Shared approach to reuse unites Outhouse

Molly Emmett

The culture of Whitman College has a reputation for environmental awareness and being “eco-friendly.” While this may not apply to the entire student body, there are certain individuals who are dedicated to reducing, reusing and recycling. The residents of the Environmental Studies Interest House (referred to as “The Outhouse”) are passionate about reusing within their house and extend this commitment to the campus at large.

All nine of the Outhouse residents engage in reuse projects together, and many of these opportunities appear while the house does their weekly campus recycling rounds. For example, they often find posters or calendars that they use to decorate their walls, and even tissue paper that some, like sophomore Jenny Gonyer, use to wrap presents.

“Doing recycling gives us the opportunity to reuse before we recycle,” said sophomore Andrew Patel.

Besides the reusable items the residents find in recycling, they have also found ways of reusing their own household materials. Sophomore Jenni Doering’s family reuses plastic storage bags, so when the house began receiving several of these bags at each house dinner, Doering took it upon herself to wash them out and make them available for the residents to reuse.

The environmentalists at the Outhouse have even found ways to reuse perishable items like tea bags. Several of the residents use a bag two or three times before throwing it away, which conserves money and resources. As an added bonus, it even enhances flavor.

“People don’t realize that some teas, especially white and oolong, actually get more flavor after the third use,” said sophomore Cathryn Klusmeier.

To extend reuse beyond smaller items, sophomore Molly Simonson started a campus-wide “freebox” that sits on the Outhouse porch. Borrowing the idea from the successful box in her Colorado hometown, Simonson set out the cardboard box so that students can pass along possessions they no longer want, such as clothes, books and appliances, to other students who can continue to use them. She instituted the project at Whitman because she believes the campus is generally in favor of things that increase environmental responsibility, but people often need to be given the opportunity to act.

“It’s easy to get environmental zealots on board . . . but we’re putting these things in place so that the people who normally wouldn’t engage in this kind of reuse can and do,” said Simonson.

Another all-campus reuse initiative that the Outhouse is involved in is the Mug Share group. Patel is one of a number of Whitman students working to make reusable “for-here” mugs available at the Reid Espresso bar. This effort would hopefully reduce paper cup waste generated by those who get coffee and then stay at Reid to drink it.

Evidenced by the plethora of projects happening at the Outhouse, it is a hub of reuse on campus. Many of the residents are partial environmental studies majors, and the shared mindset helps them to learn from one another and continue their efforts.

“Being around people who have similar ideals or goals as you do is always really, really helpful,” said sophomore Resident Assistant Ali Murray.