While most Northwestern students are probably aware of GREEN House’s existence, they’re a lot less likely to know that it’s actually an acronym for “Group Residence Environmental Engagement at Northwestern.” They’re even less likely to know what actually goes on in GREEN House.
To unravel this mystery, NBN sat down with one of GREEN House’s RAs, Weinberg second-year Rosie Li, to learn a little bit about why she chose to live in GREEN House and what other Northwestern students can do to be more green.
Q: Where did you first learn about GREEN House?
A: I heard it from my friends. I had two friends living in GREEN House my freshman year, and both of them really liked it. When I became an RA, we have an opportunity to choose where we want to be, and I knew I wanted something eco-friendly, which is why I was really interested in GREEN House.
Q: Do the eco-friendly facilities in GREEN House affect your day-to-day life?
A: I don’t think I’ve really noticed that there’s a big difference. I really appreciate that the lights are sensor lights. So if there’s no one in it, they’ll turn off. Sometimes that does get annoying because you’ll be showering at 2 a.m., and the light will just go out because they think no one’s there. And then you have to walk outside and just wave your arms and be like, “No, I’m here!” I know the GREEN House execs are always trying to make it more eco-friendly; we’re trying to establish a compost this year. There’s a mini garden outside of it where we grow stuff during the spring.
Q: Aside from the facilities, what makes GREEN House “GREEN?”
A: Definitely the people who live there. We have a very strong exec board that is always hosting events that are green-related. There’s tree-planting events, and we host a lot of eco-friendly clubs on campus. There’s a lot of students who are really passionate about making a statement. Whenever there’s a climate change march, we always have a lot of people from GREEN House who go to those, and we make signs together. I wouldn’t say we’re focused on [political activism], because at the end of the day we’re just a dorm, but there’s definitely a lot of people who are interested in that.
Q: What do you do to live in an environmentally conscious way?
A: I have plants in my room. In the summer, I try to minimize my use of the AC. In the winter, I don’t use heating, because I like it cold anyway, so I literally just open my window, and I don’t touch the heater. I feel like dining hall food is not that sustainable, so I definitely try to eat more of my own food that I get from the farmers market.
Q: What got you interested in green living?
A: In fifth grade, I was in this ecology club, and we learned a lot about being green and living sustainably, and I’ve kept that up ever since, and I guess it’s just become part of my lifestyle. I remember senior year of high school, a lot of people would drive to school and I had a car too, but I always like to bike. That’s just one example. I made a little compost for my backyard, and I also had a rain barrel system to conserve rain. Of course, it’s pretty hard to get into it at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. If everyone did it, it would cut down all of our carbon footprints collectively quite a bit.
Q: What would you say to someone who thinks one person can’t make a difference in the issue of climate change?
A: If everyone had that attitude, then obviously nothing would happen. People can make change. Without people interested in climate change, the government would not change the laws that enable corporations to make money more than they are sustainable. I just feel like that’s not true, that “one person can’t make change.” If you look at history, it’s always one person, and then thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of people bonding together to make a big change. Also, honestly, it’s really easy to literally just turn off the light, don’t use plastic water bottles, bike when you can and just be more conscious of what waste you’re producing.
Q: On that note, what do you think Northwestern students can do to be more environmentally conscious?
A: I think people here are generally really well-educated, and they’re already doing really well. They have ideas of how they can be sustainable. But small things, like I know some people don’t recycle, they say it’s too difficult to literally separate. So please do that. We have one recycling bin and a trash can. We have that distinction for a reason. I know a lot of college students use plastic silverware. Just get a metal fork; I’m sure you can spend one minute washing it. Be conscious of how you’re using the AC and the heating, and always unplug things if they’re not being used, like don’t just keep your phone charger in the wall all day long. That does add up. Take advantage of the public transportation system; it saves money, and it’s more sustainable than Ubering everywhere. Also, there’s a lot of great clubs, so if people aren’t living in GREEN House, but they’re still interested in being environmentally friendly, I would definitely look into that because Northwestern does a pretty decent job of sustainable living.
Q: Do you think more Northwestern dorms should adopt green living the same way GREEN House does?
A: I think it would be nice if every dorm did. GREEN House is not that much more sustainable. We don’t have solar panels, and we’re definitely not self-sufficient. But it’d be awesome if Northwestern could work towards that, maybe do GREEN House first, and then start renovating other dorms.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say to people about GREEN House?
A: It’s honestly such an awesome dorm, and even if you’re not interested in sustainable living, I highly recommend living there, just because the location is great and the people are so close-knit. And the exec board, they’re full of great people who really do watch out for you. If you’re interested in sustainable living, then definitely come to GREEN House, because that’s the dorm you’re most likely to be able to make a change, because you already have so many people around you who are interested in being green.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.