Augustana College: Local Culture 1 Opens its Doors

Oct 01, 12:50 PM

by Margaret Foley — Augustana College

Local Culture 1, Augustana College’s version of what are known as “eco-houses” and “sustainable living projects” at other schools, welcomed its first student residents this fall term.

The house showcases several sustainable features, both inside and out; it is the work of students enrolled in the college’s Environmental Literature & Landscape Learning Community, taught by Professors Jason Peters and Charlie Mahaffey.

College President Steven C. Bahls budgeted $50,000 for the house; students did the rest.

Some of those features include a geothermal heating system, a low-flush toilet, energy-efficient windows, 100% recycled rodent, fire and insect-repellant insulation, Energy Star appliances, two rain gardens, non-toxic paint, rainbarrels, bamboo flooring, permeable paving, a garden, a compost, recycled furniture, low-flow faucets and CFL lightbulbs. Augustana’s Student Government Association also contributed over $6000 dollars toward sustainable appliances and a 75-year steel roof.

In other words, the house has an “atmosphere on campus unlike anywhere else,” said Senior Beth Flynn, a Geography and Political Science major and student General Manager for the project.

Administrative support for the Local Culture House grew out of Augustana’s Transitional Living Areas (TLA) program, where, historically, the college purchases houses near the campus and remodels them for student use. Professors Mahaffey and Peters and their students proposed to the college administration the idea of retrofitting one of these houses with the goal of sustainable living.

The college granted the group the same funding available to other TLA houses, which made ‘sweat equity’ a necessity as work at the house progressed.

Seen initially as an obstacle to be overcome, the labor done by students became more of a blessing, as students gained valuable experience interacting with administrators, contractors, and facilities workers, making installations and repairs, and working with one another.

“Rock Island city inspector and contractor examinations of the house proved useful, as well,” said Mahaffey, because students learned why and what parts of the house were faulty, what options they had to fix them and how to fix them.

Flynn, who spent much of her junior year working at Local Culture 1, said she “would much rather be out working on a house than sitting in a classroom.”

Both Flynn and Mahaffey agree the experience of learning how to create a more environmentally sound home as well as how to communicate with occupationally diverse people created a truly educational experience.

Local Culture 1 is an attempt to influence the College as well as the faculty and students to reduce energy consumption and to spend money locally. Toward that end, many of the house’s sustainable features were purchased from local vendors, and current residents maintain a small garden for their own use.

Mahaffey stated the House is a symbol for what can be done successfully to live in the 21st century, to live locally and to live in good harmony with neighbors and community, and to “generate ripples through the student body”.

And Local Culture 1’s charter challenges its residents to make those ripples. Residents are asked to recycle, compost, maintain a garden, and purchase food from local farmers’ markets instead of ‘big box’ stores.

Despite those requirements, residents seem ready to get to work. “Anything we can do to stop sending waste to the landfills [makes a difference],” said Katie Fick, a junior, who seems to be enjoying her experience. “It’s totally a privelege to live here,” she said.


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