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Credit: Julio Sosa

Many students will take part in the new Eco-House: Environment Residential program, which will launch in fall 2018 and looks to create a sustainability-focused form of housing.

The mission of Eco-House, which will be on the first floor of Harnwell College House, is to demonstrate affordable sustainable living in order to inform, engage, and inspire Penn’s fellow residents, visitors, and community members.

Residents will get to take part in activities and workshops that enhance their sustainable living skills throughout the academic school year. These include service-learning field trips, meetings with professors within the Earth and Environmental Science Department and STEM-related fields, as well as working with local environmental non-profit organizations to bring about environmental change.

Credit: Julia Schorr and Camille Rapay

There will also be social activities such as faculty dinners, weekly study breaks, hiking, kayaking, and volunteering in the community garden, among others.

College sophomore Nicole Posadas, who lives in Harnwell, proposed the residential program.  

Posadas was one of several students from the Penn Environmental Group looking to find a lounge for various environmental groups to come together. While searching for a suitable space, Posadas approached Harnwell Dean Courtney Dombroski, who said that she would consider allowing her to use the lounge on the first floor, provided she could turn the floor into a residential program.

"Harnwell is excited for the Eco-House residential program, which is the only STEM residential program in the upperclass Houses," Dombroski wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. "What’s really special is that residential program was generated by a current Harnwellian."

While Penn Environmental Group did not work together to make the residential program happen, Posadas continued the process with the help of a few other friends.  

One does not need to have any experience with sustainability to apply to the program. In selecting successful candidates, they looked at applicants who mentioned that they are “interested in learning” or who “know a lot but still want to continue to do this” on their personal statements, Posadas said.

The program is expected to enroll between 15 and 25 residents in its pioneer cohort.

One successful applicant is College and Engineering freshman Angela Yang.

Yang said she had found out about Eco-House through the environmental fraternity she is a part of, Epsilon Eta. 

“I wanted to integrate education, my social activities, and my living with sustainability, so that it would be a 24/7 experience,” Yang said.

“My hope as an RA is that I’m able to cultivate a community where it is easier to be environmentally-friendly and also fun at the same time.”

Yang is already looking forward to implementing some initiatives, like creating a small garden. 

The program will be run by both Posadas and College sophomore Samantha Friskey, a resident advisor on the floor, with support from Harnwell’s senior staff, including Dombroski.

“I wanted to take on the position to help provide an equally rewarding experience for my residents. My hope as an RA is that I’m able to cultivate a community where it is easier to be environmentally-friendly and also fun at the same time,” Friskey said.

Friskey heard about the program through Posadas, who she met when they worked together in the Penn Sustainability Office. Friskey was already applying to be an RA, and she said hearing about the program helped her decide to reside in Harnwell.  

“A benefit of the Eco-House residential program is creating an opportunity to live together and to live sustainably and to have a physical location that can hopefully serve as, quite literally, a home base,” she added.