By Natalie Roadarmel
Energy usage in the dorm halls is something every student who has lived on campus has experienced, but likely not put much thought into. How much electricity is wasted by leaving power cords on when they’re not in use? What about leaving on the lights in a room when nobody is there?
Junior Ilana Mass had these same questions, and decided to do something about it. Her curiosity and intrigue lead to the creation of Willamette Unplugged, an energy competition between residence halls that began on Feb. 15 and will run until March 15.
This event came into fruition last year when Mass held the role of Sustainable Learning and Living Community Resident Advisor and was enrolled in Chem 110. During a project related to the solar panels at Ford, Ilana realized there was no measure of how much energy students on campus were using, and in turn no accountability for students in trying to reduce their energy usage.
“With the support of the East Side Area Coordinator, Kelly Donaldson, the head of the Sustainability institute, Joe Abraham and energy data from facilities, I wrote a small green fund grant to do research on the feasibility and implementation of an Energy Competition on campus. I got tips from universities all across the country and decided to try to make it happen in the Spring semester after I returned from study abroad. I reached out to students on campus who I thought would be interested in my project. I am currently working with Rachel Fischer, Isabella Mejia, Lauren Collar, and Johannes Griesser without whom I would not have been able to make this happen.”
To ensure data is collected, all residence halls on campus have been metered to collect electricity data. Multiple dorm halls are being grouped together into “teams” which will then compete against each other. To account for size differences of buildings, baseline data was created specifically for each residence hall. The buildings will compete for the largest percent of energy reduction, which will be calculated through the comparison of the amount of energy used and the calculated baseline.
For students looking to reduce their electricity usage and propel their residence hall forward in the challenge, Mass has helped highlight every day actions that will reduce energy usage.
“Be mindful. Unplug chargers or other electronics when they are not in use. Hang out with your friends! Turn off all the stuff in your room and share the electricity by hanging out in common areas. Or better yet, turn off all the electricity using items in your room and your friends room and head outside.”
Other ways that students can take initiative over their energy usage is by turning off power cords when they are not in use, choosing to utilize sweaters or blankets for keeping warm instead of turning on the heater, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
To get involved in Willamette Unplugged, sign up for their Facebook event and take their Sustainable Living Pledge, which enters you into a raffle that will occur every Friday of the competition. Lastly, while lessening energy usage is a great way to improve environmental footprints, keep in mind that there are still fire codes that must be followed, and some lights in the residence halls cannot be turned off.