The student group Green Campus Council (GCC) is sponsoring a yearlong competition between university residence halls to reduce electricity consumption.
Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa residence halls will compete among each other – as will San Nicolas against San Miguel, Manzanita Village against San Rafael, and the north tower of Francisco Torres against the south tower – to see which dorms lower their energy consumption the most. GCC program coordinator and fourth-year environmental studies major Aaron Gilliam said each residence hall’s energy consumption level will be compared to its energy intake of the past three years. Whichever dorm saves the most energy will win prizes such as iPods for some of its residents. Gilliam also said the GCC will hold a light bulb exchange program from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19 where students can substitute incandescent lights for more energy-efficient fluorescent lights.
Gilliam said half of the money saved from the decrease in energy consumption would allow Housing and Residential Services (HRS) to upgrade the buildings with energy-efficient fixtures. The remaining savings will go toward prizes for students participating in the competition, he said.
Interns in the HRS energy and environment program will measure the number of kilowatt-hours used by each residence hall twice per month to determine which one is conserving the most, Gilliam said. Each dorm’s performance will be based on its own record because one residence hall’s facilities are not comparable to another, he said.
“If all the students are saving energy in a large residence hall it may look like nothing [comparatively], where in a small dorm, the difference would be great,” he said.
Currently, Santa Cruz Hall, Manzanita Village and San Nicolas Hall are conserving the most energy compared to the past three years, Gilliam said.
Mia Langlitz, a first-year political science major and the environmental awareness chair of Santa Cruz Hall, said members of her dorm have applied many techniques to promote energy efficiency.
“We try to turn off lights in the rooms [when not in use],” Langlitz said. “In the bathrooms, we make sure everyone is really conserving water.”
The environmental awareness chair of San Miguel Hall, first-year biology major Alicia Hatch, said limiting the use of lights in lounges and rooms is difficult because of the different schedules of students.
“We have people up all night [in the lounges],” Hatch said.
Unlike the on-campus residence halls, Francisco Torres has yet to start a competition between the two towers because there is presently no way to separately measure energy use in each tower, Gilliam said. He said a single meter measures power consumption for both towers and that money from the GCC budget is allotted to buy an additional meter for the facility.
Gilliam said Green Campus Council receives its funding through a grant provided by the California Public Utilities Commission. The Alliance to Save Energy, an energy efficiency organization, approached the commission to provide funds for energy conservation programs at six California campuses, he said. On-campus Sustainability Coordinator Perrin Pellegrin applied for the grant on behalf of UCSB.
Gilliam said he was at first surprised that the commission would fund a program in which it could lose money. However, the commission calculated that the costs associated with rolling blackouts and the rising costs of energy were too expensive to be ignored, he said.
“They’ve worked it out to where it would cost them less to conserve energy than it would to make more [energy],” he said.
The grant from the utilities commission will last for two years, Gilliam said, which puts the future of Green Campus Council in limbo.
“We’ll probably have the [energy conservation] competition for two years,” he said. “Then we’ll have to find a way to sustain ourselves as an Associated Students entity or under [HRS energy and environment program director Mark] Rousseau’s program.”
UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, CSU Humboldt, CSU San Bernardino and CSU Sonoma were the other five campuses to receive the grant, he said.
Gilliam said Rousseau has been instrumental in implementing energy efficiency plans on campus. He said Rousseau wrote a proposition to HRS to help the Green Campus Council pay for events and advertising, and also had his interns keep track of the meter readings in the residence halls.
“He’s the go-getter who is making everything happen,” Gilliam said.
HRS will split the cost of the upcoming light bulb exchange event with the Green Campus Council, Gilliam said.
Besides planning events and holding competitions, Gilliam said the Green Campus Council is putting up signs in dorms with tips on how to conserve energy. Gilliam said students should use stairs over elevators, put in fewer, larger loads of laundry instead of separate small ones, turn off lights when not using a room and turn off their computers if they are going to be away for an extended period of time.
“People think if you turn off the computer it takes more energy than to leave it on,” he said. “But the energy saved by leaving it on is [only good for] a few minutes … if you’re going to be out of your room for more than three minutes [it’s better to] turn it off.”
By following these examples, students can make a huge difference at UCSB, which is really the focus of the conservation competition, Gilliam said.
“Don’t just save energy to save money and win a prize,” he said. “You’re trying to save the amount of carbon dioxide our campus produces.”