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Marci Barr, Sustainability House

Meet Marci

Marci Barr is not your average college student. Therefore, she does not wish to live in the average college dorm or apartment. Marci is making more out of her college experience by getting more out of her environment.

Marci is a senior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She has chosen to live in the Sustainability House on campus rather than in a more typical college setting. Growing up, Marci always cared about the environment and lived in a home that stressed the importance of simple green practices like recycling and turning off the lights when you leave a room. She enjoyed camping with her family and being outdoors and enjoying nature.

When she came to Franklin and Marshall, Marci decided to continue that practice of green, sustainable living. She joined the Environmental Club on campus and, as a biology major; she hopes to become a genetic counselor one day. Last year, Marci applied to live in the Sustainability House on campus, opting to live there instead of continuing to live in the traditional college dorms.

Sustainable Housing at F & M

What makes the Sustainability House sustainable?

Green Awareness at F & M

Sustainable Schools

Northland College, Leader in Environmental Education

Stanford University

University of Colorado at Boulder


Sustainable Housing at Franklin & Marshall College

Sustainability House at Franklin and Marshall College

The Sustainability House was opened in August 2008. It is a renovated house on James Street in Lancaster city. A member of the Environmental Club petitioned the Dean of Students at Franklin and Marshall College for a grant for the college to renovate the old building to be more green and sustainable. The application process for living in the house is competitive. Last year, they received over forty applications to fill the twenty-three rooms in the house. Applicants must give examples of what green, sustainable activities they are involved in and how they plan to continue that lifestyle once they are living in the Sustainability House. Because of the amount of success and popularity the Sustainability House is receiving, there is hopes that a second one will be opened on campus in the near future.


What makes the Sustainability House sustainable?


Franklin and Marshall College and those who renovated the house took great care to ensure that the house met all green building standards as well as student living standards for the college.

Efficient Lighting

The newly-renovated house has more efficient lighting. There are signs above all light switches reminding residents to turn off all lights when they are not in use. They also use energy efficient light bulbs in all the lights in the house. Also, the lighting in the hallways is usually kept off, especially during the day. Each room, including the hallways, has large windows to maximize the natural lighting and reduce the need for electric lights. Everyone works together to make sure that lights are not left on unnecessarily when they are not needed or no one is in the room.

Water Conservation

Low-flow shower heads have also been installed in all the showers in the bathrooms. These shower heads help conserve water and reduce the water bill as well. Typical shower heads can use up to twenty gallons of water per five minutes shower. However, with low-flow shower heads, a five minute shower will only use about seven or eight gallons of water.

Community Resources

The residents of the house also have a cooking group that they formed. Members of the house who like to cook make meals for everyone else in the house. This cuts down on waste and allows everyone to pull resources. Also, it builds unity in the house and promotes teamwork and respectful living. Other members of the house also split up jobs that benefit the whole group. Some of these “chores” include making sure to compost waste that can be broken down and ensuring the compost system is working and is properly maintained. Aside from making dinner, residents also help out with the laundry and make sure the trash is sorted properly by waste, recyclables and papers in the bins that are placed throughout the house.

Marci’s job in the house last year was to gather data about the energy use in the house and organize it to show how much is being used. Marci found that last year, the Sustainability House reduced their utility expense by $2,800. The installation of gas heaters helps cut down on heating costs because it does not require electricity to heat the whole house. Also, residents of the house agreed that they would not have their own televisions in their rooms as a way to reduce electricity. They all share a television in the common area and often have movie or TV nights in the house.

Solar Panels

Franklin and Marshall and the Sustainability House recently received a $15,000 Sustainable Energy Fund grant, which allows them to install solar panels in the house. Linda Fritz, a professor at Franklin and Marshall, says “Installing an array of solar panels on a typical building allows us to study the real possibilities for solar energy in a community like Lancaster.” The panels, which are awaiting installation in the house, will produce twelve to fifteen kilowatt-hours of electric power per day once installed. Though the residents of the house consciously attempt to conserve as much energy as possible through the day, the 8,643 square foot house still uses about 75 kilowatt-hours of energy per day. The installation of the solar panels as an alternative form of energy will provide a great help in making the Sustainability House less dependent on electrical energy and more green and sustainable.

