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College Students Living Sustainably


By Blair Libby

In the neighborhoods surrounding colleges and universities, a growing number of houses are dedicating themselves to environmentally-conscious and sustainable living. At CITRUS (Community Initiative To Restore Urban Sustainability) House, students from Santa Clara University are practicing a cooperative and eco-friendly lifestyle.

CITRUS House began in 2005, when “House Mama” Lauren McCutcheon (class of ‘03) and her roommates decided to create a community hub for sustainable living. Under the mantra of “think globally, act locally," CITRUS residents began to invite neighbors and students to documentary showings, potluck dinners, gardening parties and, on occasion, spontaneous jam sessions. The founders’ vision was to go outside of the college cocoon and seek human engagement -- the most powerful element of a low-impact, community-building lifestyle. Sharing, contributing and celebrating are the key aspects of life at CITRUS.

In the spirit of collaboration, CITRUS has most recently worked with SCU’s Food and Agribusiness Institute to host workshops on sustainability in the kitchen, as well as organic gardening and composting. The home is also a frequent host for LOCALS (Living Off Campus and Living Sustainability) and BLEJIT (Bronco Leaders for Environmental Justice Investigating Truth). Situated in an urban area, CITRUS helps demonstrate to students that no matter where you end up, it’s possible to live with reverence for the planet by living intentionally and respectfully. Some of that urban sustainability is realized in the San Jose Bike Party. Every third Friday, a group of nearly 30 students meet at CITRUS to bike to downtown San Jose, California, where they join up with the thousands of other community cyclists taking part in the ride.

In addition to growing backyard tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, herbs and fruit trees, living in CITRUS means making a commitment to cultivate sustainable eating habits. The kitchen is stocked first from the garden, then from the local farmer’s market to buy what’s in season. When residents include animal-derived foods, they try to obtain them from farmers and ranchers who are certified humane, organic and the like. Therefore, practicing vegetarianism or veganism becomes habitual for most tenants. “Eating and shopping at farmers’ markets changed my diet dramatically," said current resident Jordan Webster (class of ‘16). "I went from eating meat daily to a mostly vegetarian diet.” And all those red plastic cups? They’re washed and reused too.

Besides food, taking shorter showers, air-drying clothes, and using green cleaning products or natural alternatives are crucial to a sustainable community. As students come and go every four years, they leave behind furniture, dishes and other household tools, some of which can be inherited and shared between generations of residents. Whatever is discarded is picked up and offered to incoming students and neighbors around Santa Clara.

CITRUS’ vision is that it continues to be a "training ground" for sustainable living in the urban environment. The students who live and visit there have an opportunity to educate, share, and experience a culture that’s often missing from college students’ lives. In inspiring others, CITRUS acts as a seed for lifestyles that tread more lightly on a beautiful planet.

Image credit: Santa Clara University 

Blair Libby is a senior at Santa Clara University, studying Environmental Science and living in CITRUS House.

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