The Western Carolina University community not only signed on to participate in a three-week national energy conservation competition but also raised the stakes by entering an individual challenge with WCU’s rivals, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State University.
Beginning Monday, Feb. 13, WCU will measure which campus residence hall saves the greatest percentage of energy as well as how the percent reduction overall compares with institutions participating in the Campus Conservation Nationals competition, including Appalachian State.
To spread the word, organizers Lauren Bishop, energy manager for WCU, and Virginia Fowler, residential living’s assistant director for facilities, have teamed up with several student organizations to promote the “Battle of the Plug.” The name, a spinoff from football’s “Battle for the Old Mountain Jug,” has Bishop and Fowler hoping that the rivalry between Appalachian State University and WCU will rally the community to conserve as much energy as possible.
WCU has held challenges among residence halls in years past. This year, the competition will pit WCU against ASU and 170 other universities around the nation.
The idea to use the WCU-ASU rivalry to boost energy conservation and awareness came to Bishop a few years ago, and the framework of the Campus Conservation Nationals competition provided a vehicle to make it easier for the idea to become a reality, she said. Crystal Simmons, ASU sustainability specialist, called Bishop to see if the competition could work and the result was the “Battle of the Plug.”
“The rivalry has certainly changed the game for us,” said Devan Lalas, vice president of finance and administration for WCU’s Resident Student Association. Lalas’ colleague at RSA, Amber Marlowe, director of public relations, said she believes the rivalry will increase participation and make the competition more intense.
RSA and SGA have pledged to support the “Battle of the Plug” through organization of initiatives such as “Power Out for Poverty,” a voluntary blackout day, on Thursday, Feb. 16, to encourage poverty awareness and the impact of energy availability on reducing poverty, and “Dance in the Dark,” a free event in Illusions from 7 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, said Bishop.
“In addition to helping with the ‘Dance in the Dark,’ RSA is planning on using the ‘Battle of the Plug’ as part of our education program for students,” said Marlowe. Resident directors such as Jennifer Wilson, resident director for Blue Ridge and Balsam halls, are planning programs to educate students on energy consumption.
“Some things we’re asking students to do include unplugging items that hold a vampire charge, like cell phone chargers or computer chargers, when they aren’t in use, or turning off lights when they leave the room, things like that,” said Fowler. “Other things like taking shorter showers or washing your clothes in cold water also would help.”
Bishop and Fowler have arranged for table tents promoting the “Battle of the Plug” to be placed in the various dining locations on campus. “We want to use every marketing avenue available to us, and there are a lot of them,” said Bishop.
Previous energy reduction competitions at WCU have been strictly between residence halls on campus, said Fowler. In addition to that competition this year, energy usage data will be shared at the national level. Baseline power usage was established last week and the reduction percentages for each residence hall will be calculated based on those numbers. The residence hall with the greatest reduction percentage will have a hydration station installed, said Fowler.
The “Battle of the Plug” is part of Campus Conservation Nationals, which is a nationwide electricity and water use reduction competition among colleges and universities created by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and sponsored in partnership with Lucid, Alliance to Save Energy and the National Wildlife Federation. CCN, now in its second year, has seen participation surge from about 40 colleges and universities in the inaugural year to more than 170 participating institutions for the 2012 version of the competition.
“Campus Conservation Nationals encourages students to recognize the significant impact that sustainable behaviors can have on a campus and in a community,” said Pat Lane, USGBC students program leader at the Center for Green Schools. “This will be the largest national competition of its kind and will have far-reaching impact showing students that a collective effort, along with a desire to better the built environment, can lead to positive and lasting change.”
The pilot competition, held in 2010, reduced electricity consumption by 508,000 kilowatt-hours nationwide, and saved $50,200 from campus costs as well as averted 816,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The ultimate goal of this year’s competition is to reduce power consumption on campuses across the nation by 1 gigawatt-hour.
According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. home consumes around 11,496 kilowatt-hours of energy in one year. If the CCN’s goal is accomplished, participants could save enough energy to power roughly 87 U.S. homes for one year. Bishop reported that last year WCU energy consumption averaged about 3.66 gigawatt-hours per month.
“All in all, we are excited to have created the buzz about this competition, through the rivalry with App State,” said Bishop.
By Briton Bennett
Briton Bennett is a senior in the professional writing program. He has been an intern in the Office of Public Relations since fall 2011.