News | Student Life

GreenBorough brownstone a locus of sustainable community

At the GreenBorough house on 114th Street, residents write down their shower times to discourage wasting water. And when it’s yellow, they let it mellow.

Thirteen students live in GreenBorough, one of Columbia’s 10 special interest communities. And three years after the community’s founding, its brownstone, between Broadway and Riverside Drive, has become the physical nexus of the eco-conscious community at Columbia.

Ruggles is getting a new composter next week, partly thanks to several years of effort from GreenBorough residents. If there’s any green project happening on campus, chances are someone in the house knows about it or is working on it intensely, House coordinator Adam Formica, CC ’13, said.

“The important part about this house—and while we don’t have anything that makes our house unique, in terms of solar panels or compost or anything like that—is it’s a social organism,” Formica said. “So a lot of the things we do in GreenBorough people did at home, but when they came to Columbia found that there wasn’t a place for it.”

GreenBorough’s brand of social environmentalism gives rise to many of its quirky water and power-saving traditions. It’s also safe to say that food is a big deal at GreenBorough, where the wealth of small kitchens gives residents the freedom to exercise eco-friendly choices come dinnertime.

When GreenBorough’s founders made the case for their spacious brownstone three years ago, they cited the need for cooking space, as well as the need for space to store bikes, recycle, and hold meetings for environmental groups like EcoReps. Even so, both the Office of Environmental Stewardship and the Earth Institute had to help get the wheels turning for GreenBorough to become a reality.

Food has also become one of the special interest community’s main modes of campus outreach, as it hosts about five dinners per semester where students can grab a bite to eat and learn about the community. GreenBorough also holds “professional lunches” where students can meet with professors to chow down on sustainable grub and discuss everything from overpopulation to hydrofracking. Past guests at these lunches have included American studies professor Casey Blake, earth and environmental sciences professor John Mutter, and ecology, evolution, and environmental biology professor Ruth DeFries.

Additionally, GreenBorough is the base of operations for 4Local, a group of students that sells organic baked goods.

“We also have house outings, like we all went out to get Thai food in Queens last weekend, which was really fun,” Formica said. “Not only is this house promoting the mission of environmental sustainability, we’re also building a community around [it], we’re making it something that’s in vogue, it’s cool. It’s something that people on campus do.”


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