Sustainable Songwriting | St. Lawrence University Sustainability Program

Sustainable Songwriting

by Lauren Olson

Writing a song is a lot more difficult than it might seem. Luckily enough, we were able to have a professional at our disposal when writing one for our household. SLU folk legend Dan Berggren spent last weekend with us. It started with a crowded dinner, in which Dan was immersed into our Friday night guest dinner. Fifteen of us squeezed up to the table to enjoy a raucous meal of stories, catching up, and laugher. We introduced him to our tradition of sharing our highs and lows of the day, and he jumped in fearlessly with a story of a near miss with a deer. 

After dinner, we got to enjoy a private performance of Dan’s musical talents. We packed into our classroom, sitting on the couch, blankets, and yoga mats and listened to his songs. They were teaming with funny SLU stories, historical events, and most importantly environmental activism. Dan’s deep radio voice impressed us all, and throughout the concert he reminded us that we’d be writing our own song the next morning in our workshop with him, a feat that seemed incredibly daunting.

It surprised us all, when only an hour and a half into the workshop the next morning we had a solid chorus that we’d all participated in creating. We sat around the living room, some curled up in comfy chairs, others perched on the edge of the couch with instruments balancing on their laps. We were focusing on the theme of our sustainability semester, so we brainstormed together aspects that were important to us. Finally what we concluded was that, in our song, we wanted to show the different moments in a typical day. We broke the day up into morning, mid-day, afternoon, and evening, and then paired off to create these verses.

 After fifteen minutes or so we came back together and each read what we had. While they didn’t perfectly match, or have the same amount of lines, the ideas expressed our favorite aspects of that time of day. Our life here is different than anything we’ve ever experienced before. While not every second is perfect, each day here is filled with projects and experiences worth writing about. The problem with writing these verses was that we couldn’t fit everything in. A million songs could be written about our days spent on the Sustainability Semester; but what we came up with shows some of our favorite memories of our time here. 

 Dan managed to make this daunting task possible by walking us though each step. He shared his vast knowledge of song writing with us, and taught us how to take our complex memories and feelings and express them musically to others. In the days after he left, we’ve sat around the kitchen practicing and editing our song. What we came up with is an ode to our sustainability values and the community we’ve created here.

Check out Dan Berggren:

- Zelie and Lauren 


Going Abroad (Just Down the Road)


Quarter of 8 in the morning

Gotta get up, can’t be snoring

Racing down the double stairs

Is there a bathroom to spare?



Coffee coffee in the air

The crunch of grapenuts in my ear

Silent stares across the table

Pass the milk when you are able


Along the way, we have found

An eclectic group of folks

Teaching a different kind of knowledge

Bound in traditions of the past

Knitting skills that kick ass

Cheese, tofu, curtains, soap

We have learned the skills to grow


On go muck boots, overalls

Sunshine, rain, wild snowfalls

To the barn, get supplies

Plant seeds, shovel cow pies

On the garden spread it out

In a few weeks, see the sprouts

Earth’s got rhythm, we’ve got movement

Work together, become a unit


Hear the bell, wander in

Lolligag and compliment

Before the feast begins


No mystery meats, no GMOs

We know where our food is grown

Hang out and play high-low


Dishes done, snacks been had

Napkins back up on the line

For community we are glad