Neatly tucked behind The Ridges in the woods on Dairy Lane, a small house sits up from the brick road. While it may seem like a regular house to a typical passerby, it is a bustling hub of sustainable living.
The OHIO Ecohouse is a form of student housing full of educational opportunities about sustainable living by practicing it firsthand.
According to its Project Mission, "The OHIO Ecohouse is not just a place– it is a dynamic education experience which promotes critical thinking and tangible actions toward sustainability."
On Tuesday, community members were welcome to the Ecohouse for a Thanksgiving dinner that provided an opportunity to learn more about food and holiday sustainability.
Sam Crowl, the associate director of sustainability at Ohio University, shows how sustainable practices are relevant in many aspects of life.
"People don't think about all of the ways that sustainability is connected to either food in the case of Thanksgiving dinner or just the Ecohouse lifestyle," he said.
Crowl chose to set aside worry about the effects of climate change for one night and enjoy the positivity that the Ecohouse meal provides.
"At Ecohouse Thanksgiving, it is a time during the year where we try to give thanks for what is happening and not focus on the negative, but focus on the progress in the positive," he said.
After two virtual attempts, the Ecohouse provided its first in-person Thanksgiving dinner celebration since the pandemic.
The kitchen and living room of the house were full of people who stopped by for the event, with the aroma of different foods filling everyone's nostrils.
All of the food provided was vegetarian, with classic Thanksgiving staples such as mashed potatoes and stuffing. There was also black bean and sweet potato chili, mushroom Wellington, butternut squash soup and more.
One of the meal attendees was Ellie Shanklin, a sophomore studying environmental studies. She was very satisfied with the food options.
"What's on the menu is amazing, especially because it's all vegetarian, I'm vegetarian myself," she said. "I don't have to worry about picking and choosing what I want to eat."
With each table set with plates and utensils and a mason jar of flowers in the middle of each one, the cozy atmosphere provided a unique way to educate others on the importance of sustainability.
"People learn in a very social setting, not an academic sort of setting and (are) able to ask questions," Crowl said.
Conversation flowed at every table in the Ecohouse between people from all different backgrounds.
"Some really good conversations often come up," Crowl said. "We ask people to share what they're thankful for in terms of positive progress on sustainability, and that's what I'm most interested in."
Gabi Turner, a freshman studying environmental sciences and sustainability, enjoyed the community aspect of the meal as well.
"I'm here because I think this is a really nice way to bring everybody together, and that's what the program is trying to incorporate with the sustainability as well," she said.
Turner and Shanklin are both Climate and Sustainability Ambassadors at OU as well. They follow sustainable practices in their everyday lives such as biking, using reusable water bottles and reducing plastic use.
"I'm a big plastic hater, even though it's kind of impossible to avoid," Turner said.
Sustainable practices are especially important around the holidays, which is what the Ecohouse is trying to spread awareness of by holding this Thanksgiving meal.
"I think it's especially important because the holidays is so much about consumerism," Shanklin said. "But that's not what it has to be about."
Shanklin encourages others to reflect on what the holidays are really about besides gift-giving.
"We need to remember to continue to practice the sustainable practices, especially right now, and just focus on the community aspect," she said. "You can still give gifts without contributing to capitalism."
Many often get caught up in buying someone the perfect gift or having the best food spread at a family Thanksgiving during the holiday season. In reality, the small moments like sharing a meal and conversation with someone else in the community, can sometimes matter more.
"I like the fact that we're all here and we're all just kind of getting together and sitting down and maybe we don't even know each other but we're willing to do this and we're willing to provide for each other," Turner said. "I think that's really special."”
Watch more about the OHIO Ecohouse Thanksgiving dinner below.