Students Aim to Cut Power Usage in Energy Competition | St. Lawrence University

Students Aim to Cut Power Usage in Energy Competition

By Emma Cummings-Krueger '16

Students, remember to unplug this month, as St. Lawrence University participates in its fourth Negawatt Challenge. Following previous wins in the energy reduction competition, St. Lawrence has set the pace for this year’s challenge, which will conclude on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Update: St. Lawrence University won the Fall 2015 semester New York Negawatt Challenge.

The Negawatt Challenge encourages students from the New York Six consortium of liberal arts colleges to reduce electricity consumption in their campus residence halls. This year's competition participants include Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Union College, and Colgate University in addition to St. Lawrence.

The University’s participation in the competition is an effort of the Environmental Action Organization (EAO), which aims to improve campus sustainability at St. Lawrence.

“It’s easy to not think about how much energy we are using, especially when we aren’t the ones directly paying the bills,” said EAO leadership team members Maggie Kelly ’18 of East Thetford, Vermont, and Hattie Geist ’18 of Donnelly, Idaho. “We hope that, just by participating, students will come away with a greater awareness and will continue to be mindful of their energy consumption even after the competition ends,” they said.

In the Spring of 2014, St. Lawrence narrowly stole the win from Hamilton, reducing 3.3 percent of campus-wide electricity usage in comparison to Hamilton’s 3.1 percent. Leading residences decreased energy consumption during the competition by over 10 percent in some cases. However, Hobart and William Smith Colleges won first place in the Fall 2014.  In order to win this year, similar numbers will be required to best such stiff competition.

At present, St. Lawrence is surging forward while vying for the top spot. Reduction is measured by percentage decrease in electricity wattage. An online meter also records the total kilowatt-hours, carbon dioxide emissions and money saved thus far between all five schools. Daily updates on the competition among the competing institutions are available via morning SLUWire emails.

While the competition is generally intercollegiate, the energy reduction per residence hall on St. Lawrence campus is also recorded. At Negawatt’s end, the residence and theme house with the highest percentage of energy reduction respectively will win a parcel of celebratory Pub Cookies. Reduction will be tracked by residence each day online as well as school-wide.

“Open your shades and let in some natural light,” suggest Hattie and Maggie, “or go do your homework outside your room, where there’s already light.” According to EAO, even reducing printing or laundry time can help St. Lawrence edge out the competition. “Avoid ghost power,” they said, “power strips, appliances, and lights still use energy when they are plugged in, even if they are turned off.”

In addition to this student-lead competition, St. Lawrence has also recently made strides in sustainable energy at the administrative level. Earlier this semester, the University committed to nearly 100 percent usage of clean energy sources by this coming summer, using both hydro and solar power.

Read more on the long-term energy efficiency plans.