Posted by Sarah Barry
On March 5, the Skidmore community concluded its fourth year of competitive energy conservation by marking the end of this year's Skidmore Unplugged challenge. This year, Skidmore faced an added challenge as the campus residence halls competed collectively in the Campus Conservation Nationals against more than 100 other schools across the country.
Skidmore placed third against other New York institutions in the New York Negawatt challenge with a 2.9 percent reduction of energy behind Hobart and William Smith, which had a 5.9 percent total reduction, and Hamilton College, which had a 3.4 percent reduction.
The campus as a whole saved 5,789 kilowatt-hours according to Lucid's Building Dashboard, an online resource that reported the progress of each building and school throughout the competition.
Kimball Hall finished first among Skidmore's dorms with a 5.6 percent total energy reduction, followed by McClellan Hall in second and Wilmarth Hall in third.
This year's competition was organized primarily by the campus' Sustainability reps or "S-Reps.". The S-Reps worked independently with their individual dorms, but also promoted the event collectively with a variety of events and media.
"Most of my individual promoting came from my bulletin board and emails. I found that, throughout the competition, using multimedia can be very effective. As a group we made a couple videos, which got a lot of views, and updated how the competition was going on Facebook" said Penfield's S-Rep Jeremy Rosen '14.
S-Reps, as a part of the Sustainable Skidmore program, are charged with increasing awareness of environmental issues and cultivating positive behavioral change in conservation efforts on campus.
The S-Reps, in collaboration with the Peer Health Educators organized the "Do it in the Dark" promotion that ran during the week of Valentine's Day, as well as an "S-Rap" video and some short promotional videos. S-Reps also promoted the event in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.
S-Reps said that if students commit to small individual changes, Skidmore can conserve a significant amount of energy collectively.
"Simple things, such as unplugging appliances or turning off lights, can make a huge impact when everyone is participating. This year we reduced the amount of energy that a typical US home uses for six months, just by taking part in simple behavioral changes around the dorm" Rosen said.
S-Reps were largely positive about Skidmore's additional engagement in the Conservation Nationals Competition. "While I'm not sure that Skidmore students engaged as much with the bigger national competition as they did with the dorm competition, it helped create some school solidarity and motivated people to keep reducing, even if their dorm was doing well already," said Eliza Sherpa '14 McClellan's S-Rep.
"I definitely think [the Conservation Nationals] improved the competition because it gave us access to tools like the Building Dashboard from Lucid, which greatly enhanced the look and feel of the contest, and gave more options to people in terms of committing to reducing electricity via social media and the Dashboard site" said Riley Neugebeauer, Skidmore's Sustainability Coordinator.
S-Reps also encouraged students to remember conservation practices after the competition ends. "I think that while people might not be quite as consistent about reducing energy as they were during the competition, some of the habits will definitely persist" Sherpa said.
Despite the success of this year's competition, S-Reps and Neugebeauer still see areas for improvement. Neugeubauer hopes to see "more overlap with other groups on campus for the competitions so that we can continue to develop more collaboration and innovation as to how to engage people in these kinds of activities."
Margot Reisner '14, S-Rep for Wilmarth,, said she also hoped to build on this year's progress. "More games and events would be great to help raise awareness about the competition, and it worked really well for the S-reps to collaborate and share resources so I think it will be helpful to do more of that in the future," Reisner said.