Summer has started, but the Ruka had one more activity planned before we closed out this year. Over the course of the year we wanted to visit another intentional community outside of those in Memphis, but the semester flew by and we didn’t have a chance to visit until after school ended. We recently visited a community in Houston, Texas called the Rosalie HAUS. We met up with a member of the community named Matthias and he showed us around. He told us they classify themselves as a co-op defined by their commitment to live sustainably; there are ten people that live in the main house, two more live in the apartment above the garage. They have a garden, but more impressively they have an enormous water tank in their back yard. They have it rigged up so all of the rain water from the gutters run into the huge water tank. Matthias told us they run the six toilets off of the recycled water as well as the washing machine. Their washing machine water is then recycled again as it waters the plants in their garden. In the garage they have a bike rank where all of the members can store their bikes, and one member of the community has a car that is runs off of veggie oil! They also have solar panels in their yard that they are hoping to put up soon.
That was all of the things they did which gave us a great idea of how they live sustainably, but inside we learned how they live in community. We started in the kitchen and Matthias showed us both refrigerators—one personal, one community, the community pantry, and their recipe book. The way their community runs smoothly is based on a labor system. Each week each member has to give five house of work to their assigned duty area. Duties range from cleaning the bathroom to cooking and cleaning up dinner, to answering emails from curious visitors (thanks Frank!). They also have “elected officials” who hold community members accountable for different facets of living in the co-op.
Matthias then showed us around the community space. In addition to the kitchen, their main room, made up of the living room, library and dining room were all community space. Their living room is where their biweekly meetings happen, and the dining room area is where they share a community dinner Sunday through Thursday. The second and third floors are where the ten bedrooms are located; each person’s rent corresponds with the room they have. Rent also includes utilities, as well as community food money which is spent by the “buyers,” another job to fulfill labor hours. All of the rooms have individual heating and cooling. Matthias explained it as another method of sustainability. He said there is no reason to make the whole house hotter/cooler if only one person is uncomfortable. They also have a hot water regulator in their bathroom which allows them to immediately have hot water in their shower instead of wasting water while it heats up.
We finished the tour on the balcony of the third floor. Matthias told us about some of the people that live in the Rosalie Haus—he said they range from 23-40 years old and they are either students or have jobs and there is a range of interests. One woman is a lawyer, there are a few that work with different nonprofits, others work in farmers markets—quite a diverse mix.
We left the Rosalie Haus with a whole new perspective of community life. Instead of a three part missions statement they had one mission and that was to live sustainably. Instead of weekly chores, they had duty hours so everyone did equal work each week. Their system is different than ours, but it was really cool to see another group of people intentionally deciding to commit themselves to each other for the improvement of the environment.
All of us learned a lot and are grateful for the opportunity to visit the Rosalie Haus. Next year we hope to implement some of their sustainable practices such as recycling rain water and using solar energy. All in all it was a great visit, and thanks again to Matthias for his time and for showing us around!