Posted by the Editorial Board
The bulbous and tentacled Skidmore Unplugged trophy has once again been moved to the entrance of the Dining Hall, announcing the commencement of a friendly, three-week-long competition between Skidmore's eight residential dorms.
Around this time every year, students in the residential halls turn off unnecessary lights, take shorter showers and unplug unused electronics. The goal is to reduce energy and water consumption by the greatest percentage.
This year's competition will coincide with the New Energy Economy Forum and Skidmore's participation in the Campus Conservation Nationals. The culmination of these events provides us with the opportunity to expand the scope of our conservation efforts. There is no need to limit waste reduction to just the dormitories. We can include our whole campus and conserve energy for longer than the current three weeks.
Skidmore is by no means idle on the issue of environmental impact. In the past, the college has made efforts to include other parts of campus in conservation measures. Now Skidmore is positioning itself to be more sustainable in the future by constructing green buildings. The new additions to campus—including Northwoods, and the Murray Aikins Dining Hall and Zankel—all use geothermal heating and cooling systems.
In addition to new, sustainable construction, the school has adopted habits and policies with immediate and significant effects on energy consumption and bottom lines. Though most of the current students were not yet on campus when the Dining Hall eliminated trays, many will remember the introduction of composting in Northwoods. The decision by the Skidmore News to embrace an online-only model has saved countless pounds of paper and gallons of water. This is a good start, but we can do better.
We can look to other small liberal arts colleges for inspiration. Macalester College and Washington University in Saint Louis, both stopped selling plastic water bottles, in favor of making reusable refilling stations more available. Many schools have a designated sustainable dormitory in which residents agree to limit their energy usage. Others have equipped their residential and academic buildings with vampire switches. These devices work by interrupting the current of energy that is used by devices in standby mode.
There are other, simpler things the school can do today to reduce waste. Anyone who has been on campus late at night has noticed that the school is still consuming energy in closed buildings. Surely the television in the Skidmore Shop does not need to buzz incessantly. Some lights in the academic buildings, the Scribner Library, and in Dining Hall continue to stay on, even after the janitorial staff has finished.
It is not unreasonable to include the whole of campus in the spirit of Skidmore Unplugged. There are many steps that we can take as individuals and as an institution to save energy and dollars. While the effects of any one of these suggestions may seem negligible, their combination and use over time could significantly reduce our campus's consumption.