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Nosker House learning community aims to promote sustainability

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Nosker House is home to the SUSTAINS Learning Community, which seeks to promote sustainability within the OSU community. Credit: Alaina Bartel / Lantern reporter

Nosker House is home to the SUSTAINS Learning Community, which seeks to educate about and promote sustainability within the OSU community.
Credit: Alaina Bartel / Lantern reporter

Some students in Nosker House are going green and striving to live sustainable lifestyles while staying in a residence hall on Ohio State’s campus.

The SUSTAINS Learning Community, currently located in Nosker House on North Campus, is a program that was established in August seeking to educate about and promote sustainability within the OSU community.

SUSTAINS, which stands for Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society, is a collaboration between University Housing, the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, and the School of Environment and Natural Resources, said Gina Hnytka, the academic lead for the program.

“What makes this community different than other scholars or learning communities is that everything we do has a sustainability component,” Hnytka said.

Participants in the program work on different projects within the community to promote sustainability and take care of the environment. Currently, some of the students are working on an off-campus trash initiative because they noticed there was a problem with littering on the weekends after parties.

Hnytka said the learning community was developed when an operations team for the environment, economy, development, and sustainability, or the EEDS, major sat down and discussed how to reach students beyond the classroom to help build their professional experience involving sustainability.

Hnytka, who worked previously with University Housing, first suggested looking into a learning-community-type format, and then worked with Housing to propose the program.

Students involved in the SUSTAINS program participate in various community activities, such as involvement in sustainability initiatives on campus, visits to green businesses and facilities, and volunteer service at OSU and Columbus Earth Day service days. SUSTAINS also includes an academic component, with a seminar component instructed by EEDS faculty and staff, according to the OSU housing website.

Students interested in participating in SUSTAINS can be from any academic background and year, and the program is included in their housing with no additional charge. However, Hnytka said admittance into the program is selective, so students need to apply each semester.

“You don’t need to pick one specific major to work in the field of sustainability,” Hnytka said. “It is just a matter of what their goals are, and then trying to provide a diverse array of experiences for them to really home in on what they would like to specialize in.”

For the 2015-16 school year, SUSTAINS is set to be housed in a brand new residence hall set to open on North Campus at 160 W. Woodruff Ave.

Maggie Borders, a first-year in environmental science and a participant in the program, said she and her fellow students all share the goal of becoming more sustainable.

Borders said she thinks sustainability means reducing her carbon footprint on the Earth, and using resources in a way that allows future generations to reuse those resources.

“It (the program) is a step in the right direction. A lot of schools have sustainability boards, and there are sustainability stewards for different cities, but this is a more student-centered effort to be more sustainable,” Borders said. “I think a lot more can come out of that when you’re trying to go student-to-student to make things more sustainable as opposed to faculty-to-student.”

Carolyn Voigt, a first-year in EEDS and a SUSTAINS program member, said she loves the small community feel of the program, which currently has 15 members, and how it’s become more diverse with students in several different majors. She said the program is something worth getting involved in.

“As the environmental movement grows stronger, and becomes more headlined in the news, there needs to be some sort of voice and passion of the younger generation,” Voigt said. “We are the ones who have grown up in its shadow and are definitely feelings its effects.”

SUSTAINS’ next event is set for Feb. 10, when the group will sit down with Erin Miller, the environmental steward for the City of Columbus, and learn ways that they can get involved in the community.

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