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Dorms hold sustainability contest

Robert Singer | Friday, September 26, 2008

Notre Dame students who turned off the lights before heading to class this morning brought their dorms closer to winning this year’s “Dorm Energy Competition,” along with its $500 prize.

Beginning yesterday and lasting until Oct. 19, the competition will pit residence halls against one another to see which can most improve its energy consumption. According to Rachel Novick, education and outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, results will be compared against an average of each dorm’s usage over the last five years to determine the winner.

“The purpose of the competition is to engage the students to participate in the University’s sustainability efforts, ” Novick said.

The dorms that have more students unplugging appliances and turning off lights will be the more successful, GreeND president Lourdes Long said.

“The dorm that wins is the dorm that gets the most people involved,” she said.

“It’s not just about a month long competition, it’s about getting people to live more cautiously,” GreeND student-coordinator Sarah Cline said. “If we can get people to change their lifelong habits, it’ll definitely make a huge impact.”

According to Novick, by powering down computers nightly, unplugging unused appliances, turning off lights when no one is around, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, students can markedly reduce their dorm’s energy use.

Long also said cell phone chargers waste a lot of energy.

“Cell phone chargers are a good example of ‘vampire technology,’ which means they suck a lot of energy just by being plugged into the wall,’ she said. “95 percent is wasted; only 5 percent is used to actually charge the phone.”

The coordinators are optimistic about the competition’s success.

“There’s the misconception that what one person does doesn’t make a difference in the long run,” Long said. “But it really can. We expect a 10 percent reduction.”

If dorm-wide energy use is cut by 10 percent, Novick said, then Notre Dame will save $7,000 and prevent 95 metric tons of carbon from being emitted.

The competitive aspect and prize incentive are meant to energize students who would not ordinarily dedicate themselves to environmental issues.

“We want the kids that couldn’t care less about energy consumption, those who just want a piece of pizza.” Long said. “Everyone likes competition, everyone likes prizes.”

“I think there are very few things that get Notre Dame students more excited than competition,” Cline said.