Cooperative Living at Colorado College

COLORADO SPRINGS — The shovel bit into my palm as I sliced its metal blade into the soil, heaving up the remnant roots of chard and vines of weeds that twisted over the garden bed. My muscles quivered from the manual labor, swing after swing as I churned the cold, dark earth after a summer season of growth.

I was working in the brisk, fall afternoon shadows of Old Synergy, a yellow house perched at the edge of a field on Colorado College’s campus. In 2003, a group of students founded Synergy to be a community dedicated to an environmentally conscious lifestyle.

Today, it exists as the only independent, student-run cooperative on campus.

“One of the main things that Synergy does, and this being a more geographic issue that we like to care about, is water,” said Katie Pell, a Synergy resident from Swarthmore, PA.

She explained the unique capturing and recycling of “grey water, ” where Synergists place buckets underneath sinks and in the shower to collect any extra runoff. Residents then dump the murky, smelly water down the toilets as an alternative flushing method.

At Synergy, we try to practice what we preach: We live with less water, heat, and plastic, buy products that minimize environmental degradation and human exploitation, and grow as much of our own produce as possible.

What really brings Synergy together is the food: the potatoes dug up from our garden and roasted in the oven, the ripe tomatoes in a salad, and juicy, tangy peaches in a cobbler served at our monthly potlucks.

“By growing our own food and learning how food grows,” said Mira Peterson, Synergy’s garden expert raised on a farm outside of Seattle, “it gives us a kind of appreciation for food and also more knowledge into the process, and lowers our overall impact, because food is kind of one of the major ways that people are unsustainable. And so it’s kind of just all of us learning together through the garden.”

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