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Editorial

Campus energy contest highlights important issue

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October 22, 2009

As part of UW-River Falls’ push to go “off the grid” by 2012, the Department of Residence Life implemented a residence hall energy contest to increase “green” awareness and promote more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyles for campus residents. The Student Voice Editorial Board strongly feels that residents need to become more aware of this contest, and should actively strive to participate.

The contest, which started several years ago, is a semester-long competition between each residence hall to decrease consumption in three categories: electricity, water and steam (steam is used as the primary heat source across campus). Each residence hall’s usage is tracked per month by Residence Life, and then compared against the hall’s usage numbers from that same month a year prior. The hall that shows the greatest percentage decrease in a particular category over the entire semester is awarded $250, which can be used in any way the hall sees fit. With a total of three cash prizes per semester, it is conceivable that single hall could win up to $750.

In a period of economic downturn and tighter campus budgets, these cash prizes could represent some fiscal breathing room for the winning halls to upgrade their desk equipment, fill out their recreational supplies or even just throw a party to relax during the stresses of finals.

But unfortunately, the energy contest is still under-supported. Too many residents are ignorant to the competition, its monetary benefits and how important reducing energy consumption is. Students need to take charge and join the global fight to “go green.”

And it can be so easy to reduce individual consumption by adopting a few simple techniques. Turn off the water while washing hands, brushing teeth and shaving. Take shorter showers, and turn off the water in the shower while lathering up.

Unplug appliances while not in use. Everything that is plugged in to a wall socket draws energy, even when powered down. Cell phone chargers, candle warmers, laptops, TVs and video game systems are all power drains that don’t need to be. Plug all electronics into power strips, and unplug the power strips when nothing is turned on. Turn off lights if they don’t need to be on, and utilize as much natural light as possible.

As the weather starts to cool, don’t open heater dampers all the way. Instead, wear more layers or wrap up in a blanket. Sweatshirts, shawls and wraps are a great alternative to upping the thermostat.

There is a plethora of ways students can save energy on campus. By actively competing in the energy contest, residents can both help UWRF go green and win their residence hall some much needed green.