If all students and faculty at the University switched their computers to power-saving modes, they could conserve as much energy as removing 4,500 cars from the road. And this month as part of the Power Down for the Planet competition, University officials are trying to get the campus to do just that.

The competition, which the University entered last Monday, pits several colleges against each other to see which one can reduce its carbon emissions the most by setting personal computers to energy-saving modes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative are sponsoring the contest, which runs until April 17.

Bill Wrobleski, director of Technical Infrastructure Operations for the University’s Administrative Information Services, said the program’s purpose is to change the energy consumption habits of students and faculty at the University.

“By individuals committing we’re hoping to make some sort of a widespread impact and also to educate everybody about the potential positive effects they can have,” Wrobleski said.

To participate in the competition, students, staff and faculty must go to www.powerdownfortheplanet.org and pledge to use the power-saving settings on their computers. The university with the highest percentage of pledges will win.

By pledging, computer users agree to set their computers on sleep mode when not in use and turn them off at night.

A student steering committee of about eight members has been working to promote environmentally friendly computing and encourage students to participate in the competition.

LSA freshman Anne Laverty, a member of the steering committee, said she joined the committee to push students toward taking small steps to better the environment.

Laverty said switching computers to a power-saving mode is “a simple thing everyone can do that will really just pay off in the long run.”

Power Down for the Planet will sponsor UMix in the Union April 17. Members from the steering committee are planning activities like relay races, which end in participants turning off computers and taking trivia quizzes about green computing facts.

Since the event will be held on the last night of the campaign, the steering committee will collect the final pledges from students attending UMix.

Wrobleski said if a large percentage of the 80,000 computers located on campus were registered in the campaign, the University could “make a big dent in the power usage,” while also saving some green.

“If we can affect as many students as we think, we can save more than 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy,” he said. “That’s $150 million. More importantly, that’s one million tons of reduction in carbon emissions.”

While reducing energy consumption will save the University money, Wrobleski said cutting down on energy costs is not the goal of the campaign.

“What we’re doing here is we’re trying to change the behavior of individuals and departments across the University,” he said.

The competition also involves a video-making contest in which students can film a story about their green computing practices. The videos will be posted on YouTube, and students with winning films will receive prizes like laptops, software, cash and bicycles.

This year’s contest is the first with competitors from universities like Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue competing. Wrobleski said he hopes it becomes an annual event with more universities participating each year to cut down energy consumption throughout the United States.

“This is one of those cases where we thought either we can just try to tackle this in Ann Arbor, or we could try to tackle this across the country,” he said.

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