is On to Conserve Energy
BY MATTHEW GREEN
Students are eagerly awaiting the final results of Oberlin’s first annual
Spring Energy Challenge. The two-week event, which began on April 15
and ended on Monday, was a competition among dorms and co-ops in an
effort to decrease energy consumption on campus. Results are expected
early next week.
Throughout the contest, energy use was monitored by the Office of Facilities
and compared to normal usage rates. The residence with the largest percentage
energy decrease will be awarded an ice cream party and a DVD player.
(photo by Steve Freed)
The contest was conceived and organized
by the Oberlin Sierra Student Coalition in conjunction with Residential
Life and Services. It is part of a larger movement on campus to increase
energy awareness. Other similar projects include last February’s Climate
Change Symposium organized by the environmental studies department and
Project 2020, a proposal to bring Oberlin to “climate neutrality” by
the year 2020.
Tami Blumenfield (OC ’00) and sophomore Larissa Stuart helped organize
the event. Blumenfield, who gradutated in December, was inspired by
the Climate Change Symposium and wanted to increase awareness about
the amount of natural resources consumed, as well as to promote ways
that could reduce present rates.
“We designed this project with non-environmental studies majors in mind,”
Blumenfield said. “We wanted to reach out to the entire community.”
In an effort to publicize the contest and provide methods in which to
reduce consumption, the SSC advertised energy-saving kits, available
for sale at Ben Franklin and Watson’s. The kits include, among other
things, a fluorescent light bulb, a low-flow shower head and a water
heater insulation blanket, all intended to reduce energy costs as well
as overall resource consumption.
The SSC also recruited students in every residence hall to serve as
coordinators in order to provide information to students and help their
dorm or co-op achieve victory in the contest. Blumenfield said this
effort was relatively successful although she felt that the level of
publicity was not the same in every residence. In order to help make
up for these inconsistencies, a large informational display was placed
in A-level of Mudd.
The SSC arranged with Res Life to lower residence hall temperatures
by two degrees from March 19 to April 15. Blumenfield presented the
proposal to Residential Life director Kim LaFond. “I thought it was
a good idea but was concerned that people would be cold,” LaFond said.
Ultimately the proposal was approved, and LaFond was pleased to discover
that there were no complaints.
The temperature drop,“makes us realize that we can do some energy savings.
It gave us an opportunity to see if we could make some adjustments,”
LaFond said, adding that the temporary change offered a “small window”
that could lead to long-term adjustments.
Blumenfield also met with Eric McMillion, associate director of facilities
and operations, in order to discuss ways in which to implement more
efficient energy use in residence halls. “He hadn’t made this a priority
but was interested once it was suggested,” Blumenfield said.
Along with temporarily lowering room temperatures, McMillion also agreed
to put on an efficient showerhead in one bathroom and florescent lights
in one lounge in campus residence halls, to test their effects.
As a next step, Blumenfield and the SSC hope to organize a coalition
of students and landlords who would meet over the summer to deal with
issues of insulation and energy loss in off-campus housing, with the
hope of initiating some fundamental structural changes. The group hopes
to receive community building grants and loans from development organizations
in order to further their cause.
Blumenfield said the goal is to initiate “pragmatic changes” based on
common sense. “We want to increase efficiency without affecting lifestyle.”
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