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The collective impact of reducing energy & water consumption on college campuses

This week, a three-week nationwide competition that challenges college and university campuses to reduce electricity and water consumption, the Campus Conservation Nationals, ended, where 150 colleges and universities participated across the US.

Results and winning schools will be publically announced on May 1st on the Campus Ecology program's website, which conducts the competition every year, and is run by the National Wildlife Federation.

Campus Ecology provides a platform for colleges to increase awareness and act upon sustainable campus life. To deal with global warming and climate change, the program offers college-tailored educational resources, incentives, recognition and networking opportunities aspiring community sharing of best practices and lessons learned.Working with colleges and universities through this program, the National Wildlife Federation aims to improve the schools’ campus greening & sustainability efforts, introduce or enhance green educational programs, and get students and staff involved through outreach programs, campus consulting, climate action competition, and educational resources.

The goal is to bring together sustainability directors and staff in high education, facilities managers, health & safety, campus planning, the business offices, and other education stakeholders, to work together on reducing carbon emissions on campus and managing sustainability.

Overall, the Campus Conservation Nationals competition reaches over 1000 higher education schools in the US each year and is supported by several foundations, businesses, and environmental organizations.

On April 25, Lucid, in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the National Wildlife Federation and Alliance to Save Energy hosted a special media telecast to meet university students whose teams participated in the water and electricity conservation competition. Check the Campus Ecology website on May 1, 2012 for results.

Initially, to reduce electricity and water consumption, campuses need to focus on increasing awareness on specific daily life actions, followed by behavior changes. This is no different than what the general public can do to reduce consumption.

Campus Ecology helps colleges set conservation metrics, work on energy efficiency projects, set a platform for monitoring energy, and enable the school to design an energy strategy and action plans beyond conservation. Along with advocating for sustainable life on campus, the programs also have an impact on the community at large, and in promoting academic integration of sustainable subjects and green career development.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy have been center stage in media, business, academia and government. For several years and the public have heard much about cutting electricity bills and reducing the carbon footprint. However, this year, the schools focused on their water footprint as well, showing compelling and encouraging results.

In the Water Category, twenty-five schools have competed for three weeks to achieve a greater consumption reduction. Student organizers and team captains reported that the first conclusion was that students were and are willing to change their behavior to save water.

The collective impact of the twenty-five schools yielded savings of 1,554,814 gallons of potable water over a three-week time period, which amounted to saving 10,365 hours of showering. For example, the Indiana University, the top winner in the Water Category, saved over 800,000 gallons of water in their dorms. In California, sixteen schools participated through their 'green campus' initiatives. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo came first in combined savings of electricity and water.

Electricity savings among all participants logged 1,739,049 kilowatt-hours with a carbon footprint of 2,642,287 Lb of CO2 and cost savings of $ 158,000.

Team captains and stewards reported on several strategies and actions in conducting the competition at their schools, where outreach programs were as creative as can be on college campuses.

Some schools provided stickers to participants to help promote awareness. T-shirts were given to volunteers, team members, teaching staff advocates, administrators, as well as other stakeholders. The idea was that a professor wearing the T-shirt in his or her classes will intrigue students to ask or find information about the competition.

Promoting and marketing the program on campus was mainly done through social media. Team leaders involved the RAs (Resident Assistants- trained peer leaders who supervise those living in a residence hall or group housing on campus) in motivating their residents to conserve, where some initiated competition among different dorm buildings on the same campus.

In particular, representatives demonstrated to students practical actions on how they can conserve energy and water in their daily lives. Some teams conducted mini-energy audits in buildings and educated the dorm residents of the actions they can take to reduce utilities usage. For example, some basic actions as turning off lights when leaving the room were initiated, or taking significantly shorter showers. Students were actually surprised when they realized how much electricity and water they were saving by small behavior changes.

Other ideas, originated by the student organizing teams, included incentivizing students to participate and get their dorm to achieve the largest energy reduction on campus. What were the incentives? Well, pizza and a raffle to win four new bikes. Since dorms’ overhead lights would have required refitting of new fixtures (outside the school's budget), in some schools LED bulbs were issued to students as a trade-in for their incandescent bulbs in desktops fixtures. These LEDs were affordable due to various utility companies incentives, merchants promotions, or local government rebates.

Case studies have illustrated that the Campus Conservation Nationals competition is a great educational tool to increase awareness and encourage students to take resource conservation actions daily.


Campus Ecology offers

college-tailored educational resources.

The Campus Sustainability Case Study database offers over 1000 case studies from US college and university campuses on a wide array of topics. It is searchable by topic, year, state, and school.

A new guide is available - the Student Sustainability Educators - a guide to creating an Eco-Reps Program on campus.

Also available Generation E Guide for students who take action on campus.

ClimateEdu eNewsletter provides news for the Green Campus, with in-depth case studies, research updates, reviews, reports, tools and announcements for on-campus environmental efforts.

A Webinar Series and Fellowships are offered as well. Check the Campus Ecology website.

Click on the National Wildlife Federation website (NWF) for more information.

Author Bio: Water consumption is very important task for me because I always have a painful attitude to everything that happens in the environment. And since I'm working as writer at ultius.pro and every day I have to deal with students and know a lot about their modern life, I decided to write this article about water consumption on colledge campuses. Hope, you enjoy reading it.

Marggie Hopkins's picture

Thank Marggie for the Post!

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