Experiment Has Students Renting, Living 'Green'

May 13, 2009 - News Release

It's healthy and profitable to live green — even in a rental home. That's the message that University of Guelph student Arthur Churchyard and his four roommates want to send to other students and to the community.

In fact, Churchyard is so committed to the cause that he's offering up his own house as a demonstration "sustainability hub" where he and others will show landlords and tenants how to work together to make a rental home environmentally friendly.

Churchyard, a fourth-year arts and sciences student, bought a 1970s-era bungalow downtown near Paisley and Edinburgh roads. He's dubbed it "Onean House," which means "to kindle" in old English.

He moved in this month with four other students — Marena Brinkhurst, Matt Setzkorn, Sara White and Garrett Gauthier. Churchyard will act as "landlord" in their model. He has already worked with Brinkhurst and Setzkorn In several of Guelph’s sustainability projects. In addition, six Guelph businesses and organizations have partnered with Onaen House, and the search for more partners continues.

The students plan to explore ideas for cost-effective retrofits and practices such as urban gardening, energy production and rainwater harvesting. They also aim to develop sample legal contracts, cost-sharing ideas and financial incentives to make environmentally friendly practices attractive for eco-house tenants and landlords.

"Our goal is to transform the landlord-tenant relationship," Churchyard said. "We want to make urban sustainability accessible and valuable to Canadian tenants and landlords."

Engaging the rental market is an essential part of making sustainable lifestyles real and appealing, especially in a university town with competitive rental markets, he added. He has already met with a number of landlords in Guelph who are keen on going green.

The ecological benefits of sustainable living are obvious, ranging from cleaner air and water to protection of Ontario’s countryside, said Churchyard.

"But there are also financial and social benefits for landlords, tenants and their communities," he said. Landlords benefit by having their tenants take an active role in caring for the house and property, and through green property upgrades and increased attractiveness to future tenants. Tenants benefit through lower water and energy costs, sharing fresh locally grown food, and gaining hands-on skills and experience with housing retrofits and sustainable budgeting.

Onaen House tenants will also work with neighbouring seniors and low-income neighbourhood groups to kindle community gardening and energy retrofit projects, Churchyard said.

"We hope to use the Onaen model to show it's possible to have landlords and tenants co-operating, with each benefiting, to green our urban rental housing and build resilience into our communities."

Churchyard, a fourth-generation Ontario Agricultural College student, was one of the core organizers of U of G's Sustainability Day and sits on the Energy Conservation Working Group, which involves students, faculty and staff in identifying and addressing energy conservation issues on campus.

He is also known for his award-winning work in radio and television communications that promote agricultural research. He recently received a 2009 Dr. William Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Involvement Award, which recognizes members of the University community who have shown commitment to volunteering and service.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982/bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1