Eco-challenge sees success as majority of halls cut water usage

For the first time since most dorms started participating, a majority of residence halls cut their water usage in the University’s three-month sustainability challenge.

About one-third of the halls reduced their electric use and roughly three-quarters reduced their water use from their historic averages, said Shannon Ross, a coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

“These reductions are steps in the right direction,” Ross said. “Unplugging chargers and turning off devices when not in use are some of the easiest ways for students to offset those increases.”

This month’s winner is 2208 F Street, an affinity house for LGBT students, with a 52 percent decrease in electricity and a 38 percent decrease in water. The townhouse residents won gift cards to Founding Farmers.

The Office of Sustainability pushed ahead with the Eco-Challenge this fall – after a two-year participation lull – with plans to draw more student interest by expanding prizes and including more checkpoints in the competition.

Seeking more participation, Ross said the Office of Sustainability will begin reaching out to halls that do not reduce consumption.

In September, about 70 percent of all halls consumed more electricity and half failed to cut their water use compared to the previous year, on par with past years’ participation.

The biggest increase in energy consumption came from Beta Theta Pi’s townhouse, whose usage jumped 41 percent since October 2012.

Still, more halls than last month increased their energy use, which Ross said could also be due to the University’s switch from air conditioning to heating systems during this cycle.

Residents of Beta Theta Pi’s townhouse also increased their energy usage by 43 percent during the September challenge. The townhouse also saw the highest water consumption increases, almost doubling its consumption from last October.

This month is an outlier in Eco-Challenge history, which traditionally sees a lack of student participation as halls rapidly increase consumption of resources.

“Behavior change has so far been a greater challenge, and GW is continuing to explore the best ways to assist students in making changes in their daily behavior,” Ross said.

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