March 6, 2009

Breckenridge wins Battle of the Bulbs

For the second year in a row, Breckinridge House won the Battle of the Bulbs, a contest sponsored by the Green Campus Initiative (GCI) that challenges dorms to conserve electricity in February. Breckinridge reduced their consumption by 16.7 percent, earning the Green Cup, a trophy made of found materials.

Other dorms also posted reductions during the contest. Stony Island cut consumption by 13.1 percent, and Blackstone, Shoreland, and Pierce also decreased their use for the month.

GCI bases their numbers off the dorms' electrical meters, as reported by housing staff. Energy use from radiators, powered by natural gas, did not count in the contest.

The other five dorms did not perform as well. Max Palevsky, Broadview, Maclean, Burton-Judson, and Snell-Hitchcock all increased consumption.

Snell-Hitchcock raised its electrical consumption by 5.5 percent. Each week’s numbers fell above normal usage from January, and trended upward.

Electrical increases, while frustrating to GCI members, did not come as a surprise. Snell-Hitchcock came in last place last year, but blamed poor results on construction next door at Searle Chemical Laboratories,

GCI devised new methods this year to counteract those discrepancies, though the results still confuse some of its members. “You can’t account for where the variation comes from. Maybe someone bought a huge video game system and played it all the time,” GCI co-chair and fourth-year Adrienne Yuen said.

The level of participation in larger dorms, which generally struggled in the competition, also concerned GCI members. “The more people you have the harder it is to organize people to do things. The problem may be that we weren’t visible enough,” Yuen said.

GCI posted results around campus, sold t-shirts, and handed out free, energy-efficient light bulbs. They hosted a closing ceremony Monday with raffles, free food, and a Beatles cover band.

The mixed success did not discourage GCI, however. “We don’t think that we can save the world with a fraction in reduction in energy use," GCI co-chair and second-year Rebecca Maurer said. "It’s more about instilling good habits."