Waste Management

Members of the house agreed to use only cloth hand towels and wash cloths so that they can be washed and reused to prevent paper waste. The residents try to wash their clothes in cold water together with the towels as a way to reduce the amount of water and save energy that it takes to use the washing and drying machines.


Campus Awareness

Not only are the members of the Sustainability House living in an ecologically green and sustainable house, they are also trying to promote green living across campus. Last year, the Environmental Club used cereal boxes and recycled them into notebook covers that they sold as a way to raise awareness for green, sustainable living and raise money for the club. The Environmental Club also raises awareness about important topics such as wind energy and the use of wind energy to reduce electric costs across the country.

There are many pros to living in the Sustainability House. Marci first got interested in living there because she “liked the idea of what the Sustainability House was all about and wanted to be a part of it.” She also loves the fact that she lives with so many of her friends and other members of the Environmental Club who all do house activities together, such as sharing a Netflix membership and having house movie nights. Members of the house also often volunteer and promote green living on campus and across Lancaster County. They are active in promoting simple green steps that Franklin and Marshall can take to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, things such as double-sided printing on classroom hand-outs, putting recycling bins across campus that are easy for students to find and use to cut down on the amount of waste generated by the student population, promoting a community campus garden that allows students to have a co-operative where they can grow their own gardens on campus, and the “Trade Café” which is where local, organic food is made and sold to students in the Franklin and Marshall student union certain days during the month.

Other benefits of living in the Sustainability House that Marci enjoys, besides the friendships that she has strengthened or formed by living there, is that it is cheaper than most off-campus student apartments. The rooms are also bigger than dorm rooms and she likes having large windows and not feeling cramped in a small space. She also likes that she has the ability to adjust her own heat, as every room in the house has its own thermostat.


Schools Going Green

Penn Manor School District

Like Franklin and Marshall College, other local school districts in Lancaster County are taking steps toward green building and building with sustainable resources. Penn Manor School District is currently undergoing a renovation project of the Central Manor Elementary School. The building, though well maintained, is in need of expansion and repair. Penn Manor School District is planning on investing in a LEED Certified Green Building for the renovations. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” which means that the Central Manor Elementary School will be renovated with energy efficient measures in place. Green building is not a new concept for the Penn Manor School District. They have previously invested in Geothermal heating and cooling systems in three other elementary schools in the district.

Central Manor Elementary School

“The ultimate goal for the project is to maximize the investment…by creating a highly energy efficient school building, designed with the least impact on our environment as possible. Penn Manor School District reinforces its commitment to being a good steward of the environment,” says Crabtree and Rohrbaugh, lead architects on the Penn Manor renovation project.

Penn Manor School District is not the only school in the area taking steps toward green building. Londonderry Private School, a small private elementary school in Susquehanna Township in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has recently moved into their new green school. The school, completed in Spring 2004, received their LEEDs certification in 2006. Londonderry’s building boasts rainwater barrels that recycle the rainwater through the toilets and other non-potable water sources to reduce water use. They also have exposed ceilings to reduce the costs of instillation and heating.

Londonderry Private School- Harrisburg, PA

Upon average, most schools in central Pennsylvania cost about $130/square foot. Londonderry, however, only costs about $100/square foot to operate. Londonderry is committed to teaching students not only the skills they will need academically, but also to be conscious of their impact on our environment and reduce their carbon footprint. Their campus has been recognized as a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat.

Harrisburg Area Community College- Lancaster Campus

Harrisburg Area Community College has begun to offer courses in energy savings and smart technologies. These classes, under the “Workforce and Economic Development” major are designed to teach and train students in the latest developments in “green technology.”

One workshop offered focuses on the training in green building analysis. The class will teach individuals the basic understanding of heating and cooling systems and how they are constructed to meet green standards.

