Green Apartment showcases eco-friendly campus living
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For those who think it’s not easy being green, think again. SF State’s housing department is determined to show students that eco-friendly living is not as difficult as it may seem.

Say hello to the Green Apartment. SF State’s new residence demonstration, located in Centennial Village, was built to show students that environmentally-friendly products are just as cheap and available as the products they’ve always used.

“We really want to show that it’s possible to be sustainable without there being any added inconvenience,” said Jim Bolinger, project coordinator for SF State’s housing department. “These things can become a part of our everyday life.”

The idea for an eco-friendly housing demonstration was conceived by Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI), a San Rafael-based energy consultant group, which started the project in 2004 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There, the attention was focused mostly on Energy Star appliances, and was funded by the Department of Energy.

Since then, SEI has worked with California State University, Chico and University of California, Berkeley. This time around, SEI received a grant from the Goldman Fund to create green residences at two universities in San Francisco. So when Robert Hutson, associate vice president of facilities and services at SF State, approached them about the project, they jumped on it.

SEI will be involved in the creation of the residence until its grand opening, at which point the school is expected to take over control. In addition to observing how well the products work in a real living situation, the housing department will also conduct monthly tours of the residence.

Dre Dominguez, the student who will be living in the apartment, said she was initially reluctant to open up her personal space to the public every month. She realized, however, the effects such a project could have on the campus.

“This has definite potential to be a very positive thing. It could influence a shift in the way that people buy,” she said. “People will see how they can be greener in their own lives, and depending how it works out, it could influence the entire university.”

SEI’s projects have progressively become more complex, and SF State’s apartment will be one of the most extensive to date, incorporating water conservation and a wide array of sustainable household products, according to Caitlin Fager, project coordinator for SEI.

“Each time, the dedication and commitment from the campuses has grown,” Fager said. “What’s great with SF State is that they’re actually working independently from us as well, and the result is that the project is much more comprehensive.”

Fager hope is that the campuses will continue to develop and expand the projects once they are handed over. At Berkeley, the green dorm room initiated by SEI spawned various other green residences, such as a green apartment and a green suite, which houses 25 students.

SF State’s Green Apartment will feature everything from environmentally-friendly carpet and paint to energy saving lamps and electronics to low-flow shower heads and a toilet. It will be outfitted with some eco-friendly furniture and will even have sustainable personal care products.

Bolinger said almost everything in the apartment was donated by local retailers. Shaw Contract Group donated carpet made with 40 percent recycled materials and no PVC, while Kelly Moore donated paint that contains no volatile organics compounds and no polluting solvents. Lowe’s gave an energy efficient range and microwave to the project and Best Buy contributed a Sony Energy Star stereo system. The Body Shop, EO Products, Walgreens and Bed Bath & Beyond all donated items such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, cleaning products and facial cleanser. Baltix, a sustainable furniture company, donated four dining room chairs when Hutson purchased a dining room table, coffee table and two end tables from them.

“The point is to showcase to students that these products are available and affordable, and that it’s not hard to live more green,” said Fager. “Then the other side is to work with the campus staff to change purchasing decisions. We make connections with these local retailers and then people will know that those products are already there. They just have to ask for them next time.”

Some students granted that an exhibit that showed students how to live greenly would be useful, but they weren’t sure how effective it would be if significant lifestyle changes were expected.

“Students are always trying to find new products to buy, and it’s good to offer the appeal of green living,” said freshman and Mary Park resident Samantha Elemento. “But a lot of students have a routine, so they might not make those adjustments if it’s not convenient.”

Fellow dorm resident Michelle Iki agreed that students would need other incentives, such as price or ease to make them want to adopt green practices.

“Students are really stubborn in their habits, though I’m sure there are a select few who would pursue those products,” said the 18-year-old cinema major. “But a lot of people would probably buy them as long as it’s convenient.”

Convenience is just the message that SEI has tried to convey with their green living projects.

Desirae Early, a student at UC Berkeley who has been involved in the various green residence exhibitions on her campus, said the whole point of the projects is to demonstrate to students that eco-friendly living is not much different from what they’re used to.

“When we have tours through the residences, what I hear the most is students saying it’s not that big of a deal,” Early said. “But that’s the point. We want to make it known that these products are not that unusual, but they do make a big difference.”

SEI’s partnership with SF State has demonstrated that the campus is eager to take the initiative to make that difference, Fager said.

“This is the most inclusive project we’ve done. It’s a whole other level from what we expected,” she said. “It takes a lot of work and dedication, and it is my hope that with this project, the whole campus will be inspired.”

The Green Apartment will be unveiled Friday, March 16 at 3:30 p.m. Visitors who tour the apartment can view all the options they have for an eco-friendly lifestyle, and products will be labeled with the name and nearest location of the retailer that donated the item. Tours will also be conducted monthly and by appointment.

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