Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Battle of the Bulbs

Starting in the fall of 2008, the Lasell College community will be increasing efforts on campus to encourage students to reduce energy use in their residential settings. There are many different routes we could take to encourage a reduction in energy use. It is fun to examine what is happening on other college campuses.

A common approach is to host contests in which residence halls compete to reduce energy use or increase recycling. University of Chicago hosts the Battle of the Bulbs. Tufts University runs a Do It in the Dark program which includes distribution of glow-in-the-dark condoms. Harvard hosts the Green Cup Challenge which measures six judging areas in the houses including energy, recycling, innovative eco-projects, environmental impact of events, participation in the campus sustainability pledge, and performance in food wastes audits. Oberlin College has emerged as a leader by implementing a building dashboard monitoring system.

Currently Lasell College does not have a program or contest in place to encourage students to reduce energy use. A competition between residence halls is not simple to conduct given our infrastructure. We have a unique campus in that we have a mixture of styles of residential housing. We have traditional dormitories, suite-style residence halls, and residence houses. Some residence hall buildings share electricity meters with dining services, faculty offices, and classrooms. The meter integrates electricity usage and does not reflect just student living. This is a challenge but something we can address through planning.

So what can we do right now? Clearly more immediate action needs to take place. To get the ball rolling, we are going to examine electricity use in the 15 residential houses on campus. Students in my Environmental Science class are going to grouped and will be assigned three houses. Their goal will be to compete with other groups in the class to take steps to induce the greatest reduction in electricity use for the month of October compared to baseline data from previous years. It is a start and hopefully we can develop a more exciting and formal program in the near future.

Yesterday I walked around campus to all the electricity meters. Campus police gave me a funny look but I think they let me slide by because I had a clipboard. With this data we can track the impact of student living and take measures to reduce electricity consumption. It is my goal to increase transparency in energy and water use to help students connect their living built environment to the natural world.

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