Residence energy challenge gives back

Money saved from reducing energy use will be invested back into residences

REC communication coordinator Daniel Myran says the residence energy challenge creates recruitment for the sustainability movement at the university.
REC communication coordinator Daniel Myran says the residence energy challenge creates recruitment for the sustainability movement at the university.

Students living in residence now have a vested interest in the effort towards environmental sustainability after the official launch of the Residence Energy Challenge (REC) on Oct. 14. This is the challenge’s second year and marks the first year in which 100 per cent of the money saved during the duration of the challenge will be reinvested back into the residence’s infrastructure.

REC is a residence-wide energy savings competition run in partnership with the AMS Sustainability Office, Student Affairs and Residence and Hospitality Services where students compete against each other to lower their overall energy use over a month-long period ending on Nov. 21, 2008.

Student Affairs sustainability co-ordinator Kelsey Jensen said this year’s REC marks a change in how the money saved through energy reduction is allocated.

“The money last year that was saved, half of it went back into residences for sustainable retrofits and the other half went to a charity of that winning residence’s choice. This year it has been decided upon that all of the money will go back into the residences for sustainable retrofits instead of only half of it.”

Jensen said the energy consumption will be checked once a week throughout the challenge.

“There’s four residences that have to be monitored by physically an individual going out and monitoring from the outside of the building. The remaining 10 will be monitored from the computer,” she said. “Every seven days those buildings will be monitored for their energy consumption and those are the results that we will be using.”

Jensen said this year’s REC winner will be determined based on two factors.

“The way that we’re calculating who wins is a combination of the amount of energy reduced and the amount of students who sign the residence energy challenge pledge, she said. “Wally right now has an 88 per cent participation in terms of signing the pledge. I think they said they had 20 some odd people yet to sign the pledge before they get 100 per cent participation. That could be a really useful tool for getting other residences really excited about doing this because Waldron Tower won last year.”

Jensen said last year’s inaugural REC reduced the overall residence energy consumption by a total of 40,816 kilowatt hours of electricity and saved a total of $3,960 in energy costs over the month-long campaign.

Jensen said unlike last year, students’ energy consumption will be continuously monitored after the completion of the challenge.

“After the competition is officially over there still will be assessments made, probably not weekly, but maybe monthly to see if the habits maintained through the challenge will be maintained after the challenge.”

Daniel Myran, REC communication co-ordinator, said he felt it was important students’ overall energy consumption be continuously monitored throughout the school year.

“This was my idea. I was looking at the challenge over the summer and seeing that I wasn’t happy with the direction that the challenge had gone last year. I thought it was a really good initiative, it had gotten people aware, but I wasn’t happy with what it was actually doing on campus to do a real lasting change to climate change,” he said. “So this is the solution I came up with. It’s a way to keep the challenge in its original format and to work with the mainstream environmental movement. This creates a fine balance between what we’ve told we have to do by environmentalists over the last 20 years and what actually needs to be done.”

Myran said REC appeals to an impressionable demographic in first-year students.

“One of the great things about the residence energy challenge is that we are getting first-years when they’re first coming in and it’s great because it creates recruitment for people into the sustainability movement at the university.”

Myran said another REC is being planned for the new year.

“We’re probably going to run another energy challenge in second term where we will remind students of what they learned in the first challenge,” he said.

Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services, said a residence-wide energy consumption standard has yet to be established.

“The idea is that once we find a benchmark, we will look at each additional saving and go back to an original benchmark because obviously as we go into year five of energy challenge, it will get harder and harder to find savings and yet there will be significant savings,” he said. “We’re really trying to find a progression of savings longitudinally. We have to figure out whether we will benchmark this year or last year. Once we have that it just rolls from there.”

Griffiths said the university has yet to determine how the reinvested funds will be spent.

“We haven’t talked specifics. We’ve just said that when the money comes we can talk about things. Whether it be low flow toilets or showerheads or things like that. There’s all sorts of sustainable initiatives we could take.”

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