Students lead sustainable lifestyle in co-op home
In the middle of a woodsy neighborhood, an off-white house sits distinct with a sprouting garden decorating the tidy presence of the home.
On the front patio, the bug-shaped windcatcher dangles in front of the door, playing a soft chime as it tussles with the wind. An arrangement of sandals, loafers and sneakers reflects the diversity of the home's inhabitants.
Once inside, a unique, tropical environment welcomes visitors to the Peanut Butter Palace, an environmentally cooperative home, founded two years ago by UCF student Mckinnley Workman.
Samuel Sickets, one of the first roommates to move into Workman's co-op, said one of the first items they purchased was a 45-pound barrel of peanut butter, which dubbed the Peanut Butter Palace.
Workman, a senior mechanical engineering major, and six other roommates are reducing their carbon footprint by growing their own produce and herbs and being conscious of their electricity consumption. The majority of the residents in the co-op also follow vegan or vegetarian diets.
"It's very motivating to be surrounded by people with the same mindset on life," said Sickets, a senior civil engineering major. "Everyone is positive. Everyone wants to work together on saving the Earth."
Sickets is president of the student organization I.D.E.A.S, which helps promote environmental sustainability concepts on campus and in the Central Florida community.
For Sickets and the rest of his roommates, including senior digital media major David Kimball, the heartbeat of the house's environmentally friendly motif is taught within their expansive backyard garden.
"It's the crux of our operation in the sense of the idea and the goal," Kimball said. "In the sense of our practice, we are slowly trying to replace more and more [of] what we buy with what we grow in the garden."
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Small herbs, spinach and kale beds lead to a small green pond sustaining the life of leaping frogs and scurrying lizards.
Beyond the pond, thick banana and papaya trees are starting to ripen their green fruit. A thicket of weeds, sunflowers and grape bushes house a box full of rambunctious bees.
Along the side of the house, a rope from a tomato bush wraps around the metal fencing and drips the ripe, fire-red fruit from its vines. Various squash, red peppers and other greens sprinkle the earthy haven.
The seven residents of the Peanut Butter Palace organize the growth of the garden by maintaining their individual palates. They keep the residence running smoothly with weekly house meetings to assign various tasks such as cooking, cleaning and garden upkeep. And once a month, the residents chip in to buy food and resources for the garden.
On one particular night, Sickets is assigned dinner using vegetables from the garden. The menu consists of eggplant Parmesan, zucchini pasta, fresh garlic bread and a tomato, bean and tempeh sauce.
Reggae music playing from the kitchen sets a relaxing vibe. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg from the freshly baked almond-crusted banana bread and oatmeal raisin cookies permeates the house, igniting hunger.
"Having our own garden is really the most sustainable way to have food. Nowadays, food is shipped from very far away and a total of 50 percent of food is wasted," Sickets said. "Local food is what we try to go for."
Partnering with the local permaculture groups of Orlando, the residents want to show that preserving the environment isn't difficult to do.
"I would call this like a launching pad for learning and sharing skills," Kimball said.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.