Monday, May 26, 2008

Oberlin's Short Shower Olympics: Shared Sustainable Living

Great story in the New York Times today about Oberlin College's sustainable living house, SEED - Student Experiment in Ecological Design. Oberlin made an old, rundown house available for this purpose, and first students did an energy-efficiency retrofit. When they moved in, they gradually experimented in a myriad of ways to reduce their personal and home ecological footprint. You can read the details at their own site. My favorite image is the students sharing the living room to study in the evenings, so they don't all use lights in each individual room. Sounds so Little House on the Prairie!
The story is a great read. Here are a few general observations:
1) Group-focus is great at creating and supporting resource-efficient habits. A shared set of goals is hugely motivating - and fun.
2) The behavioral changes were made without the students feeling like they were deprived of anything meaningful, or if they were, sacrificing for the great goal was worth it.
3) When living a resource-efficient life, actions which heretofore were unappreciated or undefined as excess, like lingering in the shower or keeping the house at 68 degrees, become an unusual treat, even an extravagance to be relished. It resets our dial about entitlement and expectation, enabling us to be happier with less. A very worthwhile piece of education. Go Oberlin!
4) In lowering that expectation/entitlement dial, it enhances our sense of gratitude. Cultivating gratitude is shown to boost happiness. A big treat for me now is ordering a Diet Coke in a restaurant. I normally eschew bottled or canned diet drinks because they consume so many resources in their manufacture. So for me drinking one is a big whoop now!

1 comment:

Living said...

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