Elizabethtown College and York College of Pennsylvania

Elizabethtown College and York College of Pennsylvania also are taking steps toward sustainability by reducing their waste and being more conscious about printing and paper costs. Both colleges have newsletters and area news papers available online as a way to reduce printing. York College also e-mailed their fall semester orientation agenda to incoming students in order to reduce waste of printing and sending them by mail.


Northland College

Franklin and Marshall is not the only college campus across the United States that is taking steps toward promoting green and sustainable living. Northland College, in Ashland, Wyoming, is the home to one of the most environmentally friendly student housing facilities in the United States. The building, opened in 1998, stresses the importance of resource efficiency and renewable energy. Like the Sustainability House at Franklin and Marshall, Northland College’s sustainable student housing holds various rooms for students as well as student common rooms and lounges. Also, the housing at Northland also has four different energy and waste management systems to help ensure the optimal level of recycling and further minimize their carbon footprint.

The Northland facility is home to a wind tower, which is one green technology that members of the Sustainability House and Environmental Club at Franklin and Marshall try to promote and raise awareness about. Northland’s wind tower produces 20 kilowatt-hours of energy. The wind technology is used in conjunction with the solar panels that Northland has installed. Together, the wind and solar energy help maximize Northland’s green energy and reduce their dependency on electrical energy.

Green classrooms at Northland College

Northland students also participate in Sustainability Fairs, Stewardship Week, and Energy Awareness Month. In addition to that, students promote sustainability awareness by mentoring and volunteering at local high schools about the importance of conservation and sustainability. Northland is a member of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute that leads initiatives for Lake Superior, as well as supporting ecosystems.

Other similarities between the Northland student housing facility and the Sustainability House at Franklin and Marshall are that both housing facilities use gas heaters to heat the building, both use low-flow shower heads as well as shower timers in the bathrooms to reduce water use, both have energy efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs to light the house and make sure to only use lights as needed when someone is in the room. At Franklin and Marshall, students can use the co-operative gardens to grow plants, however because of the weather changes at Northland College, there are two greenhouses attached to the facility that students can use to grow plants and food, especially in the winter. Statistics of energy usage and efficiency in the Northland housing show that their building is 50% more efficient than a similar building designed to the same code.

Jeremiah Manzer, a resident at Northland College shares similar views on living in sustainable, green college housing. “I don’t even pick up a foam cup,” he says, “my parents hate it but I won’t let them use foam cups in their house anymore.”

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” is a popular motto at Northland. People are drawn to the undisturbed wilderness of the surrounding area. Because of this, Northland College advocates low-impact trips. Students and those who embark on these excursions participate in the A.S.A.P. program, which stands for “As Sustainable As Possible.”


Green Schools Around the Country

Stanford University

Stanford University in Palo Alto, California is also making steps to increase their green awareness and decrease their carbon footprint. Stanford is in the process of completing construction on a new green building that will house classrooms, laboratories, and offices. The building is being built using recycled materials, including bricks from an original building on Stanford’s campus that was being used to line patio and gardens. Stanford’s aim, similar to Franklin and Marshall’s, is that they have “as little impact on the earth and its resources as possible.”

University of Colorado at Boulder

A third college campus who is making tremendous strides, and leading the way in the green college campus race, is University of Colorado at Boulder. UC-Boulder was named the top “green” university by Sierra magazine in 2008. University of Colorado at Boulder was the first campus in the United States to have a student-run environmental program as well as the first campus to institute a campus-wide recycling program. UC-Boulder sustainability focuses on sustainable transportation. They promote car-pooling and encourage students to walk or bike to class, rather than driving. They aim to work with students, campus organizers, government, and local businesses to create ways for students to get to class that allows them to be less dependent on driving and work toward being more sustainable and reducing the amount of waste and increasing efficiency and cleanliness.

Franklin and Marshall College’s Sustainability House is part of the green revolution that is making its wave across the United States. With the support of this movement, and the involvement and support from students like Marci, hopefully more campuses across the country will consider green building and promoting sustainable living.











This site was created by Abby Stevens who is a student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

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