Less is More in Ecolympics Contest

April 10, 2014

Communications Staff

Ecolympics 2014 poster
Photo credit: Oberlin College

Ecolympics—Oberlin’s campus-wide competition to reduce energy and water consumption—is already in full swing. This year’s Ecolympics brings Oberlin City Schools into the fray with a concurrent competition that takes full advantage of each school’s energy monitoring Environmental Dashboard.

Although taking shorter showers, limiting use of indoor light, and turning off appliances is mostly in Oberlin students’ nature, the three-week period from April 4 through April 25 challenges everyone on campus to get more creative with their energy conservation ways. Oberlin’s Ecolympics competition is a subsidiary of the Campus Conservation Nationals, a water and electricity reduction competition for colleges and universities throughout North America.

Lucid Design Group, a key partner in the Campus Conservation Nationals, began as a student research project at Oberlin under the guidance of John Petersen, professor of environmental studies and biology. Oberlin was the pioneer of Dashboard monitoring, and the college’s energy reduction competition was the precursor to the national competition.

Each residence hall and co-op is competing at three levels: against itself, against other residence halls, and against other institutions participating in the Campus Conservation Nationals. Organizers established a three-week baseline of energy and water consumption before spring break. That baseline will be used to measure how well each residence hall performs. The competition can be tracked on Oberlin’s Building Dashboard

“It doesn’t matter if a dorm is old or new, or more or less efficient,” says Bridget Flynn, Oberlin’s sustainability coordinator. “It’s what students are doing in each residence hall to reduce consumption. So, technically, they’re competing against themselves.”

In last year’s Ecolympics, residence halls and co-ops collectively saved 10,070 kWh of electricity— the average amount of electricity an American home uses in an entire year—and saved 54,537 gallons of water, which is equivalent to about 1,500 10-minute showers. Oberlin was one of the biggest water reducers nationwide in the Campus Conservation Nationals.

In addition to the water and energy reduction competition, 35 events, including films and speakers, are planned, including:

  • Jessica Green: “Rethinking Private Authority,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17 in Hallock Auditorium

  • Film Screening: Crude, 7 p.m. Friday, April 18, in Wilder 101

  • Community Service: Clearing litter and invasive species from the Arb, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 19, in the Arboretum

  • Hair Recycling: Free haircuts, with hair donated for use in oil spill cleanup, 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in Wilder Bowl

  • Guest Lecture: Gene Bauer on “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Food,” 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in Hallock Auditorium

The full list of Ecolympics events can be found here.

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