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Green Scene: Students compete to reduce

by Russ Barnett, director of Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development Research and Development, and Bryan Shelangoski, associate director of residence administration last modified Mar 28, 2013 12:00 PM

University of Louisville resident student are competing in the Campus Conservation Nationals through April 12.

The contest to see how much they can reduce energy and water uses started March 23. This is their second year to compete, and they hope to do at least as well as their top 10 national finish last year.

In February 2012, the University of Louisville Campus Housing and Residence Life staff teamed up with Lucid Technologies, a Sustainability-minded company based in California, to participate in the Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN). The tagline for this national event is, “Compete to Reduce: Participate in the biggest energy reduction competition on the planet.”  The CCN is the largest nationwide electricity and water reduction competition on college and university campuses. CCN gives focus on reducing energy use and its attendant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to climate change. In Louisville, 2.05 pounds of CO2 is generated per kWh of electricity used. The main goals of the program are to:

  1. Engage, educate, motivate and empower students to conserve resources in their residences.
  2. Achieve measurable reductions in electricity and water use, preventing thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  3. Foster a culture of conservation within the campus community and propel campus sustainability initiatives.
  4. Participate in a program that enables students to teach themselves conservation behaviors that they can employ in the home and workplace in the future.
  5. Enable students to develop leadership, community organizing and career development skills.

According to Lucid, this competition offers valuable educational opportunities, such as enabling students to teach themselves conservation behaviors, as well as environmental and economic benefits. While most schools recognize the value of upgrading infrastructure as a mechanism for increasing resource use efficiency, changing the behavior of building occupants is a critical component of conservation.  Above all, CCN is designed to empower the future generation of energy and environmental leaders, and foster a culture of conservation within campus communities.

Housing and Residence Life, along with financial assistance from the Office of the Provost, dedicated funding toward this project and installed four ‘Dashboard’ meters into Kurz, Community Park, Louisville and Unitas residence halls. These Dashboards, proprietary to Lucid Technologies, provide real-time readings of each building’s energy use. What’s more, all of this information is centrally located and accessible to everyone — most importantly the students — via the online version. Lucid worked with the Housing and Residence Life staff to place photos and baseline information about each building on the website. They also incorporated the halls without the Dashboard meters to establish a campus-wide community of Sustainability-mindedness and dedication to the competition.

To collaborate and further emphasize the CCN competition, two professors on campus who were teaching an undergraduate course titled “Mindfulness and Sustainability” worked alongside the Housing and Residence Life staff. Their students were assigned to each of the residence halls, helping promote the competition, engage the residents and initiate unique programmatic ideas related to energy reduction. They attended hall staff meetings, posted signs and bulletin boards and programmatically assisted in changing the behavior of the residential communities.

In its first year in CCN, the residence halls were able to reduce their energy consumption during the three-week competition as much as 36 percent. Overall this placed the university in the top 10 nationally. This year additional Kentucky universities will be joining in the competition including the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Berea College, Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University.

In the “Battle for Bluegrass” all of Kentucky will be winners as we all collectively work to reduce our use of energy.

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