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Lights Out, Short Showers

More than 50 residence halls and Greek houses to compete to be most ‘green’ in February

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Students living in residence halls and Greek houses will be pitted against each other in the 2012 Green Cup competition to determine the most efficient users of water and electricity for the entire month of February.

Organized by the student group Students for Ecological and Environmental Outreach (SEED), the goal of Green Cup is to engage students in behavior change and give them a better understanding of the impact of daily activities. Simple changes and increased awareness can significantly reduce water and electricity consumption.

“I will be very proud when a new residence hall wins Green Cup,” said sophomore Mark Silberg, president of GREEN (Group Residence for Environmental Engagement at Northwestern) House. The residence hall has won Green Cup’s non-food-service category since the residence opened in fall 2008.

Turning off lights, keeping showers short and unplugging electronics are the right things to do, but this year’s competition offers some extra incentive: cash prizes that will support each winning residence hall’s or house’s Dance Marathon fundraising.

“A GREEN House defeat will show that Northwestern students have the passion and dedication to make sustainability a true priority on campus,” Silberg said. “I challenge every residence hall and Greek house to not only participate in Green Cup but to fight to win it.”

Green Cup is in its seventh year. Twenty-nine residence halls and 24 Greek houses and their residents are participating in the student-driven initiative that runs Feb. 1 to 29.

Northwestern also will compete in a similar national competition, the Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN), from Feb. 8 to 29. Schools across the country will compete in this national challenge to reduce campus energy use by one gigawatt-hour.

Green Cup public events include a screening of the film “The Last Mountain” at 8 p.m. Feb. 1 in Harris Hall and green-themed Northwestern basketball games (men’s at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 and women’s at 7 p.m. Feb. 23). Featured speakers are Jessica Reese from the Brookfield Zoo and The Climate Project at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 and Rob Whittier, Northwestern’s director of sustainability, at 7 p.m. Feb. 16.

“Green Cup makes students better understand the impact of their individual actions,” said Julie Cahillane, manager of recycling and refuse in Northwestern’s Office of Sustainability. “It’s a learning experience while also being fun and competitive.”

She offers some sobering facts: Three to seven gallons of water are used for every minute in the shower, Americans spend more money annually to power home audio equipment when turned off than when actually in use, and if you let the water run while brushing your teeth, five gallons of water are wasted.

Some conservation tips include unplugging electronics when not in use; switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and using task lighting; washing clothing in cold water and only doing full loads; taking shorter, less hot showers; and turning off the faucet when brushing teeth.

“Green Cup is only a monthlong competition, but our goal is for students to continue to act sustainably long after Green Cup is over,” said sophomore Irene Tu, Green Cup co-chair. “The point of Green Cup is not just to win bragging rights, the Green Cup trophy and a generous Dance Marathon donation, but also to show how easy it is to be green. Little changes can go a long way. It’s just logical -- why use more than you have to?”

This year, Green Cup and Greek Green Cup have combined forces. The competition categories are “food-service residence,” “non-food-service residence,” “fraternity” and “sorority.”

The two residence halls (with and without dining service) that finish Green Cup in first place will receive a large cash donation for their Dance Marathon teams. (Dance Marathon -- this year March 2 to 4 -- is the largest student-organized fundraiser held on campus.)

With the Greek houses, cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third places in both of the fraternity and sororities categories. Winners will have the option of donating their prize to their Dance Marathon team or using it for green initiatives in their house.

All four first-place winners will receive a “green cup” trophy, which is hand blown and made out of green recycled glass. The trophies will reside in the winning residence halls and Greek houses until next year’s Green Cup winners are determined. 

Scoring for Green Cup is based on a per person percent reduction in water and electricity usage as compared to an established baseline usage recorded in January for each residence hall and Greek house. The percent reductions of each building during the CCN competition period will be used to determine how well Northwestern does in the CCN.

Each residence hall will have access to a hall-specific building dashboard website during the CCN competition that will graphically display usage, tips for reducing and other information about the competition. (The Greek houses will not have this feature this year due to CCN limitations.)

“In past years, we have seen increased reductions across the Green Cup competition, indicating students continue to engage in the effort,” Cahillane said. “In 2011, there were reductions in 78 percent of the reporting periods while in 2010 69 percent of the periods showed a reduction. We are anxious to see what 2012 will produce.”

Green Cup sponsors are SEED, the Office of Sustainability, Student Affairs and the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).

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