Battle of the Bulbs was recently criticized by Ari Allyn-Feuer as “a light-headed plan” (“A Light-Headed Plan,” 1/27/09) with the main objection being that U of C students already live “more modestly” and that we should just be utilizing cleaner sources of energy—because “energy conservation is of limited potential unless we want to make ourselves poorer on a national level.” Furthermore, he accuses Battle of the Bulbs of encouraging people to make “uncomfortable” changes, which, on our website, include avoiding high-consumption devices such as blow dryers, unplugging electronics during the nighttime, and taking the stairs. And we will no longer be calculating baselines in a way that has been accused of unfairness toward the victors.
This article has completely missed the point of Battle of the Bulbs. We aren’t playing “games” with energy conservation, nor are we saying that this is all that should be done to prevent an America-fueled energy crisis. What we are saying is that, even as all of you are struggling to complete the myriad challenges of school at U of C, there is something you can do to promote a healthier attitude toward the environment. Maybe the amount of energy you save is not going to dent America’s colossal consumption of foreign oil. But what about the community at large?
It’s a well known fact that graduates from the University of Chicago tend to lead in their various fields. Seeing someone who is well respected in his profession choosing to consume less than he can afford sets an important example. Why—as was suggested in the original article—does America have to show its wealth through conspicuous consumption? What’s wrong with deciding to use natural sunlight as much as possible instead of wasting bulbs—and indeed, how does that make us “poorer”? As Battle of the Bulbs joins the ranks of established University traditions, we are also hoping to expand to the entire campus community by requesting that lights be dimmed or switched off whenever possible and within reasonable limits. We continue to look for a way to allow more quantitative participation from apartment dwellers.
My final contention with this article is that nowhere does Allyn-Feuer suggest a method where students act to improve the environment, nor, more importantly, a way to increase the awareness mentioned. I think all of us are familiar with the difficulty of getting a message out to the entire campus; Green Campus Initiative (GCI) does its best. We also host the “No Trash Bash,” which raises awareness of ways to recycle and avoid creating trash, and our food is, in general ,catered locally to avoid high environmental costs and to also support local businesses. We do what we can as homework-plagued University students. In time, our efforts can be used as an example for someone else.
Don’t focus on a few numbers that only represent oil use. Think about the plastic and chemicals you don’t waste when you use more efficient lighting and the wiring that won’t wear out because you did your best to avoid using unnecessary electricity.
Battle of the Bulbs represents grassroots organization at its best; we hope that the lifestyle changes you make during this month turn out to be worth continuing during the rest of the year. And if you don’t think that your individual efforts matter, I suggest looking at the network that created President Obama.
Class of 2009
Green Campus Initiative