Inside the Sustainability Living-Learning Community

Living green at Carolina

Sustainability residents at Hope Gardens.

The Sustainability Living-Learning Community in Morrison is one of Carolina’s best-known Living-Learning Communities. To glimpse inside, we interviewed two Sustainability residents: first-year English & history major Andrew Soboeiro from Pinehurst and first-year geography & global studies major Ellen Currin from Raleigh. Here’s what they have to say about sustainability living at UNC!



Why did you apply to the Sustainability Living-Learning Community?

Andrew: Sustainability is important to me. I thought it would be helpful to be surrounded by other people who were also interested [in sustainability], to remind me to stay sustainable and to share their ideas. I never was interested in joining a fraternity, and it seemed like a good alternative.

What were you expecting? Were you nervous?

Ellen: I expected to live in a hall with people who would intellectually engage, share in the same activities, be up for intellectual conversations on the fly, and have conversations rather than just passing by in the hall and saying hi.

Sustainability residents paint pumpkins at a hall program.
How did it turn out?

Ellen: It was very much what I expected, and even better in terms of having a community. There are about 40 people, and I’m really friends with them, not just acquaintances. I can always just go into someone’s room and start talking about stuff like anarchy. I feel like our whole hall is just our space and I feel very comfortable in it.

Andrew: It’s a group of very different people. I was surprised to learn that at first, yet we became friends so quickly and so well…We have some people who grew up in Chapel Hill, a Chinese exchange student, some Canadians, Morehead Scholars, and NC Fellows. I also wasn’t expecting to learn about kinds of sustainability other than environmental, like political, educational, economic, and artistic sustainability.

Ellen pulls up sweet potato vines while volunteering at Hope Gardens.
What was your favorite Sustainability experience?

Ellen: I had a really good time working on compost, which we collect in Morrison and give to Hope Gardens. We’ve helped them rework their compost system. When we first started to redo the composting, we would carry the compost from one pile to another. That’s not usually fun, but…we had our hands in this rotting vegetable matter with no gloves or anthing. It’s fun to have the sorts of people who don’t think you’re crazy to want to dig barehanded through compost!

Andrew: I liked all the “dinner and discussion”s. That’s when people get together, eat and discuss different things. Often we’d just eat Skittles…it allowed us to bounce ideas off each other and get to know each other. It even helped my life in random ways…Ellen is our resident vegan. She led a “dinner and discussion” about veganism and talked about arguments for and against it. There was a woman who married into my family about a year ago who was a vegan, and we didn’t really have anything to talk about. But now, because of Ellen, I can talk to her.

Andrew and other Sustainability residents show off their creations.
How much time did you spend on Sustainability every week?

Ellen: The meeting was an hour and a half a week. Then you had to log eight external engagement hours and some number of community events per semester. I enjoyed seeing my friends, and it wasn’t any trouble….We clear trails in Battle Park, do trash pickup, and I go to Hope Gardens every week anyways. [Sustainability] has incorporated itself into other activities.

What leadership opportunities were available?

Andrew: There are three committees: Education, Social, and Service. Each one had two co-chairs. You apply for the position of committee chair or committee member at the beginning of the year. This is a new effort that Burt (the LLC Coordinator) came up with. The Education Committee, of which I was co-chair, gave different presentations about transportation, the economy, research, etc.

Ellen on a hiking trip with Sustainability in the North Carolina mountains.
What did you learn from living in Sustainability?

Andrew: I learned consistency between your ideals and the way you actually live your life. People have ideals, but I think a lot of people don’t live life any different than other people do. I learned ways to be more consistent.…I’m the person with ideals that everyone thinks are really crazy. I’m far from perfect still, but [living in Sustainability] made me more likely to pursue [consistency]. 

Students reading this might be considering applying to Sustainability. What would you tell them?

Ellen: I would absolutely advise them to do it…You don’t have to be a super crunchy granola environmentalist to be here. Because there are so many different facets to sustainability, everyone can feel part of it and contribute. If you’re engaged, it will become much more than a room to stay in at night.

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