Competition kills waste

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The Harmonettes perform at the Kill-A-Watt Unplugged Concert in East Hall Wednesday. The concert, which featured many campus a cappella groups, was zero-waste and low-energy. Buy this photo

By Hillary Crawford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 4, 2013

The University has put a positive twist on its sustainability initiative with the third annual Kill-A-Watt competition, where students in the residence halls challenge each other to decrease energy consumption in their residence halls.

In a ceremony Wednesday at East Hall, Helen Newberry Residence Hall took the grand prize for using the least energy, while Martha Cook Residence Hall and East Quad Residence Hall came in second and third place, respectively.

During the one-month competition, students living in various residence halls collaborate with each other and form friendly rivalries with other halls.

To win the competition, a residence hall must decrease its energy use by least ten percent from the same month the year before. To be officially announced as a Kill-A-Watt Energy Saving Winner, halls have to reduce their energy use by the same amount, in comparison to a more long-term standard — the average energy consumption during the past four years. Students from the winning halls are then offered opportunities to attain scholarships.

Kill-A-Watt rates its participants in terms of quantifiable energy reduction and incorporates an effort-awarding aspect through the distribution of “enthusiasm points.” Points are earned by submitting videos proposing energy-saving plans and by creating individual sustainability events.

This year’s winners were announced at an event called Kill-A-Watt Unplugged, where campus music groups and solo artists led a “free, zero-waste and low-energy” concert.

LSA junior Natalie Stevenson and Public Policy junior Kayla Ulrich worked together to put on the competition as part of the Kill-A-Watt team. This year, the group added more residence halls to the mix and increased their publicity to get the word out across campus.

“We find sustainability to be one of the more big issues right now, and we really want to involve everyone and make it not just relevant to environmentalists, but to everyone at Michigan,” Ulrich said.

Stevenson added that one of their main goals is to instill behavioral changes within students to encourage them to lead sustainable lives, even after the competition.

At the event, attendees enjoyed free food, watched performances by campus a capella groups and participated in sustainable activities.

Kill-A-Watt is one of many programs supported by the sustainability initiative announced by President Coleman in 2009, and statistics show that sustainability on campus has improved since then. The Office of Campus Sustainability released its annual report Wednesday on the progress made by the University in furthering a greener campus.

According to the OCS press release, the University has successfully encouraged 80 University offices to participate in the Sustainable Workplace Certification program and has lessened energy consumption in 137 University buildings by 8.4 percent, since last year, among other achievements. Although progress has been made, new energy technologies offer greater potential for the future.

One of the activities, hosted by LSA junior David Levine, invited attendees to make small ecosystems out of recycled light bulbs with sand, moss and other materials. As a Planet Blue student leader last year, Levine said he chose to get involved with Kill-A-Watt to continue his support of on-campus sustainability practices.

“Just turning off the lights, that simple action, goes a long way,” Levine said. “Saving energy is one the easiest hard things to do, so we’re trying to show that saving energy is actually easy and can improve how you live your life.”

—Daily Staff Reporter Jennifer Calfas contributed to this report.