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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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XOXO, Eco House

Eco House has a planned house calendar featuring themes like Nautical, Last Supper, Beach Day, Shower Time! and a group mud facial. Photo by Hannah Hwang

Steve Yang, Features Editor

1130 East Street plays host this year to Eco House, an assembly of 10 Grinnellians living together in harmony for a sustainable lifestyle committed to honest environmentalism. For Isabella Alsobrook ’16, Milli Zonarich, Jane Carlson, Olivia Caro, Enrique Castano, Carlos Ortiz Campo (all ’17) and Katie Parrish, Natalie Seger, Rita Clark and Sylvie Bindas (all ’18), Eco House is a home away from home.

“Mom and dad are Milli and Isabella,” Parrish said. “It’s just cozy and like I’m home.”

Eco House is immediately recognizable for its exterior, with solar panels that serve as a dead giveaway to the house’s values, although some residents describe them as “ugly” or “bland.” A dead patch of native Iowa prairie lines the front yard, though it has been mistaken for weeds or yellowed grass by numerous passersby who then suggested that the house replace it.

Inside, however, nothing is replaceable: the residents of Eco House cook and clean together, leading to an intimate familiarity that allows for reduced clothing and loving notes of praise. These notes are then read out loud each week from the “love bucket,” a special box always present on the house coffee table.

“We write … anonymous love notes each week. We read them at the house meeting, and it’s all warm and fuzzy,” Zonarich said.

Love isn’t just expressed with words, however; it’s expressed with actions. Eco House often enjoys a hearty game of spin-the-bottle, which allows for brutally honest advice about one another’s kissing techniques.

“First of all, nobody has to play it. It’s completely voluntary. [But] it has led to some really good love buckets,” Alsobrook noted. “We sit around and make out with each other and critique each other on our kissing.”

Eco House has a planned house calendar featuring themes like Nautical, Last Supper, Beach Day, Shower Time! and a group mud facial. Photo by Hannah Hwang
Eco House has a planned house calendar featuring themes like Nautical, Last Supper, Beach Day, Shower Time! and a group mud facial.
Photo by Hannah Hwang.

In fact, love is everywhere in the house. To the residents, ‘living Eco’ means loving one another. Every day, Eco Housers say ‘hi’ in the morning and talk about their days in the evening.

“We’re all up in everybody’s business. We share a lot,” Caro said.

“Everyone knows everybody’s business,” Seger added. “You can crowdsource your life.”

When they watch Downton Abbey as a house, they push two large couches facing one another together, a sofa hot tub which is named the “Love Boat.”

All meals are shared and a dizzying array of vegetarian options are prepared from crock pots and immersion blenders. It is this kind of love that has attracted so many to Eco House’s loving confines.

“There are a lot of revisiting [alumni]—former Eco Housers come back,” Zonarich said.

In the interest of being eco-friendly, Eco House implemented the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” policy, in addition to a strict adherence to composting. Carlson has been honored as this year’s composting queen, a credit to her abilities in that field.

“Jane is an incredibly efficient composter,” Clark said.

Sometimes, however, the house can stumble into trouble, which means new rules and regulations. For example, the rule “you must have something covering your butt to sit down” was implemented after a friendly nudist took up residence on one of the house’s couches. Another rule is “don’t go into the basement,” a tornado shelter that sends off particularly weird vibes.

“Beyond the mold, the basement is really creepy,” Alsobrook said.

“There’s a toilet that appears to have fallen into disrepair and a door that leads to a staircase that leads to nowhere, right next to the toilet. There’s also a mattress. We don’t know where it came from,” Zonarich said.

If there are questions, the Eco House Almanac has answers. It’s one of many hand-me-downs in the house, from a “capitalist pig” where residents put food money to a “No Glam” sign with mysterious origins. In fact, all of the house’s traditions, songs, advice on how to handle communal money and nightly dinner stuff are included in the pages of the informal guidebook. For example, they have a chore wheel to ensure that dishes and floors are cleaned on time. The tradition of asking, “What vegetable would you be?” is a hand-me-down from Eco Houses past for assessing the viability of a potential resident.

“I said I was a carrot because I wanted you to pick me,” Clark recalled.

This semester, the house will host Spring Fest and movie showings in Bob’s Underground Cafe, such as Discovery Channel’s “Blue Planet.” Eco Housers accredit their prime location to helping make their events a success and hope to continue their track record with these events.

“It’s close enough to people, and far enough from people,” Parrish said. “It’s perfect for popping over.”

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