internships.
Hadden interned at Alliance Garden this past summer and lived at the house while working. She had the option to continue living in the LLC this past fall, but initially declined so she and her roommates could fulfill their goal of being Carmin Hall “lifers.”
Passionate about Carmin and creation care, Hadden spent the fall semester and the previous three years living sustainably from her dorm room. Recycling, turning out the lights, and unplugging chargers were all fairly easy for her to do in a small space, but composting and preparing all of her own organic meals without using genetically modified ingredients was harder.
Her midyear switch to the LLC has allowed Hadden to continue her sustainable practices and maintain her dietary convictions without the financial requirement of purchasing an unused meal-plan. While LLC participants have the option of purchasing full, partial, or no meal-plans, the current three students have chosen to prepare all of their own food.
“I finally feel grown up,” Davis said, laughing. For her, the LLC house is “more realistic” than a dorm. Here, she and her housemates experience a sort of transitional living, an “off-campus feel with on-campus status.” The participants take responsibility for general home upkeep and maintenance, although they have the reassurance of what Johnson describes as essentially “paying for IWU to be a great landlord.”
With a location right in between the IWU campus and its Marion neighbors, the LLC sustainability house is all about support and community. As residential students, the participants still engage with on-campus friends and activities, but they also are intentionally getting in touch with their non-student community, the environment and the world.