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Open house will showcase environmental sustainability

June 12, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Red worm composting, organic gardening, solar greenhouses and home energy auditing will be among 17 environmentally friendly projects showcased by Western Michigan University during an open house from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 23.

The event will be held at the Gibbs House for Environmental Research and Education, located on the Lee Baker Farm at 4503 Parkview Ave. in Kalamazoo. The farm, which includes the 150-year-old Gibbs House and two acres of property, has been transformed by WMU into a model of environmental sustainability for the Kalamazoo community.

The open house will mark the first time the University will showcase the projects taking place at the farm under a research and education program administered by WMU's Environmental Institute. Project demonstrations and tours detailing the history of the house and farm will commence on the hour. The free event also will feature music and refreshments.

"Everyone we talk to about the Gibbs House has wondered what we've been hiding in this giant farmhouse, so we're opening our doors to the secret," says, Danielle Hunt, program coordinator. "I guarantee that you'll be impressed by what you see, and you'll also have the chance to learn what you can do to make your life a little greener."

Hunt explains that undergraduate students in all fields of study have been completing research fellowships at the house since 2003, with the guidance of a faculty member and the program coordinator.

"Our mission is to create and maintain an educational environment that promotes stewardship for the earth through experience and ethics," she says. "This is a program that gives WMU undergraduates a setting in which to research and generate pragmatic solutions to Kalamazoo's environmental challenges, educate the academic and local communities, and exemplify a sustainable and regenerative lifestyle."

Fellows spend a year living at the Gibbs House while they build on and apply their academic knowledge in a way that not only increases the home and related property's environmental sustainability, but also engages the Kalamazoo community.

They create self-directed, in-depth studies or projects related to a community need that can be met by adopting a sustainability strategy, then put their ideas to the test in the Gibbs House or on the farm property. The solutions the students come up with give community leaders, organizations and area residents sustainable alternatives to traditional modes of living.

"Students gain experience and our community becomes more sustainable," Hunt says. "No other university in the Midwest offers an undergraduate initiative of academic innovation and sustainable living like this. Our program is fast becoming a hub for sustainable thinkers, motivated students and progressive educators."

In addition to housing the undergraduate fellows, the Gibbs House serves as a location for WMU to conduct hands-on classes and free workshops, and for community groups to meet and hold events.

The site's unique learning environment has been a boon to WMU's geosciences, sustainable landscaping and environmental history classes and has made the Gibbs House a favorite meeting place for the Kalamazoo Environmental Council, a consortium of local environmental leaders from groups such as the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society.

The Gibbs House is located just east of Drake Road on WMU's Parkview Campus,
adjacent to the University's Business Research and Technology Park and its soccer complex. Parking is available in the driveway west of the house. For more information or a detailed
map, visit www.wmich.edu/env/gibbshouse or contact Danielle Hunt, program coordinator, at D2hunt@gmail.com or (248) 941-2814.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
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Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400