It's Not Easy Being Green

Taking the elevator can be hazardous to your health,”” says a sign in the Tioga and Tenaya Residence Halls in John Muir College. “”From ‘1992-2001, an estimated 30-31 passengers died annually in elevator and escalator related tragedies.'”” This and other signs encouraging students to take the stairs are not the result of paranoia, but are rather one of Muir freshman Gil Hong’s strategy to win UCSD’s third quarterly Energy Saving Competition.

Richard Pham/Guardian

The Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit organization public-policy organization based in Washington, D.C., funded the program.

“”We want students to learn why energy efficiency and conservation are important in terms of the environmental impact and we want them to form the easy energy-saving methods they use during the competition into a habit,”” Eleanor Roosevelt College junior and project leader Sarah Termondt said in an e-mail. “”We want these students to … realize their responsibility to apply environmental stewardship in their professional lives.””

The competition, held between Muir, Revelle and Sixth Colleges, has given saving energy a more active role at UCSD. Students living in the residence halls are encouraged to turn off lights and take the stairs more often to save energy. E-mails sent to students give weekly percentages of the amount of energy saved, providing them with up-to-date reports on how their energy-saving decisions are helping their college. Signs around the three colleges challenge students to “”do it in the dark”” – tapping into their competitive natures. Students who are involved in the competition are cutting certain luxuries, like blow-drying their hair, to help their college save just a little more energy and win the prize, an ice cream party.

Currently, only Muir, Revelle and Sixth Colleges have residential areas with live meters, which allow the Green Campus Program to calculate the changes in energy usage quickly. In a move that will allow it to compete in the future, Thurgood Marshall College is working on installing live meters as well. The goal is to ultimately have campuswide competitions with all six colleges. Muir won the first competition last spring, and Revelle won the second one in fall quarter 2006. The current competition will end March 5 at midnight. So far, Revelle is in the lead.

As of Feb. 28, Revelle residents have reduced their energy consumption by 20.24 percent from last month, Muir is down 15.71 percent and Sixth is falling behind with a 3.12 percent drop. These percentages are taken from a baseline determined one month prior to the beginning of the competition. These calculations, however, do not take into effect weather differences that result in the use of heating or air conditioning, or the time change in the middle of fall quarter, which resulted in an increased energy use as the sun set several hours earlier, resulting in the cancellation of future fall competitions.

The winner of the competition will receive an ice cream party along with a certificate from TerraPass, a company that sells stickers to fund renewable energy sources such as wind power.

The competition has also saved UCSD some money. Currently, $5,085.15 worth of energy has been saved. However, there is little chance of seeing a decrease in housing fees solely because of these competitions.

“”A small program for a short time like this isn’t going to have much impact to a 12-month housing and dining program covering over 3.4 million square feet of the campus as far as cost reduction,”” Mark P. Cunningham, director of Housing and Dining Services, said in an e-mail. “”That said, I really appreciate and support every effort to conserve and every effort helps to keep increases down one way or the other in the future. I personally believe the program achieves much more than financial savings in that it helps educate students on conservation.””

Students also have a better understanding of what they can do to conserve.

“”The competition has raised student awareness of conservation,”” Kevin Jones, resident dean of Revelle College, said in an e-mail. “”Few past efforts have been effective, so this competition has been much more successful than previous attempts.””

During the winter competition alone, the three colleges have reduced the total of carbon dioxide emissions that they had used the previous month by 92,729.29 pounds.

“”That’s equivalent to taking nine cars off the road,”” Muir junior and team leader Bryan Ward said.

Ward also noticed that more lights in Tioga and Tenaya Halls have been turned off at night when they are not in use, keeping true to the competition’s motto of “”get ready to do it in the dark.””