Austin College students participated in the school’s eighth annual unplugged energy saving competition during the month of October and raised $1,770 for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
The competition challenged dorm residents to practice energy saving habits like turning off lights and taking shorter showers in an effort to save the most energy. Money saved and prize money will be donated to the Houston Food Bank’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Austin College Assistant Professor of Environment Studies and Director of Thinking Green Mari Ewing said the annual competition’s goal is to instill life-long energy saving habits in students.
“They may go and live in a house where they don’t pay for renewable energy so we want them to be mindful of how you can take small actions throughout the day to reduce resource consumption,” Ewing said. “And that’s a big part of AC thinking green and campus awareness — to be responsible stewards of our resources.”
Hurricane Harvey relief was chosen as the charity for this year’s competition because school representatives said the correlation between energy use, climate change and the dangerous weather that climate warming makes more likely. Students ended up saving over 10,000 kilowatt-hours for a total of $1,770 that will be donated to the food bank.
Student Sustainability Fund and THINK co-leader Katie Collins explained a baseline was established for each dorm to maintain fairness between the facilities.
“There are differences between the dorms in terms of how efficient they are by nature,” Collins said. “So what we do is before the competition begins we’ll take a baseline average. We’ll take a look at the metering. Then we’ll figure out how much was spent that week. This allows us to make the competition fair.”
Austin College is featured in the Princeton Review’s 2017 Guide to 375 Green Colleges. The college has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 45 percent since 2008. Improvements to electricity and natural gas use efficiency save the college about $430,000 per year.
Ewing explained almost 100 percent of AC’s energy is now generated by wind energy.
“We can’t guarantee what’s coming and actually lighting this building or heating this building are energy molecules that were actually created by wind,” Ewing said. “But what we can do is by paying for renewable energy credits, we can guarantee that there is the production of energy by a renewable source. That all goes into an energy grid and then it’s all distributed.”