Ohio University's flagship energy conservation competition -- Residence Challenge 2010 -- will take place Jan. 18 through March 7. In its 10th year, the annual intra-university competition pits university residence halls against one another in a race to reduce electricity consumption.
Over the course of its existence, Residence Challenge has saved between $70,000 and $100,000 in annual electricity costs, in addition to averting thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Office of Sustainability, which manages the event in collaboration with Residential Housing.
But cutting costs is just one piece of the puzzle.
At its core, the seven-week competition is really about inspiring behavior changes that have positive environmental ramifications, according to Damien Snook, a graduate assistant with the Office of Sustainability who coordinates the competition.
"Sustainability is such a ubiquitous concept in today's society, but not everyone knows how to apply it and incorporate it into their lives," said Snook. "Residence Challenge is a great opportunity to teach students how little changes in behavior can make a really big difference."
Popular and simple ways to save energy include turning out lights, unplugging appliances when not in use, and turning off computers (rather than putting them into standby), explained Snook.
Residence Challenge also features special programming, including in-hall presentations and activities by the Eco-Reps, a candle-lit conservation dinner in the dining halls, and "Save Rave" hall events put on by Residential Housing staff.
"Many students believe they don't have as much of an impact as they really do," said Snook. "We want to show students that it's not very hard to live sustainably and you can do it even if you're living in a residence hall."
In Residence Challenge, a baseline is created for each residence hall using average electricity usage from the past three years. Within each green, residence halls compete to see who can post the greatest reduction from this baseline.
In this way, halls are competing against other buildings on their green, but also against their own historical stats, explained Snook.
To account for differences in size and population in the residence halls, the competition uses percentage electricity reduction, rather than total reduction. This means large buildings like Bromley or the Convocation Center have an equal opportunity to compete against smaller buildings like Brough and Cady.
"Every year, that baseline goes down, and every year the students outperform themselves," said Snook. "You would think that it eventually has to come to an end, but (every year for the past) nine years, the energy savings are greater and greater."
The winning residence hall on each green will be awarded all-expense-paid trips to Cedar Point amusement park -- a prize that came about as the result of student focus groups. And according to Snook, the costs of the trip are more than covered by the energy savings generated by the competition.
The number of tickets to Cedar Point depends on the total amount of carbon dioxide averted by the three winning halls -- offering an incentive for the top halls to continue saving as much as possible.
Scoreboards with current and cumulative results are produced by the Office of Sustainability weekly and are posted in the residence halls and online.
Snook is also encouraging students to join the competition's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ResChallenge.* The site will include Residence Challenge scoreboards, tips for saving energy, notices of events, quizzes with prizes for participants and more.