Author: Sydney Bowman
Occidental students, divided by residence hall, competed March 13–April 2 to conserve the most electricity. Residents of Wylie Hall emerged as the winners of Spark the Change — the competition organized and led by Sustainability Coordinator Jenny Low and resident advisers (RAs) — with an 11 percent reduction in electricity consumption. Low attributes Wylie’s success to its small number of residents and to efforts by RAs to get the word out.
“Wylie’s low number of residents, coupled with both eco-friendly attitudes and a well-designed common room definitely provided us with an advantage,” Wylie resident Nicholas Fong (sophomore) said via email. “The challenge made me consciously aware of the need to reduce our energy consumption.”
Residence halls saved a cumulative 4,418 kilowatt hours of energy, according to Low. The energy saved was equivalent to one person using a refrigerator, LCD television, desktop computer and light continually for half a year, or to half the energy used in March in Haines Hall, where 134 students live.
Low and the RA leaders for the competition established a baseline of electricity use in each hall through measuring the average rate of electricity consumption from Feb. 21 to March 5, with which they compared the electricity used during the competition.
According to Low, the three-week span of the competition was strategically allotted in order to allow for students’ habits to change, as two weeks is a general time frame to form energy-conserving and sustainable habits.
“The challenge got me personally into the habit [of energy conservation],” Micah Garrison (sophomore), RA leader for Wylie, said. “If we approach energy saving through forming habits like this challenge, I think we could get to a really good place.”
Spark the Change was adapted from a one-week competition last year. Low introduced new factors to the challenge, including the building dashboard, a software that records electricity conservation data and compares residence halls.
When deciding what kind of energy use to track in the residence halls — electricity, gas or water — Low determined that electricity was the best to record due to the reliability of Occidental’s electricity meters.
Residence halls were also grouped into four subdivisions within the competition, with each hall competing for discounted and free meals from local restaurants in Eagle Rock. These groups were decided by year and physical building similarities, such as air conditioning and hallway light control. The groupings generated three other winners from the competition: Haines, E. Norris and Braun halls.
According to Low, many residence halls’ energy use improved drastically over the course of the three weeks. Norris started out with a 3.2 percent increase in electricity, but ended up winning its subdivision. Haines made a strong effort to knock Wylie from first place, and overall had a decrease of 8.8 percent in electricity consumption.
“Although I do not live in Haines, I can tell that they already had some great energy reduction methods — they keep many of the hallway lights off when they’re not needed, and keep windows open, which minimizes the need to use their fans on the highest setting,” Cyntica Brown (sophomore), RA leader for Haines, said via email.
Wylie residents received 60 individual WakaWaka Power+ solar chargers, enough for every resident, to continue their electricity saving habits. A light and solar charger combined into one, the devices can fully charge a smartphone in under two hours with just the sun. For every charger purchased, WakaWaka gives one to someone in an area undergoing a humanitarian crisis, as efficient power and light can be critical for those located in off-grid or war-torn regions.
Because the chargers Wylie received were purchased at a discounted price and had cosmetic defects, no reciprocal chargers were given to people in humanitarian crises. Occidental students can now purchase the chargers at a discounted price and in turn give one to someone in need.
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