Earth House Living Learning Community

2016-2017 Earth House Residents

Fall 2020 applications now being accepted. Submit your application to live in Earth House. 

Earth House is a small living-learning community on South Campus, where students can learn about sustainable living and earn credits toward graduation.


In Fall 2016, 19 undergraduates embarked on a first-of-its-kind experience at Boston University. In an historic rowhouse on South Campus, the residents at 7 Buswell Street became the first BU students to officially register in a Living Learning Community, which integrates curriculum with student life and housing. In the first BU Living Learning Community, Earth House, the very act of day-to-day living is the focus of inquiry and the physical Earth House facility is the shared focal object of examination. All of the things that students and teachers normally think of as being means to an end of education – eating, commuting, showering – are inverted and transformed in Earth House to become primary topics of inquiry. As mundane as these daily activities may seem, they are actually the basis for the survival of our civilization and define our relationship with our fellow humans and our planet. There is deep philosophy in and practical consequences of how and when we do our laundry!  We’re now in our second full year of Earth House, and want to share here some of the highlights at the half-way point in our 2017-18 Earth House journey.

With support of an instructional staff from BU Sustainability, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Pardee School of Global Studies, students formed small teams to pitch ideas for how to advance the sustainability of Earth House – from its physical systems and structure to the practices and protocols for using its food, water, energy and waste systems. From counting nutritional content and carbon footprints of food to light bulb wattage and measuring showerhead water flow rates, project-based, student-led learning units were part of an eight-credit, two-year sustainability curriculum that builds student knowledge by transforming a house, and the practice of living in it, from the ground up.

The term culminated in a charette in which residents reviewed, refined, consolidated and prioritized their pitches, which have become our collective projects for implementation during Spring 2018.

To cap off the fall term, on December 3, 2017, Earth House students, working with Earth House faculty affiliate and Pardee School Professor Julie Klinger, had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to personally prepare a locally-sourced dinner for; host, dine with, and share our work with two indigenous leaders, Floriza da Cruz Pinto and Maria de Jesus Lima, from a Yanomami Women’s Organization called Kumirayoma, who visited Boston University to discuss grassroots leadership in Amazonia. Food and music in this amazing evening were the universal links that created instant Earth House allies and bonded us in our shared values of equality and sustainability for all life and people on our planet.

Earth House Yanomami Event

Earth House Yanomami Event


We are so excited that the students coalesced around what we’re calling the Earth House Food Project, which consists of six related sub-projects each led by a sub-team of student residents.  These include:

  • “Cradle-to-Grave” assessment of food consumed in Earth House and at BU, from farm to fork and back to soil as compost
  • “Food, Fiber, Health, Air & Ecology” project to grow food inside Earth House and in appropriate locations on campus
  • “Green Stations” in residential halls outreach project to extend tips and ideas from Earth House across campus
  • “Sustainable Food Prep and Cooking” plan for Earth House, which currently doesn’t have a common kitchen
  • “Food Waste and Composting” implementation project
  • “Media/Art/Communication/Marketing/Outreach” project that supports all of the exciting projects above.

Earth House students are learning everything from how to estimate the carbon savings of these actions, to how to work with and across the university and with municipal officials and business leaders, to how to calculate and defend an economic return-on-investment scenario. Ultimately these are critical tools Earth House residents are assembling in a toolkit to affect constructive change both in Earth House and on Planet Earth.

Ongoing and related projects at Earth House include a solar energy implementation project, a Smart power strip, Sense App analysis, and Earth House Energy/Carbon Budget, and Earth House and Beyond Bike Facilities.

To learn more, contact Lisa Tornatore, BU Sustainability Director at, or faculty team member Nathan Phillips at 617-997-1057.