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Going Green: Colleges Square Off in Contest to Conserve Energy

Ioana Patringenaru | February 2, 2007

Turn off the light when you leave the room. Don’t use your hairdryer. Take shorter, cooler showers. Unplug all appliances that aren’t in use.

Thousands of students at Revelle, Muir and Sixth colleges are trying to live by these rules for a month, while vying to win UCSD’s Green Campus energy conservation contest. The competition ends March 5.

Jessica Wall and Green Campus competition (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
Green Campus intern Jessica Wall stands next to her freshly
taped Green Campus energy saving competition poster.

The goal is to raise awareness and get students, staff and faculty into the habit of conserving energy, organizers said. “It’s important because energy efficiency and conservation are the first steps toward becoming environmentally conscious,” said Sarah Termondt, a third-year student who coordinated the effort.

Revelle, Sixth and Muir were chosen for the contest because they are equipped with live meters, Termondt said. Meters measure the colleges’ energy consumption from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5 and from Feb. 5 to March 5. The college that cuts back most from one month to the next will receive an ice cream party. It also will receive a pass to offset some of its carbon emissions. TerraPass sells carbon offset credits, then invests the money into renewable energy projects, including wind farms.

After the first week, Revelle is leading the contest, with Muir a very close second and Sixth trailing behind. Revelle won the competition in fall 2006 and Muir won in spring 2006.

At Revelle, some lights are on timers to help conserve energy, said Assistant Resident Dean Pedro Scotto. Some switches also come with stickers reminding students to turn off the light when they leave the room. Green Campus intern Jessica Wall publicized the contest. She e-mailed resident advisors a flier, which they could print on recycled paper. She conducted an informal poll and found about half of the students knew about the contest. “The students that know about it are doing a really good job at conserving,” she said.

Wall also has been trying to live by the contest’s rules. She takes cold showers after running. She’s already warmed-up from her run, so it’s a win-win situation, she pointed out. She also stopped using her hair dryer. Her very frizzy hair doesn’t look as good, but it’s well worth it, she said. Within the next few weeks, Wall plans to organize a take-the-stairs day at Revelle. She also will hand out a tip sheet urging students to keep their blinds open and cut back on artificial light.

“I think it’s important because it’s teaching them skills that they can use through their entire life,” she said.

Bryan Ward and Green Campus competition  (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
Muir student Bryan Ward and a Green Campus energy saving competition poster at the entrance of Tioga Residence Hall.

At Muir, Green Campus intern Bryan Ward made posters advertising the competition and taped them on elevator lobby windows. Another student made his own fliers, urging students to take the stairs so that Muir can win the contest. He posted the notes on elevator doors. Ward also put up information tables in residence halls and at the Sierra Summit restaurant.

Like Wall, Ward has been trying to practice what he preaches. He recently turned off the electric heater in his bedroom, in spite of chilly temperatures. “I just wear a sweat-shirt,” he said. He also tries to unplug any appliances when he’s not using them, especially those that use an A.C. adapter or a stand-by LED light.

Meanwhile, Sixth College recently screened Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” to educate students about the need to conserve and preserve the environment, said Resident Dean Marciano Perez.

“We want our students to think about what it means to be global citizen,” he said. “Part of that is being aware of environment.”

Resident advisors also have been publicizing the contest. One student recently e-mailed to ask if she could put up notes near light switches in laundry rooms urging students to conserve power and turn off the light. Perez’s office just ordered recycled paper for the copier. A Green Campus team will do a walk-through the office and make some recommendations to conserve energy, Perez said.

There’s one more step students can take to save power, in addition to turning off the lights, keeping away from hair driers, unplugging appliances that aren’t in use and taking cooler showers – but it’s not for the faint of heart. Line-drying clothes can save a lot of energy, said Termondt, the contest’s coordinator. The environmental systems major doesn’t live on campus anymore, but she and her roommates use a drying rack. She also monitors their household’s consumption. “I’m an energy auditor,” she said.

The Green Campus program currently serves 12 California State University and UC campuses. The program is sponsored by the Alliance to Save Energy, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. UCSD's Green Campus group is a student-led outreach program designed to educate the campus about energy efficiency.


Easy Ways to Save Energy

  • Buy and use ENERGY STAR® products.
  • Turn lights off when you’re not in the room and use daylight instead of electrical lighting whenever possible.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
  • Turn off computers in the evening; during the day, use your computer’s stand-by and hibernate modes instead of screen savers.
  • Plug appliances with phantom loads (TVs, DVD and VHS players, computers, printers, stereos, CD players, video game systems, iPod and cell phone chargers, etc.) into a surge protector and switch it off when appliances are not in use. (A phantom load is wasted energy plugged in appliances use in the "off" mode.)

For more information about energy conservation, go to:

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