Climate Challenge, frats reduce energy usage

Eden Essick

As a participant of the National Campus Energy Challenge, Whitman is competing among 117 schools to reduce the highest percentage of energy in the month of February. The competition brings together two campus groups that haven’t yet collaborated: the fraternities and Campus Climate Challenge, which is an off-shoot of Campus Greens focused on global warming issues.

“Greek life isn’t usually involved in environmental things on campus,” said sophomore Lisa Curtis, a member of Campus Climate Challenge. “It’s cool to see collaboration between the fraternities and a club.”

Whitman’s involvement in the national competition originated with Campus Climate Challenge. Curtis entered the college on the first day of the challenge, Feb. 5.

Since then, members of the club have contacted representatives of the Physical Plant, the Interest House Community, on-campus dorms, sororities and fraternities.

Junior Sophia Sady volunteered to approach the fraternities about their participation in the challenge.

“It’s a great opportunity to spread the scope [of Campus Climate Challenge’s goals], and to make sure that our focus isn’t always concentrated with the same groups,” Sady said.

The benefits of working with the fraternities go beyond unifying different groups, however.

“The fraternities contribute a large part of the energy consumed on campus,” she said.

Sady posted flyers about the challenge in the fraternities and has sent out e-mail reminders that are forwarded on to fraternity listservs. She also “harasses people individually.”

“People are excited,” she said. “People want to be responsible for the environment, and it’s good to have structure that gives them that opportunity.”

“The awareness and willingness to address these issues are definitely there,” said Interfraternity Council President and TKE, Chase Cooper, a junior. Even before the TKEs were approached about the challenge, they had already implemented a “very structured” recycling system earlier this semester.

As far as the national competition is concerned, “We have the rest of the month to tease out these issues and demonstrate an awareness that’s in line with the changing ethos and emphasis on environmental issues that the college is moving toward,” said Cooper.

Nationally, the incentive to win the competition is recognition: National Campus Energy Challenge posts the winner on its Web site, which can be a boon for admissions.

On campus, whichever fraternity reduces the most energy will receive a party and the winning interest house will receive baked goods from IHC Resident Director, Evan Carman.

The percentage reduction in energy is calculated with a baseline of the three previous Februarys’ energy use. Campus Climate Challenge has been working closely with the Physical Plant for energy usage information.

In February 2007, the interest houses and dorms consumed 15,644 BTU of gas, totaling $42,595.10, and 139,043 kwn of power, totaling $7,579.10. The rest of the campus, including fraternities and academic and administrative buildings, consumed 59,517 BTU and 179,963.8 kwh.

The club is advertising over the students’ listserv and with mailbox stuffers. They have offered many ideas for saving energy, including turning off a computer instead of putting it on standby, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, biking instead of driving your car, and unplugging unused electronics, which consume 40 percent of their energy even when not in use.

The Challenge’s Web site also suggested some less conventional ways to conserve energy, Curtis said. These included: showering with a buddy, doing it in the dark, and holding a cuddle session.

Additionally, the group is advertising “Wear Green Day” on Thursday, Feb. 21, and a voluntary blackout from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, when students are encouraged to turn out all lights.