The Sustainable Living Department is led by the students. Almost every project within the department is spearheaded by our amazing students in one form or another. Our program strives to offer every opportunity for students to get involved with projects, and eventually lead projects themselves, all while gaining credit towards graduation. Below are just a few of the most recent accomplishments and projects students have achieved within the Sustainable Living Department:
Several current and former students, and Sustainable Living faculty member Lonnie Gamble spent a month in a small village on Admiralty Island in Alaska installing sustainable energy technology as part of a project to help indigenous Alaskans deal with the crushing energy costs.
Their goal was to make a can crusher that would work without electricity. The result: a human-powered press that flattens a can in eight seconds. Total cost? About $500.
It’s intended to be a display of self-sustainability based on contemporary permaculture principles — the design of productive habitats for people that have the stability, diversity, and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Students built a solar tube — a project initiated during a course in high-performance green building.
Sustainable Living students enrolled on the University’s track in sustainable agriculture participated in the construction of a 35-by-96-foot greenhouse, a “barn-raising” event organized by the nonprofit organization Practical Farmers of Iowa.
In a first-of-its-kind course at MUM on natural beekeeping, students learned the foundations of biodynamic beekeeping from a visiting top expert, Gunther Hauk of Spikenard Farm in Illinois.
Sustainable Living students created a range of Earth-friendly projects, including a “living machine,” a brick oven capable of making 20-30 loaves of bread at a time, a solar collector, a website that monitors the energy performance of their classrooms, and a solar hot water heater.
A wind generator built by students capable of producing up to 2,000 watts of power is helping to provide power to the Sustainable Living department.
Students in the Sustainable Living Program completed construction of a biodiesel processor capable of producing up to 500 gallons of fuel a day and are now hoping to use the fuel it makes to power University vehicles and to eventually set up a co-op to make fuel available to the community.
The project, called the “student garden,” is designed as a large circle composed of many growing beds (3’ by 12’ each) where students grow a diversity of organic vegetables, culinary herbs, soft fruits (berries), and flowers, as well as fiber crops, various medicinal plants, and more.
In the context of doing these projects, students consulted with and learned from some skilled craftsman in town. They learned to weld and to do blacksmithing, plumbing, and electrical work. They also learned basic woodworking skills and visited an Amish sawmill, using the lumber in their projects.
Students completed a six-month project to renovate the Sustainable Living wing in order to provide more workshop space, to create an attractive environment, and to retrofit it with green technologies such as motion sensors, skylights, sun tubes, and high-performance fixtures.
The City of Fairfield created a commission to plan a strategy to save money via alternative energy, thanks to a research project by students in a course on management and the environment.
Students first organized an Eco-Fair in 2000, and it has since become an annual traditions, often bringing in leading experts in a range of areas, from sustainable agriculture, to renewable energy, to living off the grid. The Eco-Fair inspires everyone to join the global shift to sustainability through visiting speakers, workshops, vendors, and the EcoJam Fashion Show, as well as an EcoJob Fair, EcoBand Stage, Kids Corner, and booths hosted by sustainability clubs from other schools.