During February, the “Greening Swarthmore” subsection of Earthlust hosted the “Tri-Co Energy Competition” at Swarthmore. The concept, developed by Bryn Mawr students who had their own campus-wide energy competition last year suggested that the program be made into a Tri-Co event. However, during the course of the month, communication broke down with the other schools, and it is not yet known which school won the inter-campus competition, and therefore which school has won the cash prize. At Swarthmore, however, Willets decreased their energy consumption per person from November by 2.6%, making Willets Swarthmore’s winning dorm and the recipient of a pizza party.
Unfortunately for the program as a whole, energy consumption per person increased by 0.7% from November. However, coordinators Nick Buttino ’09 and Kavita Hardy ’08 say there are many possible explanations for this. First, Hardy cites enthusiasm as a major contributor to Willets’ win, saying that that dorm’s high number of green advisors, the new student environmental equivalents to the academic SAMs, contributed to their high “excitement and participation” which “really speaks to the success of the green advisors program. In fact, remembering that the competition was going on seems to have made the biggest contribution to decreases in energy usage. Buttino points out that energy consumption in all of the dorms decreased in the first week when the competition was still fresh in students’ minds, and says that this proves that “all dorms are able to do this if interest is sustained.”
However, there are many other factors that could contribute to changes in energy consumption, including weather and construction equipment that gets plugged into the dorms’ energy supply. These variables will hopefully be controlled in future years of the “Tri-Co Energy Competition,” when energy consumption numbers can be compared to the same month in previous years. Hardy also hopes that in future years they will be able to “sustain interest once we’ve established this as a big Tri-Co event.”
Earthlust will soon hear about the results of the energy competition at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, at which point they will know which school will win the cash prize, donated largely by Bryn Mawr Facilities. Hardy says the winning school will use the prize for “something very visible and interesting and exciting on campus” that is representative of sustainability. Buttino says one of the ideas that Swarthmore could use was to “hook up one of the bikes in the gym to some sort of power generator or battery” that could power lightbulbs or something else visible to campus.
Overall, this year’s “Tri-Co Energy Competition” did not succeed in decreasing energy consumption at Swarthmore, but organizers hope that the event will help future sustainability efforts. The next major Earthlust events will be during Earth Week in April.