Wednesday, 2 Oct 2002

NEW ORLEANS, La.

I’ve spent two days writing about the Ecolympics, but I haven’t yet told you that much about what the event actually entails. I’m going to correct that today by sharing with you the same information I share with Tulane’s Resident Advisors, who are helping me mobilize students to participate in the contest.

The Ecolympics challenges Tulane residence halls to see which one can use electricity the most efficiently this October. The total electricity use of each residence hall will be calculated (through metering and projected October electricity consumption) by Finnin & Associates, a local energy consulting firm. Finnin & Associates will use past electricity data to predict normal October consumption; the residence hall that uses the smallest fraction of the predicted energy use wins. The competition is designed this way so residents won’t be punished (or rewarded) for the overall efficiency of things they can’t change — building structure, type of overhead lights, most air conditioning, permanent appliances, and so forth. The competition began at midnight on Oct. 1 and ends at midnight on Oct. 31. The winning residence hall will be notified in early- to mid-November, and the awards ceremony will be held soon after.

In addition to the grand prize — an ice-cream party hosted by the “Jerry” of Ben & Jerry’s — prizes will be awarded to two RAs who develop the most creative approach to educating residents on ways to conserve energy. Tulane’s Athletic Department Store agreed to donate a $20 gift certificate as one of the prizes, and our student fitness center agreed to provide a free instructional program as the other prize. (Instructional programs range from a scuba course to yoga classes.) I am also working on convincing local restaurants to donate gift certificates; might as well take advantage of the famous New Orleans cuisine.

There’s only one way to win the Ecolympics: use electricity more efficiently. The little things that we do on a daily basis can really add up, so the more people participating, the better the chances of a residence hall winning. Here are some of the ways I tell students they can help their residence hall save energy:

  • Turn off the lights when leaving your room.
  • Turn off your computer at night, or during the day when you will not be using it for an extended period of time. If you do not turn off your computer entirely, then it is important to at least turn off the monitor.
  • Enable the energy-saving software on your computer. Do not just use a screensaver; it does not save your screen, but rather eats up tons of energy for no good reason.
  • Buy compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) rather than incandescent light bulbs. CFLs not only use about 60 percent less energy, but also last an average of seven years, compared to the one-year lifespan of an incandescent.
  • Check to see if your appliances are labeled Energy Star. Energy Star products cost the same as others, but save energy — and therefore money. Many non-Energy Star electronics use a lot of electricity even when they are turned off. If you have non-Energy Star appliances, you can save energy by using a power strip to really turn them off.

Visit the Get Energy Smart website for more information and ideas.

There’s also a link for the Ecolympics on that website where students can access publicity resources that I have provided, including flyers, pictures, reminders, factoids, bulletin board presentations, cool links, and more. This is really great for RAs, as I have essentially done all of the work for them; all they have to do is visit the website and print.

This afternoon, I’ll continue to work on finalizing funding for a vinyl Ecolympics banner, to be hung for a week over the main street that runs through campus. Then it’s off to my three hour Environmental Politics class, where I’ll represent the U.S. EPA during a mock symposium.

Later in the evening, my co-worker Shelley and I will make Ecolympics T-shirts as a fun way of advertising the competition. We shall see how much more interest in the competition we can generate with this and other publicity stunts.