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Dorm Wars Saved Energy in February

March 9, 2006 at 4:04 pm
By Juliet Dana '09

February was officially called energy month at Carleton College, but for most Carls it was better known as Dorm Wars. Modeled after a similar program at Oberlin College, Dorm Wars pitted dorms against one another to see which buildings could reduce their per capita energy usage most drastically over the month. The winners were Goodhue at 22.2 percent and Asia House at 40.1 percent, reports facilities communications specialist Gloria Heinz.

Overall Carleton dorms reduced their energy use by 7.7 percent in February, saving about 20,000 kilowatt hours of energy. “That’s the equivalent of turning off Watson for a month,” says Heinz.

“It’s empowering to do this,” says sophomore Becky Dernbach of Camp Hill, Pa., a Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) member who lives in the Wellstone House of Activism (WHOA) and helped organize energy month. “The goal is to make people aware, to get them to care, and to educate them about ways they can conserve energy.”

Carleton’s Green Coalition united student environmental groups, who joined forces with Environmental and Technology Studies (ENTS) intern Chris Petit and other faculty members to create the month’s events. Those included a energy-use panel discussion, tours of Carleton’s wind turbine, a discussion on “High Energy Costs, Low Income Families” and an art show called “Sustain: Life.”

Students were creative about finding ways to reduce their energy consumption. Dorm floor meetings were conducted in the dark, multiple students studied together in one room and a group of students even camped on the Bald Spot overnight. “By sleeping in tents, we were reminding students it’s easy to cut back on your usage,” says sophomore Brittany Larson of Overland Park, Kan., another WHOA resident and MPIRG member.

“As a result of Dorm Wars,” Larson adds, “we hope that students will develop lifelong habits conserving the world’s limited and valuable resources."