The Energy Bowl – Going Green on College Campuses
You might be familiar with the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, or even the Sugar Bowl, but have you ever heard of the Energy Bowl? Unlike the others mentioned, the Energy Bowl does not involve two teams clashing into each other or require a leather ball. Rather, the Energy Bowl was a two-week competition between Notre Dame and Wake Forest Universities to see which school would come out as the victor in reducing the most energy used in campus dormitories.
Beginning November 1st, each university set out to reduce energy consumption in residence halls by 6%. Not only did both schools meet this goal, but they far exceeded it; Notre Dame and Wake Forest reduced energy consumption by 9.6% and 8.1%, respectively.
Sponsored by the Office of Energy Management, two interns from the organization were responsible for designing the competition, Joseph Matt and Allison Grueber. However, they were not alone in making this competition possible. EcoReps, a newly revamped sustainability program at Wake Forest aided the sponsors by doing much of the ground work for the competition, with their primary responsibility being providing room assessments.
Annabel Lang, graduate of Wake Forest and facilitator of the EcoReps program, laid out the details for how they were able to monitor the amount of energy each dorm used. “We have something called the Building Dashboard, which is an online interface where you can see how much electricity [and water] each building uses.” The competition was originally a way to promote the use of the new dashboard installed at Notre Dame this summer, at which time Notre Dame approached Wake Forest and challenged them to the Energy Bowl.
The students took simple steps to conserve energy. According to Lang, buildings account for about 40% of energy used in the U.S., the single largest portion of energy use. “In buildings, the three major [uses] are lighting, heating, and air. So the most important thing we did was regulate the temperature, using as little energy as possible.” Although Notre Dame came out ahead in the competition, Lang views both schools as victorious in meeting their primary goal and hopes for an increase in energy awareness in the future.
The EcoReps program at Wake Forest currently has seventeen active members, all of whom are at different stages in the certification process. This course is necessary in becoming an EcoRep. “The process is self-guided, so people are at different points in the process. It’s divided into literacy and skills,” noted Lang. There is much emphasis placed on the “skills” aspect because research has shown that working professionals view interpersonal skills as paramount for success. Lang believes that it is essential not only to know what to say, but how to effectively engage students on the topic.
The long-term goal for the EcoReps program is to promote peer to peer education, develop good energy conservation habits in students, and for cross-pollination to occur between sustainability programs and competitive activities. “College is a time when people’s values and behaviors can change. It is a really critical period and it’s a window that closes pretty quickly. It’s important to develop these habits now and for sustainable practices to become mainstream in the student population,” Lang concluded.