When Carleton students declare war, they mean it. Across Minnesota, college students engaged in a friendly rivalry this past February, hoping for a victory that would benefit them all: saving energy. Carleton students, for the second year in a row, unplugged their mini-fridges, turned off their lights, and even camped on the Bald Spot, to prove they could reduce their energy usage in a radical way. Last year, Carleton’s dorms challenged each other, and Carleton competed against St. Olaf. This year, the Energy War went state-wide and sparked a lot more attention.
February was full of energy-free events on campus. Students toured Carleton’s wind turbine, which defrays nearly thirty percent of Carleton’s energy needs. They held an acoustic concert, complete with bicycle-powered speakers. They also cut overall energy usage in the dorms by 21% compared to the past three Februaries. That’s 48,800 kilowatt hours – the equivalent of turning off Burton, Davis, and Evans Halls for the entire month!
Combining the energy savings in the dorms and the campus buildings, Carleton cut overall electricity consumption by 10.1%. According to Becky Dernbach ’08 (Camp Hill, Pa.) and the Campus Wars committee that’s about 30 tons of coal, and 78 tons – 155,600 pounds – of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of shutting down 140 average American households for a month.
While statistics are not available yet to compare Carleton to the other 15 schools in the state who participated, it’s clear that energy reduction took place all over the state. Dernbach was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio for an All Things Considered piece that aired February 27 investigating local students’ roles in the competition. Preliminary reports indicate that Macalester was a close competitor to Carleton.
Here in Northfield, the environmentalism did not stop on February 28. In fact, Carleton President Rob Oden has challenged students to match their February successes again during the month of April. And Carls, Oles, and members of the Northfield community recently celebrated Earth Day with special events and workshops, including another well-attended Contra dance held in Severance Great Hall.
As for the results of Carleton’s energy savings in April? Stay tuned – but unplugged – for more information.