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Residence hall energy contest reduces consumption

November 6, 2008

UW-River Falls is taking sustainability initiative with an energy conservation contest to reduce consumption in the residence halls. The winning hall for each category receives a $250 prize.

“We have seen and continue to see reductions in all three areas,” Kristie Feist, assistant director-community development and education department of residence life, said in an e-mail interview.  “During last year’s contest, all but one hall reduced their overall electrical and water usage for the year.”

The contest measures the consumption of electricity, water and steam in each residence hall. It began spring semester 2006 and continues to be effective.

“We have seen and continue to see reductions in all three areas,” Feist said. “During last year’s contest, all but one hall reduced their overall electrical and water usage for the year.”

Last year’s winners were Parker Hall, for reducing electricity consumption by 3 percent, Grimm Hall for reducing steam usage by 6 percent and Hathorn Hall for reducing water consumption by 19 percent.

“It’s important for students to know that they really have the power to make a positive change in their community and environment by doing a few simple things a day,” Feist said.

Students can control their consumption by using natural light instead of room lights, shutting down computers, taking shorter showers and filling the washer when they do laundry. 

“I always make sure when I leave the room I turn off all the lights and I don’t take long showers,” student Sara Hattamer said. 

Each student has a heater in their room with a gauge that they can control the temperature with.

It is important for students to use the gauge instead of opening their windows when it gets warm in their rooms, Rebecca Alexander, treasurer of Earth Consciousness Organization (ECO), said.

“To reduce my energy consumption I make sure I unplug everything when I am not using it,” Amber Mijal, student and Johnson Hall residence assistant, said.

“It is easy if you plug [multiple appliances] into a power strip, then you just have to shut the power strip off.”

The contest is sponsored by Student Senate, Residential Living, ECO Club and Area Council.

“We have been fortunate to have a number of student organizations offer both financial and verbal support for sustainability initiatives in our department, including the Energy Conservation contest,” Feist said.

The winner of each category receives a $250 prize that the students can spend however they want.  In the past, winning halls have hosted a party and purchased sweatshirts, Alexander said.

UWRF has made other changes to improve energy efficiency in the halls. Last year the Residential Living Committee and Student Senate voted to increase the cost to live in the residence halls to help cover the additional cost of purchasing green blocks of energy.

“I don’t like the price increase, but it is a great way to improve our University and set an example to all the other universities,” Hattamer said.

Green energy blocks are generated from non-carbon based renewable sources such as wind, hydro, solar and biomass. Green energy helps to improve the environment by reducing pollution and consumption of non-renewable resources.

“Last year students voted to pay for all the residence halls and the University Center with green block energy,” Alexander said.  “Currently we are at 40 percent, but eventually we will be at 100 percent.”

Throughout the year the results of the energy conservation contest are posted on bulletin boards in each hall, the green kiosk in the University Center and in “Living Green,” a monthly electronic news letter.

Currently Parker Hall is in first place for electricity with a 32 percent reduction and Crabtree Hall is in first place for water and steam with a 60 percent reduction in steam and a 1 percent increase of water usage.