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Student Challenges Kickoff -- Houses and Halls Unite For Energy Savings

By Sara Cleaves, Sustainability Academy
October 24, 2007

A competitive energy is running through UNH residence halls, apartments, and Greek sororities this fall, and it’s not just to cheer on the home football and hockey teams.

The third Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge kicks off Oct. 23 with a series of fun events in the MUB to lead students into the Oct.24 – Nov. 21 four-week residence hall and apartment competition and subsequent Thanksgiving break powerdown in which everyone on campus turns off and unplugs computers, printers, and other electronics and appliances. From 12:40 – 2 p.m. on the stage in the MUB Food Court, students can hear great music, find deals at a free clothing swap, and learn tips on how to save energy to help their hall or apartment win the challenge.

Run by the UNH student group the Ecological Advocates and supported by the UNH Energy Task Force, the University Office of Sustainability, the Energy Office, Residential Life, and Housing, the Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge is a competition to engage students in activities that reduce their ecological footprints.

Students compete as a residence hall or apartment complex to reduce their per capita energy consumption, and the three buildings that reduce their consumption the most win a cash prize to their hall fund, bragging rights, and the challenge trophy, which will move from first place spring 2007 challenge winner Engelhardt Hall to the new fall 2007 first place winner.

“What’s most exciting about the challenge is that we can broadly reach out to students to urge them to change their behavior,” explains sophomore Erin Thesing, president of the Ecological Advocates. “The university has worked tirelessly to make tangible changes to our campus, but this challenge is about behavioral changes. We hope to influence student and even faculty behavior so that by the time they leave UNH, they will be citizens that are conscious of the environmental impact of their every action.”

As a result of the fall 2006 and spring 2007 residence hall challenges, $40,000 in energy and water costs were saved. Emission reductions were the equivalent taking 41 passenger cars off the road for one year or saving 440 barrels of oil. (Fall challenge winners were Hubbard, Hunter, and Smith Halls; spring winners were Engelhardt, Smith, and Sawyer Halls ).

“I am very proud of what our university staff and students have contributed in terms of their time, energy and commitment to this important world issue,” said Scott Chesney, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of Residential Life. “I feel most fortunate to be part of a campus community that is fully committing itself to being the greenest campus in the United States. This effort helps move us in that direction.”

In recognition of last year’s successful engagement of students in climate change awareness activities, this year’s Student Energy Challenge is also being supported by a Red, White and Green Youth Action Campaign grant. A joint project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute and Youth Service America, the program supports younger Americans as they develop their voice and impact public policy on the issue of climate change, leading up to the 2008 national presidential election.

“Given the intense set of problems that face us daily on the country’s front pages, it is clear that we cannot wait until young people grow up before they start addressing the issue of climate change now – both inside and outside their own zip codes,” said Steve Culbertson, president and CEO of Youth Service America. “After giving youth the tools to learn and take action in their communities they will be better prepared to address their policy-makers leading up to the 2008 presidential election about climate change.”

At the same time as the Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge, the UNH Panhellenic Council kicks off Greek Energy Challenge II on Oct. 24. Five sorority houses -- Alpha Phi, Alpha Chi Omega, Kappa Delta, Chi Omega and Alpha Xi Delta -- will be turning off lights and TVs, taking shorter showers, and shutting down and unplugging computers.

The winner of this fall’s Greek challenge will receive a $200 food donation for a philanthropic event from official sponsor JP’s Eatery. The Spring 2007 Greek Energy Challenge I saved more than $850 in utility costs and emissions equivalent to more than 6,700 pounds of carbon dioxide.

“This is a great way for us to compete for something worth competing for,” said Ashley Cakounes, Panhellenic Council President. “Not only are we helping the environment, our prize is something we can put towards our philanthropies, whether it’s Make-A-Wish or Cardiac Care.”

“UNH students are setting a great example: working as a community to lower emissions and address climate change,” adds Tom Kelly, UNH’s chief sustainability officer. “Sustainability is a core piece of UNH’s mission and identity, and the commendable work of the students involved in the Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge and the Greek Energy Challenge are key elements not only of this university-wide commitment but also to these students’ growth as citizens and leaders.”

For more information on the Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge, visit www.unh.edu/etf/challenge.html or contact Erin Thesing, president of the Ecological Advocates, ebv6@cisunix.unh.edu. For more information on Greek Energy Challenge II, visit www.unhmub.com/greek/Greek-Energy/index.html or contact Ashley Herrin at Aherrin88@aol.com. For more information about the Red, White & Green Campaign, visit www.redwhiteandgreen.org or www.ysa.org/awards.


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