Students Compete in the Eco-Olympics to Go Green

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Laura Green

 

Ready, se go…green! Edgewood College’s annual Eco-Olympics is under way and students are competing to see which residence hall can lower its electricity and heat use the most. All resident students had the opportunity to enter the contest if they filled out their room audit. Then they just had to take action to make their dorm habits greener. Social Responsibility in Business, the class hosting the contest, takes care of the rest. In case helping the environment isn’t enough incentive, the greenest room in each of the four dorms and two campus apartment buildings will each receive a 25 dollar Target gift card. The six winners will be announced April 20th, during Earth Week.

The Eco- Olympics have been held at Edgewood since 2006. Business professor Denis Collins started the contest at Edgewood after talking with a professor from another college who was doing the Eco-Olympics. Collins’s motivation for starting the contest was to make Edgewood more eco-friendly while educating students about environmental issues and changing behavior to address these issues. Collins also liked the idea of friendly competition. “Contests get people’s attention,” Collins said. “You have teams cooperating with each other within the residence hall, but you also have competition between the residence halls.”

Electricity and heat consumption data for each of the halls is obtained from the Madison Gas and Electric website. This data helps determine if students reduce their electricity and heat use during the contest. Data from two months during the contest period in 2010 will be compared to the data from the same period this year. To ensure fairness, data from all dorms is collected in the same way. However, Collins admitted that “it’s an imperfect measurement.” There is only one electricity meter per building on campus, meaning measurements include the whole building. Many residence hall buildings are not occupied by just resident students. For example, Regina residents have Phil’s and the downstairs classrooms and offices included in their electricity use measurements.

In addition, to monitoring electricity use, which is a broad estimate, the contest narrows its focus on individual residents through a dorm room survey that all residents received. The survey asks students to answer questions about their electricity use as well as other habits, such as whether students recycle.

The Social Responsibility in Business class are responsible for collecting and analyzing these surveys. The class is divided into teams, with each team in charge of one dorm. Teams are required to follow up with the dorm room survey form by auditing rooms themselves. The team has the choice of how to do this, either going from door to door partnering with RAs. Ideally, every room would be audited, but since this is a big challenge, Collins hopes that the teams audit at least half of all dorm rooms. The audits are new this year; in the past, the competition was between residence halls as a whole and not individual rooms.

Collins knows that college students have a lot on their minds and a lot of them are too busy to think about making eco-friendly changes. However, Collins said, “If you don’t push the issue, than nobody changes anything…” He explained that students might see one poster about the Eco-Olympics and not pay attention. But if they keep hearing about the contest and learning about ways to change their behavior, they might start to think about the issue and consider getting involved. Collins pointed out that changing behavior is a long process. However, he hopes that the contest will lay the foundation for students to begin taking steps toward eco-friendly behaviors, whether now or in the future.

Collins felt that the contest has the biggest impact on students in the Social Responsibility in Business class. The students not only learn about changing behavior in response to environmental issues, but they can apply what they’ve learned to other situations. Collins said, “My hope is, at the very least, my students in this class bring this with them to wherever they get jobs after they graduate.”

While the contest won’t get all students to change their behavior, and can’t measure how much electricity each student uses; the Eco-Olympics reflects something much bigger. The contest is about making students aware that we are all part of the environment and our actions affect the environment and the people living in it. Collins said that previous generations messed up. Instead of fixing the environmental problems they inherited, they made them worse. Now this generation has the chance to change things. “My hope is to remind people that something has to be done,” said Collins. The Eco-Olympics offers one more opportunity for Edgewood students to do something about  environmental problems.

 

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