Saturday, November 19, 2005

BERKELEY, Cal dorm room showcases eco-friendly living

From the fertile campus that gave us atom-smashing and fruit cocktail now comes another contender for innovation. The eco-friendly dorm room of UC Berkeley sophomore Rachael Robertson is being called the nation's first "green room."

"I'm so happy I found it," enthused Robertson, holding a bottle of deodorant made only of alcohol and scent of sage. "It's much better for your body and for the environment." No pore-clogging aluminum compounds.

The room is blooming with brightly colored green room explanatory signs next to each of the appliances -- all Energy Star rated for low electricity usage -- and the environmentally sensitive personal-care products such as Tom's of Maine natural bar soap, Seventh Generation facial tissue and Avalon Organic Botanicals shampoo.

Several universities are installing Energy Star rooms with electronic devices and lighting that reduces electricity use.

"But Berkeley decided to take it to the next level, to the next shade of green," said Judi Quach, assistant project coordinator for the nonprofit Strategic Energy Innovations of San Rafael.

The idea began when Quach's organization secured a U.S. Department of Energy grant for three Energy Star rooms -- at Cal, the University of Hawaii and a California State University campus to be named.

But Cal's energetic recycling manager, Lisa Bauer, expanded the concept with the personal care products.

"So much of what students do and learn sets patterns for their lives," Bauer said. "Your choices do make an impact."

Robertson doesn't mind strangers coming to her room to study her lifestyle, she said this week as a small group crowded into the small room with Tibetan prayer flags on the ceiling and a wide view out her fourth-floor window in eight-story Putnam Hall near College and Durant avenues south of the main campus.

"It's been great," she said, adding that students and other visitors on regularly scheduled tours for the campus community are inspired by what they see. "I'm really excited about energizing them."

The one-year experiment, officially launched Oct. 28, reflects burgeoning attention at Berkeley and on other campuses to what proponents call the sustainability movement.

Among the measures shown to Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on a "campus sustainability tour" Tuesday were solar panels on the student union building, waterless urinals, paving stones that reduce runoff and a dining hall whose environmental contributions include takeout containers made of biodegradable sugarcane.

The green room is designed to show students how easy it is to make a few simple, affordable changes that help the environment without sacrificing their comfortable lifestyles.

"A lot of people come to the room thinking that in order to be a green room, it's going to have to be something revolutionary -- for me to live sustainably, I'm going to have to change my entire life," said sophomore Desirae Early, one of seven students on the green room committee that designed the showcase.

Several appliances were donated by merchants, and a private donation covered the $150 to buy the initial supply of personal-care products for Robertson.

Student Rachel Barge, sustainability director for the student government, said the green room is "basically your ideal, perfect, how-everyone-should-live type of room."



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