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Living Learning Sustainability Community

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Libby Berg and Aaron Silberman are part of UMD's GreenHouse living learning sustainability community.

UMD's New Housing Program: The GreenHouse

Students from UMD's GreenHouse community tour the Cliffs Hibbing Taconite Mine.  

“It is nice to live somewhere where people share the same views,” said Cody Torgerson, resident of the GreenHouse and president of the Student Sustainability Coalition. “Everyone in the program is passionate about sustainability. It is a very relaxed environment, and everyone is very opened minded. We are like one big family.”

The GreenHouse is UMD's new living learning sustainability community. Created in fall 2013 as a collaboration between the Office of Sustainability, the Office of Students in Transition, and Housing and Residence Life, the GreenHouse is a housing program in which synergy exists between academic life and dorm life. The 28 freshmen students involved in this program live on the same floor and are enrolled in the same seminar course.

“I believe living together and having at least one class together builds close relationships among the residents,” said Brooke Klemetsrud, resident advisor (RA) of the GreenHouse. Klemetsrud is a senior this year majoring in Environmental and Outdoor Education.

Sustainability Seminar Course

GreenHouse participants are required to register and attend the same Supportive Services Program (SSP) Sustainability Seminar course. This is a one or two credit course that helps new students with their transition into college. The students involved in this program take one hour of normal SSP programing and another hour a week focusing on sustainability topics. 

“During the course, we look at the three-legged stool of sustainability,” said Bryan French, the instructor of the course and sustainability programs manager in UMD's Office of Sustainability. “These three legs are social, economic, and environmental. We discuss what makes a healthy world, personal choices, campus issues, national issues, and even global issues within these three criteria.”

The assignments for this course have included: competing in the cardboard boat races during UMD Homecoming, in-class debates, and student videos on any area of UMD sustainability. Students also have the opportunity to hear guest speakers discuss their efforts to become more sustainable.

“Pairing the SSP course with a residence area creates valuable connections,” said French “The big part of this connection is that in a normal SSP course the students don’t know each other. They are put in the same class, because it fits in their schedule. The GreenHouse creates a support system of friendship through its mix of academic and resident life.”

The GreenHouse Floor

“The Green Movement and sustainability aren’t going away,” said Josh Buck, area director for the residence halls in Housing and Residence Life and co-leader of the GreenHouse. “I think it is important for higher education to continue developing this process and find more ways to add it into students lives. UMD is leading the charge in this area with their numerous programs, including this one.”

The GreenHouse is on the second floor of Lawrence A. Ianni Hall which opened in fall of 2011 and is the only residence building on campus to have LEED qualification. LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a third party certification system developed by the U.S. Green Buildings Council which awards buildings bronze, silver, gold, and platinum sustainability ratings. Ianni Hall received a silver rating.

All activities in the GreenHouse have a sustainability focus. Activities have included: bring your own plate pizza night and hobo dinners at Bagley Nature Center. In December students decorated for the holidays using recycled paper to make paper snowflakes. “I think the active learning brings the floor together,” said Klemetsrud.

Many of the students in the GreenHouse program are part of UMD students clubs with sustainable attributes including Student Sustainability Coalition, KUMD Radio, Chemistry Club and many others. Student involved in this program come from different backgrounds and are pursuing a variety of majors and minors.

GreenHouse Field Trips

GreenHouse members have the opportunity to attend field trips and learn about different sustainability topics. In September, they focused on personal sustainability and hiked from the dorms to Enger Tower. The students learned about invasive species, Duluth’s history, parks, trails, and other Duluth-related subjects. “Students gained an appreciation for the environment they live in, at a deeper level,” said French.

In October, students learned about a local food production system by visiting Victus Farms in Silver Bay, a UMD food project experimenting with a closed loop fish-to-greens food system. They also toured UMD’s Sustainable Agriculture Project, a ten-acre farm which provides food to the UMD Dining Center.

Students gained a better understanding of where Duluth energy comes from when they toured the Minnesota Boswell Energy Center in November. They were able to witness coal being burned and turned into energy. They also toured Cliffs Hibbing Taconite Mine which produces steel.

“Before we toured the coal plant and the taconite mine, many of us thought we would never get a job in those areas, because they aren’t exactly sustainable,” said Torgerson “However, after touring these plants, we found that we should be the ones taking those jobs, because we care about the environment and through our passions, we could help the companies become more sustainable.” 

For more information, visit the GreenHouse website.

Some of the GreenHouse members at Enger Tower.



Written by Katarina Menze, December 2013

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UMD News Feature editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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