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Ecosa Institute works to raise money to increase environmental awareness

The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - People gathered for an evening of wine, food and music Sunday night at The Raven in downtown Prescott. The pleasant evening had a weighty purpose behind it: The continued survival of the natural world.

The Ecosa Institute, a locally based school of environmental sustainability, hosted the Autumn Equinox Dinner as a fundraiser for the school, as well as an effort to raise community awareness of Ecosa's activities. Attendees paid for wine - which they symbolically exchanged an acorn they received at the door for - a meal, and an evening of music by pianist Liz Story.

"The Raven was a no-brainer as the venue for the event," said Sarah Frost, Ecosa's executive assistant. "It embodies a number of our values. It uses local products, it emphasizes organic food, and it supports community programs, like Ecosa."

Frost said Ecosa has not focused on raising awareness of its' presence in the tri-city area in the past as they focused more on environmental sustainability students from across the country.

"The Ecosa Institute has been exploring the concepts of sustainability and has been educating students about the issue and eco-friendly design," said Frost. "The sustainability has become more and more prominent locally; people are becoming more aware. We've been contacted much more often recently with requests for design projects, with questions and comments."

The Ecosa Institute, which has an office in downtown Prescott, had its first semester of classes in 2000, according to Tony Brown, the institute's director. He said they focus on intense single-semester courses that provide comprehensive education on the issue of sustainability.

"We have 12 students right now. Our classes count as college credit with Prescott College and Embry-Riddle, and we're working on making arrangements with the state universities," said Brown. "We educate designers from the viewpoint of how their designs impact the environment. With the storm of environmental issues we're facing, conventional design institutes are starting to catch up, but it's our entire focus."

Brown said the school's projects focus on zero-energy buildings and reducing waste materials. Their students have received commissions to construct eco-friendly buildings, something Brown said is "rare for students at their level."

"There's very few institutes like Ecosa in the country right now, with our focus on environmental issues in design," said T. Barnabus Kane, the Ecosa board president. "And there's few schools in general that offer such a comprehensive and intense curriculum packed into one semester. We're proud of what we do, and we want to get the word out. This event is as much a 'friend-raiser' as a 'fund-raiser.'"

Kane said that Ecosa is slowly but surely growing, and they plan to continue their tradition of sustaining the environment through the education they have instilled in their students.

"Sustainability has been a pressing issue for more than 30 years. We want to keep making people aware of their options, and to know what they do can have a real impact," said Frost. "That can be a positive impact or a negative one. It's all give and take mode; we've been in 'take mode' for too long. It's about time we started giving back."

For more information see the website at www.ecosainstitute.org.

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