GW may know you’re not turning the lights off when you leave your dorm.
The University will not release complete results for its signature sustainability competition this year after the majority of residence halls failed last year’s challenge.
The semester-long eco-challenge, which was held for the third time this year, is a crucial step toward reaching the University’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2040. GW will only release results for the top-five halls that participated in the competition, and stopped listing any figures online for how much was saved.
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt declined to say if that decision was because 19 of the 30 residence halls that joined the competition last year ended up increasing water and energy use.
Residence halls earned points depending on how much students recycled, saved water or conserved energy. For example, Munson Hall reduced water use by 47 percent last semester. Amsterdam Hall, which came in fifth place overall, reduced electricity use by 21 percent after increasing its electricity use during the competition last year.
Fulbright Hall took first place, though Hiatt did not provide details on how much energy or water the residents saved. Hiatt also declined to provide other statistics for the top-five halls.
The challenge is just one of the ways the University is trying to meet its overall sustainability goals. In June, GW signed a 20-year pledge to derive half its energy from solar power through a partnership with American University and Duke Energy Renewables. Eleven buildings on campus have also been recognized for their sustainable structures by the U.S. Green Building Council since 2007.
It was the first year officials considered recycling efforts in the competition, which Hiatt said was meant to reflect “efforts to reduce waste on campus.”
“Competitions such as the eco-challenge build awareness on how students can reduce their impact on the environment, which, in turn, helps the University reduce its carbon footprint,” Hiatt said.
Munson, Strong, Cole and Hensley halls all earned high marks for recycling and had no instances of trash in recycling bins. Hiatt declined to say how many pounds of material that students in those buildings recycled.
Residence halls can sign up for the eco-challenge by choosing a student representative for their hall. Winning halls had prize options like 15 lunches at Sweetgreen, a truckload of toilet paper, gift cards to Founding Farmers or a sustainable renovation to their residence hall.
Energy-saving competitions can backfire if students are not engaged, said Krista Mays, a sustainability manager at the University of California, San Diego.
“We’ve seen some competitions where you try to promote something and there are those who are the haters and they try to screw it up anyway so they use more,” Mays said.
Mays said the school’s sustainability office tries to promote conservation by giving students reusable water bottles, holding contests on social media and handing out reusable grocery bags for students to decorate.
Officials at GW have tried similar tactics, like giving out free coffee to students with reusable cups, encouraging them to eliminate meat from their diets on Mondays and collecting used items they would throw out otherwise at the end of the semester.
“We’ve learned that everything we do has to be fun. We engage the playful, curious side of people to help them get to a place of wanting to be sustainable,” Mays said.
This article appeared in the January 12, 2014 issue of the Hatchet.