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Emi Day
Feb 4, 2012

ARCHIVE: Q&A with co-director of the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living

Feb 4, 2012 by Emi Day


Published April 20, 2009

The Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living is a campus program with a mission to promote environmentally sustainable living practices in residential homes. The group will host a groundbreaking event on its home at 1801 Moss Street on Wednesday. The Emerald sat down with CASL co-director Alden Gray to talk about the event and future plans for the home.

Oregon Daily Emerald: What do you envision CASL to be?

Alden Gray: CASL is a community demonstration house to show people how they can apply high-tech and low-tech alternatives to their lifestyle in their day-to-day life, at home. It’s a place you can come and learn about different ways you can lower your ecological footprint, be it through gray water catchment, low-flow toilets, just planting a food garden, installing solar panels, having a solar hot water heater. Different technologies like that. Any technologies to reduce your ecological footprint is what we want to show people. And we want to show people it’s not that hard. There’s all sorts of low-tech things you can do as well that don’t cost that much money. It’s all about the choices you make day-to-day and making small sacrifices, be it a sacrifice of money or a sacrifice of convenience.

ODE: Tell us about the house.

AG: The University gave us the house that’s just located a few blocks east of campus on Moss Street. It was built in 1920 and now it has three bedrooms. We’re going to remodel it and put an addition of three bedrooms on it. So we’re making it bigger, but it’s just a one-story, old, rickety, run down, junky house.

ODE: Does anyone live in the house?

AG: One of the co-directors would eventually live in the house when it’s completed. So it’s a place where people can come any time that somebody’s home and come in and see what’s going on inside the house and try to learn a little bit about what they might do in their own home. So it’s open to all the public, all of Eugene, all of the world.

ODE: Mayor Kitty Piercy is going to speak at your groundbreaking event Wednesday. Has the city of Eugene really gotten behind you guys? Is she being supportive?

AG: Well, Kitty Piercy loves to push her sustainability angle. It really wasn’t hard to get her and I feel like the city is behind us. There are certain obstacles in place right now for creating the lowest-impact home available.

ODE: Have there been other obstacles?

AG: The biggest obstacle is financing. Working through the University, there’s a lot of bureaucracy. There’s only certain contractors you can hire. You have to pay them a prevailing wage, which is not just the lowest wage you can find, it’s the average wage contractors are receiving so contractors get what they’re worth today. It’s quite a bit of money. So there’s a lot of work students can do but we can’t do it because we’re not professionals. If we were homeowners we could do a lot ourselves. But the home is owned by the University so we have to work in the University system.

ODE: What can students do as renters in apartments to make their lives more sustainable?

AG: If you have access to your hot water heater you can turn it down. They’re usually set at 140. At 120 it’s usually plenty hot for a hot water heater, so you can turn that down. You can try and take shorter showers or if that doesn’t work you can try and take fewer showers. I personally don’t believe you need to take a shower every day unless you’re getting really dirty. Like, dirt dirty, not sweat dirty. One cool idea is to take a gallon or half-gallon milk jug and fill it with water and put it in the tank of your toilet. That way that water stays there. It reduces the capacity of water for your toilet and makes your toilet a low-flow toilet. It all comes back to the sacrifices you’re willing to make; the sacrifices of money or the sacrifices of convenience. Sometimes they’re sacrifices of comfort and it’s about your commitment; just to do what you can and if you don’t want to do anything you’re not going to do anything. But if you do, you begin to realize more things you can do every day.

- News Editor Robert D’Andrea contributed to this report.